by Gaynor Jones
So then Marcia peels back her collar to show us the two white marks on her neck, like we haven’t seen them every year, these two faded knots in a parallel line glaring out from her store-bought tan and as she strokes them she makes a sucking, slobbering sound and the girls all shriek then keel over laughing so hard that Erica spills her drink and then Lyndsey is wiping her eyes and saying ‘I cannot believe you let him do that, I cannot believe you let him do that’ over and over again and Marcia just shrugs like it’s not even the coolest thing she’s ever had done to her and chugs on her vodka-cherry-lime-soda and says ‘Well he did bleach his hair for me’ and then Lyndsey is throwing popcorn from a gargantuan bag down her throat and screaming ‘And he fucked you over the balcony that time’ and they all shriek again and someone grabs the remote and rewinds it back to that one scene where James Marsters comes up behind Sarah Michelle Gellar on the balcony in the Bronze and as I listen to the voices around me saying ‘so hot, so fucking hot,’ I’m thinking but he barely even touched her and I’m watching Sarah Michelle Gellar deadfaced, faking it on the screen and I have to turn away, because I know, I know, that when a guy comes up behind you like that, when it’s unexpected, when he invades you while barely touching you, that you cannot fake shit.
Then Marcia turns to us and asks, as she always does in this yearly ritual of ours, ‘who do you think Buffy should’ve ended up with, Spike or Angel?’ And, because I’ve been thinking about this long and hard since that night last fall, I accidentally-out-loud say ‘Riley’, safe little season four Riley, and they snort and shake their heads at me like we aren’t 26 years old and watching the same show that was retro even in our youth over and over again, but like this shit actually, really matters to them. And so I say ‘Riley’ again, louder this time, defiant, but I don’t say ‘because he just wants to protect her’ because we can never admit that, us third wave, millennial, click-bait feminists, if I said that anyplace but my head, they would laugh me out of the room and their lives and I need them in my life. Even as I’m growing to despise them, I need them in my life. ‘Riley was such a pussy’ says Marcia, but it’s okay that she says that because she is a woman, a grown woman now and she has RECLAIMED that word for herself. I shrug and think of Riley, in his army uniform, with his government sanctioned weapons, asking Buffy to love him, and I itch at my thigh in the place that I thought about cutting it that one time but I didn’t because although I understood the urge and I understood why I wanted to I just didn’t want to put my body through any more pain.
Lyndsey shakes the popcorn at me, like a peace offering, so I take the bag and begin to chew my words down. ‘Riley was a good fuck though,’ Lindsey puts an arm around me. ‘I mean, they got into that sex haze and raised that demon and shit.’ And everyone nods then like, yeah, that’s a good point, and then they turn back to the screen where Buffy is pressed up against the sink and Spike has his hand down her trouser pocket and I can smell the hormones in the room, even over this giant fucking bag of popcorn under my nose and Lyndsey crosses and uncrosses her legs like she has an itch down below and then when Spike’s done she squeezes my shoulder and jumps up for the remote and says ‘let’s skip the part where he tries to rape her though’ and I think how much does she know? and then my brain catches in a loop like it does sometimes since that night last fall and I think of how easy it sounds
Let’s skip the part where he tries to rape her
Let’s skip the part where he tries
Let’s skip the part
And somewhere from outside of the blackness in me I hear Marcia say
‘I’d totally let Spike rape me though’ and then there’s a sharp intake of breath while they decide whether to scold her or pat her on the back but I answer for them, I answer for all of them because I tip the remaining popcorn onto the floor and hold the absurdly large, almost empty packet over her head and pull it down tight and as they start to screech at me and claw at me someone yells call 911 and I watch Marcia’s neck turn red and the scars where she let some fucked up faux vampire boyfriend bite her turn whiter and whiter like her bulging eyes and I take a moment to look at those scars, the ones she wears so proudly on the outside of her skin and then I think about my scars, about what I know and they don’t, at least I think they don’t, and just before they manage to pull me off her I think
I should have cut myself and then they would understand.
Gaynor Jones is an award winning short fiction writer. She is the recipient of the 2018 Mairtín Crawford Short Story Award and has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, a Pushcart Prize and a BIFFY. She was named Northern Writer of the Year at the 2018 Northern Soul Awards. She is currently working on her debut short story collection. She lives in Manchester, UK with her husband, daughter, dog and a headful of strange ideas. www.jonzeywriter.com
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