KEELY AND SARAH hate all the other girls at St. Marguerite’s because when the bell rings and the nuns aren’t looking they roll their skirts up four times. Keely and Sarah only roll their skirts up twice and they split a pack of cigarettes once a week on the bleachers at St. Paul’s during football practice, not every day and not an entire pack each. They’re not whores.
“Sister Bernadette can go suck a bag of dicks,” Keely says, peeling off the tape that Sister Bernadette made her put over her nose ring, sticking it to her kilt. Sarah just laughs and watches Jesus, their favourite Paul’s boy, get sacked again by a linebacker twice his size. Keely and Sarah love Jesus—not because he’s the quarterback, but because of the signs that they get to make for him whenever the Paul’s boys play home games: Jesus Saves. Jesus Touches Down. Get that Convert, Jesus.
“You will rise again, Jesus!” Sarah shouts at the field. He pushes himself back on his palms and stands, slaps his helmet and howls.
“It’s pronounced hey-zoos you dumb whore!” a voice shouts. Sarah sees Melinda and Belinda sitting at the bottom of the bleachers. “Don’t be racist.”
Melinda likes to accuse people of being racist. She has one friend who is Chinese. Keely flips her the bird and lights a cigarette, tries to lick her nose ring and sighs.
As the Paul’s boys slump off the field, Keely stays lying down on her back, face to the sun. They still have two cigarettes left each. They smoke one quick and tuck the others behind their ears for the walk. Sarah has to stop at Keely’s house and take a shower and change into her track clothes. Sarah’s mom thinks she’s on the cross country team.
When they’re crossing the parking lot it’s mostly empty, except for Jesus. He’s putting his equipment into the trunk of his car. He sees them walking over and waves. Sarah’s stomach ops. The Paul’s dance is coming up and every boy is allowed to put three girls on the list.
They’ve never been invited to one before.
“Hey,” Keely says, sounding cool.
“Are you the girls who always call me Jesus?” he asks. “Yeah,” Sarah says, stepping forward. Maybe he gets it.
Thinks she’s funny. Maybe he’ll offer her a ride home.
“Its hey-zoos,” he says. “Don’t be racist.”
As he drives off, Keely lights her last cigarette and giggles because Keely doesn’t really give a shit about anything. Sarah snaps hers in half and drops it on the ground. They stand there, watch Jesus drive away in his souped-up Honda, the bass from his subs making the entire world around them vibrate.
“Jesus blows,” says Sarah. “Amen,” Keely says. “Amen.”
KEELY IS LATE walking to school the next day. She feels a subwoofer pounding in her chest before she sees him and is already rolling her eyes when he slows down. He probably has her confused with one of the other Marguerite whores, seeing as she couldn’t get the toothpaste stain out of her big kilt this morning and is wearing a tiny one from grade nine; it pinches her hip bones and rides up her ass and she’ll probably get detention for wearing it. The car slows down but she doesn’t look up, won’t be the one to initiate contact.
“Somebody’s late,” he says.
Keely keeps walking, trying and failing to keep a smirk from pulling up the corners of her lips. Praise Jesus, it’s Jesus.
“You need a ride,” he says.
Keely turns with crossed arms and a popped hip, lowers her face down into the open window, the snark stalling in her throat. The car smells like sweaty football equipment and hair gel. On principle, Keely doesn’t like being told what to do but deep down, she likes it a lot. She gets in.
“You coming to the dance this weekend?” Jesus asks, rolling slowly over a speed bump.
“No one got your name down?”
“I don’t hang out with Paul’s boys,” Keely says.
“I could get your name on.”
Keely exhales, but doesn’t answer.
“I can get you on the list,” Jesus says again, with more intensity, like she didn’t believe him the first time.
Jesus pulls through the gates to St. Marguerite’s. She really could have walked. “You put my girl Sarah on the list,” Keely says, hoping Melinda sees her get out of the car. “And maybe I’ll show up too.”
He pulls into a spot next to the dumpster in the parking lot and Keely panics: what do Paul’s boys think they deserve for car rides? “Thanks for the lift, Jesus,” she says, scrambling for the door handle. “And my regards to your father.”
SARAH HEARS ABOUT IT at the end of homeroom. It gets texted to her during science, all the way through morning prayers. Someone whispers it in her ear as she’s leaving math. She’s supposed to meet Keely by their lockers for lunch, but she slips out the side door and sits down on the stoop instead, her elbows on her knees.
Keely and Jesus, Jesus and Keely.
Sarah wishes that she could be the one, for once, who gets chatted up and offended. She’s never even been felt up on the subway.
The door gets kicked open and Sarah jumps. “Christ, there you are,” Keely says. “Do you have the lighter?”
Sarah fishes around in her bag for their shared Bic.
“Guess what happened this morning?” Keely asks.
Sarah hands her the lighter and stares out into the parking lot because she doesn’t want the expression on her face to speak for her.
“Jesus gave me a ride to school.”
“Woah,” Sarah says. “Cool.”
Sarah focuses on a tiny heart someone has carved into the green paint. No initials, all jagged edges.
“He’s going to get us on the list for Friday.”
“Awesome!” Sarah says, trying to nod along like it’s, you know, no big thing. Is it both of them or is it just Keely? “Isn’t that kind of weird? He called us racist yesterday.”
“Jesus is a forgiving guy,” Keely says, ashing her cigarette.
“I want a drink,” Sarah says.
“I’m not going into the caf with this thing on.” Keely tugs her hemline down her thighs, not noticing, the way she’s always not noticing. “I’ve been ducking Sister Bernadette all morning.” “I’ll be right back,” Sarah says. But she hides in the bathroom instead, absently hugging her math textbook until the bell rings.
THE PLAN IS LAID. Keely’s dad is away on business and has left her two hundred dollars because that’s the kind of father he is. Sarah tells her mom that she’s sleeping over at Keely’s. Her mom is too caught up in being a lawyer and a single mom and all of those other clichés to notice anything these days, anyway.
At Stitches, they find two denim mini skirts with ragged fringe at the bottom in different shades of whorey so they at least don’t look like twins.
Keely tries on a neon green halter top that she likes. It makes her feel like she’s in a rap video. Sarah emerges from the fitting room wearing an identical pink one. They stand next to one another and stare at the mirror. Keely can tell Sarah is sucking in her stomach.
“I’m not sure you have the shoulders for a halter,” Sarah says, adjusting her straps. Keely rolls her eyes and finds a tube top that’s almost, but not quite, the same colour.
At home, they lean over the counter in the bathroom and apply thick coats of mascara. “Are you going to dance with anyone?” Keely asks.
“If they ask, maybe,” Sarah says, taking a big sip of the vodka they found in Keely’s dad’s liquor cabinet. She makes a face as she swallows.
Keely laughs on autopilot. The dance feels like a decision they haven’t made. She starts to say something about a hundred times but it always turns into a comment about Jesus’ dong that makes Sarah laugh way too hard.
They take their hair down, shake it out, get dressed, keep drinking, all in this awkward silence like they’re both waiting for the other to be the one to suggest they skip out.
Sarah twists her body in the mirror, looking at it from the front, to the side, over the shoulder. Neither of them backs down and it’s time to leave, past time, so they do.
AT THE DANCE there’s bass thumping, a security guard at the door and a chubby boy that neither of them recognizes holding a clipboard. It’s dark on the other side, lights and smoke, a portal in a bright fluorescent hallway, heat, musk, emptied lungs, the remnants of panting breath pouring out like a warning. Sarah looks at the boy with the clipboard and he nods at them. “Go ahead,” he says.
“Don’t you need our names?” Sarah asks. He smirks at their mini skirts and gestures, as if their pale kneecaps are reason enough to open doors. It’s disappointing.
Inside the gym, there are bodies everywhere, few faces, lots of groping hands and swivelling asses. Sarah keeps her eyes trained ahead. She’s already sweating. Keely grabs her arm and elbows their way across the dance floor. At some point a tall boy that she’s seen before, a grade twelve, brushes her shoulder with his hand, flicks her hair past her ears and leans in towards her, but she keeps moving.
They arrive at the other side and find a bench to stand on, staring down at the writhing bodies, guys holding girls fast to their groins, eyes closed, heads back, mouths just barely open.
“Now I understand all of that stuff about teen pregnancy,” Keely shouts to Sarah. Sarah just smiles—a big, roaring part of her wants to be down there, inside the panting mass with everyone else.
And then, hallelujah! Jesus rises out of the fray. He sees them from across the room, parts the sea of people like he’s Moses, and arrives in front of them sporting a smile Sarah doesn’t understand.
His shirt is unbuttoned too many by one and beads of sweat trickle down the sides of his forehead. This will be the moment where he chooses between them and Sarah doesn’t think she’ll be able to stand it if it isn’t her, doesn’t know what she’ll do if it is.
Instead, Jesus reaches out with two hands, grabs both of them and pulls them off the bench. He nods up to the stage where Gregor the running back is sandwiched between two fourteen-year-olds. Sarah and Keely wrench their hands away at the same time and Sarah smiles at the look on Jesus’s face, like he miscalculated something, his reality upset.
Keely taps her wrist and Jesus clucks his disappointed tongue, disappearing into the dark crowd. Bodies start to push against them and Keely hooks her arm through Sarah’s and pulls her out of the crowd and away from everyone else.
Outside, Sarah gasps in gulps of fresh air, the cool attacking the sweat that covers her entire body.
“Let’s never do that again,” she says to Keely, who just laughs and drags her off into the night.
They find their way to the 7-Eleven, where Keely gives their favourite homeless guy, Mel Firstman, twenty bucks and he buys them cigarettes and hotdogs and they all sit outside on the curb eating and smoking together, like a family.
Sarah watches Keely smoke, eat the bun first, then the wiener.
“Jesus is such a douche,” Sarah says, her mouth full of smoke that leaks out the corners of her smile.
“Amen,” Keely says, lying back on the sidewalk, face to the night. “Amen.”