BY MACEY LAVOIE
The average person will spend over seventy-five hours of their childhood quivering under the covers, afraid of the monster nestled just under the bed. Images of serrated teeth and ragged claws dance in their heads until they beg their parents to banish the beast. Miranda Wright from down the street confessed to any who would listen that, once, she’d spotted her monster as it made its rounds from her closet to under her princess canopy bed.
“It had gross purple tentacles and dragged black goo across the floor.” Her green saucer eyes would grow larger and a trembling note crept into her voice.
“What happened to the goo in the morning?” Even at age seven, I had a good lie detector and Miranda’s story reeked of bullshit.
“I don’t know, the sun must have melted it!” Miranda would scrunch up her eyebrows. “I almost died, Ava. Pay attention!”
I guess despite the obvious story fabrication, I was a little jealous of Miranda. Every weekend I would leave a chipped plate of cookies out for my monster and they never revealed themselves to me. My determination to befriend my childhood foe began one night when neither parents came in to complete the timeless nightly ritual of tucking me in and reading me a story. I always chalked up my nightly safety to this tradition. Their shouts reached me easily from the crack under my bedroom door. A particularly nasty shout dissolved all chances of going to find them. Clutching at the sheets, I whispered hesitantly into the dim.
“Monster? Are you there? I promise you I’ll bring you cookies next time I get some. Chocolate chips probably taste a lot better than little girls.” There was no response but I had taken it as a conformation. After all, nothing taste better than chocolate chip cookies.
My first sighting of my monster came at age fourteen. I had snuck into my bedroom through the window, the fresh influx of alcohol in my blood causing me to trip on the window seat and land on the floor. I froze there in the blurry hope that the noise hadn’t woken my parents in the next room. They had stayed together after all, but the shouting never seemed to stop. When my father’s snoring resumed, I shut my eyes and let the cold wind wash over me for a moment. I recalled dimly the events of Miranda’s party just down the street. Adam Lawrence had kissed me in the closet when it was our turn for seven minutes in heaven. His hand had skated under my shirt to grip above my ribcage. I hadn’t liked it.
Rolling onto my back, I looked up at the tiny glow-in the dark stars that dotted my ceiling. A hollow feeling bloomed just under my pelvic bone when I thought of how pretty Mariah Williams had looked under the multi-colored lights. Her cheeks had been extra rosy from the liquor in her cup. I shook my head to clear the thoughts of her from my head and gasped from the pain. It felt like my brain was pooling out through my ears. I had far too much to drink. It was then that I spotted the chipped plate from my angle on the floor. I hadn’t offered up chocolate chip cookies in a while and a dim sense of panic overrode the drunken stupor.
Was my monster still my friend? I glanced quickly under my bed but of course there was nothing there. Nausea was now vying for attention in my already churning stomach.
“I cannot throw up.” I repeated this under my breath like a prayer, a mantra, a plea not to get caught. I’m sure my monster must have heard nothing but slurred nonsense.
“Hey monster, do you like vodka?” I remembered the bottle I had used to pre-game earlier tucked at the bottom of my jean drawer. Mom never went in there because she was disgusted by the size displayed on the tag. I had more tummy and hip than she knew what to do with.
“I know it’s not nearly as good as chocolate chip cookies but it tastes better than little girls,” I said. I hoped.
After muttering the location of the alcohol, I rolled onto my side and cushioned my head on my arm. Walking to my bed was out of the question. If my mom walked in tomorrow morning I could always say I fell asleep on the window seat. She wouldn’t care. Now, this part of my memory was hazy. I remembered the feeling of long, talon-like hands lifting me. My head lolled helplessly to the side and when I managed to look up I saw the outline of a silver mask hovering above me; it looked like a fox. I descended back into sleep.
When I awoke the next morning, I was curled up in my bed. The bottle of vodka was empty and tucked near the cookie plate and a thin scratch encased my upper arm.
My room looked like a disaster. I hesitated at the bags and boxes opened and half-filled with the things I would take with me to college. I felt someone stir behind me and turned to the girl waiting just behind me. Her pale blue eyes stood out starkly against her face as she peered around me into the bedroom. She looked at me questioningly and I felt my face burst into flames. I could not do this. We were completely alone; my parents had gone to visit my grandmother in the wake of their baby announcement. They had asked me to come, but I thought of their clasped hands and felt alienated. They were starting their new life and I had to start mine.
That had been my mindset when waltzing into Miranda Wright’s going away party. The last party before dozens of us would be going away to college next week. It was the first party where I felt truly unshackled. I had talked with Adam the day before. The memory still made my heart beat twofold, half excitement and half fear.
“Adam, we have to talk.” I remembered moving his hand from the lip of my shirt. Years later and I still didn’t like it.
“No, not the talk,” he sighed, defeated already, and I blinked. Did he already know?
My secrets had remained just that for years, so I was surprised when he looked down at me with pain already hidden in his eyes.
“You’re breaking up with me, aren’t you? Because we’re going to different colleges?” I hesitated. I could lie, tell him that was the reason. I didn’t want to hurt him; he had been incredibly kind and gentle to me. He had been a good friend.
The urge to lie rose up unbidden but I thought of my monster. My secrets had never remained around them. I remembered baking a single chocolate chip cookie and putting it on the chipped plate, I remembered pouring the small amount of vodka into the plastic cup. I remembered whispering the words out loud.
I like girls.
I must have whispered it out loud because Adam had leaned forward.
“I didn’t hear you.”
“I like girls,” I whispered again, this time loud enough for him to hear. Shock immobilized his face. The way his eyes looked gave away what he was thinking—of all the times I had been with him.
“You’re gay?” The word still caused an uncomfortable scrape against my brain but I nodded.
“Since when?” So I told him about the party long ago. About noticing how pretty Mariah Williams looked in the light, how the smell of a girl’s lip-gloss would cause me to blush. He accepted it all with frigid poise and when my story came to a close, he looked unbearably broken. It was his response that surprised me.
“It must have been terrible to hide that. I’m sorry.” He grabbed me in a hug and I felt how familiar I was with his body. But he squeezed tight once then let me go. Adam made it easy.
So by the time I had arrived at the party, I felt ten stories tall and like I could conquer the world. I even saw Adam in the crowd that night. He smiled softly at me and winked once, jerking his head towards the corner of the room. I turned and caught sight of a girl openly staring at me. Her icy eyes swept over me and she gave a small smile. Something about the shape of her features screamed familiarity. She was tall and willowy with piles of dark hair and gloves that reached her elbows. Extracting herself from the wall, she walked towards me with two cups in hand.
“So how does it feel to be free?” she asked. Her voice had the raspy quality, like she barely used it. She cleared her throat once and offered me the red cup. The strong smell of vodka reached my nose.
“Still your favorite, right?” She smiled secretly at this and took a sip from her own cup. I decided to test out my wings and take her home.
Which brought me to my messy room and the knotted feeling in my stomach. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what I was doing as I led her casually to the bed. Or what to do as she sat down.
“It looks different from up here,” she commented to herself.
“What do you mean?” I asked, pouring myself another cup from the vodka I kept stashed in my jean drawer.
“Oh, nothing,” she mused, absently patting the seat beside her. I was swept up by how soft she felt, how familiar. As I stroked her side, she leaned forward, eyes half-lidded and I could vividly see the deep red of her mouth. The kiss was feather light, the electric brush of skin on skin. My body shook in the sudden feeling that this was overwhelmingly right and before I could stop myself or marvel at how familiar her presence was, I reached for the hem of her shirt, and lifted it up over her head.
The next morning, I sat up and immediately knew that she wasn’t in the room. The spot beside me had long grown cold. I stretched, bit my lip at my reckless behavior, and prepared myself to get up. It was then that I spotted the pile of small gifts on the foot of my bed. There was a bottle of vodka, a plate of wrapped chocolate chip cookies, and a silver fox mask with its ribbons trailing along the bedcover. I remembered that she had kept the gloves on the night before, she had muttered something about a skin problem, but the idea of clicking talons tickled the back of my head. That fox mask had haunted my dreams for better or worse for most of my life.
But, like my fear, my monster was gone.
Macey Lavoie is a new Bostonian trying to find her way around and working on her MFA at Emerson College. She has a fondness for sushi, walks on the beach, reading, and mermaids. When she is not busy having crazy adventures with her friends, she can be found either jotting down writing ideas in her small notebook or curled up with a book and her two cats. Her dream is to one day change the world with a book and to own a large library.