Contest #183 shortlist ⭐️

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Fiction Sad Friendship

This story contains sensitive content

****Triggers: Mental Health

Substance Abuse

Suicide


The boardwalk was moving. Side to side as if it was timed with the ocean. At least that’s what my brain was telling me, as it went through motions of a very outdated tab of acid that I was pretty sure didn’t fully dissolve on my tongue. It was a cool night for June, but I was starting to sweat bullets, while trying to tell my mind not to panic. I don’t know how enjoyable it could have been, considering what I was doing in the first place. Drugs weren’t the right choice, but they were the best I could come up with. I’ll take Stale Psychedelic Therapy for Temporary Insanity for 500, Alex.

I mean, taking a walk in your dead sister’s high school camo jacket at night tripping balls wasn’t exactly the most mentally sound choice. The Jersey Shore wasn’t exactly Mayberry at night, but I grew up here and knew most of the cops patrolling the boardwalk. Really, it was the tourists and drunks who should have been afraid. A woman (girl) in her almost thirties walking in a very not so straight line, basically using my body like a bumper car trying to get to where, who knew. My eyes were bloodshot, and my medium-length dark brown hair was invoking Medusa from the brisk beach wind.

I know I looked crazy.

My body was just going on its own, avoiding the seizure inducing lights from the arcades. I was trying not to look inside, since the video games were becoming alive and trying to reach out at me. Every woman with similar brown hair looked like Leila, just watching me. Some were smiling, drinking, making out with drunk guys. She was everywhere. Yeah, that acid may have been over a decade old hiding in Leila’s secret stash, but it definitely was kicking in. Vodka and whiskey lullabies weren’t doing it anymore. Leila had been dead over a month, but she was still here.  

Noises were starting to bleed together and slow down. Kids screaming, balloons pooping from the games, laughing, crying, winning sirens, couples arguing. Familiar things were becoming unfamiliar and my heart started to race. Get it together, I told myself. I wasn’t a child. I’m adult on hallucinogens, and damnit I could handle myself. Except, I wasn’t being a responsible adult, drugs or no drugs. I knew they would grab onto my grief and twist it until I was completely lost in it. Rule number one: don’t do acid alone. And Rule infinity: Don’t already be upset. In my mind though, my sister pissed all over the rules when she took her own life and left me with everything to take care of. My newly widowed mother, her daughter, her grieving husband. Rules? There were no more rules.

           Before the sounds started to turn into demons calling me home, I heard a song coming from one of the t-shirt stores. Like a lost shore man, I traveled toward the reggae siren. 40oz to Freedom by Sublime was blasting through the speakers. Time travel wasn’t the usual side of effect of acid, but I definitely felt like I was back in high school. My eyes were starting to flutter from the colors of the shirt bursting like moving a rainbow. I squinted thinking that would help. My feet were marching on through, until landed against a mannequin.  

“Sorry, buddy” I said. At least, I thought that’s what I said. I could have been reciting the pledge of allegiance for all I knew.

“Renna?” The mannequin is talking. The mannequin is TALKING. “Renna,” it repeated to me. “Yo, its Jimmy Beach.” He was holding my arms, and I was trying to remember him.

“God,” I said. “Mannequins are hot.”

He started laughing and then low whistled. “What are you on?”

I hadn’t seen Jimmy Beach in over ten years. Honestly, I was really surprised he even remembered me. We sort of ran in the same circles but were worlds apart. A couple years older and he was next level when it came to partying. Jimmy was an enigma when he moved into town all those years ago. Straight out of California, he was this punk rock alien to us east coasters. He was in Leila’s crowd more than mine, but I always noticed him. He had this walk that just spoke with such confidence. Sexy, to boot. But he was a Lost Boy, and lost boys were my weakness and wolves hiding under sheep’s wool. Wolves with good hair, blue eyes, and a devilish smile.

Sticking my tongue out, I reached into my pocket, pulled out a lone tab, and put it in my mouth like a sitting platter. And like we had done this a thousand times before, he smirked and pressed his tongue against mine, swiping the acid onto his. Something was sparking heat inside of me. Kindling, dying to be lit on fire.

He bounced his eyebrows up and down.

“Let’s do this.”

He abandoned his crew, and hand in hand we set forth. For the first time in months, maybe years I didn’t feel so alone. Safe? Not really. But looking around, Leila was nowhere to be found. Grief wasn’t trailing me like a ghost on a mission, and I just wanted feel free of any responsibility and heavy emotions.   

Jimmy was like candy dispenser, but with illegal substances. He had his own Mary Poppins pocket of bad treats, and threw caution to the wind as he just kept throwing something else down my throat. He told me about traveling around the states for work, getting in a car accident, destroying his, and then ending up in prison for possession. He’d been out for a few years, but getting a job wasn’t really easy to find. His days were now spent sleeping on his mom’s couch, trying to “figure things out”. I don’t know if we were both hoping to hear better outcomes for each other, but being together screwed up or not, seemed better than nothing. We played a water gun game, trying to splash each other. Lost infinite amounts of money in claw machines, ate cotton candy (which I couldn’t stomach and fought with all my might not to puke all over his boots), rode bumper cars (he drove) then were banned from ever doing again, rode a roller coaster (we both puked), and ended up on the beach, smoking a joint.

Unlike the boardwalk, the beach was quiet. Parallel worlds. Once hitting the ramp, the lights didn’t reach the sand, the sounds fading in the background, and the waves taking over. It wasn’t really safe, but what was when it came to every decision I made?

The moon was full, our nightlight. A perfect night to turn into a werewolf and cast a spell for renewal. High or not, the come down was inevitable. The sadness I had been trying to smother and numb, was trying to claw its way up my throat. Pain always prevailed. Jimmy sat next to me on the sand, knees up, arms braced around them. 

“Hey,” he said, his head down trying to avoid my water filled eyes. “I’m sorry about your sister. And your dad. My brother said he heard about it at the funeral.”

I vaguely remembered his brother being there, but really all the make faces that came to cry over Leila all blurred together. She had the quite the following over the years. I was more the shy one, but unfortunately my sister and I had slept with a lot of the same people. We were the slutty sisters. The mean girls who made boys cry. I had the decency to tell someone it was over. Leila however, held on tight to the leash and led those boys to their demise.

“Thanks. Yeah, my dad had a heart attack about six months ago. Leila was taking care of everything for my mom.” Scoffing, I continued. “She left directions for her husband on what to do when he came home. Told him to put the baby back in the car and call 911. Like she was doing him a favor. She thought leaving us almost a million dollars would make up for ditching her family. Me!” I jabbed my fingers into my chest, noticing he hadn’t really looked up yet. “She left me in charge! I don’t know how take care of a two-year-old, let alone finances. Yeah, she really did me a favor.”

“Your sister was smart. I mean, her doing what she did was messed up, but she trusted you. Though you were better for the job. But, I get it. She left everyone hanging, and you there ready to catch whatever falls.”

“I’m almost thirty, single, and I talk to my dead sister. Like she’s here. I drink and take whatever I can find, because I want her gone. I keep asking her, “why”. Why did she do it? She had everything. Perfect house, career, family. She never answers me though.”

I was hoping I said that all in my head. By the look of Jimmy, I didn’t. Jeez, I really knew how to ruin a night.

“You know,” he said, looking out to the waves. “I always wanted to talk to you. I mean, I know we’ve talked, but never really talked. “The dude was good at changing the subject, I’d give him that. “I was jealous of Jeff,” he continued. Now, that surprised me. Jeff was my high school boyfriend. They were friends, but I didn’t really remember Jimmy being in the picture at the time. He proceeded to tell me that a lot of guys back then wanted me. Apparently, Leila was the “friendlier” sister between the two us. It was nice way of saying she was easy, really. “Stop looking at me like that,” he said pulling me from memory lane.

“Didn’t you sleep with Leila?” I did remember Jimmy being one of my sister’s shadows when we went to parties. She was the patron saint of free drugs, a trail of puppies (boys) following around her around. 

His eyes went wide. “No,” he replied. “I’m pretty sure she slept with my brother.”

“I slept with your brother.”

What- ‘’ he started to yell. I couldn’t help it and burst into laughing.

A minute later, after he was done scowling his boyish smirk returned.

 “I think it’s time for us to try on new masks.”

I tilted my head showing my confusion. He then pulled a paintbrush and a few paint pallets out of his pocket like a magician.

“Where the hell did you get that from? You were hiding that in your pocket?”

“Borrowed it from Kelsey the face paint chick.”

Raising my eyes, I said, “Borrowed?”

“She owed me a favor.” Jimmy knew everybody. Social Butterfly of the Shore.

The beach was deserted except for us. A warm breeze seemed to pass through us. I was still high, but really, I was just tired. Tired of looking for answers, tired of being someone I wasn’t ready to be, and tired of just the pain. Jimmy held my face with one hand and started apply red pain to my lips. I didn’t know what he was into. He could’ve drawing the hugest penis on face, but I didn’t care. It was comforting and I closed my eyes as he continued to paint my face.

“My turn,” he said. I opened my eyes, and was holding the paint brush to me.

“Do you want Spiderman or Batman? A unicorn? Hearts?” He showed me his phone with camera app open, and showed me face. I looked like a gross version of Harley Quinn. Black triangles under my eyes with cartoon tears dripping down face. I gave him my most skeptical face.

He lifted one shoulder. “I have a thing for clowns.” I tried not to laugh in his face. Never heard of that one before, at least from a guy I was with. “We should embrace this shitty guilt and shame we’re feeling. This,” he said, pointing to my face, “is just a mask. It means nothing. Its not who you are. Now, “he said, grabbing my hand, opening it, and placing the brush in it. “Clown me up.”

With shaky hands, I painted a standard clown face. Sad eyes, joker lips, and then painted his prison ID number across his jaw. He lifted his shirt off, and started to undo his pants. Taking his socks last, leaving his boxer briefs on, he held his hand down to me. Right here? I thought. I took a minute enjoying the site of a six pack and colorful tattoos adoring his body. Peter Pan grew up.

I took his hand to lift me up, and stripped down to my bra and panties. I wasn’t really self-conscious, but the drugs were wearing off. Jimmy wrapped his arms around, instantly warming me from the outside to in.

“Time to get baptized,” he said, and counted to three. Running into weaves, that were crashing hard and fast. It was stupid, but I trusted him. The moon showed how high and unforgiving the ocean was, but I didn’t care. My eyes burned from the salt and paint dripping down. Goosebumps riddled my body. Shivers ran up back like fingers. I felt my heart bang against my chest. Bursting to get out.  

“Repeat me after me,” he yelled, competing with the thunder of the water.

“I, Renna am not anyone’s copy. I’m unique. I’m a goddamn nova. I’m not my sister. I’m not loser. I’m not lost. I will find myself. “

I screamed it. Pretty sure I cursed out my sister. God. The stars. My dad. The angels. And to the Devil himself, who was the only one holding my hand through all of this.

He grabbed and held his forehead to mine, our breathing heavy and wet.

That wolfish grin came out, illuminated by the moon.

“Now get down and pray,” he said so low only the ocean and me could hear. He winked at me, and then with one hand on top of my head, and one on my shoulder he pushed me down.


Laying in the sand, the sun was coming up. Surfers were making their way down to the beach, ready to worship the waves. My clothes were stuck to my body, and my eyes burned. I hope my face clean of any evidence of stolen clown makeup. Using my hands to brush my Medusa hair out of my face, I jumped. Jimmy was still next me, sitting up, watching me.

“Morning,” he said, his voice was so gravelly. His face had remnants of black paint, streaked like he was chimney sweep. Lips smeared with red. He was a sight.

“I’m surprised you’re still here.” I was. Really expected to wake up alone, and wondering if it was a dream. An Alice in Wasteland dream. Chasing the devil, instead of the white rabbit. Seagulls were flying up above us. Better than vultures picking on our washed up, bloated corpses. But I didn’t feel dead. Cliché, but I felt clean despite sweat dried on my skin, covered with sand. My chest felt like there wasn’t ten tons of weight sitting on it.

He nodded his head back, towards the boardwalk, indicating it was time to go. The morning after is usually the worse, most awkward part. I think we knew our time together was up. It wasn’t a planned adventure, and a repeat would not have been exciting, nor cathartic. We walked up the ramp, smiling at each other, both our necks tilted to the side, mirroring what we don’t want to say.

“I’m going this way,” he said, pointing behind him.

           Nodding once, I said, “I’m this way,” tilting behind me.

           I wanted to ask him if he was going to back to California. If he wanted a family. Was he dog person or cat person? We talked about heavy shit that most people would turn away from. But we exposed our faults, fetishes, addictions, and secrets to each other. Only the waves and the moon knew our secrets between us.

           I watched Jimmy Beach fade as he walked down the boardwalk, toward the dark outline of the rides. Lighting my crumpled stogie, I smiled. It was time to go home, back to my mom to help her shower. To be up for my niece, when she needed to change her diaper and have breakfast. Once that sun came up, I wasn’t sixteen anymore. I needed a cigarette and went into my pocket to grab my pack. Lighting my crumpled stogie, I smiled. In scribbly, very boyish handwriting was a short note written on it. No number. No social media handle.

                       You’re a nice girl, Renna.

Don’t let that fade.

L, JB. 

And with that, I held up my head high. Threw out my stash, and headed on home.

February 03, 2023 20:25

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12 comments

Philip Ebuluofor
08:26 Feb 13, 2023

Congrats. The week of all first-timers. Welcome.

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Rissa Bee
15:01 Feb 13, 2023

Thank you, Philip!

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Philip Ebuluofor
17:57 Feb 18, 2023

Welcome.

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Amanda Lieser
23:25 Feb 12, 2023

Hey Roses, This piece was beautiful. Your incredible imagery and beautiful dialogue captivated my soul. I also thought it was incredible the way you told this tragic tale in a very poetic way. I was surprised by the ending and glad that no one was the true Gillian of this story. I also thought that this story had fascinating characters who had more to say. I’d gladly read a sequel or prequel. Nice job and congratulations on getting shortlisted.

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Rissa Bee
01:33 Feb 13, 2023

Thank you for this, Amanda! I actually had a different ending but it was too late lol and so many errors… but I’m hoping to have this be a novel. Thank you so much

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Evie Thorn
23:13 Feb 10, 2023

I love this! This totally should have been the winner.

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Rissa Bee
01:19 Feb 11, 2023

Thank you so much, Evie! I’m trying to write a novel and this was kind of warped from it

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Wendy Kaminski
16:19 Feb 10, 2023

Great story, Rissa, and congratulations on making the short list!

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Rissa Bee
17:55 Feb 10, 2023

thank you so much! first entry ever and I rushed and thought of a better ending too late...so this means so much

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Wendy Kaminski
18:02 Feb 10, 2023

That is so weird someone downvoted your comment - it wasn't me. =/ Yes, especially for a first entry, talk about a smashing success! Fantastic. :)

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Rissa Bee
18:11 Feb 10, 2023

it was me! I thought I could see who voted not realizing I gave myself a like

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Wendy Kaminski
18:16 Feb 10, 2023

D'oh! hehe :) You should give yourself a like, it's well earned! :) You can see who voted by going to that little bell and scrolling down. It says when someone "likes" your story.

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