Can we just go dancing? Please. Can we just go dancing. It was all she could think, over and over, as they drove halfway across the country to a town they didn't know. Why five girls would all move cross-country all at once, Violet never questioned. She just knew that this morning she woke up to Megan�s voice. Vi, let�s go. They were packing, and she was going with them. That's how it is with family. You don't leave each other. One person goes, you go too. Not that they were related, but they chose each other as kids and in the year since graduating high school, they'd gotten their lives figured out.
Megan said it was time. That's why they were going. She'd gotten a head start making decisions after she graduated early. Megan was the first to suggest they all get jobs in the next town over and make a life for themselves someplace that felt just the same as home but where nobody knew them by last name. Vi didn't know what had changed, but Megan needed to get gone. They'd left once before, so they would again. Together.
In the year since graduation, Vi had gotten a tattoo and been drunk for the first time. She hadn't had sex yet. It seemed like all the other girls--Jesse, Sammy, Kat, and especially Megan--had all lost their virginity to the men who got them drunk for the first time on the first day of ninth grade. These were men who had given them tattoos as birthday presents when they turned fifteen. They teased Vi about the way she wore T-shirts that didn't have any shape and she looked down and she wore sneakers. They teased her, but Vi could tell they liked having her around. They'd moved on too fast from being just a kid, but Vi was there. They could hold on to her.
Leaving town for the second time felt different, felt bigger somehow. Living just a twenty-minute drive through corn fields from her parents’ house-- nothing really changed. Crammed into the back seat of the dented Buick they'd all pooled their money to buy, Vi felt her blood moving through her with a tremble that made her want to move, to follow its vibrations. She needed to. Can we just go dancing, please? This time the words came out in a whisper, but no one seemed to hear her over the sound of the stereo.
They'd been driving four hours, and soon they'd be crossing state lines. This, Megan informed the girls, was very good news.
Where are we going? Vi asked.
Wherever we want. The other girls cheered it all in unison like they'd planned it without her.
Where do we want to go?
No one said anything. Even in the noise of wind rushing through the rolled down windows and the radio blasting and the engine clicking like a broken sewing machine, it was quiet. Megan drove faster, then faster, then slowed down. Pulling off to the side of the road, she killed the engine.
We don't know, Megan said. Her hands held tight to the wheel and she looked straight ahead. For the first time since Vi had known her, Megan looked young. She had blond hair that should have been touched up at the roots months ago tied back in a knot on top of her head, and a big plastic necklace with red beads on it. She was squinting into the sun to keep her eyes from looking big and tired and scared.
Let's go to the desert, Vi said.
To the desert! The girls said it with a triumph that masked relief, and Megan started driving. Vi pulled out a map and said they needed to head south, which was the opposite way they were heading. She said, Let's go north and go around so we aren't back in Indiana at any point. That would be best. The girls agreed and they drove all day and all night and stopped only for gas. The tremor in her blood began to guide them as a Ouija board, a divining rod. Squeezed tight in the back seat, it had begun to rise up, gain power. The girls would trust it, let it guide them. It wasn't until they'd gone from Illinois through part of Wisconsin, down to Iowa, Missouri and on and on and found themselves in Oklahoma that Vi said, OK. Now we stop.
Across from a bar called Sauced! there was a lean-to looking barely standing house with people milling around the front yard with red cups, letting everybody know there was a keg in back.
Let's go in, Vi said.
The house should have been smokey, but nobody ever smoked indoors anymore, except weed. Instead, the whole house took on the yellow tinge of old fashioned light bulbs made with filaments shining against paint that used to be white but wasn't anymore. Vi made her way through the mass of people, standing shoulder to shoulder, snaking her arm into open spaces and watching as the crowd parted for her without ever noticing she'd told them to. The girls walked behind her, Megan first, then the rest, until she found the basement where a boy with red plastic cups tied to his belt loop was standing. How much for a cup? Vi asked, resting a hand on his elbow and waiting for him to turn and face her.
He was taller than her. She hadn't realized it standing behind him, but when he turned and she had to look up to see his eyes, which were blue and which she liked, it strained her neck. Five bucks, he said. Free refills.
Vi turned and looked at the girls as they started going through their pockets. Together they had ten, but Scott, which was the name of the tall boy with the red cups, said it was okay by him if they shared. When she said thanks she felt herself shrug and look down and then immediately up, eyes shy and she felt beautiful and alluring in a way that she'd seen in movies and always thought looked fake. When it happened on her body nothing had ever felt more natural.
Is this your house? Vi asked. She stood on her tiptoes and leaned into his shoulder as she spoke, so close she could feel the heat off his skin on her cheeks.
No, it's a buddy's.
Show it to me.
It wasn't a question, and his jaw tightened a little as he looked down at her and grinned and said okay. He moved straight past people he clearly knew, and when the crowd got too thick he moved ahead of her, taking his hand from the small of her back and leading her by the hand. The girls weren't following and she was glad. Scott didn't show her the upstairs. He moved in a circle, doing a full lap around the first floor, and straight out the back door, behind the garage, where there was a storm cellar that he pried open. She took his hands and wiped the dirt from the cellar onto her shirt then kissed him. He walked down the steps backwards, stopping when they were just the same height.
Hi, he said.
Hi, Vi said back, kissing him again, moving closer this time, wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning into him. She waited for the moment she would lean too hard and they would both fall head first into the cellar, too tangled up in one another to land on their feet. It didn't come. Instead she felt herself being pushed, moving in tentative backwards steps until she was pressed into the siding of the garage, and she reached for his belt, didn't stop kissing. She fumbled at it with one hand, then two. Time passed without her noticing and soon she realized she'd stopped kissing him and was looking down trying to see the mechanism, pulling at it like she’d never worn a belt herself.
Hey, he said, guiding her face up towards his.
I can't get the buckle.
She looked back down and kept on fidgeting with the leather, pulling it in all directions at once, until the gesture lost strength and she was just holding the strap with a limp wrist, determined not to look up.
Have you done this before? Scott asked.
What do you think? Vi said, standing up taller, shoulders down, back a little arched, the way she’d seen girls stand before. She let her head fall back as she looked up and smiled in a way that felt sultry.
Shit, he said. Shit. He held her firmly by both shoulders and scooted her back away from him. Once she was firmly on her feet, he let go and stepped back. Shit, he said again, as he turned and walked away. Alone, Vi stood awhile longer in the dark, holding her perfect posture, no childish slumping, no shoulders back, no arch. It was dark. So dark she took her steps backwards until she was back against the garage so she could have a place to begin. She traced the path around the corner and saw the glowing lights up at the house, but stayed back. Continuing to trace the new places she'd discovered for herself, for Megan, for the others, she walked the perimeter, right along the edge of the yard, back to the car.
The girls were standing, looking at her. They had expectations. All together, their glassy, drunken eyes said to her, Well?
The car won't start, Jesse said. It's leaking something.
Have you looked? Vi asked the question and could see from their expectant gaze. Her blood moved through her quiet and gentle, moved so slowly she thought it might go completely still like a retention pond, and they could not tell there was nothing guiding her. She had found her way back to them using her eyes. She was Vi again, just Vi.
Sort of, Megan said.
Let's see it, Vi said.
Megan held a flashlight over the engine. Vi closed her eyes, opened them again and tried to see connections. She searched for something to follow. She looked from a spot in her belly, drawing it up through the blood to her eyes and began to see connections, paths that hadn’t shown themselves to her before. Through the dark, she could see one of the fan belts had cut the coolant line. In the morning we can go get some tape, Vi said softly. She couldn't fix it, but she could fashion something that would hold.
BIO: Jaimie Eubanks has a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing from Knox College, she now lives and works in Minneapolis. Her work can be found in places such as Thought Catalog, Gloom Cupboard, The Journal of Truth and Consequence, and Monkey Bicycle.