As I Descended
The room bubbled with excited murmurs.
“Oh, no. We can’t! Not after last time!” Caitlin leaned over and whispered something into Ryan’s ear.
Tamika tossed her phone down onto the comforter. “I’ll start!”
The others leaned in from where they were perched on the beds and rugs, each waiting to hear who Tamika would call on first.
“Let’s see . . .” Tamika always drew these things out so everyone would look at her as long as possible. “Kei. I dare you to tell us what really happened when you and Emily went behind the Rite Aid on the trip to Monticello.”
Everyone howled as loudly as they dared. Kei and Emily flushed, but they were smiling broadly.
God, Lily hated room parties.
It was so hard to care about all this drama. Lily tried to keep track of her straight friends’ romances—it was important to play along—but it got so exhausting. If Lily had her way, the whole school would consist of just her and Maria.
And if anyone should win the Kingsley Prize, Maria was the one.
But right now she was only in second place.
A lot of good second place did them. There was no chance of moving up with Delilah in the picture.
Maria might get into Stanford without the prize, but there was no way to know for sure. Winning was the only way to guarantee she and Lily could stay together next year. It was the reason Lily had bought the Ouija board in the first place. Maria had seemed so resigned to losing that Lily had to try something to snap her out of it, even if it meant pretending she believed in all the stuff Maria always said about spirits. Lily figured she could move the planchette, tell Maria she was destined to win, and maybe, just maybe, it would be enough to lift Maria over the top.
Lily would’ve tried anything by that point. She’d even broken the no-drinking resolution she’d been following ever since the end of freshman year just to get Maria into the old dining hall.
The worst part was, Maria deserved to win. Delilah most certainly did not.
The only reason Delilah was class president was because she’d thrown a weekend-long poster-making party on her parents’ private island in the Outer Banks over Labor Day, right before the election. The entire class was invited. Lily had spent the first week of school slathering aloe on her sunburn, glaring at the hundreds of VOTE DUFREY posters that lined the halls, and listening to eighty-seven renditions of “how Delilah hooked up with the hot college guy from the minigolf place and Ryan caught the whole thing on video.” Everyone agreed that Delilah was the biggest badass ever and she’d looked super cute in her purple lace bikini.
The rest of the world had to play by one set of rules, but Delilah Dufrey got to make up her own as she went along. It made Lily want to vomit.
By some miracle, Delilah only beat Maria in the election by three votes, so Maria was named class activity director. She got stuck running the student council bake sales. Delilah’s only job, apparently, was to sit at the front of the council room and yawn her way through the agenda at meetings.
But that wasn’t the end of Delilah’s crimes. Maria should’ve been captain of the soccer team, too. She was a better player than Delilah, but unlike Delilah, she didn’t hook up with the coach.
That was the most important difference between Maria and Delilah: Maria always followed the rules.
It was one of Lily’s favorite things about her. It was Lily’s least favorite thing, too.
If Maria hadn’t thought she was following some unwritten code, she’d have turned Delilah in last year when she saw her kissing Coach Tartar in the equipment closet. She’d have taken a picture and sent it anonymously to the dean. Or she’d have pulled Delilah aside during a practice and quietly blackmailed her into dropping out of the election. She at least would’ve done something when she spotted Delilah snorting up pills in the locker room.
Instead she’d let her every chance to get rid of the witch go by without a word. No one except Maria and Lily—and probably Brandon, since Maria still told him everything—knew the whole truth.
And why? Maria still believed in nice girls finishing first. Someday, she seemed to think, someone was bound to tally up everything she’d done and give her a medal for being a good person. It made Lily want to scream until her lungs ached—because it meant they were still at Delilah’s mercy.
It had been Delilah who’d picked Maria and Lily’s room for the party tonight. Their room was everyone’s favorite hangout spot. Sure, it was right next door to the old dining hall, but the room was also designated as “handicap-accessible,” so it was the only room in the whole dorm that had its own bathroom. That way, if you needed some privacy, and you were wasted, you didn’t have to go all the way down the hall and risk getting caught by a dorm monitor.
Their room also had a thick gray carpet none of the other rooms had, and that helped muffle the party sounds. Over the past year, that carpet had accumulated half a dozen spilled-beer stains. Lily had tried every carpet-cleaning spray she could find, but no matter how hard she scrubbed she hadn’t been able to get rid of those spots.
Tonight, though, stains were the last thing on Lily’s mind.
She needed to talk to Maria about what had happened.
Not about the chandelier, or the calls to their parents, or Brandon’s two strikes. She wanted to talk about the part of the night she could barely remember.
What the Ouija board had said. What it meant.
Why Maria had acted so strange. As if she knew something the rest of them didn’t.
Delilah was sitting on the floor with her back propped against Maria’s bed, her eyes heavy-lidded and her head tilted onto Kei’s shoulder. She rubbed his knee with one hand and twirled her ever-present tube of clear lip gloss with the other. She’d draped Lily’s grandmother’s quilt across her lap to keep out the chill.
Maria, who analyzed everything, had a lot of theories about why Delilah needed to do drugs to have fun. She thought Delilah had family pressure to live up to. A profound inability to find release. A deep, hidden reservoir of self-loathing.
Lily had a theory, too. It was that Delilah was an asshole.
And while there were a thousand reasons they hated Delilah, there was one thing that bothered them above all.
Delilah had been the first girl Lily ever kissed.
Kei finished hedging his way through the story about what happened with Emily behind the Rite Aid—it was awkward, since everyone knew Emily had hooked up with a guy from Georgetown Prep later that night—and Delilah stood up. “My turn!”
“It’s Kei’s turn,” Lily said. “Have you never played Truth or Dare before?”
Delilah ignored her. “Maria! Truth or dare?”
Maria sighed. She and Lily always picked dare.
Delilah lifted her chin triumphantly. “I dare you to give Ryan a lap dance.”
The room filled with muted catcalls. Ryan grinned, blushed, and patted his lap. Caitlin and Tamika both glared at Maria, who was blushing too.
Lily wished Delilah were a bug she could step on. One quick squishing sound and she’d be out of their lives. Poof.
Maria was walking slowly toward Ryan when her foot caught on the edge of the carpet and she fell onto Mateo’s outstretched legs.
“Whoa, there, whoa.” Mateo laughed as he caught her. “I think Princess’s had enough party for tonight.”
Had Maria done that on purpose? Lily honestly couldn’t tell. Maria was a very, very good actress.
“Oh, come on, she doesn’t get out of her dare just because she’s drunk,” Delilah whined. “Everybody’s drunk.”
“How about if Maria does an alternative dare,” Mateo said. “She can, like, name all fifty states in alphabetical order in under three minutes.”
“That’s the most boring dare ever.” Delilah groaned.
Maria sat up. “Alabama, Alaska, Arizona . . .”
It was actually kind of funny, since Maria had just chugged a beer and kept hiccuping. She got tripped up on Delaware and Iowa, and everyone counted down at the end to make sure she really did it in three minutes. When she was done, she was flushed and giggly.