It was one of those nights where Cady was thanking her lucky stars for getting dumped here in Chicago.
She was curled up on the couch in Janis's parents garage with Janis and Damian, almost entirely through a bottle of peach schnapps, with some movie playing that Damian claimed was a 'right of passage' she had somehow missed while she was in Kenya. It didn't matter that her idea of a 'right of passage' was watching her Masaii friends have white paint smeared into open wounds on their back and drink soured milk mixed with cow's blood; Damian claimed she just had to see Breakfast Club.
Sitting there, with Janis's arm around her and Damian on the couch, watching the screen swirl in funny ways, Cady was blissfully happy. She was watching her phone screen light up in the corner of her eye every few minutes as well—knowing that the group text with Regina and Gretchen and Karen was waiting for her when her fun time with Janis and Damian was over didn't hurt either. It was the best of both worlds, having the plastics on one hand, and Janis and Damian on the other.
"Cady, eyes on screen! This is the moment you need to capture—Molly Ringwald is everything you should be hoping to be!" Damian reached across Janis and squeezed Cady's leg, urging her to pay attention to the screen in front of her as Molly Ringwald put a lipstick between her breasts and applied it to her lips. Janis rolled her eyes and flicked a piece of popcorn at Damian, who laughed as he avoided it. Janis leaned back and laid her arms along the back of the couch in a total power move, grabbing Damian and Cady and pulling them to her.
"I love you two so much," she smiled and released them, leaving her arms gently laid over their backs. Cady smiled and snuggled into her side.
"Love you too, girl!" she chirped back.
Hanging with Regina and her minions felt nice because people were looking at her and wanting to be her, but hanging out with Damian and Janis was so much better because they didn't want to be her, they actually just wanted to be with her. The difference was tiny, but it made Cady grateful that she had them to turn back to after a long day of following Regina around.
Buzz buzz! Buzz buzz!
Cady glanced at her phone, but the screen was dark, and she had it set to silent anyways. Janis glanced wryly at Damian, who reached out and snatched his phone off the coffee table in front of them.
"Oh my god you guys, it's Leslie. You know what that means!" Damian covered the phone as if he had already picked up before silently mouthing the name 'Phillip'. Janis rolled her eyes but shooed Damian away, and he pressed talk on the phone before getting up and flitting out the sliding glass door of the converted garage to the darkness outside.
"Who's Phillip?" Cady asked as Janis paused the movie.
"That is a very long story," Janis replied lazily. "I should probably let Damian tell you. Just let me warn you—it gets steamy. So what do you think of Breakfast Club?"
"It seems… so stratified? I'm confused on why they all judge each other so hard."
"I mean, isn't that North Shore?" Janis raised an eyebrow as she spoke.
"Well, I mean, not really."
"Cady, do you seriously not remember your first day? When we walked you through the cafeteria and showed you all the cliques before you decided to sit with us?"
"I mean, that was how you saw the world, it's not necessarily true for everybody though. I mean, you painted Regina and Gretchen and Karen as these awful people, but they're nice to me!"
Janis guffawed loudly, rolling her eyes at Cady.
"You only say that because you're new and haven't pissed them off yet. Just wait. You'll do something to get on Regina's bad side and then you'll pay."
"Why do you say that? She hasn't done anything mean since I've been there!" Cady jokingly pushed Janis's shoulder, but the girl just stared at her blankly.
"Really? Nothing mean?" Janis asked incredulously. "What was the gossip du jour today, huh? Who's gained ten pounds, or thrown themselves at the quarterback, or cheated on so-and-so with so-and-so, right? Did I miss something? Maybe it's something really juicy, like somebody blowing Coach Carr in the locker room to pass health, huh?"
"I mean, yeah, but you guys gossip too."
"Cady," Janis leaned in and gently pushed Cady back so she was leaning on her elbows. "Damian and I gossip, but it's different. We're the Allisons of the world. Outcasts, powerless, just hanging on the fringes and getting through. You're a total Claire. A Molly Ringwald. Destined to rule because you're pretty and you know how to use it. I bet you could even apply lipstick with your tits if you wanted."
Cady couldn't help but laugh at that—their dispute forgotten. She looked down at her cleavage, only slightly visible in a comfy t-shirt bra and beige tank top from her safari days.
"I could not!" she claimed, glancing dubiously at her chest. "I barely even have boobs, much less a lipstick to apply with them."
"Here," Janis leaned over and retrieved her own tube of lipstick from the coffee table—some very dark plum color that suited her goth-ish look perfectly. "Now you just push your boobs together and I'll place the tube."
She straddled Cady's hips easily, opening the tube and screwing it so a good inch of the dark colored lipstick stuck out. Cady rolled her eyes but pushed her boobs up nonetheless, proffering them to Janis, who placed the tube snugly against her sternum. Cady pushed and lifted and tried as hard as she could, but only managed to get the tip of the lipstick to scrape against her chin, leaving a dark splotch.
"Does that prove that I'm not a plastic?" Cady laughed, looking at Janis, still straddling her hips.
"No, it only proves that you're not Molly Ringwald," Janis smirked as she plucked the tube from between Cady's breasts. She tauntingly applied a fresh coat of the dark color to her lips before popping the cap back on and setting the tube back on the coffee table. Leaning so far, she began to tip over, almost falling into the space between the couch and coffee table. Cady reflexively reached and grabbed Janis's elbow, hauling her back to where her center of gravity was—straddling Cady's hips again.
Janis was close. Very close. Inches away, in fact, straddling Cady's hips and panting quickly with breath that smelled like popcorn, peach schnapps and the floral scent of her lipstick.
The two girls paused, looking at each other, feeling the low buzz in the air as the silence around them grew deafening. Cady had never noticed how gorgeous Janis's eyes were. They were usually hidden beneath dark layers of liquid eyeliner and thick mascara and even some black eyeshadow—which Cady still didn't understand.
Now, with the white light of the screen reflecting off of them, Cady could see the luminous brown color glowing in Janis's irises, almost a fiery sort of orange. She could see the frown lines in Janis's forehead and wondered what had made her so sad that she wrinkled so young. A smudge of lipstick had gotten onto the corner of Janis's mouth, and Cady ached to reach out and wipe it off, but something held her back.
Janis—clearly not feeling the same resistance—reached out slowly and rubbed a thumb across Cady's chin. Cady looked questioningly at Janis, afraid to break the tentative silence, but Janis turned and showed Cady her thumb—she had wiped away the lipstick on her chin. The girls smiled together, sharing in the secret of Cady's failed lipstick application.
The screen door sliding open broke the girls' reverie as Damian huffed back into the garage. He didn't even look at Janis and Cady as he plopped back down on the couch, crossing his arms and looking like a sulky child. Janis sat back against the couch, leaving her legs draped over Cady's and resting her head on Cady's shoulder as she turned to face Damian.
"So. . . Phillip?" she probed.
"I don't want to talk about it," Damian huffed. He reached out and snatched the remote, resuming play on the movie before sitting back and crossing his arms again, lost in his petulant little thoughts.
Cady gently blew out to push a strand of Janis's hair off her face and marveled at how it caught the light, floating back down to land on her again. So dark and shiny at the top, coming into bleach-blonde tips. Janis had already told her about the failed hair-dye experiment.
Originally it was meant to be purple on the ends, but she had thought her hair was melting during the bleaching process and had quickly rinsed it out. Then she read something about hair products testing on animals and had refused to buy the purple dye until she could find a brand that was ethical. Thus far she had been unsuccessful. Cady didn't mind though—the lightness of the tips offset the darkness of everything else about Janis—her dark hair, dark clothes, dark makeup, but not her eyes. Cady wouldn't ever think of her eyes as dark again. They were light, filled with some sort of fire.
Cady felt a gentle tug on her skull and glanced down, watching Janis twirl a strand of her naturally wavy hair between her fingers. Afraid to move, Cady watched Janis's long, delicate fingers weave in her hair, the strawberry blonde strands rolling smoothly over Janis's fine knuckles and shiny rings.
The smell of Peach Schnapps filled her nostrils as she breathed deeply in—she wanted to memorize everything about this perfect, early Autumn night, with her two best friends, to freeze in her mind for later.