Shandy & Ian
Shandy wears her unruly red curls in a messy braid down her back. It stops a few inches above her waistline. She’s not wearing a belt, and her Sperry boots are loose on her feet. I watched her wrangle the last of her curls into the braid and jam her feet into the boots, her face a blank mask while I hustled her through the motions.
The dying fire throws light and shadow over her face. Torie tightens her grip on my wrist, tugging me forward, but I look back over my shoulder again to check on Shandy. Full dark has fallen to the tunes of the eighties blaring from someone’s iPhone hooked up to a Boom speaker. Shandy’s skin is almost translucent white, except for the dark hollows under her eyes.
I don’t know where Ian is.
I haven’t seen him in days.
“Do you have a lighter?” Torie asks me now. I swing my gaze back around to look at her and roll my eyes. I’m sure the movement is lost in the darkness.
“In what world would I have a lighter?” I yank my arm free from her grasp. Somewhere behind me, someone is laughing and singing the wrong lyrics to “99 Luft Balloons.”
“Dammit.” Torie groans and laughs at herself as she pats her pockets down now, looking for a lighter, I assume. She started smoking when we were in seventh grade; I tried a cigarette on a dare when I was fifteen. After nearly choking and coughing for what felt like hours on end, I passed it back to Torie and vowed never to do it again.
She knows I don’t smoke. It’s just like her to absent-mindedly ask me for a light. She reaches for my hand again to pull me along. The ground beneath my boots is soft and wet; it stormed earlier this week. I look back at Shandy again, cross-legged by the fire. One leg is bent under her. She hugs the other knee to her chest, watery blue eyes on the flames. Her jeans will be wet when she gets up.
Ian called her Shan.
Her fingers were bare earlier. When I tapped on the door and then tried the knob—it was unlocked—I found her sitting cross-legged on the old floral-patterned couch in their front room. She was wearing the thin silver chain, like always, but her fingers were bare.
“Joss.” Torie tugs on my arm again. “What’re you lookin’ at?”
“Just checkin’ on Shandy.”
“Why did you even bring her?” Torie links her fingers with mine. I squeeze her hand, the wide silver band on her index finger pinching against me.
Sometimes, Shandy wears a band and another ring with a tiny ruby stone. I’ve never asked her about it; honestly, I don’t talk that much to her, but since she wears it on her ring finger, I assumed it was a wedding band.
Her last name is Baxter. Same as Ian’s.
“She’s a freak,” Torie says now and stops so abruptly that I run into her from behind. She drops my hand and tiptoes around a mud puddle to perch on a fallen log.
I don’t. I don’t know why I felt compelled to bring her along.
That’s not even true. I didn’t just bring her along. I could’ve just left the house without even seeing her, but it just felt weird to me. Not checking on her. Their car was parked at the curb like always, but there were a few fliers tucked under the windshield wiper on the passenger side. That reminded me that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen Ian and that made me wonder if Shandy was okay, and that’s when I tried her door and found her there on the couch.
She looked like a zombie.
That’s why I dragged her along with me.
Wasn’t like I thought she’d have fun with us. Wasn’t like I thought she’d be fun. But leaving her there, hunched over on the couch, felt wrong.