“Hey, D,” he says when I’m standing in front of him and he asks me to hold one of the screws for the skateboard’s wheel. I slouch into the bench and hand him back the screw after he holds out his hand. The gloves that he wears make him look homeless, but he says he’d rather have nice, soft hands instead of calluses.

“You’re early today. You didn’t have to stay after school?” He asks as he tosses his curls out of his face and runs his hand over the wheels of the skateboard.

“No, I’ve kind of completely given up on trying to keep a steady C in calc.” I respond.
“Calculus is bullshit, that’s why I dropped out. Right when I saw it on my schedule, I knew that I’d be leaving,” A.J. tells me. He looks up at me and squints, green eyes catching the light, “You look like you’ve got a halo when you’re sitting like that.”

I move closer into the metal of the bench, so that I can see the sunlight stain half of A.J.’s face.“What?”
I heard him, but I scrunch up my eyebrows like I’m confused anyway.

“Nothing. Hey, Bonnie.” He turns his attention to Bonnie, who pulls her long white hair out of its bun and grins at me.
She holds a bottle of Powerade in her hand.“Hey A.J. What’s up D?”

A.J. says that Bonnie has a special thing for me, but I don’t think that’s the case. I saw her with one of the guys who likes BMX, leaning in close to tell him some dirty secret as he whipped his head back to laugh at whatever she said. Of course, that didn’t mean they were sleeping together, it just meant that maybe she swung for ​that team, not for mine.

I shrug in response to Bonnie’s question and she lets out a laugh. “You free after eight?”

“Yeah, I guess. I’ll probably have to check in with my mom, though.” I lean into A.J., “Can he come too?”

“Why, can’t be away from your boyfriend?” She chugs her Powerade down and sticks out her blue tongue at me, thrusting her pelvis towards me. “Like what you see, D?”

A.J. chuckles and squeezes my thigh. “Nah, you guys should go together.”

I look down at his tan hand, the creamed coffee-colored skin hidden by those dumb gloves. I peel his hand off my leg. The denim of my jeans slides against the metal as I shift again.

“I’ll text you tonight, but I’ve got to leave, my brother needs a ride.” Bonnie smirks and waves, blowing a kiss in my direction.

“God, you guys just need to get together now,” A.J. stands and adjusts his gloves. “Smell you later, loser.” He walks up to the edge of the half-pipe, grins, slaps his skateboard down, and goes flying off.

My eyes wander across the skate park until they stop on a girl in roller blades making circles around a bench. I’ve never seen her here before. She stops her circling and falls onto the seat, immediately reaching for the clasps of the roller blades.

I watch as A.J. slides back up the halfpipe and kicks up his board. “I was calling you, D,”he tells me as he runs towards me. “Did you hear me? I did a freaking sick-ass trick, didn’t yousee it?” He wears a big smile, which makes his eyes look old.

“Who’s that?” I lean into his side, feeling his body move from his heavy breathing. I stick my finger out at the girl with the roller blades.

“Her? The hell if I know. I’ve never seen her before. But did you see me?” He turns toface me and grips my hands.

“No. Hold on, I want to go talk to her.” I break off from him and wave him away, heading towards the girl.

“What are you doing?” A.J. whines behind me, but I ignore him. I need to talk to this stranger.

A hey wants to fall out of my mouth when I reach her, but before I can say anything, she sticks out her foot.
“Can you take this off? I can’t get it, maybe you can. You look like you’re good with yourhands.” She bites her lip and shakes her foot.

I drop to my knees and take the roller blade in my hands. My fingers pull at the claps and I slip the roller blade off her foot. I follow her striped socks all the way up to her knees with my eyes. Her legs are thin, bony even, and her tiny foot is almost swallowed by my hand.“Thanks, sweetheart. So, what’s your name?”

“D,” I tell her, and set her foot down on the pavement. She crams it into her boot and lets out a bubbly giggle.“What is that supposed to stand for?”

“D for Delmara.” I stand up and brush the dirt off my shins.

“Jade,” she sticks her hand out at me. Her bangles clatter against each other as she shakes my hand. “You’re the first person I’ve met who likes shaking hands.”

“I never said I liked shaking hands. It’s just polite,” I feel uncomfortable now as I stare at her. Her straight hair lies on her shoulders and she wears a pink tube dress. A pink tube dress at the skate park?

Jade swings her feet back and forth. “I’m new here, but I know a couple people, like Bonnie. I saw you talking with her. She’s a hottie, if you ask me.” I almost want to blurt that I didn’t ask her, but I shake my head and open my mouth to speak:“How did you meet?”

“Don’t make small talk, D, it’s dumb.” Jade squints her eyes and looks past me. “That kidover there is shooting bullets at you with his eyes. I wouldn’t turn around if I was you, you might get shot,” she cackles, touching my leg with the toe of her boot.

I feel bad about it, not paying attention to A.J., but when I feel Jade’s freezing skeleton-thin finger poke me in the arm, I forget he exists. Jade hits the spot of the bench beside her and I go to sit, staring down the half-pipe to avoid A.J.’s eyes.

“Bonnie says she’s having a party tonight. Her parents are out of town and her brother is staying at a friend’s. You in? It’s at eight.” Jade snuggles into my side and the smell of her heavy perfume finds my nose.

“Yeah, Bonnie already invited me. I didn’t know it was going to be a party, though.”

Jade holds up her hand and picks at her cuticles as if in response to my comment.“You’re very warm, Delmara.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“What? Warm or Delmara. They’re both compliments,” I feel her shrug. Then she gets up and digs around in her bag. She pulls out a green Sharpie and presses it to my arm. “This is my number. I’ll pick up on the first ring, promise. You call me and we’ll head out to Bonnie’s together. Just name a place to meet. Got it, D?” By the time she’s finished talking, digits have been scrawled on my arm in green ink.

“Yeah, sure.”

“I need to go, but you do as I say.” She gets up from the bench, using me as support, and pulls down the hem of her dress. She turns to smile and wave and then she’s walking away from me, thin hips moving to a soundless beat.
***
I leave at a quarter to eight, shimmying into a sweater before I head out the door. Mom’s on night shift today and I feel as if I’m going along with my destiny as I slip out the front door and onto the porch with the squeaky floorboards.The night and wind greet me like good friends: how I expect Bonnie to greet me at the party. She’ll open the door and a smile will break out on her face, straight, white teeth showing and she’ll pull me inside, her hand on my back as we take a tour of her house. I pull my phone from my pocket and put Jade’s number in, the green ink looking dull in the light, and call her.

“Hello?” She answers sheepishly after one ring.

“Hey, it’s D. Do you want to meet by the park on Fifth? I mean if you can walk there.”

Her voice immediately warms and I hear her say, “Yeah, be there in ten minutes.”

She hangs up before I can and I imagine her little grin as she puts her phone down and covers her eyelids with aubergine eyeliner. I start to walk away from my house and into the street, kicking up loose rocks and clumps of asphalt. I turn around several times to see headlights in the darkness behind me and I move to the side of the street, trying to suppress the little bit of panic that threatens to erupt from me with
each car that passes. My phone beeps as a sixth car zooms by and I breathe a sigh as I reach for
it. There’s a text from A.J:

Who was that girl you were talking to earlier?
Her name’s Jade. She’s cool, I text back.
Really? She seems really weird. I saw how she was leaning all over you.
You lean all over me too.
Are you hanging out with Bonnie still?
Yeah, she’s having a party.
Can I go with you?
Yeah, I’m almost there, but I guess I can text you the address.
Yeah, thanks. That’s great.

I turn off my phone when I see Jade ahead of me. Her hair is in a high ponytail and she’s wearing giant hoops that I think will rip her earlobes.

“Hey,” she links her arm in mine when I come towards her. “You ready?”

“Yeah.”

We walk to Bonnie’s house together in the street, arms linked.

“I met Bonnie at a bus stop. I thought, gosh, that girl is just gorgeous. Don’t you think Bonnie is gorgeous?” Jade blurts as we turn the corner of Bonnie’s street. “I mean you’re gorgeous too.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty.”

She tightens her hold on me as we comes toward the house. I can hear some atmospheric pop music bursting from the house and pink, purple, and blue lights in the windows. Jade knocks on the door and her boa brushes against my arm. A boy I’ve never seen before opens it. He looks tired or maybe high with his parted lips and droopy eyelids. “You here for the party?” He asks us, leaning against the doorframe to steady his swaying body.

“Yes, now let us in,” Jade puts her hand on her hip and purses her lips.

​“If you say so, missy.” He lets us pass and the abrupt stench of multiple sweating bodies
makes me turn away from Jade and cough. We weave through the crowds, brushing shoulders with other teenagers until we mix in with the group in the kitchen.

“Do you know where Bonnie is?” Jade shouts at me above the music.

“She’s upstairs,” someone who overheard her tells us. Jade smiles at them and grabs my
hand, leading me. On the steps, there’s the boy whose sister is a cutter. He’s talking to some kid and
adjusting his glasses. He nods when our eyes meet and I think about stopping and giving him the
news. But he smiles and I let myself be dragged by Jade to the second story of the house.
I look up and find Bonnie at the back of the hall, leaning out the window. I can almost see her underwear.

“Bonnie!” Jade calls and she rushes toward her, boa and hair almost hitting me in the face.

Bonnie turns and grins wide, “Jade!” Then she spots me and her eyes soften and she’s motions me towards her.“I’m so glad you came. Jade told me that you two had met and you were gonna hang with
me tonight. You guys are too adorable together.”

I just give Bonnie a smile and stuff my bangs behind my ear.

​“Oh, wait, I really have to pee. I’ll be right back.” Jade touches my hand briefly before leaving to go to the bathroom.

“I’m surprised that you came with her,” Bonnie mumbles after Jade has already left.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“She just…you guys have different interests. She has this weird thing with baby dolls and old toys. And her brother is rich from pushing pills and she told me she wants to join in.” Bonnie puts her hand on my shoulder and leans down to whisper in my ear, “I’ve heard she even cries during sex.” She moves away and raises her perfect eyebrows at me.

​“So? I–”

“Well, are we gonna party or not?” Jade comes back to us. She raises her hands above her
head and cheers.

“Of course, come on, D.” Bonnie and Jade lead the way as we go back downstairs and into the living room where the stereo Bonnie got for her birthday churns out dance music.

She cries during sex? Like she’s in pain? I feel Jade’s hands find mine and she pulls meclose to her, hips brushing my thighs. Her pale face looks blue in the lights, almost ethereal as she gazes up at me. She sways slowly and I follow. Jade’s lips part, “I’m so happy I found you.”

At least I think that’s what she’s saying over the music.

We drink shots of some mix of liquor that Bonnie’s friend cooked up and we dance, jumping when fast-paced, angry punk songs come on, and moving our hips like slow pendulums when the music changes to piano-laced ballads. But now my hands are sweating and questions are ringing in my head like sirens.
Curiosity makes my hands move to Jade’s waist and I tug her towards me. We’re pressed right
against one another now.

“Do you want to go upstairs?” I move down to her ear to ask her. I feel her nod her head
and I stand up straight, taking her with me. The people standing in the stairwell are a blur, but
Jade and her flower perfume are shockingly clear. I feel anxious as I reach the top step and my hand turns sweaty in Jade’s grasp. There are so many doors in the hallway it seems and I open the one I think leads to Bonnie’s bedroom. I hear the door shut and lock and turn to see Jade stripping. Her hip bones stick out from the top of her black panties and her breast barely fill her push-up bra. She shakes her hair out of
the ponytail and mutters, “Well, what are you waiting for, D? Get naked.”

I shake my head, “No, none of that. Just let me kiss you.” I step towards her, feeling a lump in my stomach as I touch her cold, clammy skin, soft and foreign like a baby’s. My phone vibrates in my back pocket, but I ignore it, reaching for her. It doesn’t take much to get her crying, just my tongue in her mouth and the tears start rolling. I feel them against my own cheeks and the warm wetness makes me pull away.

“Did I hurt you?” I ask. I know I haven’t though.

“No, you didn’t. Keep going.” She’s forceful as she grabs my face.

Answering my question doesn’t seem as rewarding as I thought it would. I don’t want to kiss her anymore. I’m afraid that her salty tears will fall into my mouth.“No thanks, Jade. I’ve gotta get home.” I brush her cold hands with my palms and back away. “You should put your clothes back on.”

She stares at me, eyes glossy, mouth open wide.Her nostrils flare as she chokes out a sob. Jade’s hands move to cover her stomach and I turn my back to open the door. I look at the carpet as I leave.
I run down the stairs, but the boy from earlier catches my attention. I’ve got one more
thing to resolve. I stop and look at him. He doesn’t notice I’m there until the person he’s talking
with points at me.

“Hey, I know you from school.” He smiles a bit and shifts his weight.
I ignore him, though. It’s obvious I’m from his school.“Your little sister cuts herself,” I say calmly, meeting his eyes.

​There’s a pause and then his face contorts into a frown.

“Are you messing with me?” He asks.

“No, I’ve seen the razor blade and her scars.”

“Really?” He touches his mouth with the tips of his fingers and his eyes fall to the steps.

He breathes, “I should’ve known. She’s been acting so weird lately. She loves to swim, but now
she won’t change into a swimsuit, or even a t-shirt.” Then I see the tears. They drip from his eyes
and he wipes at them quickly. I didn’t expect this to happen, I just thought he’d be a little upset.
“Gosh, I…I didn’t even realize. She never told me.”

“I’m really sorry.” I’m not, but I still give him a pat so maybe he won’t embarrass himself
in front of his friend. Then I make my way down the stairs, adjusting my sweater.
I walk past everyone, and out into the street. I imagine Jade in the bedroom by herself,
picking up her clothes and catching the tears with a finger before they fall. And I imagine the
brother, wiping his eyes with his sleeve and turning away when his friend asks, “Are you okay?”
It must be raining, I think as I stand there, but then I realize I wasn’t quick enough to