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the curses through my teeth

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1. The Stranger - "desperate doesn't look good on you, neither does your virtue"

It's been three months since you ended it.

*

"Bran muffin?" Gina asks when you clamber down the stairs, already late for school. You look like absolute shit. You're well past needing Katie to snark and remind you. You shake your head, flip her off quick, grab your bag and go, pedaling hard.

By the time you get there, your fringe is damp against your forehead and your shoe laces haven't magically tied themselves. Your homework's not finished, and you didn't do the reading for Kieran's class.

Thing's aren't getting better.

*

You pass her in the hallway (her her. For the past months there hasn't been anyone else.) and open your mouth to speak before thinking--alright, when have you ever thought about what you were going to say, aside from bringing the two of you together and tearing you apart?--but before you can do anything irrevocable, you're dragged into the loo, and thank Christ, really, because your heart can't take another go at the Fitch train.

Effy lights a cigarette, offers one to you, completely unimpressed.

"In the habit of snatching bitches from hallways, Stonem?" You don't quite have it in you to be upset; she's saved you from certain disaster. You were going to ask Emily for another chance. Fuck all.

She sucks casually. "You know me." Bored.

You smile a little. "Not really."

*

Another lecture to get through, and around the third time the teacher calls on you and you don't have the answer, you think it dawns on him that you might not be the Naomi Campbell they all know and love.

You stumble through an explanation of the greenhouse effect that you should be able to give in your sleep, and when you finish, there's a flash of dark red to your side, and Katie's smirking at you.

Whatever that means.

*

Effy catches you again after college by the bike rack, slipping a lit cigarette between your lips.

You wonder why you feel guilty, being caught staring after the Fitch twins on their walk home.

2. Save Me From What I Want - "seventeen cold showers couldn't wash away"

Katie pretends you don't exist for an entire summer after Gobbler's End, and while you're sure she interprets the events differently, you do the same, mostly. There isn't much for you to come back to, actually: shit life, shit mum, shit romantic situation.

Fucking Tony convinces you over a long phone call (him talking, you breathing) that things can change in a manner of minutes, let alone months, and to "give it a go, yeah?" He promises too, to come round for a visit, to try and ease things at home.

You're this close to telling him to fuck right off, that the only way things'll change is for the sodding worse when he slips a giant bag of quality product into your hand.

Always loved him best, you did. You're certain he's the only one who loves you back. Shouldn't bother trying.

Everything's a bit less rough around the edges when you're floating.

*

Naomi's actually well hilarious when she's had a few and doesn't remember that she really wants to be on about the political climate in America, and the Rights of the Gays. She loosens up, fucking dances sometimes, even, and kisses Emily in public.

You're always on the edge of it all, just flitting. Sometimes you smile and it feels odd, and you remember it's because its been so long.

*

That, too, falls apart.

Of course.

*

"Ems's a fucking mess. 've had a headache for three bloody days."

You don't reply, you're relatively certain she doesn't want you to reply. Katie doesn't have any friends, these days.

She steals one of your cigarettes and holds it between her fingers without lighting it. Using it as more a prop than anything else. "Oh Katie," she's taken on an affected voice, "I dunno what I'm gonna do!" She doesn't look at you, though you're sitting less than a foot apart. "Fucking hopeless. I could have told her this would happen. Blinded cow."

You know the feeling.

*

You send Naomi a text: "gt fkdup my plc" and she comes. You wouldn't have been surprised either way. Wordlessly, you offer her a line, and she shrugs, snorts, twisting her nose afterwards.

It doesn't matter later, laying next to each other but not touching, but you suppose you're glad she came.

3. The Neighbors - "what would your mother say, what would your father do?"

Ems plops down next to you on the couch, grabs the remote and changes the channel. Mid-protest, she interjects "Think I'll ask Sofie to come drinking with us on Thursday, yeah?" and the look she gives you is right pathetic, still wanting approval as if you give two shits who she dates or doesn't.

"Done moping over Naomi, then?" Probably shouldn't say it, but that's like, your job. Cutting through the crap. Even if it tends to get you hit on the head with rocks.

She stares at the screen for a long time, her face reflecting blue, red, green. "Got to do it sometime," she says, and in a flash you see a glimmer of strength in her, the kind you used to only see when she was with Naomi, or defending Naomi, or pursuing Naomi. Right then.

*

It's stupid how much time you're spending on school, because sometime since returning to college you realized that this is what actually matters in the terms of where you'll end up spending the next years of your life, and for fuck's sake, you want those to be better than this one.

When Emily reminds you about drinks, and you tell her to sod off, you've got homework, it only feels like half an excuse.

*

Even though you've got the bloody story straight now--been corrected by almost everyone you know--and admit, even to yourself, that your sister's well gay, you're still near shocked every time you see Naomi Campbell and remember that she's still not admitted to full lesbian status.

Because Christ, only a dyke would wear those earrings with that shirt. And the way she leans across the table to light Effy's cigarette during lunch recess?

Is fucking gay.

*

You sit with them, sometimes, even though Naomi looks at you all bug-eyed when you sit next to Effy, like you'll whip out a rock right there and knock her out--which would, you have to admit, be at least a little funny.

"Shouldn't you hate me, Katiekins?" Naomi asks her, as the bell rings. "Broke your sister's heart."

Effy's face is blank, like always.

"Not her, am I?" And you're not.

*

You catch her--them--snogging in your room and wonder if Naomi's up for a study session. Sofie has bright pink hair and a short skirt.

"Well then," you cough, smiling, and grab your books.

4. Actor Out of Work - "I can quit you, cut it out"

You don't miss Emily so much as the idea of her. It's a good thing that you know the difference.

*

"It's fucking disgusting, actually," Katie says, laughing, unconsciously shrugging and pushing her breasts together and forward. You don't look, really. "Like, when they're standing next to one another? They clash!"

You blink, not sure what expression you're making. It's surprising you how much you don't feel.

"Oh, right," she taps a pen to your hand on the table--it's clenched. "Fresh wounds. Or... whatever."

*

After getting monumentally fucked up on acid--probably laced with something messy, JJ tells you, as if he knows fuck all about it--Effy disappears from the dance floor. You try not to notice, but the music seems a bit disjointed without her liquid body flowing between all of you.

You hear Cook talking about it later, how she didn't say a word. How she left bruises on his neck.

It doesn't mean a thing, Effy tells you the next day. Nothing does.

*

You don't like sleeping.

Not after dreaming the day Ems came to school dressed as Katie and you kissed her, right in the hallway, for the first time.

You wouldn't mind dreaming about Emily. You never really quit that.

But it's all twisted up. And you're not dreaming about her.

*

"Darling, I'm honestly starting to worry. You look like the dead!" Kind of your mum to take a moment from her busy schedule to notice. "At least let me make you some tofu!"

*

Everything tastes like vodka and nicotine, and your eyes are bloodshot.

You spend five hours researching work conditions for rice farmers before staring off out your window and falling asleep mid-thought.

You don't bother asking for an extension on the paper, though the teacher looks at you with these incredibly wounded eyes. Like you're the best and brightest disappointment she's ever seen.

*

Katie interrupts you in English with the correct answer.

She doesn't look at you the rest of the period, but as you all tumble out, she brushes close and whispers "You're welcome, twat."

5. Black Rainbow - "I think I'm glass I think I'm breaking it"

Fuck reality, really. It's overrated.

You spend the better part of three weeks fluctuating between manufactured highs and lows. You sit through lecture staring at whispers of light glinting off Pandora's hair clips in giant arcs of color. You can't count the number of times you and Cook fuck; maybe only once or twice, perhaps more. It's doubtful he'd make the mistake of assuming you're actually coherent beyond some sense of bliss-seeking.

Days and nights blend and you don't bother going home. You remember when you cared. Pop another pill.

*

The only downside you can find to a life of detachment is that your dreams are utterly fucked. And not with sex.

Tony would say your brain is just processing all the shit its not processing during the day, all the shit that you shove to the back of your mind, continuously.

*

Your dealer runs dry so you end up asking Freddie for a spliff. He gives you a look but hands you one from his side cargo pocket. You lean against the cool brick of the school building, and fish your lighter from your purse.

But before your can light the over-stuffed blunt, Naomi's round the corner and snatching it, and the lighter, out of your fingers. "You're a hard bint to keep track of, Effy Stonem," she says, leaning next to you, sniffing and twisting her nose in a half-smile and reaching around your body to flick open the lighter and slip the spliff between your lips.

You inhale.

*

Anthea's not done the dishes since the last time you've been home, and you can't be bothered, though the smell is far from pleasant. You steel a fag from her pack on the kitchen table and smoke it staring at the white, blank wall of Tony's room. (It will never be yours, no matter how long you sleep there, nor that you've shoved his fucking duvet in a closet.)

*

You haven't slept. Fuck knows why you even bother showing up to college like this, because you're fucking shaking, and you know your mascara is on too thick for someone who's supposed to be human.

Katie--of all people, fucking Katie--pulls you aside after second period and asks you what's wrong, and all you can see is her perfect little mouth, shaping the words and you feel like you're about to die (except, no, you know what that's like, don't you?).

You crush against her and taste, taste--

"Are you fucking mental?!"

Yes. You are.

6. Laughing With a Mouth Full of Blood - "I can't see the future but I know it's watching me (wonder what it sees)"

You feel like you've been struck by lightning.

*

"Lipstick's smudged," Naomi says, licking her thumb and reaching out to fix your mouth. You jerk back in the space of a blink, but it's far too long; she touches you, and there it is again, that electric wire.

*

They're full-on fucking--on your bed--by the time you manage to get home, eyes glazed over, every step feeling half-placed. You open the door even while you're realizing that something doesn't feel right. "Fucking Christ," you shout, throwing a hand up in front of your eyes, because, Jesus, eww!

"Right, Katie," Emily giggles, out of breath. "Don't suppose you and Sofie've been properly introduced."

You shake your head; fucking lesbian cow. "Definitely not the time, Ems."

*

You fuck off to Freddie's shed and knock first, because this day could only get worse if you walked in on him wanking. It's empty, which is actually pretty perfect.

Nothing's happening right in your brain. It's all fucking twisted up.

The shed's too quiet.

You put on your headphones--some god-awful club mix you downloaded to your phone weeks ago, before everything started dissolving, spinning away. Fuck. Cigarette. Something.

"study sesh?" You hit send. Grind your teeth together so hard you see spots.

*

She doesn't have the decency to reply, so she scares you half out of your skin shoving the door open more abruptly than you think you've ever seen Effy do anything. "You don't have any books," she says, flat.

"Yeah, well. Neither do you." You wrap the headphones around one hand, suddenly feeling self-conscious about them. Fuck her.

She's wearing the same fucking shirt-dress that she was earlier, torn all down one side. Everyone at college had to have seen her underclothes, her ridiculously small tits. Effy Stonem is the reason dress codes exist. "What are you studying?" Her lip quirks and she looks you up and down.

All that electricity winds up inside and spins out. You shove her back against the door. "Don't fucking do that," you growl, and your voice scares you, how strange you sound.

"Do what?" she breathes, suddenly against your skin.

Fuck. Fuck.

"Don't tell Naomi."

You bite her lips and nearly cry when she gasps. Everything's welling up. She only has to break the surface and you'll collapse.

Her hair stands on end.

7. Marrow - "if you could only go somewhere else"

It's a break you want, from... whatever's going on. A break from the break, perhaps, if you're witty. And since it's a break you want, you know where to go. You and Freds were never the best of mates, and the massive Effy-Katie-Emily fiasco only managed to fuck things up between you. You were both cunts, and maybe you're heading that way again. But you don't want to think about how or why, so here you are.

He answers his phone on the second ring with a slow "All right?"

"If you aren't completely fucked up already, would you mind company?"

He says he'll meet you outside. You walk rather than bike. Something tells you to slow down.

*

It takes you a moment to find him, less, once you realize he's probably out back.

The smoke from your cigarette drifts past your face and twists in the air, like a ribbon. You crush the butt out on his lawn with the heel of your shoe. "Oy Freds."

He doesn't look well. "We should go inside, yeah?"

"Your shed, right?" you gesture, already wanting another cigarette.

Freddie start to shake his head. "Not right now, Naomi. I don't think--"

"Fuck's the problem?"

A bit of wood slivers into your left thumb as you shove the door open. You shout, immediately pop it into your mouth, and freeze.

They don't say anything. Effy stares.

Katie can't even look up.

*

You're not thinking of the two of them, later, in the bath. How Effy looked fucking weak and Katie had tears on her face. The make-up smudged, the hair tangled.

The tap pours out a strong stream of blisteringly hot water and you get in, pain be damned, because you need something to shock you out of it, right? You count to five (the number of years you've known Katie plus one, for Effy) and flick the handle to cold, feeling the water mix at your feet. Despite yourself, you shiver.

This is just about Emily, yeah. You miss her.

*

The water drains out and your fingertips are turning blue, for Christ's sake. You've got to be fucking daft. You should have Gina commit you.

You don't move from the tub, not even when the water's all gone. You're shaking all over, teeth chattering until you clench your jaw shut.

Another five count and you're sobbing, naked against porcelain, two fingers in your cunt and your thumb against your clit. You're warm.

8. The Bed - "put your hands where we can see them please"

You're not sure what to expect--the moment Naomi comes crashing in, everything might fall apart. No, that moment comes far earlier. But something clicks, like a good hit finally kicking in. You can feel the air change, gathering before a storm. The ozone crackling.

Katie breathes different around her.

*

Naomi can't look at you the next day, and you've a rough idea why. Her eye makeup is runny, like she couldn't even manage to get it on without crying.

But you're really fucking sober, so you don't say anything.

*

Katie follows you into the bathroom and ducks behind you into a stall. She kisses vicious, more teeth than tongue. "The fuck are we doing, Stonem," she hisses, grabbing at your waist, unable to look you in the eye.

You'd like to know what your intentions are, you almost tell her. It's been so long since you had any that you don't remember what it feels like.

You kiss her again instead, ignoring how you know its not right. "This," you say instead.

*

Naomi's almost too quick for you and is already on her bike by the time you find her after class. You grab her wrist, and she winces when she should shout and shake you off. "I dunno what you're fucking around with," she whispers, trying to pull away, "But you shouldn't be messing around with Katie."

For a moment she stares you right in the eye, and you can see everything.

"What makes you think I'm messing around?"

She looks away.

You let go.

*

Freddie rings you and you answer for once. "Thought you might be interested, yeah. Big party at the 405."

"I'll bring the 'shrooms," you murmur, and there's a long pause, then a laugh.

"Good one, Eff. Good one. See ya there."

9. The Party - "but I sit transfixed by a hole in your shirt"

Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid.

*

You catch a cab with Sofie and your sister despite your better judgment. You end up paying while they snog--oblivious--the whole trip. Really disgusting. You re-apply makeup and delete texts from your phone in an attempt not to make eye contact or small talk with the driver. He leers at you, probably picturing a threesome.

Right. Like you're that bloody easy.

*

Dunno why you bother with it, but you're surprised to see Naomi in queue when you arrive. For some reason you didn't expect to see her here. It just didn't cross your mind.

But she looks put together, for once. The past weeks have been havoc on her already shit fashion sense, and she's been practically a cave-person round college. Her closet must have given her a sound whipping, though, because her skirt and top match, and the shoes Naomi's got on actually make her legs... well. They're flattering.

She gives a giant laugh when she sees you, and you're this close to fucking slapping her in the face for the second time in your lives, until you realize she's cracked up at the sight of Ems and her highlight-colored girlfriend.

They are well ridiculous-looking, so you grin back and cut in line.

"Fag?" Naomi asks you, suddenly serious.

*

You know the minute Effy arrives. Don't want to think about how you do, that'd just be gay, but you look up from your cosmo (really not strong enough, if you're being honest) and she's there, wearing another of her fucking shirt-dresses and ripped up tights.

She walks straight to Naomi--but walking's not the right word for it, she's like, slinking, or half-dancing. Christ. She's just Effy. And when she gets there--you're watching, staring really, and you know you shouldn't, just like all of this--she smiles and slips something onto her tongue.

You can see Naomi shiver from where you stand, and fuck if you don't as well.

*

"Sof'n I are gonna fuck off, yeah?" Emily shouts right by your ear, over the music, but you aren't expecting it and jump halfway out of your skin. She half-smirks at your reaction. "Right."

You take a breath and push your fringe back. "Whatever."

She looks at you a little too long before leaving your side. Frowns right as she turns away.

*

Effy's eyes are lowered and Naomi's not even here anymore, not in mind. In body, however, she's pressed up against Effy, back to front, only swaying slightly, arms up and tangled in dark hair.

There's nothing to even feel jealous of, yeah, cause you're not fucking gay.

But neither is Effy. Right?

You don't know up from down anymore.

10. Just the Same but Brand New - "and I might be wrong, I might be wrong, I might be wrong"

You're spinning, but slower and slower until nothing's moving (except it all is, you know it, and you can't catch up, you can't even breathe) and Effy is everywhere, and you can feel Katie somewhere behind you, watching, and it's been ages since you've felt this alive.

And it's not fair, because you want more.

*

Effy's tongue is rough against yours, and you're moaning into her mouth. You don't even care. It's brilliant. You don't care. You want her. You want Katie. You want to taste everything.

You do taste everything.

*

"You're fucking insane, yeah."

Effy brushes at a dark lock of hair. "Old news."

"Christ, don't touch me. People can see us." You're certain her eyes are burning straight through you, striking a path that starts at your clavicle and works its way through your lungs, hack-and-slash, right to your core.

"P'rhaps you need another drink, Katiekins," you mumble, managing not to bite your lip when she flashes a glare in your direction, stopping you in your tracks. She stares a moment, then shoves you back, into Effy. Your shoulder flames up from her touch, then your body catches fire.

"I'm well taken care of, all right?"

And you know Katie well enough now that you know you aren't supposed to see her lip tremor.

*

The beats are still attacking you when you start to come down, sweat dripping in thin lines from your forehead and the small of your back. You can tell because the world speeds up and slows at the same time, and nothing is as vibrant anymore. Effy still looks like magic, snaking up behind Katie, and licking her neck like a hard candy.

None of you are sober, but you're well on the way.

*

"Let's get out of here, yeah?" It's Katie who says it, and you nearly kiss her, even knowing that she'd slap you for it. You're all weak-kneed, quite virginal; only difference is you have some idea what lies in store. Effy's face shows no sign of recognition, no eagerness. However, her hand is pressed firmly against Katie's back, and she's walking quickly, steady on her feet.

You watch the two of them, for a moment, your feet slowing to a standstill. Blood pumps through your heart and for the space for two beats, you aren't sure.

"You're coming, right?" Katie snaps her head around, eyes on you, sharp.

And you're back with them. Boiling.

11. The Sequel - "bodies like wrecking balls"

Katie stares at you, an eyebrow raised. "Do this often? Your mum didn't look all that surprised." She flicks her gaze towards Naomi, who half-smirks, kneels on the bed.

You flip her off and pull your dress over your head. There's a sharp gasp, but you can't see who it comes from.

"Right," Naomi says, as you drop the fabric and shake your hair free. "Guess this is actually happening." She doesn't bother to pretend she's not looking, unlike Katie, who's found her shoes fascinating.

You sit on the floor in front of Katie, turn your head to Naomi. Your hand skates up Katie's leg and she shudders, eyes closing. "Be a bit arrogant of us to assume you were dreaming this, wouldn't it?"

*

It only takes a few minutes of you kissing Katie before Naomi moans and scoots closer. Perfect, you think, let the ending commence.

At least it'll be beautiful.

*

Katie's got to be drunk off it, the situation, you, Naomi, something, cause she wouldn't be caught at this sober; skirt hiked up around her waist, clambering over Naomi and pushing her down onto the bed, groaning into every kiss.

And you're here to work buttons loose, feeling a chill when Naomi twists her head, frees her hand and reaches out to you, whispers your name.

*

There's too many hands on you; too many tongues.

You're not really one to complain, though.

*

Fucking Katie is not unlike fighting Katie. Your fingers ache inside of her, and she bites your lip. You're almost back there, unable to breathe, until Naomi touches your shoulder, kisses your mouth clean and takes you into her mouth. You can feel Katie's heavy-lidded eyes on you; Naomi's tongue tasting her.

No one's died yet. You aren't sure, suddenly, why you thought this would be so awful.

Naomi releases you, smiles. "Suppose it's my turn, then?"

"Have to catch my breath first, impatient cunt."

Christ. It's all almost perfect.

*

It's the first time you think of it as your room, when you wake up curled against the headboard and blink awake to the sight of Naomi splayed across Katie (who fucking frowns in her sleep, of course) and you smile.

Bonus Track. Bicycle - "Then when I blinked you were gone"

What did you think would happen? You'd all fuck off and be happily-gay-ever-after? Not on.

You're Katie Fitch, and this is the real world. Things like this don't happen. And if they do, well. They're forgotten. Erased.

*

You don't even have the dignity to be hungover.

Effy's already gone off somewhere--it's her house, for fuck's sake--but thank God you don't have to attempt to make small talk or whatever. Naomi's out, still. And she's naked, of course. You all were, are, whatever.

Fuck.

*

Emily's not home when you get there, which is truly fabulous. Mum's practically off her tit, flipping out over where've the two of you been, never fucking mind that you aren't your sister's keeper and you don't give a shit.

Besides, if your mum knew what you were doing last night, she wouldn't care so much about where you were.

*

You spend a few hours feeling like you should toss, but knowing that you don't need to. Instead, you shower, scrubbing hard over all the places they touched, until finally, you're raw and crying into cold water.

There's two texts waiting, when you get out.

It only takes a few minutes to gather your books and get dressed. You calmly explain to your mum that you've got another extended study session with 'some girls from college' and on the way out, you toss back, "Right, and Ems is shagging a well filthy chav girl. Ought to do something about that."

*

Effy's already at Naomi's place when you get there. She's holding a bag of pot, dangling it between two fingers. "Freds considered this a worthy cause."

You smile, despite yourself. "Well done. You must have anticipated that I wouldn't touch either one of you again fully sober."

"Mm," Naomi says, exchanging a glance. "Me either, yeah."