A/N: Hey guys, this is an idea I had bouncing around in my head. Little bit different from my other stuff, but in the same vein.
In short, the death penalty does not have a place in modern, civilized society. It reflects the worst part of humanity; our bloodthirsty spite; our shortsighted, archaic belief that an eye for an eye is the only path to justice. There is no punishment that will adequately match the heinous act of murder—but taking another life as a toll is like using gasoline to put out a fire. There are monsters among us in society. We must shine light upon them rather than languish in their darkness.
Oh—shit. Wrapped up in my thousandth paper about the death penalty. I closed my laptop and smiled up at the stewardess leaning over my seat.
"Sorry," I said, "just trying to get another paper done. I'm guessing we're landing?"
"Yes, we'll be in Portland shortly. Thank you for your cooperation."
I offered her a sarcastic, tight-lipped smile, the same one I gave my 'friends,' and she moved on to the next passenger who dared to have an electronic device out. Bitch.
Oregon was as rainy as Isabel told me it'd be. I glared out the plane window in distaste as we landed and taxied down the runway, and continued to scowl up at the sky while waiting for my ride outside the airport. My boiling hot coffee from Starbucks was no comfort, but it did sear my fingers so badly that I had to keep switching gloved hands. Fuck Oregon. What the fuck.
My phone vibrated and I checked my watch to see my mom was trying to call me for the fifth time. I sent her to voicemail as my friend Isabel, the bride to be, pulled up in her fiancé's black Jaguar.
"Wrenny!" she squealed, out of the car and squeezing me to death before I could blink.
Her miserable excuse for a future husband was in the driver's seat, pissed off and brooding as usual. Yeah, don't offer to help with my luggage. Dick.
I squealed back like we did in undergrad for fucking everything—when our Chinese food was early, when Izzy had a new wealthy boytoy to show off to me, when we got into the same sorority. Izzy was all long legs and blonde hair and green eyes; total bombshell. Not that I was Frankenstein's wife or anything, but college boys loved pretty, ditzy blonde white girls more than glowering Native American ones.
"You have to tell me everything," Izzy said. She grabbed my stuff like always, eager to help. "Is your mom totally pissed that you're going to grad school in Boston? I mean, who turns down a full ride from Northeastern, right?"
"Fucking Greg wanted me to go to Caltech because he knows the provost." I touched my updo to make sure none of my long black hair had spilled out and watched Izzy throw my stuff in the Jag's tiny trunk. "The twins can stay in California if they want but I'm completely sick of it. Percy looks crabby today."
Izzy shut the trunk with some difficulty and laughed. "He's waiting to find out if he passed the BAR. Super convenient that he'll find out right before we get married."
Snobby lawyer douche. I hugged my best friend again, severely bummed that she was marrying asshole Percival Tate who had made her cry more than once during their five-year relationship, which was one too many times for me. She climbed in the cramped backseat and insisted I sit up front next to her constipated-looking fiancé. He cast me an icy look as I put on my seatbelt.
"Still going to die alone, Wretch?"
"Did your dad buy you this hideous car after the second or third time failing the BAR?" I snapped.
"Oh my god, can you two wait, like, five minutes before bitching at each other?!" Izzy leaned between the front seats and rolled her eyes. "We're getting too old for this."
"Correction: Percival is getting too old for this." I wrinkled my face into an ugly smile. "Since, y'know, he's 30 and still can't pass the BAR. We're only 23, Izzy, my golden-haired angel."
Percy's babyface contorted into a scowl. "You're a bitch, Wren."
"So are you, daddy's boy," I said, putting my feet up on the Jag's dash.
Isabel was one of my best friends, and she asked me to be her maid of honor, so I had to attend her marriage to Satan. I'd spent most of my college years trying to convince her to dump Percy, not only because he was straight from the bowels of Hell, but because she was way too young to be getting married. She had a job with Pfizer and she'd be a PA soon. She didn't have to settle.
We were staying with Captain Dickbreath's family in Portland. He insisted they go there to get married, even though Izzy's family was from California (where we met in middle school), and her mom was always super sick and had a tough time traveling. Izzy's older brother Hector was also a golden-haired angel and was driving her up himself. We were united in our hatred of Percival Tate.
I burst out laughing when we pulled up to his parents' gaudy mansion, complete with fountains and sports cars in the roundabout. Izzy punched me in the arm but snickered with me when Percy got out of the car.
"Is Dahlia here yet?" I asked when Izzy and I got out.
"Yup—everyone's here, actually." Izzy puckered her lips and counted on her fingers. "Dahlia, Yvonne, Aubrey, and Kayla."
Dahlia was another good friend of mine—the others I could take or leave. She had the dark cynicism I needed when Izzy's pluckiness was driving me nuts.
Everyone descended upon us like a flock of rabid screeching birds when we got in the house. It was a flurry of blonde and brown and red hair and girly perfume and both Izzy and I were swept over. Dahlia tore me away from Aubrey's bone-crushing hug and swung me out of the crowd, still oddly strong for barely being five feet tall.
"Wren!" she groaned. "Thank god you're here! I was going to punch Yvonne in the fucking throat if she didn't stop talking." She held me at arm's length, adjusting her glasses, and beamed. "You look go good! We'll turn pale together in Boston."
Dahlia was another old friend of mine who I met in high school. She was ridiculously smart and the only reason I passed my biology and chemistry classes in undergrad, not to mention sarcastic and funny as hell. We were going to Northeastern together, me for journalism and her for biochem.
"I don't think either of you can be pale," said Kayla, one of Izzy's friends. She was cool, too, but I didn't know her as well. Could've been twins with Izzy.
I did a skin-tone test with Dahlia, who had the same permanent deep tan I did from her Hispanic parents. "…Well we can get kind of pale."
Yvonne sidled over to compare with us, too, lining up her much darker arm on the other side of mine. "You're all pale as hell compared to me."
"Wow, this is a fascinating conversation." Aubrey threw an arm around Izzy's shoulders, far and away the tallest of all of us. "Not like there are a million other things we could talk about."
And we did keep chatting on our way upstairs to unpack. No one had brought their significant others; most of them were busy or couldn't get away from work. Yvonne's husband, Jamal, worked in Silicon Valley for Facebook. Aubrey's boyfriend, Ivan, had some kind of football camp at Ole Miss where he was the quarterback. Last I knew, Kayla had a steady girlfriend, and Dahlia was usually single like me.
The mansion was huge, with ten bedrooms and eight bathrooms. We were all still sharing rooms, which was okay with me because I hated being alone. Dahlia and I were at the end of the hall on the second floor, next to Izzy and Kayla's room, and Aubrey shared a room with Yvonne. Everyone went into Dahlia and I's room, still talking while we worked on unpacking my stuff. The wedding festivities were going on for two weeks before the big day.
"How's your mom, Wren?" Yvonne asked just as I finished unpacking.
I shrugged. "The same. Still thinks the sun rises and sets by Cory and Zeke. Greg still thinks she's a perfect angel. She's still saving the world one cavity at a time and he's still jazzing up people's webpages or whatever."
Izzy stacked my suitcases on the other end of the huge room. It felt like a hotel, with light tan carpeting and soft blue walls and framed pictures of sailboats and seashells. I sat on the edge of the bed next to Dahlia and tried not to think about mom. She wasn't happy that I was leaving for Boston, and even less happy that I was stopping in South Dakota. Greg was torn between supporting me and supporting her.
"Are you still visiting the rez?" Izzy asked, sitting on the other side of me. "Bet Darlene's pissed about that."
"Someone has to figure out what happened to her dad." Dahlia rested her head on my shoulder and sighed. "I wish I could go with you. Be safe."
Izzy laughed and flopped back on the bed. "That's only part of why she's going. She also wants to find a Native guy to bring home and marry."
"No, I don't!" I snapped, punching her in the arm. "I just want to… talk to one. I barely remember Pine Ridge, and my mom just told me awful stories about it."
Percy popped up in the doorway and we all stopped talking to stare at him. He hung there for a minute, then cleared his throat and nodded towards Izzy.
"Are we all going out for dinner?" he asked.
Izzy shrugged. "Yeah, but we were going to have a girl's night. Do you mind?"
"Of course he minds," Dahlia said tersely before I could.
"That's fine." Percy glared between Dahlia and I and left without another word.
Yvonne exhaled and rolled her eyes. "He's as pleasant as ever. Anyway, where are we going, Izzy?"
Izzy hopped up off the bed and twirled, clapping excitedly. "There's a new club in Portland called Vapor and I got us all VIP access! I know it's not really your cup of tea, Dahlia, so our booth is in the back corner away from the crowd. But we get free drinks and food all night!"
Aubrey and I were the club rats and we both squealed happily and hugged Izzy. Dahlia wasn't a huge fan of the bar or club scene but she'd tag along to make Izzy happy. Kayla and Yvonne both seemed excited, too, and we all started chattering about what we were going to wear and what time we were leaving. I had a couple of outfits and told Kayla I would loan her something.
Mom tried to call me again and I finally sent her a text telling her I was still alive and in one piece. I rummaged through my stuff until I found a short red dress and gave Kayla a black one with three-quarter sleeves. I slipped on black heels and put my thick black hair up in a clip while Dahlia used the vanity in the bathroom to put on her makeup. She glanced at me, pressing her lips together.
"Could you try to look a little uglier?" she grumbled.
"That's pretty hard for me." I turned to check my reflection and leaned in to make sure my makeup was still on point. "Stick with me. We'll have fun tonight."
Everyone else was wearing different length and color dresses. I helped Dahlia with her jewelry and checked Izzy's eyeliner for her before we all left the house together to take a limo to Vapor. It was good to see my friends and get away from school for a while. I needed this.