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Ruth

“Okay, you say it first,” says Ruth.

“Catholic,” says Rhi. It sounds like a word; it reminds Ruth vaguely of incense.

“Now you,” she says.

“Catholic,” says Topaz, and in her mouth it’s filthy: a shirt untucked and a sullen pout, short plaid skirts, guilt and rulers; cigarettes in a grubby green bathroom–her first tampon, secrets, the hungry eyes of bullies. It sounds like too late on a Friday night, passing around filched peppermint schnapps, bad lighting and whispering the Hail Mary while somebody feels you up.

“See?” says Ruth.

“No!” says Rhi.

“Is my favorite flavor,” Topaz adds, grinning.

Jake

Jake isn’t sure whether to turn his back. It’d be a little weird not to, because she is changing, and it’s not like they’ve kissed this week. But it’d be equally weird not to look: they are still technically going out.

He ends up lamely flipping through her scrapbook again–an excuse not to watch, which turns out to be a mistake.

“Here,” Ruth says behind him, and slips out the one of her on the escalator, hair in her mouth. She’s very beautiful. “I’d like you to have it.”

“Thank you,” he says.

“Wanting you is killing me,” he doesn’t.

Maddy

Maddy likes her new camera, and she’s filling it up tonight. She gets Gene yawning monstrously, J.P. wearing a tiny coat, and Annabelle and Vey flipping it like Johnny Cash. She sneaks a shot up Ruth’s skirt; Ruth laughs, smacks her upside the head and kisses her. It’s a good night.

She’s heading for the porch when suddenly there’s Kent. He looks bored, but the corners of his eyes say he’s just held together: a landslide on a leash. It’s painful to see. Maddy feels herself sober up.

“Been a bad day,” he mutters.

Maddy nods slowly, then takes his picture.

The Explicit

Jane shares a coffee with Lucien. Lucien taught the best English class Jake ever took, and Jake used to draw with colored pencils with his father. Jake’s father works in purchasing at the prison where Schultz is serving six years.

Schultz sexually abused Rhiannon when she was eight. Rhiannon shares a cheap basement apartment with Ruth. Ruth sometimes sleeps with Topaz. Topaz never got back the ten dollars she lent Theo, who picked a fight after school one day with Corey, and as we speak Corey is standing alone on a stage, telling a story to

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