We had formed a group as if it came natural to us. As if none of us were awkward and laughed too loudly, with frowns that we called “smiles” but who were we kidding. So there was a group, and there she was, stomping her feet on the dead, yellow grass. Staring at us. Somebody had told her a story, maybe Greg, maybe Stewart, our names make no difference because we stood as one, in front of her. We outnumbered her, but then we didn’t, because Greg and Stewart and James, that wasn’t us at all. The story felt necessary to tell, so of course we did tell it. The WE, the masks, the hands hidden inside jeans pockets, we said that we had buried her necklace and she would never get it back. Silly story, really. But her head had swollen somehow and the vein on her neck was so prominent. It made me sick to my stomach, but only for a minute. “I don’t understand it!” she yelled, but we knew we would be unable to explain. Seeing her red face, her dark hands reaching into the soil to retrieve what we had never hidden, I have to be honest: it hurt my eyes. For a minute I considered not lying for a change. The feeling passed quickly, and I bit my nail.
Later somebody, Greg or Stewart or James, said that she gave up digging when it got dark and threw a handful of soil in our general direction. By then it was dinner time, and everybody went home and the unit dissolved and who had said what might become important again. Some other person also delivered the lost necklace to the principal’s office at that exact moment, maybe.
That night I went to confession at Martha’s place, and I inhaled her scents as she told me where to touch her. Martha always lied, so she knew. Oh, she knew. She ordered me around and I still went back, because she knew and she had once been Catholic, or so her crying mother had told everybody in the supermarket on Black Friday. I had never been anything in particular, so I breathed in Martha’s words when she explained that I was evil and a liar, and also my smile was all crooked and creeped her out. Her eyes never closed on me, and she stared me down until I couldn’t bear it any longer and started weeping into her thighs.