Mary Lynn Reed

Stacey was there when my fever broke, sitting on the edge of my bed, brushing my sweat-caked hair out of my eyes. My flu had canceled our trip to Disney World, for my fifteenth birthday. Park hopping, Space Mountain, adjoining hotel room with my parents.

“Your mother went to the grocery store,” Stacey said.

I pointed at the glass of water on the bedside table; Stacey handed it to me.  

“Scoot over,” she said.

Stacey was fully dressed, hair blown-dry and sprayed, dabs of her mother’s Chanel No. 5 behind her ears. I’d been in bed for two days, in crusty pajamas, vomiting at three-hour intervals.

“I’m disgusting,” I said, maneuvering to the other side of the double bed.

Stacey pulled the sheets back and crawled in, laid her head on the pillow next to me, just inches away. Her eyes were stonewash blue, tiny rippled lines of gray and hazel tinting her irises. Our bodies lightly touched, not purposefully, as I’d been telling myself for months.

We were best friends, Stacey and I. Constant companions. Her parents drank and threw china at walls, so she liked to sleep over. She liked to throw her arms around my father’s neck and call him “Dad.”

My bed was lumpy; it sagged in the middle. In the dark, we rolled into each other. At first, ricocheting like billiard balls. Then later, brushing by slowly. The smoothness of her skin grazing mine, the touch of her fingertips, pressing gently, speaking for themselves. Telling me I was not alone. In the dark, with Stacey in my bed, I was unafraid.

But it wasn’t dark now.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You look better,” she said. Then she reached up, brushed my cheek with the back of her finger.

“Stacey—” I said.

“Jamie—” Serious face.

I closed my eyes, held my breath, and Stacey moved closer.  Until we were flush, chest to chest, sunlight pouring through my window, fever headache tickling behind my eye socket.

Stacey took my face in her hands.  ”It’s OK,” she said. ”Nobody has to know.”

Her lips against my skin: holding there. Statuesque still.

Until my mother’s unmufflered Chevrolet pulled into the drive.

And I was on fire, shivering, alone in my bed. As Stacey raced out to help my mother bring the groceries in.

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