The Dare 

Dylan Brie Ducey 

Here is Lacy in the Snacks aisle of the drugstore, a cornucopia of sweet and savory goodness. Here are the enticing rows of potato chips, corn chips, pretzels, cookies, cakes. Here are the brightly lit refrigerators with their myriad juices and colas and wine coolers. Lacy appears to be perusing the junk food, but she is actually trying to decide between the hot pink condoms and the fluorescent yellow condoms. She has only six dollars and seventy-seven cents jammed into the pockets of her tight jeans. Lacy’s doing this on a dare.

 

Lacy is not supposed to be here. She is supposed to be in 4th period English, reciting Juliet’s monologue from Romeo and Juliet. “Thou know’st the mask of night is on my face.” But during passing period someone – another idiot 6th grader probably – pulled the fire alarm, and all 400 students ended up on the sidewalk. Then there was a fight and everyone crowded around and Mr. Allsworth, who is only five feet two inches, had to break it up. Mr. Allsworth is such a douche. Anyway, Lacy ducked behind a hedge and switched her sneakers for high heels and off she went. Fuck Shakespeare. Fuck monologues. Who gives a fuck. 

 

On the front door of the drugstore is a sign: “Middle School Students – Please Leave Your Backpack & Jackets On the Floor Near the Entrance.” There were thefts a few months ago, and some eighth-graders got caught. An old lady stands maybe five feet from Lacy, wearing an ugly blue jacket. The drugstore uniform. Lacy looks at this lady's nametag: “Hi! I’m Millicent.” She has been hovering in the vicinity of Snacks for several minutes. Is she on to Lacy? This is stressful. Oh God. She has to get out of here. She has to get a grip. She stares at the glossy snack bags. Her heel hurts. She takes off her black pump and finds a blister. She puts the pump back on and tries to talk herself out of a panic attack. Right now it’s only 11:15 – probably no one realized Lacy was a middle school student when she walked in here. She’s carrying a black backpack, but they would have assumed she was a high school student, or even in college. Lacy gets mistaken for an adult all the time. She is tall, five feet eight inches, and has big boobs, thirty-six D. Her mom takes her to Victoria’s Secret to get push-up bras and thongs. Her mom used to homeschool Lacy and her brother, until their dad divorced their mom and their mom had to get a job. That is why Lacy is going to public school now for the first time in her life. Yeah, it’s crazy. She used to go on field trips to the Ecology Center and hang out with her mom and brother and go to the farmer’s market and do yoga for extra credit and study things like astrology and chakras. Now she’s in a real school with all kinds of kids. There are white kids and black kids and Latino kids and Hmong kids and a handful from Viet Nam, and a kid from Austria who’s a snob and says he’s in MENSA, and a kid from Samoa who’s a fundamentalist Christian and goes around trying to convert everyone, and there are a bunch of Muslim girls who wear headscarves and they look even more mysterious and beautiful. There are probably Muslim boys but Lacy doesn’t know how to tell them from any other boy. There is a boy who just got out of juvie and wears an ankle bracelet. Lots of kids (but not the Muslims and not the kid from Samoa) smoke weed in the bathroom, jump on the desks, yell at the teachers. A select few sell weed. One girl got pregnant and got pulled out of school. The other day, Prince Michael pulled a chair out from under this nerd named Julio, just when Julio was about to sit down, and Julio fell so hard on the floor that he broke his tailbone and the teacher called 911 and Julio wound up in the emergency room. That was in Math. Prince Michael didn’t even get suspended, and the teacher forgot to collect the homework and they had a substitute the next day. But what Lacy has to deal with is nothing. Her older brother just started high school, after being homeschooled his entire life, and there are four thousand kids there. He is freaking out even more than Lacy. He says he’s going to drop out. Lacy feels badly for him. She wants to help him, because their mom never has time, but she doesn’t know how.

 

“Ma’am? Can I help you find something?” The Ugly Blue Jacket Lady, Millicent, is talking to Lacy. Lacy summons all of her will. She is a grown-up. She is not a little girl. She can do this. 

 

“Yes, would you tell me where the lipstick is?” Stupid question. Any idiot could find the lipstick in a drugstore. But Millicent does not seem suspicious. She points to Cosmetics, several aisles over. Lacy thanks her graciously. Then she has a burst of confidence. “I left my lipstick in the car this morning,” she explains, “and it melted. Isn’t that the worst?”

 

Millicent nods sympathetically. “Girl, I’ve been there. Then you have to go back to work looking like a mess.”

 

Lacy flashes a grateful smile. Millicent is so kind and understanding, sort of like a grandmother. Lacy loves Millicent. “Oh! You understand. Thank you again!” Her heel throbs. 

 

When Millicent turns away, Lacy slips the pink condoms behind a row of Doritos. She limps away to Cosmetics, the packet of fluorescent yellow condoms concealed in her damp palm. Tomorrow she’ll go to school again, and when they ask to see the proof she’ll laugh and toss them the yellow condoms. “That was nothing,” she’ll say. “What else have you got?”

 

Dylan Brie Ducey's recent work appears in Halfway Down the Stairs, Cheap Pop, The Tishman Review, SpelkMinola Review, and elsewhere. She was a Pushcart nominee in 2016, and she received the Carlisle Family Scholarship to the 2015 Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Her MFA is from San Francisco State University.