Cover Photo © Rosalie Thorne
Editor – Z. V. Ezell
By Rosalie Thorne
“Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses rated the most passionate,
the most pure. This one left them all behind.”
- The Princess Bride
Arm and arm with Sophia, we leave the locker room in our freshly washed and oh-so-comfortable Victoria Secret sweats. The rain is pounding heavily against the non-denominational stained-glass windows above the bleachers, and we are fully prepared to lounge for the next forty-five minutes. Feet on the bottom step, however, and there’s a shrill whistle. Our eyes look over and my shoulders drop, a substitute. For some twisted reason, unlike a sub in any other class, a Physical Education sub actually wants us to do something in their allotted time. Sophia groans next to me but doesn’t give up hope by dragging us down to the lowest bench.
The elder man, a little too thin with huge glasses and crazy grey hair, waves for all over us to gather around. Most of us don’t, but we do quiet to listen. He accepts this with a sigh, “All righty, sixth period P.E.! Today we will not be able to continue your archery lesson’s given the weather. As I’m sure all over you are aware in just over a month is the Winter Formal, so, today I thought would be a perfect opportunity to learn the waltz!”
Head back, bottom of my thick, dark-chocolate braid tickling the edge of my perfectly tight Excelsior Academy gym shirt, I groan “Kill me, So-So.”
Sophia giggles and nudges me. “Oh, com’on then. You’ve been able to waltz since you were… what, six? This will be cake for you.”
Over my shoulder, my green eyes gaze at her in a familiar squint, “Horrible, dried-out, no icing, carrot cake, maybe.”
We stand and I try not to speak against the sexist rule of a male student must dance with a female student. I was hoping today might be one of those perfect days where there’s enough boys missing from class that Sophia and I can fuck around. But with one glance of the NBA regulation basketball court, I can tell it’s even-steven. By the time Sophia and I care to look around and find a partner, it’s a little too late. All the couples matched up instantly, the rest ended up with their accurate social group. Only two boys are left, Sophia’s and my third musketeer, Macen, and Christopher O’Crosphen.
Hand tight around Sophia’s wrist, nails slightly marking her pale skin, eyes wide, I whisper-screech “Sophia!”
She notices and shakes her head, her copper bob swishing quickly, hazel eyes looking sharply at me. “I got stuck with him in Physics! For the whole semester. It’s not my turn.”
She isn’t wrong. A low groan and I can’t even bring myself to look at Christopher. Macen holds a handout for her with a huge smile, “All ready, Freckles?”
They both shoot me a momentary glance of ‘I’m sorry’ before they move onto the floor. Standing tall, shoulders back, face forward, I hold out my right forearm. “Good afternoon, Christopher.”
In my peripheral his head nods slowly, his mess of black hair flittering down. His fingers reach to push back his bangs, and even in the Excelsior Academy gym shirt and spirit sweatpants, he looks like a damn hipster. “Princess.”
My left-hand fists and takes a while to ease. “It’s Lorianna,” I correct him again.
“My apologizes, Princess Lorianna.”
We turn to each other, we pose, I finally look at his stupid face. Too perfect, too symmetrical, or whatever mathematical bull shit that equates to beauty. Black hair, pale skin, icy blue eyes…. He should just run off already and be a model, not waste his time being an asshole at my school. “Christopher O’Crosphen, I don’t know how many times I have to,” I breathe instead of curse, “explain to you: just call me Lorianna.”
Music starts and we begin without hesitation. As a Prime Minister’s son, (a physical and sometimes social mini-me to his father) – his family being in politics all his life and very chummy with the English Royal Family - and me being Princess of Benovia (a tiny country that most haven’t heard of, right of Romania and just under the tip of the Ukraine, left of the Black Sea) – we spent many formal events waltzing, sometimes with each other.
Tall, thin but toned, he reminds me of most men I’ve met from the United Kingdom but that much prettier. And thanks to American orthodontia, another perfect smile. A whole head above my average-Benovian height of five-foot-four, I have to tilt my chin to keep eye contact.
Though we’ve been attending the same schools in Massachusetts since seventh grade, his London accent is still intact. “And how many times must I comment on how it bugs you so?” He smirks. “It’s the little things, Lorianna.”
As we spin, I look out to everyone else. Most of us have been taught to waltz given our family’s status or careers, but there are a few couples out there still a little awkward in their movements. “I can see a few lovely ladies that could have used your expertise today.” My eyes lazily come back to his. “Did you have your head too far,” up your ass, “in the clouds to snag one?”
One song eases into the next, much to my displeasure. If there was a break maybe I could shove another girl at him and be free of this bull shit. Though I think my face is placid, it must have given me away. Christopher responds calmly, “You dislike me that much, huh?”
I know better than to take the bait. “So… any idea why Coach Edwards isn’t here?”
“Well, hopefully, he’ll be back Monday.”
A small silence and then Christopher readjusts quickly. Back a little straighter, hand a little softer under mine, “Lorianna, there’s something I wanted to discuss with you.”
I let myself have a long blink, “If you ask me to join student government one more time, I swear I’m going to scream.”
“It’s not that,” he reassures quickly.
“Then what?” I snap a little too harshly, finally looking at him again.
Voice still quiet, still even, he doesn’t even smile, “Would you care to have dinner with me?”
My brows furrow, “I don’t have my phone on me, which gala is it now?”
His half-American side shows itself, expression blooming across his face. A small frown, red blushing from his ears to his nose, he gulps hard. “No gala… I’m, well, trying to ask you on a date.” The softness is gone just as quickly and his defensive smarminess back. “You have heard of a date, haven’t you? Where two people go out socially, dinner… maybe a movie.”
My eyes roll. “Usually those people like each other, Christopher.” Looking around the room I ask, “Someone put you up to this?”
“Why would I need someone to dare me to ask you out on a date, Little Lori?”
I push off of him and jam a finger into his chest. Scream-whispering, my rage boils over at him, “We are not some children playing tricks or stealing sweets at a gala anymore – you have no right to call me Little Lori! I’m just some ‘gypsy scum’, remember? Fuck. You.” And find Sophia and Macen just a few feet away and drag them to the weight room.
Eyes on the fabric in my shaking hands, I know my rage is making me bound for a needle prick. “I shouldn’t have offered to help with costuming since I need to study my lines.” Which isn’t at all true to what I want because my perfectionist itch would be going crazy if I wasn’t in charge of my own costume.
Macen sees right through my comment and snorts. “First off, if you didn’t handle your own costume, you’d make everyone so anxious they’d throw up. Second, it’s Romeo And Juliet again, you’ve been Juliet three times now. Do you really not know it by heart?”
“Middle school, having to read it in class, and that summer camp are nothing compared to what’s expected for a High School performance,” I bull shit.
He gives me a look and sighs. “Com’on, tell me what’s really got you all in a tizzy.”
I look to my Macen, my Mayday. Son of a theater starlet – both Broadway and the biggest stages in Europe – and a lawyer to the filthy rich and famous, Macen is one of the few outwardly gay kids who are accepted not just by their friends, society as a whole, but most importantly their family. Politics only an issue when it’s an issue for me or Sophia, he has so much freedom… to be who he wants, do what he wants, say what he wants, be friends with who he wants, and most importantly hate who he wants. The first friend I made in the States and yet there are just some things he can’t wrap his head around.
Easing back into the foot of the leather couch in the Drama room, I let the fabric of my costume fall to my lap. “It’s Christopher, again.”
He offers a crooked smile, “Well I knew that I was there in that gym, Lori. What was it this time?” His Swedish voice that he inherited from his mother is soft, comforting, coaxing me to admit more. “Was it something about your parents again or you?”
Closing my eyes, I can feel the displeasure in my face. Almost a snarl on my lips and I shake my head once. “He asked me out.”
My eyes peak open, over my nose to see a range of expressions across Macen’s face. A slightly confused look with a soft “Oh….” Then raised eyebrows and a side glance with “Oh.” Then wide brown eyes and staring at me, hand out, “Oh!” With his wide hand resting on my knee, he smiles to himself, “Well that makes sense,” and he taps my knee once then goes back to sewing his Mercutio costume.
“Makes sense?” I ask incredulously. “In what universe does that make sense?”
“Well…” he offers slowly, tossing his curly sandy bangs to the side. “You guys have a history. Albeit not a flawless one… but still, a history. Plus, you’re an excellent student, pretty popular, a beautiful dancer, you take after your mother in your writing ability… and, Lori, you’re an actual princess.” I open my mouth and he lifts a hand, “I know, I know… not a going-to-rule-your-country-one-day princess, but still.”
I focus intensely on stitching the shoulder puff of my sleeve. “And he is a half-witted, scruffy-looking, Nerf herder,” I mutter poisonously under my breath.
Macen barks with laughter and gestures enthusiastically. “See! How well did that turn out, huh?”
I roll my eyes, but my chest does ease, “At least I don’t have a brother to kiss.”
“A brother to kiss?” Sophia asks with a laugh, returning for the bathroom to plop down next us, her cheerleader skirt fanning out dramatically. “Talking about Star Wars again?”
“More or less,” answers Macen. “Less about Star Wars, more about the Christopher O’Crosphen asked-her-on-a-date thing.”
Sophia holds a glass Voss water bottle with one hand and digs around her violet leather Dooney & Bourke Hobo bag for a Crystal Light packet with the other. “Oh, that.”
“Locker room?” he looks to me.
I nod, “Locker room.”
The water turns pink, and she tightens the lid to shake. “So, what are you going to say?”
Off-guard, I cough a little. “Say? Really… is that even a question here? Of course, I’m going to say ‘no’. I’m pretty sure the ‘fuck you’ was clear enough as is.”
Sophia and Macen share a look. A look that expresses they’ve been talking about something for a while now. A look that expresses it’s time for a sort of intervention, like when I needed to stop using so many emoji’s.
“I know he’s like enemy number one when it comes to you,” Sophia takes a huge swig of water. “But he’s not that bad.”
Turning to Macen I make a face, “And you agree? You two think it would be wise for me to go to dinner with him?”
Raised eyebrows, nibbling on his cheek, he shrugs without looking up from threading his needle. “There are a lot of boys in this school I will gladly punch in the face if they even look at you or Sophia the wrong way. He is not one of those people. He’s actually… decent. Really, Lori, what would be the harm? You don’t have a good time… well, then, you’ll both know it and you’ll go back to being enemies or whatever.”
Sophia reaches out to me, palm up. “Seriously… the worst the can happen is you have a good time…. And really, is that so bad? Before the… incident you guys had a lot of fun together, right? He’s had to have grown up in three years… it’s not fair to pass judgment on him for something that happened when he was fourteen.”
“We were all moderately stupid in eighth grade,” Macen agrees.
Two trains of thoughts happen simultaneously: one, maybe if I did suffer through a few hours with him maybe he would leave me alone after that, or hell, I could buck up and actually talk to him about what’s wrong and then he’ll be forced to leave me alone; two, it had been a long time since he insulted me so harshly… I thought back to eighth grade, to my twelve-year-old self and all the silly and not-so-silly mistakes I made. In addition to that, the fact that my two best friends in the whole world are trying to get me to make peace meant more to me than how much I might actually hate Christopher O’Crosphen.
Eying all the shiny black town cars and limos in the carpool lane, I wonder if Mama would be pulling up with a honk and trying to wave through the passenger window or if a car would come to a slow stop and only when Sanders comes around the front to open the back door would I know it’s my ride. Twisting my phone in my hand, sliding it forward under my thumb with a flick of my wrist, I think how counter-productive it is that we all have black cars waiting for us. Only a few dozen of kids have their own cars, even less walk home, and there’s maybe three fancy vans in the place of normal school’s busses.
Blobs of uniforms pass me, my eyes becoming more and more unfocused with every turn of my phone. Even though Macen lives two blocks away in one direction and Sophia three blocks away in the other, we never seem to manage having rides home together. Macen with Thespian Club, Sophia with cheerleading practice… they tried to talk me into both activities – or any activity – but why in the world would I stay at school longer than I have to?
A blur of a tall uniform comes next to me; the boy’s rolled up white sleeves brushing my arm as he folds the school jacket over his messenger bag. I don’t have to flick my eyes to far his direction to know it’s Christopher O’Crosphen. Maybe cheerleading wouldn’t be so bad? Thespian Club would probably help me with Drama?
“How’s Drama? Have rehearsals started for the Autumn play?”
Too tired to put up a fight, too tired to unsheathe my usual snark, Sophia’s and Macen’s comments buzzing in my brain, I glance over at him. His usually perfect tie is loosened, the unbuttoning process started, his thumb and index adjust his thick black rectangle frames. I exhale softly, “It’s going great actually. I offered to help with costuming, sewing my own…. The sets are being finished by Thespian Club tonight, I think. A couple of evenings next week we’ll go through it with all we’ve been practicing, then we’re into dress rehearsal. With it being such a well-known play there hasn’t been much for us to worry about.”
Nodding slowly there’s a faint smile. “I can imagine.” Bobbing my head a little, I glance back at the carpool. Christopher doesn’t take the hint and continues to say “Do you think you’ll be auditioning for the Spring musical? I think it’s been announced to be Grease next year.”
I burst with laughter and shake my head quickly. “Oh man, can you imagine? Me as Sandra D? I know Papa says I have an ear for language and all that but singing… that’s quite different, isn’t it? I don’t know that I can sing in American.”
Christopher smiles and shifts his hips to face me better. “Hmm… maybe you’ve got a point. I’ve noticed when you get passionate about things, especially when you get angry about things, that Benovia accent comes out full force."
I smirk. “You would know since you’re the one who gets that side of me the most.”
“Which would bring us back full circle…. I am aware it’s a bit of an extreme, but I think a date would be a productive way to bury the hatchet.”
Hand to my face, middle finger pad getting non-existence gunk out of my eye, I can feel the ball of lead drop in my stomach. Granted, a much smaller ball than usually – maybe a golf ball instead of a tennis ball – but still… heavy, hot, and making me nauseous. “Dinner, right?”
“Or a movie… or both, tomorrow night?”
Sanders calls my name, and I don’t even look back to Christopher. “All right.”
“‘All right’? As in ‘yes’?” he calls after me.
Phone in hand, I shake it. “Bye O’Crosphen.”
“Mama! I’m home!”
“Lorianna! Anna!” she calls from the back.
Door locked, boots off, I make my way down the little hall in the center of the townhouse. Coming into the kitchen via the eat-in nook, I drop my bag into the cushioned bench of the bay window. Standing taller than me with wide shoulders and a sturdy build, creamy brown hair as unruly curly as mine, chocolate eyes, even though she’s just over forty she looks to be my sister. Wiping her hands on a fluffy kitchen handtowel, she smiles. “How was your day, iubit?”
I come over to kiss her cheek, “Well enough, Mama. I almost have my Juliet costume finished!” Scooting around her I go for a glass then to grab the apple juice from the fridge. “And what about yourself? Any luck finishing that chapter today?”
“Indeed! I was able to wrap that one up and start the next. I’m so close to finishing this installment….”
“You’re six months ahead of schedule,” I comment proudly.
She goes back to stirring the simmering pot on the stove. “What can I say? These characters are just so fun!”
There’s a lull and I fill my glass again. Easing around the table, next to my book bag, I breathe deeply. I notice Mama’s eyes come to my face thoughtfully, then she ever so nonchalantly says, “So… I had a call from Charlotte before you arrived.”
Hoping it has absolutely nothing to do with Christopher, I calmly ask “And what did Charlotte O’Crosphen have to say this time? Was it about this novel or is there another gala she insists we come?”
Studying me, Mama holds the wooden spoon still in her sauce. There’s laughter in her voice when she replies, “Really Anna? Are you going to make me wait until tomorrow night when your social media blows up about the date you have with Christopher?”
I slump against the bench’s back cushion, “Seriously, Mama, it’s nothing.”
“Nothing? A date with a boy is not nothing. Especially since it’s been over a year since you’ve had a date at all. And a date with a boy you used to be friends with… that is a big something, I’d say.”
Pointing a finger, I emphasized “‘Used to’. Used to be friends with.”
She rolls her eyes with a smile and goes back to cooking dinner, “Really, Anna, Charlotte and I don’t understand why you two stopped being such good friends. She had to overhear Christopher telling Jameson that he quote – finally – has a date with you. You know as well as I do that one of the reasons we settled on Massachusetts was because of the O’Crosphens. You two used to be inseparable….”
Her glance is soft, her eyebrows lifted ever so slightly. It’s the same look she’s given me since I declared he was no longer my friend those years ago… the same look that asks ‘why don’t you just explain why’ but never works. Her blood is the Romani blood and if she found out the son of her best friend called me a ‘gypsy scum’? She’d be absolutely crushed. Momentarily giving up, she turns back to the food, “Nicolae is rather pleased with this change. He said it’s good to let the past go and move forward….”
Pursing my lips a little I start pulling out homework. “Now, is that King Papa, Prime Minister Papa, or father Papa?”
A pet peeve of hers, she throws a look, “Does it matter?”
Pulling up my legs and crossing them, I tuck my feet against my thighs. “No, Mama, of course not. It was just a joke…” I add for safety.
“Your Papa may wear many hats when it comes to work or even this family, but that doesn’t ever mean he doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Now,” she slides a small plate of papanasi in front of me, “eat your snack and finish your homework for tonight. As for tomorrow, I’m sure your better halves will want to come over to do whatever it is teenagers do to prepare for a date. Text them that I’ll have their favorite, salata de boeuf, ready for them for lunch.”
Her soft hand brushes down the length of my braid and her lips pressing against the top of my head. “Iubit, it is perfectly possible to forgive someone without forgetting what they’ve done. You both were children, Anna… you still are – you both have plenty of room to grow. He’d not a bad seed, I promise.”
I simply nod, knowing that arguing more would mean I’d have to explain what actually happened. And not just that he called me such a derogatory name but what it was in response to and that he’s also never apologized. It isn’t worth it. Not then, not now…. Rest of Junior year, Senior year, then Christopher and I will probably only have to ever see each other a galas and the like… places where it’s easy to be civil and spend those few hours with a room of distance between us.
Balcony doors open slightly with the screen closed, Autumn Yankee Candle and White Barn candles burning, string lights aglow around the edges of my room, me and my headboard illuminated by my laptop. Thespian Club ran late and then into a Drama-kid-centric party at Macen’s, which Sophia and are invited to of course. But Sophia’s parents were at some fancy dinner and the babysitter called sick and I honestly am having a hard time wrapping my head around the semi-decent exchange with Christopher. Though, more importantly, any thoughts that are logic-based seem to have fuzzy edges because how the fucking Hell – why the fucking Hell do I have a date with him tomorrow?
And think of the Devil….
So about tomorrow….
Lord, let him be having cold feet.
Does a dinner and a movie sound doable?
Which ones were you thinking?
If he gives me an example, I can totally shoot them down.
The Hate U Give followed by Luca’s?
A movie I haven’t seen and didn’t particularly want to see.
But I could write a commentary piece about it in the school newsletter.
There’s a showing at 5:30,
9:15 if we want to do dinner before.
Luca’s is way too… romantic for dinner though.
Not really feeling Italian.
As you wish.
He must be desperate to quote my favorite movie of all time.
It makes my stomach unknot a little.
5:30 then Amelia’s
I’ll pick you up.
Not a question.
Phone face down on my sider table I open the drawer with a shaking hand and dig around for my anti-anxiety meds. Shouldn’t that mean something? That he makes me so freaked I need medication? How is this possibly a good idea? A healthy idea? My best friends on the same frequency start blowing up the group chat.
Mayday: How’s it hangin’ my chickadees?
You guys are missing the best party.
So-So: Random show-tunes, costumes, and drinking?
I’m actually having some fun with Ry-guy
He thinks he can beat me in HP Trivial Pursuit.
M: Poor guy… won’t know what hit him.
Putting the little pill down, I smile at my phone.
Night was going well until Christopher texted
About, you know…
The whole DATE-thing
M: Dude he’s nervous AF
S: What he said.
All the girls were talking about it at practice.
What does he have to be nervous for?
And I don’t get that…
He asked me!
S: He’s a guy?
M: What she said.
For real though…
I guess he’s been mad crushing on you for a while now.
Chest anchored to my bed, everything around me gets wobbly.
Not exactly the room is spinning, but it’s definitely doing some sort of jig.
Verbally whining like I’m five, I sit up and type quickly:
I’m just so confused.
S: Sad confused?
M: Happy confused?
S: Mad confused?
I don’t know
I’m mad at him.
But I’ve been using my anger as a defense, I guess.
My therapist says it’s ‘easier to be mad than sad’
And I’ve spent so long just being mad.
And now I’m getting sad?
S: You and Macen could come over here?
M: Do you want me to come over?
The two texts were sent within the same minute.
It made me smile softly and ease back into my pillows.
Just come over tomorrow?
Mama said she’ll have your favorite ready for lunch.
There’s a pause and even though I’m afraid of the answer I ask:
Has my not-so-cut-and-dry
Emotional bull shit
With Christopher been that obvious?
M: It’s a thin line between like/dislike
S: What he said.
How you are with him is different than…
Like, remember Joan Striteford?
M: No if’s and’s or but’s
She deserved it, of course, but yeah…
This HAS been different.
I can’t type back right away… since I’m not really sure what to say.
I’m not really sure what to do.
I’m not really sure what I feel.
The fact is: Christopher left me alone. After years of being attached at the hip, he fed into my worst fear. I think maybe that’s why I latched on to Macen so hard. And why Macen felt the need to introduce me to Sophia. They are my everything.
It really is easier to be mad than sad….
“Son of a Swedish actress and an American lawyer, daughter of Gaelic professor and Governor of Massachusetts, and daughter of the Benovian Royal family enter a mall in Boston….” Macen teases, glancing behind at our security detail.
“We’re just a mixing-pot of the most awesome,” I smile.
Sophia laughs, “Just like your mom’s food! So good… I could eat at your house every day.”
“Your mom is multi-talented,” Macen nods, leading our linked arms towards Viola Lovely. “I’m very excited for her next book; I need to know what happens to Markesh and Soretta!”
My nose scrunches, “Still cannot believe you read my mother’s romance novels.”
“They’re not bad,” Sophia offers as we unlink to enter the store.
My bodyguard, Ivan, holds the door open for us and comes in with Sophia’s bodyguard, David, behind us. I glance between my best friends before getting into shopping mode. “Oh, no, don’t get me wrong – my mom is an amazing writer, I just… can’t stand reading the adult-romance part of her work. I mean, it’s my Mama…,” I shiver and make a face. “And it doesn’t help that the main heroine looks like me.”
Macen stifles a laugh, “Oh yes, because a Romani princess in love with a werewolf is so very much like you.”
“Oh, and don’t forget how her brother got turned into a vampire,” Sophia laughs by a monochromatic rack of blue items.
Fingering through a rack of grey, eyeing the rack of purple just beyond it, I change the subject to what’s really on my mind, “Did we really need to go all-out for my date with Christopher? It’s just Christopher….”
“If this was any other boy we would have been here at opening, gotten lunch at Luca’s, you probably would have wanted a blowout so your hair was more tame, and then we’d be back at your place for a eighties worthy montage for a couple of hours. Meaning, this isn’t even all out…. I know it’s ‘just Christopher’ but we should at least have a little fun, yeah?” Macen holds up a mint turtleneck that looks to be woven out of wool.
I shake my head, “It’s been raining.” Moving to the purple rack, my fingers go straight for the lavender.
With having to wear the school uniform morning to evening, Monday through Friday, and then black-tie gowns for events, I’m left with little time to actually wear what I want. Contrast to my center-stage, Leo personality, I preferred to have a wardrobe that consisted of whites, greys, blacks, then soft pastels like lavender or lilacs, baby blues, and pinks (often using the hashtag #PastelPrincess and #PastelGoth on my Instagram and YouTube). Mama always voices that wearing bolder colors would complement my naturally tanner skin, but it makes me feel heavy.
Finding a cotton blouse marked for maternity, its flowiness made me think of a painter’s smock. I hold it up, “What about this? Over the grey jeans with black ties?”
Holding the shirt to my torso, Macen stands with his head slightly tilted and one fist under an elbow. “Hair down with a side part, pearl earrings, black Fossil purse, white marble ankle boots,” Macen nods.
Sophia comes to his side, “Are you sure so casual though?”