Calla followed Audrey into the loft. Music blared across the near-empty space in front of the DJ’s
booth. Clutches of people stood scattered around the room. It’s just a party, Calla thought. I can handle it. Music coursed through her. The scar twitched. She’d swallowed a
pain pill before coming—the first one she’d taken in over a month.
A woman appeared and threw her hands in the air, exclaiming and wrapping her arms around Audrey: You came!
LuLu. She wore a tube dress, her shoulders dusted with
glitter so she shimmered like a disco ball. Both arms loaded
with bangles, jingling and glinting.
This must be your roommate, she said, turning to Calla.
Calla extended her hand quickly, before LuLu could
LuLu dragged them to the kitchen, a corner cordoned
off with curtains.
You live here? Calla asked, surveying the stack of takeout coffee cups and empty beer bottles.
Not technically, but yeah, mostly. Whatddya want—
Calla held up her hands. I’m fine. LuLu said, Really?
Really, Calla said. The racket in her stomach grew fiercer.
She can’t drink because of her medication, Audrey said.
I’d love a beer.
LuLu said, Oh, there’s Polly and Dylan—I’ll be right
back. She fluttered away, hands waving with excitement.
Calla raised an eyebrow at Audrey.
What? Audrey said.
Number one: she’s Ruth’s doppelgänger. Number two:
those bracelets are obnoxious. Number three: definitely straight.
How do you know?
I’m not blinded by lust. She’s got no edge.
You’re all edge, and you’re straight.
Different edge, and you know it.
We’ll see, Audrey said, drinking her beer.
You’ll see, Calla said. I have already seen.
LuLu came back with Dylan and a girl with dark hair
cropped close and a set of blue eyes as serious as a stun gun.
LuLu said, Polly, this is Audrey—the one I was telling you
about. Audrey and Calla, Polly and her brother—
Dylan, Calla and Audrey said.
Hi, he said.
This valley is so damn small, LuLu said.
Well, Lu, you do know everyone in it, Dylan said.
Don’t sass me, LuLu said, swatting his arm. Let’s dance. Audrey and Polly followed her across the floor. Dylan
and Calla stared at each other. There it was again, his eyes
seeing right into her. What a mess.
Are you okay? he said. You look pale.
I’m always pale, Calla said.
Fine, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. Do you need
Maybe just to sit down.
Dylan led her along the back wall, behind the DJ, to a
little door, which opened into a windowless room that contained a futon and a TV.
She sat on the futon. Dylan sat next to her. His thigh
touched hers, and she leaned away.
About the other night, I wanted to talk—
We don’t need to, Calla said.
The music vibrated the walls. Calla wrapped her arms
around her body, trying to quiet the thrashing inside her.
She wanted to take off her jeans and be in her own bed with
the lights out and none of this happening.
I like you, Calla.
And I know you’ve been through a lot, but—
It’s too weird for me, too soon.
If you’re worried about what I saw, you shouldn’t be.
My body is ruined.
That’s not true, Dylan said.
You’re not a doctor. You don’t know, Calla said. She
pressed her hand to her scar and felt the thudding, anxious
and red-tinged, inside her.
I do know.
Calla looked at Dylan, his mismatched eyes, his crooked
nose, his shock of black hair. She wanted him, and she
wanted him to go away. You know I’m barren? she said. That
my fiancé abandoned me?That my best friend is camped out
on my couch with no intention of leaving? Calla stood. The
room wobbled like a funhouse mirror. She said, This is too
much for me.
Dylan reached for her hand. Wait.
She opened the door and went out into the main room.
People everywhere. Strobe lights flashing. She pushed into
the crowd. Everyone was smiling, drinking, gyrating, beatific, blissful, letting the waves ofsound and light wash over
them, and all Calla could think of was a crash. A crash like
water curling around her, sucking her under. A crash like
the car skidding slow-motion across the icy pavement away
from the startled deer and rolling until a tree stopped it, and
the crunch and the crush and the shatter were awful and
peaceful because the worst had happened, and then everything she never knew she wanted flooded out of her, dripping down while she hung suspended and waiting.
She had to get out.
Audrey was dancing with Polly in the center of the mob.
As soon as she saw Calla, she stopped.
We need to go. Right now, Calla said.
Calla started for the door, Audrey behind her, but before they could get there, LuLu appeared out of nowhere—
she has a knack for that, Calla thought, through the web of
fear tightening around her—saying, Don’t leave yet.
AndCalla looked up to see Gabriel there holding LuLu’s
hand, and Gabriel’s mouth opened and closed without a
sound coming out. He’d grown a beard, looked like he hadn’t
slept. Calla reared back, furious, futile, the scar screaming
like a banshee.
I was going to call you, Gabriel said, letting go of LuLu
and grabbing Calla’s arm.
Don’t touch me, Calla said, yanking away. Don’t you
ever dare touch me again.
Calla, be reasonable.
Reasonable?Heatseared throughher. She started shrieking. She was certain she would split open. The scar would
rip and out would fly her feral baby, intent on mauling Gabriel’s body, too.
Then Audrey clapped her hand over Calla’s mouth,
said, Shhh. He’s not worth it.
Who are you? he asked.
Her emergency contact. Get out of our way. Audrey
stepped toward Gabriel, and he flinched.
Calla, Gabriel said as she walked by. I can explain.
But Calla didn’t stop. She kept her gaze forward as she
followed Audrey; she didn’t want to know if anyone stared.
Calla got in the passenger seat. The night was cold, and
she wrapped her arms around herself. The scarlay quiet, her
body a state of abandon.
That was really something, Audrey said. They were
halfway home. I’ve never heard you scream like that.
It’s done, Calla said. Over. We can go to the Goodwill.
She watched the treesflash by. Above were the underbellies
of new leaves, bright against the night sky.
SARA RAUCH’s fiction and essays have appeared in Paper Darts, Hobart, Split Lip, So to Speak, Qu, Lunch Ticket, and other literary magazines, as well as in the anthologies Dear John, I Love Jane; Best Lesbian Romance 2014; and She’s Lost Control. She has covered books for Bustle, BitchMedia, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary, The Rumpus, and more. In 2012, she founded the literary magazine Cactus Heart, which ran through 2016. She holds an MFA from Pacific University. Sara teaches writing at Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop and Grub Street and also works as an independent editor and manuscript consultant. What Shines from It, which won the Electric Book Award, is Sara’s first book. She lives with her family in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Find her online at sararauch.com, on Twitter at @sararauch, and on Instagram at @sara__rauch.
Gokul Prabhu is a graduate of Ashoka University, India, with a Postgraduate Diploma in English and creative writing. He works as an administrator and teaching assistant for the Writing and Communication facility at 9dot9 Education, and assists in academic planning for communication, writing and critical thinking courses across several higher-ed institutes in India. Prabhu’s creative and academic work fluctuates between themes of sexuality and silence, and he hopes to be a healthy mix of writer, educator and journalist in the future. He occasionally scribbles book reviews and interviews authors for Scroll.in, an award-winning Indian digital news publication.