MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
WHEN I FIRST met you, that stupid-hot day last September when you jumped into my car and slid down in the passenger seat and told me to drive, you were bleached blond. You had a pixie cut with dark roots, the kind of hair that was less a hairstyle and more a lifestyle. You were wearing too much eyeliner and had a ring in your lip and I never said it out loud, but I thought you were beautiful. Not in the regular way, but in your own way. And that was so much better.
You looked the exact same, day after day. You used to bleach your head every two weeks in your tiny bathroom at home. You asked me to trim your ends for you because you sucked at getting them even.
“My hair has to be short,” you told me. “It’s too damaged to grow out. I wish I had long hair like yours, but some things aren’t meant to be.”
“You can have mine,” I said. “It’s too thick. I hate it.” Really, I would have given you anything of mine you wanted.
Then, right after you graduated, just days after I watched you walk across the stage with your diploma and away from me, you showed up at my house with a stubby ponytail. A stubby, mouse-brown ponytail. I could tell by your smudged hairline that you had just done it on your own.
I barely recognized you.
“I never pictured you as a brunette,” I said.
“I wanted to try it,” you said. “Haven’t you ever just been so sick of yourself that you had to do something about it?”
The next week, your hair was copper, with choppy bangs that you must have cut yourself. You didn’t ask for my help, but I tried not to feel hurt. “It was a spontaneous thing,” you explained. “I saw the dye and just went for it.”
Two weeks later, it was black, with long extensions you said you bought on the internet. “I’m trying new things,” you told me when I finally asked why. “It’s time for a change.”
After that, I didn’t think much about it when you had a new look. Purple hair and streaked hair and bangs and bobs and curls and clip-in pieces. Then you started playing with makeup too, ditching your beloved, sooty eyeliner for false eyelashes and color contacts, and your lip ring for bright red lipstick that got on your teeth. I lost track of which version of you I would see, even though I saw you every single day that summer.
But I didn’t think much about it, because lots of girls do things like that.
I didn’t think much about it.
But I should have.
Because when you disappeared after the party, the police asked me for a description of you. They needed a description because they didn’t have a recent photo. They didn’t have a recent photo because no recent photos of you existed. You stayed out of pictures. You didn’t think you were photogenic.
“I always look weird in front of the camera,” you’d said. “Besides, I’d rather just live in the moment. Why do people feel the need to document everything?”
I should have known you better than anyone.
But when they asked me, I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to stop the room from spinning long enough to picture what you looked like, and I realized I had no idea.
What I tell them I remember about that night: everything that doesn’t matter.
WHAT I REMEMBER about that night: everything that matters.
I know lying is wrong, but isn’t breaking your promises worse? There’s something about a promise that’s more important. A permanent tie to somebody else. A signature scrawled in the air, pinpricked thumbs pressed together. Swallowing someone else’s desperation. Hiding someone’s biggest mistake. Speaking the three most important words in the English language:
I’ll never tell.
So, as bad as I feel about lying to the cops about the night Trixie disappeared, it feels more natural than the alternative. And that’s the thing about choices: When you put them on either side of a scale, they never weigh the same.
One is bound to be heavier.
Copyright © 2019 by Laurie Flynn. All rights reserved.