From the fractured life of Stacy Rowe.

I was trying to be good – really I was. Daddy said I had to stay in my room and shut the –. Bad words are for grownups, so I can't say what Daddy told me, but it was bad. And if Daddy started to use bad words, then I knew I ought to do what he said, 'cause then he'd have to, well, then I'd be a bad girl, and he'd have to lie to the policeman because he didn't want the policeman to think I was a bad girl. Good girls got ice-cream, you see, and bad girls had to go to the hospital. So I wanted to be good, because the hospital hurt, and Daddy would get in trouble if he got caught lying to the policeman – he told me so.

And I was being good, and Dolly and I were playing, and I was braiding her hair carefully so more of it wouldn't fall out, and Daddy and his friend were being so loud out there, yelling and lots of bad words, and they didn't really sound like friends.

Oh wow, Quinn. From the first day I saw her I knew we'd be the best of friends. And that's what we were – best friends. Tiffany had been my best friend, since sixth grade actually, when I moved to Lawndale. Tiffany was always so fashionable, so thin, so pretty. And she was so nice to me, telling me what was fashionable and what was cute and what was just... ew. So I knew I had to be pretty, too, and I tried to dress just like her. I bought the latest clothes, and read Teen Waif, and learned to do my makeup so it looked like me but just a little bit better. And Tiffany would always be special, just not as special as Quinn. Quinn was so naturally cute, and that's why she had so many friends; why she was so popular. And if I was friends with someone as popular as Quinn, then I must be popular, too. And if I was popular, that must mean I was fashionable and cute, because girls who aren't fashionable and cute aren't popular, unless they're Jodie Landon, but she's a brain, and I could never be a brain.

But Sandi kept telling me I was never quite cute enough. And she was the President of the Fashion Club, and had just barely let me in so I could be the secretary. And the Fashion Club was an important extra-curricular at Lawndale, so Sandi really must have known best.

Did she really think I gave a fuck he was married? Stuck-up bitch – no wonder her husband looked at me like he hadn't seen pussy in forever; bitch probably gives him one mercy fuck every year on his birthday or something. God, he was so good, too. I really thought he'd call, but I wrote my number on the inside of his t-shirt just in case he forgot. 'Cause I knew he wanted to call me, but he'd forget, 'cause he seemed like he had so much on his mind – we just talked and talked and talked at the bar, and he bought me so many drinks, and told me all about his job and it was so exciting, and he'd look right through my soul with those brown eyes of his. He totally wanted me. God, how he wanted me. And he was so sweet, too. He even fell right asleep after he was finished; he kissed the top of my head and laid down and just went to sleep like a little baby. Most of the time they just hurry the hell out of there or take a shower or something, and then hurry the hell out of there. But not this guy. So I knew he wanted to call me, and maybe take me to Chez Pierre and buy me something pretty, 'cause that's what men do when you're cute and they like you. And that's why I wrote my number on his t-shirt, so he wouldn't forget, and then curled right up next to him, and he was so warm, and I watched him sleep all night.

But then, just like every other bastard, he doesn't call, and it's five o'clock somewhere, and I'm halfway through my soaps and a bottle of Smirnoff when his bitch comes pounding on my door yelling my name like I'm going to come out if she keeps yelling. And so I had to do something, or my neighbors were going to hate me even more than they probably did already.

The Rowes were the fourth family I went to before they said they'd adopt me and then I'd be theirs and not just some foster kid. Oh, foster kids are cute and all, when they're six or eight or something, but by the time I was ten I knew I'd better find a place and stay, so I made sure they'd like me. And they loved me! Mother was so pretty, and she was able to land herself such a handsome and successful man like Dad because she did everything right and kept her mouth shut so Dad wouldn't think she was smarter than he was (even though we know who's in charge, right?) and he'd just buy her pretty things and bring her home flowers and tell her she's beautiful (which she was). And Mother was so nice to me and told me that if I played my cards right, even I could land a man like that. She'd never hit me when I was loud or angry, she just told me that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and then she'd nod her head at me knowingly, and I felt ever-so-grown-up because I knew what she was talking about. These were women's secrets, the kind that women share. I mean, Dad was always away for business, so it wasn't so much secrets as practice secrets for when he was there, but still, they were ours.

My first time was so stupid – god, was I stupid. I thought – I don't know what I thought. But he really couldn't be as bad as he seemed, could he? No. Yes, yes of course he could. And he just looked at me with those pitiful eyes, and didn't we have fun doing the sidewalk magic, and didn't he buy me that dress to be his assistant, and I just let him. I'd only let one guy even get to second base before that (that was Jeffy, who really wanted to be with Quinn, but how can you blame him?), and I give it up for Upchuck? In the back of his father's old car? God! And it was like three times in and out and then he pulls out and gets come all over my blue top, and I have to wear it backwards so Mother doesn't find out. And then at school – even though I told him not to talk to me there – he tries to be all boyfriendy with me and I told him if he ever told anyone we'd done it I'd tell the whole school what a tiny dick he has and he got tears in his eyes and just stood there. He got better at it, though – the sex, I mean.

I thought I'd lost Quinn one day, because I'm so stupid, and don't know when to keep my mouth shut. She said she needed a place to stay for a day, because her cousin (and I knew it was her sister, but I didn't tell anyone. God! How could anyone as nice and pretty and cute as Quinn have a sister that… ew!), and her parents were at some geek farm, and Sandi's place was so crowded with the boys, and you know how Tiffany can be. Well, Tiffany was my friend, too, but I played along, 'cause this was Quinn. So Quinn came over, and I was trying on outfits to see which one Quinn liked best (she was the Vice President of the Fashion Club, after all, and I was just the secretary), and Quinn kept saying things like "slipdress," so I figured that's what she thought was fashionable, but then she kept changing her mind, so I thought I'd just wear what she was wearing. And I'd bought a pink babydoll tee right after Quinn got to Lawndale, so I put that on over jeans, because I knew Quinn liked that outfit. And then I had to bring out that stupid, stupid hair color. I knew I should have made it a surprise – of course Quinn would think that I was trying to take her popularity away by looking as cute as her. I didn't have enough time to explain that I just wanted beautiful, soft red hair like hers that would feel so good in my fingers, and that I totally wasn't trying to take her popularity, I just wanted to be like her so she'd like me better, which I know sounds really stupid, but I meant it nice.

But I didn't lose her, because the next year she could only have one friend come over, and she invited me. Not Sandi, not Tiffany – me! Well, at least before Sandi went ahead and messed everything up. But still – me!

God, that bitch wouldn't stop banging the door. So I opened it a crack, with the chain on. I was so fucking wasted I could barely stand up, but there she was, just yelling and screaming, and I just watched her. And her face turned redder and redder, and she stopped to take a breath and I said "wait, which one was your husband again?" Yeah, I totally knew who he was – bastard didn't call – but whatever, right? So she shows me a picture – one of those happy family pictures with three angelic little girls, one of them holding a doll, and she's asking me how I could live with myself taking their father away from them, and how I could look at myself in the mirror, so I just looked at her and said "bad upbringing, I guess," and that just pissed her off more.

'Cause then she got really mad, and started cursing at me like it was my fault she was such a frigid bitch that her husband needed to pick up girls in bars, but she thought it was. God! He was just being nice to me all night, buying me drinks and talking nicely to me, telling me I was pretty; what was I supposed to do, let him go back to that? It wasn't my fault, I was just being nice, which is something she could have tried, but no, she just stood there and kept yelling, and kept yelling and swearing and cursing and I was so totally going to hear it from the neighbors now, but she wouldn't stop, so I yelled back for her to shut up, but she wouldn't. She just didn't shut up. It wasn't my fault! I was just being nice, and God! Now this! So I just started screaming at the top of my lungs "STOP YELLING AT ME! STOP YELLING AT ME!" And I pick up my coffee table and threw it at the door, which knocked my bottle of vodka on the floor. And I guess that must have spooked her, 'cause she was gone, but all I could do was sit in the middle of my apartment on the floor, holding on to my vodka, crying.

Um, so I poked my head outside my door, and there were Daddy and the other man, and there was all this stuff on the coffee table, and money, and it smelled like smoke – not like when Daddy smoked in the car, different smoke – and I don't think that man was Daddy's friend really, so I figured I should watch out for Daddy. I told Dolly to be real quiet (I know she's just a doll, I'm a big girl! But I did it anyway.), and I watched from down the hall. They were talking so fast and yelling and stuff, and then Daddy hit the man in his face, which must have hurt, because it always hurts me when blood comes out, and there was a lot of blood coming out of the man's nose. And then the man got really angry, and pulled something out of his pocket, and when he clicked it open it was all shiny, and the light bounced off it and got in my eyes and Daddy was on the floor with lots of blood and the man must have run away with all the money.

And that's when I put Dolly in my knapsack from school, and a couple of clothes, and climbed out the window and ran away as fast as I could. I figured if I could just make it to the highway, maybe I could follow the road and it would take me somewhere nice, like Centreville, which Daddy said was the nicest town on the Eastern Shore. But I didn't know which way the highway was, and it was dark, and the cars were scary. So I pulled Dolly out of the knapsack and held on to her, 'cause Mommy said that Dolly would take away all my bad dreams, and this was so much worse than a bad dream, so Dolly must help extra much here. But then I got tired and I couldn't walk so much.

I was really scared when the policeman came, 'cause Daddy said I shouldn't talk to them unless he was there, but the policeman was so nice. And then there was a policelady, too, and she was nice, and she asked about Dolly, and about my mommy (I told her she was in Heaven, 'cause that's what Daddy said, and I asked her if she thought Daddy was in Heaven, too, and she said "probably, sweetheart," and gave me a big hug, which was nice), and I think she might have been crying a bit. (I wasn't, though. I'm a big girl.) Then she asked me about Grandma and Grandpa, and I said they were in Heaven, too, and Daddy said it was just me and him, so I guess now it was just me. And the policelady said everything's gonna be okay, and I didn't believe her, but she seemed so nice and so sad, and I didn't want to make her angry at me, too, so I just nodded, and she took me for a ride in the police car with the sirens.