"Rich Girls" by Melissa Flores Anderson

I noticed Eve first at the Bad Ass Café in Dublin in Temple Bar. She sat across from me and I thought she looked a lot like my favorite singer, Ani DiFranco. She had a tiny nose ring that pierced her tan skin. She had the attitude, too, like she might have been the badass for whom the restaurant had been named. She spoke in a Georgia drawl that enthralled our Irish orientation leaders and she wasn’t shy about complaining.

“This menu sucks,” she said loudly after the waitstaff had arranged four tables into one long banquet setup to accommodate our group. “It’s full of meat dishes.”

She continued to scan the menu with her dark eyebrows pulled together.

“On the back page, there is a vegetable soup and a pasta dish,” I said.

“Thanks.”

She held her hand out across the table. “I’m Eve Lourdes.

“Isabel Juarez,” I said, and shook her hand firmly, like I was applying for a job. “I’m from California.”

“You’re Hispanic, aren’t you?” she asked.

“My dad’s Mexican, mom is white.”

“Yep, I’m half, too. My dad’s Puerto Rican,” she said.

We sat with two dozen Americans that night, all exchange students headed to universities across Ireland. After dinner, two of the other girls pulled out tattered passport books to compare travels.

“You’ve been to Hong Kong, too?” Amelia squealed when she saw one of a dozen stamps in Catharine’s pages. “Don’t you just love the night market?”

“You know, the one in Taiwan is even better,” Catharine responded. “You’ve been to Germany, too? I’m backpacking through Europe after our study abroad year ends. I can’t wait to get back to the clubs in East Berlin.”

My own passport sat snugly in a borrowed suitcase back at the youth hostel with a stiff blue cover and one stamp from the day before when I landed at the Dublin airport.

***

For the second week, the orientation leaders shipped us off to Bray, a suburb 40 miles south of the city.

“You’ll be paired off and staying with a family for four nights,” one of the leaders said, and passed out envelopes with our assignments.

Catharine and Amelia squealed and hugged when they saw they were paired together, as though they were long-time best friends and hadn’t just met seven days before.

I knew lots of girls like them back at my private college in California, girls who arrived on campus with brand-new Miatas or Beemers. I showed up with Pell grants and a 20-year-old Honda, scholarships to cover my tuition, and a work-study job to cover gas.

“What a surprise,” Eve said when she opened her envelope. “We’re in the same house. Of course, they put the two Hispanic chicks together.”

“Maybe they just paired us off alphabetically,” I said.

***

At the homestay house, the family’s seven-year-old daughter followed us from room to room. The girl held up wispy blond braids that were unraveled at the ends.

“I have braids, too,” she said. “But yours look funny.”

“Mine aren’t braids,” Eve said. “They are dreadlocks. Like Bob Marley.”

The little girl scrunched up her nose. She didn’t know who that was.

“I like how youse Americans talk,” the girl said in her lilting Dublin accent. Eve and I sounded nothing alike. “Are you sisters?”

“Nope,” Eve said.

She caught my light brown eyes with her nearly black ones and laughed. We looked nothing alike either. She was lean and stood a half foot taller than me.

“See you later, kid,” Eve said as we grabbed our backpacks to head out and explore the town.

We ran into Catharine, Amelia and another girl Charlotte on the road a few houses down.

“We’re taking the train back to Dublin to do some shopping,” Catharine said. “Want to come with?”

“Nope,” Eve said.

I followed her out of the suburban enclave on Camaderry Road, under blue, clear skies, the last vestiges of summer.

“Let’s hike up Bray Head,” she said.

I looked down at my boots and baggy jeans. I didn’t feel prepared for outdoor activities.

“How long is this hike?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Isabel, but when will we ever be here again?” Eve said. “It’s our one chance to do it.”

When we started our ascent, the sun shone brightly and the temperatures were in the mild 70s. But as the incline became steeper, a cold wind blew across us from the Irish Sea below. Never the athletic type, my calves ached halfway to the summit and I clutched the green guardrail to propel myself forward.

A group of brown-haired tourists passed us on their way down.

“A tu izquierda,” the man at the front of their line said.

Eve and I exchanged a look.

“Does that happen to you all the time, too?” she asked.

“Yeah, everyone assumes I speak Spanish, but I can barely count to 10.”

As we reached the top of Bray Head, the blue skies receded suddenly as a volatile cloud bank rolled in from the south. The sun blocked, everything around us fell into a neutral gray.

“Let’s go before we get caught in this storm,” Eve said.

But as we turned, the skies shifted again and the sun came back out to follow us on our descent. Back on flat land, I followed Eve past the quaint storefronts along the Strand. We’d been walking up a tree-lined street with red brick houses for half an hour when I stopped.

“This doesn’t seem familiar,” I said. I opened my backpack to retrieve my tour book and turned to the entry for Bray. It was too small a place to have a map. My chest tightened at the thought that we were lost.

“Let’s just keep walking east,” Eve said and she continued up the sidewalk in the direction we had been going. “Everything will be fine. We’ll figure it out. Or we’ll find someone we can ask.”

We came to a park where two boys kicked a soccer ball back and forth. They wore jerseys for a team I didn’t know and black Umbro shorts. They might have been 11 or 12.

“Hey.” Eve called across the grass and waved them over. The redheaded boy picked up the ball and jogged toward us and his blond friend followed.

“Can you tell us how to get to Cuala Road?” Eve asked.

“We’ll help youse out for blow jobs,” the redhead boy said and the other snickered.

Eve’s eyes darkened and her body bristled.

“Cheeky little bastards,” Eve said. “How about you tell us the way, and we don’t punch you in the nuts?”

“I was just jokin’,” the boy said. “Keep walking until you get to Sidmonton Road, then turn left. It’ll turn into Cuala up the road a ways.”

We left the boys behind.

“Guys are assholes at every age,” Eve said and kicked a trash can at the edge of the park. “Even before they hit puberty.”

That night, we went to the Hibernia Pub across from the waterfront. As soon as Eve pushed open the thick oak door into the dim bar, we saw the other American girls.

“The Stepford Students are here,” Eve said with a sneer.

“Come on, be nice,” I said.

Catharine and Amelia stood around a high-top table, their slender jean-clad hips cocked out at an angle. With their light hair and blue eyes, they looked like locals. But their high-end puffer jackets gave them away as well-off Americans. They ran their fingers through their hair and giggled at the American boys who brought back drinks from the bar for them.

Charlotte stood at one edge of the table with a glass of water, a blank look on her face. She wore a peacoat that looked a lot like mine even though her cheeks looked flushed in the warm bar interior. I waved toward their table. Charlotte was the only one to wave back.

Eve and I took seats at the bar where we ordered Bulmer’s cider. It was the cheapest thing on tap. One of the boys from the other table came up and signaled the bartender.

“Two cranberry vodkas,” the boy said. “Make it top shelf.”

He placed one drink in front of Catharine and one in front of Amelia, and rested one hand on each of their hips.

***

We headed to our final destination—the University of Ulster, Coleraine—the first week of September. Eve, Charlotte, and I stopped briefly to drop off our luggage in campus housing, then went straight to the university pub.

When we pushed through the double doors, the smell of cigarette smoke mixed with spilled beer and the sour scent of boys who hadn’t showered in a week hit me like a wave. But after a pint of cider, the smell faded.

Halfway through her pint, Charlotte’s blond head bobbed from side to side. Her hair was short, but uneven, as though someone had taken a pair of scissors to it without looking. Her designer clothes wrinkled around her middle. “Are you okay, Charlotte?” I asked.

Her head dipped and her eyelids drooped down to hide her aquamarine eyes. She jerked her head up and said, “I’m just peachy. Like Georgia peaches.”

I leaned toward Eve. “Charlotte seems really wasted. We should take her home.”

Eve gulped down the rest of her cider and I left my half full glass behind.

“Charlotte, let’s go home,” I said and held her elbow to keep her steady on her feet. I picked up her coat. It was the softest fabric I’d ever touched. I rubbed my fingers across it again before I handed it to her.

“What is this made of?”

“Cashmere,” she said. “From Kashmir. No, London.”

Charlotte wobbled. Eve held one arm and I held the other as we walked through the night back to the campus houses.

Eve deposited Charlotte on the worn brown sofa in their common area.

“Duty done,” she said.

I left for my own house two doors up the block.

***

My boots dug into the soft mud on the path across the field behind campus. I flipped up the collar of my coat against the rain and slipped my hands into my pockets for warmth. At Cromore Road, I crossed the wet traffic lanes to the strip of houses along a frontage road. Catharine and Amelia lived with some Irish students in the blue house in the center.

“We’re going to Johnny’s,” Amelia said when I arrived.

Catharine knocked at the white house with #17 on the door. A tall boy with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other answered.

“Hey, Johnny,” Amelia said and batted her doe eyes at him.

Catharine walked in, headed straight to the fridge and helped herself to a beer.

“That’s one of my housemates,” the tall boy said and pointed to a boy with curly blond hair who sat on the couch.

“My name’s Catharine. I go to Wellesley in Massachusetts. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.”

“Didn’t get into Harvard, did you?” the blond boy said.

I laughed, and then tried to stifle it.

“My parents are both professors in Cambridge,” Catharine huffed. “So I didn’t want to go there. But I could have gone to any Ivy if I wanted.”

I moved to the living room and sat in a blue armchair that smelled like second-hand smoke.

“I’m Sean Casey,” the curly-haired boy said and glanced my way.

“I’m Isabel. I’m from California. I go to school somewhere I am sure you’ve never heard of.”

He chuckled at my call back.

“You’re funny, Isabel. I thought you might be Spanish.”

“I’m Mexican, actually,” I said. “You can see it in my Frida Kahlo eyebrows.”

“Do you want a beer?” he asked and nodded toward the fridge.

“No beer for me,” I said. “I don’t like it. I usually drink cider.”

I took a longer glance at him. His blond hair looked wet, as if he had recently come in from the rain. He had a smidge of light eyebrows obscured by his tortoiseshell eyeglass frames. He caught my gaze and his bright blue-green eyes invited me in, like a warm, tropical sea. But Catharine broke the trance.

“Hey, we’re gonna play Crazy Eights, Izzie. Want to join us?”

The nickname made me cringe.

“I’ll play if Sean plays,” I said.

***

I skipped the uni and spent my evenings at Cromore Road in hopes of seeing Sean again. The next time we went to #17, Sean cast a smile my way and pulled two bottles from the fridge.

He sat down on the couch and patted the cushion next to him.

“Have a drink, Isabel,” he said, and held out a bottle with a red apple on the label. “I bought it just for you.”

His baritone voice blocked out all the chatter from the other girls and his roommates. A chill ran across my skin even though I hadn’t taken my coat off yet.

“How are you liking Coleraine so far?” Sean asked, his bright eyes aligned with mine.

“It’s good. Could use a bit less rain maybe?”

I watched his lips around the rim of the bottle and thought about how they would feel on my neck.

***

“We’re going out clubbing tonight,” Catharine told Sean. “Do you boys want to come?”

“I’ll come if you never call me a boy again,” Sean said. “I’m 26, I’ll have you know.”

When we arrived at Kellys in Portrush, house music spilled out onto the street as drunken students pushed out the door on the way to the chip shop up the block. Inside, Sean settled in the corner of the room by the bar.

Catharine grabbed his hand as she took one step toward the dance floor, but he resisted.

“I’ll hold the table. For when you need a resting place.”

We moved into the middle of the room. Within seconds, Catharine and Amelia had boys circling them on the dance floor. They paired off with the best looking two. I moved in their periphery to the deep beat of the music.

Amelia and Catharine found a new set of boys who bought them cranberry vodkas that they held aloft overhead to keep from spilling on the dance floor. The room filled to capacity as the night grew later and people became clumsier with their drinks. I arched my body away from everyone who cut a path past me to get to a bar or their friends.

Someone behind me brushed against my back and knocked a pint glass against my shoulder. Half the glass spilled down my back. I turned to find a short, rosy-faced man with greasy hair in front of me.

“Sorry, love,” he said. “Want to dance?”

He grabbed the wet spot on the small of my back and yanked me toward him. I swerved away from his touch.

Sean appeared and wedged himself between me and the man.

“Leave her alone, mate. She’s not interested.”

Sean scanned my face. His green sweater made his eyes more emerald in the flashing lights from the deejay booth.

“You okay?” he said, in his deep voice. “I’ll dance here for a while. To keep the odd fellas away, like.”

At the end of the night, we spilled out into the damp air to catch a taxi home. I stepped with a zig and a zag on the wet sidewalk, tipsier than normal from the ciders Sean bought me and giddy from Sean’s hands on my waist as we danced.

Catharine linked arms with Sean and pulled him away from me.

“It was really nice of you to dance with Izzie to keep that one creepy guy away.” Catharine peered over her shoulder at me, her head tilted and her eyebrows lifted.

I knew the look. Pity.

“Next time we go out, you’ll dance with me, right?” Catharine said.

Sean ignored her as he climbed into the front seat of the cab. The rest of us squeezed into the backseat.

“Two stops tonight,” Catharine said as she leaned across me to talk to the driver. “Stop on campus first and then drop the rest of us off on Cromore Road.”

She had staked her claim with Sean. I sat with my arms crossed against my chest and breathed in the smell of cranberry vodka as the other girls exhaled into the tight quarters of the car.

***

“Where have you been all month?” Eve asked when I popped into the uni a few days later.

“I was hanging out with Catharine and Amelia for a while,” I said.

“Why do you even hang out with them. They are snobby and entitled. Must cost a lot when you have to buy a round of Grey Goose.”

“We mostly just hung out at a flat with some Irish guys they know,” I said.

“Your face just went all red. Did you hook up with one of those guys?”

“Nothing happened.” I bit my lip. “I mean, Sean and I kind of danced at a club a few nights ago, but Catharine started flirting with him at the end of the night so I don’t think I have a chance.”

Eve’s eyes narrowed

“She probably only wants him because she knows you like him,” she said. “Don’t let her push you around.”

Eve might have been right, but I didn’t plan to go back to Cromore Road.

“How’s Charlotte?” I asked. I hadn’t seen her in weeks either.

“She hasn’t been around much,” Eve said. “Maybe she’s been studying.”

Some Irish students Eve knew from class joined us at our table and she shifted from ordering ciders to whiskey.

“Did you know the Women’s World Cup is going on right now?” an Irish boy at the table next to us said. “I didn’t even know it was a thing until I saw it on the telly.”

Like the sudden storm clouds that rolled in on us in Bray, Eve’s mood went from jovial to surly without warning. She stood and hovered over the table next to us, her shoulders back and her chin raised.

“That’s because men never value women athletes,” Eve shouted into the boy’s face.

“I have nothing against women athletes,” the boy said. “Especially if they wear tight uniforms.”

Eve’s brown cheeks turned red. She leaned over the table’s edge and spit into the boy’s pint.

His eyes widened and his mouth gaped open.

“That’s the most hurtful thing anyone has ever done to me in my entire life,” he said.

Tears glistened in the boy’s eyes. He picked the nearly full pint up and pounded it down on the table. Dark stout sloshed down the sides of the glass. The creamy head formed a pool next to an empty bag of crisps.

“If this is the worst thing that has ever happened to you, you’ve lived a lucky life,” Eve said, her fists clenched at her sides.

I touched her shoulder and she whipped around to face me. The anger dissipated.

“Let’s go,” I said.

We walked out into the rain.

“I get so tired of all this anti-feminist bullshit,” she said. “I get tired of fighting all the time. Don’t you?”

I didn’t answer her. Flight was more my style.

***

The next time I went to the uni, I spotted Charlotte in a corner alone. Her half-closed eyes scanned the room, but she didn’t register me until I was almost next to her

“How is your semester going?” I asked and sat down with a cider.

“I needed to explore the Irish peace talks,” she said. “To find a safe place to bunker down.”

Her sentences were stilted as though she were thinking of the next word as she spoke each one to me. She picked up her right hand and examined it, then did the same with her left.

“Are you in an Irish history course?” I asked. “I’ve been reading about the Troubles and the Good Friday Agreement.”

She opened her blue eyes wide and then shook her head.

“I need to stop the bombs from going off,” she said.

She tipped her pint too soon and the liquid dripped onto the legs of her Calvin Klein jeans.

“Do you want me to walk home with you?” I asked. “When you finish your drink?”

“Okay, Isaaaaaaa-bel,” she said. “You can be my protector.”

***

“Isabel,” a voice called across the slick walkway as I exited the library into the low light of dusk. I recognized the sound of Sean’s voice even though I hadn’t seen him in a month. I got goosebumps on my neck at the sound of my name vibrating in his deep register.

I turned and his green eyes caught mine.

“Hey,” I said. “How’s it going?”

“Grand,” he said. “You haven’t visited Cromore Road in a while.”

“I’ve been busy,” I said, and I thought of Catharine’s arm linked with Sean’s.

“Are you busy now? Grab a pint with me at the uni.”

He slowed his long legs to match my stride and I couldn’t resist changing directions for him.

In the uni, we settled on the quiet side of the bar away from the jukebox.

“How’s Catharine?” I asked and tried to keep my face neutral.

“I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I’ve not seen her since the night in Portrush. You were the only bit of good company there, Isabel.”

My face broke into a wide smile at that and I blushed at the compliment.

“I’m going home soon. To California,” I blurted out.

“I know, Isabel,” he said, and clinked his pint glass against mine. “To making the most of your last weeks.”

We finished the drinks and walked out into an evening drizzle. Our footsteps echoed against the concrete of the empty walkway and I let Sean choose our direction. As we crossed the parking lot that divided campus housing from the academic buildings, I saw men in uniforms in dark rain slickers outside Eve and Charlotte’s house. The men talked to the Irish girls who lived with them. A Royal Ulster Constabulary car sat with its lights on, its front wheel against the sidewalk curb.

“Have you ever seen cops on campus before?” I asked and an ache spread from my stomach to my head. “I have friends who live there.”

“Dunno. Don’t think so,” he said and took my hand. He led me toward Cromore Road. “Best if we stay out of the way. You can check on your mates tomorrow when things quiet down.”

The ache retreated at his touch, replaced by a hunger to be closer to him.

At his house, I sat down next to him on the couch, one leg folded under me so I could angle toward him.

He reached over with one hand and brushed my brown hair away from my face and the back of his hand stroked my cheek. I touched his curly hair. It was soft and damp from the rain, like I imagined lamb’s wool might be. He leaned toward me and kissed me, a soft, sweet kiss, until I pulled myself closer to him and he pressed harder against my lips.

I wanted to ask if he had liked Catharine, if he’d slept with her, but his hands on my back pushed the question out of my head.

I closed my eyes. His lips on my neck fired off all the synapses in my brain and I melted down into the couch. Then a phone rang and drew us apart.

“Wait here.”

Sean smiled at me as he picked up the receiver, but soon he turned his back to me and his shoulders tensed.

“Okay, sir. Yes, I’ll make sure to keep an eye on that flat,” he said and hung up the phone.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“That was the head of housing,” he said. “They let me know they are moving someone from the main campus due to a conflict between roommates.”

He was a senior warden for the houses on Cromore Road, and like my resident advisor in the dorms back at home, he got free room and board for minimal effort most days.

“Does this have something to do with Eve and Charlotte?” I asked and the ache returned to my stomach.

“I can’t really say anything. But you should check in with them tomorrow. Let’s have a cup of tea and I’ll walk you home.”

In the morning, I brought coffee and biscuits over to Eve and Charlotte’s house. Eve answered the door, her dreadlocks pulled back into a messy ponytail. Her eyes were puffy and rimmed with red. She jutted her chin out like she did when she was angling for a fight, but she’d lost her edge.

“What happened yesterday? I saw police officers over here.”

Eve took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Her eyelids trembled, but when she opened them she had managed to force back the tears.

Eve described the events of the night before.

She came home from the library at 7 p.m. One of her roommates had ordered a pizza so she sat down to have a slice in the kitchen. Charlotte came downstairs in a bathrobe and slippers and started screaming.

“She kept saying that I’ve been stalking her and I tried to break into her room,” Eve said.

Charlotte took off one slipper and threw it across the room at Eve. Eve ducked down and the slipper whizzed past her head into the sink.

“She said I threatened her with a knife,” Eve’s lips trembled. “One of my roommates tried to calm her down. And another one ran to the payphone and called the cops.”

Eve paused and put her head in her hands.

“Did you guys get into an argument before last night?” I asked.

“I haven’t even talked to her since the start of the semester,” Eve said. “I would never threaten her or hurt her.”

“I believe you wouldn’t hurt Charlotte. Maybe she misunderstood something you said. I’m sure you can clear it up.”

I reached out to touch her arm reassuringly, but Eve stood up and paced around the kitchen.

“You don’t get it,” Eve said. “She threw something at me for no reason and she got moved to a new flat for her own safety.”

Eve’s lower lip quivered and big tears slid down her golden skin.

She handed me a slip of paper. It had a date and time for an ethics hearing.

I understood then what was at stake. She could get sent home. She could lose her scholarship. She could be expelled from school back in Georgia. It could ruin her life.

“I am sure everything will be fine,” I said. “We’ll figure it out.”

***

While Eve awaited her fate, Charlotte’s sister Victoria arrived from Paris, where she’d been studying on her own exchange program. Victoria walked into the uni and all heads turned toward her. She stood tall and elegant, in a kelly green coat and luxurious leather riding boots that were the absolute wrong choice for the rainy Antrim Coast. She shrugged off her coat to reveal a sleek cream sweater that I imagined was cashmere and a charcoal pencil skirt. Victoria had the same aquamarine eyes as Charlotte.

“When did she arrive?” I nodded toward them.

“A couple days after the move,” Sean said. “She shouldn’t be staying in student housing this long, but I’m trying to go easy on Charlotte. And trying not to be a hypocrite.”

I’d been staying in his room for a week.

“You don’t think Eve really threatened her, do you?” I said. “Eve said she didn’t do anything. I believe her.”

“You’re probably right, but didn’t you say she spit in someone’s pint one night?”

“She wouldn’t hurt Charlotte and this could ruin her life.” My voice got higher and louder.

Sean put his arm around my shoulder.

“I am sure everything will be fine,” he said.

He kissed my cheek. “Don’t be mad. Stay at my place tonight.”

He held my hand as we walked through the mud path to Cromore Road.

***

We were deep asleep in Sean’s twin bed, curled under his duvet, when the pounding on the door roused us. Sean jumped out of bed. He quickly threw on jeans and a sweater.

“Occupational hazard of being the senior warden,” he said. “Stay here.”

I peeked out from his bedroom as he answered the door.

Charlotte stood on the stoop. No jacket covered her striped pajamas. She looked like a bedraggled orphan in the rain. Her face was splotchy and she repeated the same thing over and over.

“They’re trying to break in. My new roommates are trying to break in.”

Sean coaxed her into the house and we both noticed the drip of blood on the beige carpet at the same time.

“Charlotte, what happened?” he asked in a slow, soothing tone.

Then I saw the red gash on her hand.

“What happened to your hand, Charlotte?”

Sean walked her to the kitchen and ran warm water over the cut. He searched a half-assembled first aid kit for a bandage. When he couldn’t find one large enough, he wrapped her hand in a tea towel.

“Hold your hand up against your chest, Charlotte. Have a seat on the couch. Isabel will make you a cup of tea.”

I put the kettle on and sat next to Charlotte while I waited for the water to boil. Tears streaked her face and she let out staggered sobs. I put my arm around her wet shoulders.

“You’re okay. We are going to help you. You’re okay.”

The kettle whistle pierced the room and knocked Charlotte into a more sober state of mind. I handed her the cup of tea.

“Thank you, Isabel,” she said. “You are always so kind.”

Charlotte’s sobs subsided as we heard another knock at the door.

I answered to find Victoria in her beautiful green coat thrown hastily over thin, silk pajamas.

“Shit, I’m sorry Charlotte woke you up in the middle of the night,” Victoria said. She wrung her hands and her face looked pale in the porchlight. “She drank too much and I think she had a nightmare, or something.”

“She has a massive cut on her hand,” Sean said. “I called for some medical help to check her out.”

Victoria’s eyes skirted past Sean to her sister.

“Please, just let me take her home. I already know what’s wrong.”

Victoria came into the house then and crumpled into the armchair, her legs akimbo.

“Charlotte has schizophrenia. She was diagnosed last year. She was doing okay, but she stopped taking her medication when she got to Ireland.”

At that, Charlotte’s shoulders shook with a silent sob.

I looked from one pair of aquamarine eyes to the other. Anger rose in my chest.

“Why didn’t you mention this to anyone when you first got here?” I clenched my jaw.

“She asked me not to say anything,” Victoria said. “I didn’t think it would hurt anyone to let her finish out the semester.”

“It hurt Eve,” I said through clenched teeth. “Eve could get kicked out of school for what Charlotte said.”

“Who is Eve?” Victoria asked as a siren announced the arrival of an ambulance.

Charlotte’s parents flew in from New York to collect her the next day.

They paid for the damages to a window she smashed, the origin of her cut. And a rumor circulated that they made a donation to the university to keep things quiet.

The school officials canceled Eve’s ethics hearing and apologized for the misunderstanding.

I stopped by Eve’s house to check on her that afternoon. She sat at the kitchen table in pajamas even though it was late in the day, her eyes cast down.

“I’m glad everything worked out and you’ll get to stay the rest of the year. And Charlotte is hopefully getting help.”

Eve looked up at me and I saw my image reflected in the pupils of her dark eyes.

“You don’t get it. People are always going to believe the pretty girls, the rich girls, the people with money, over us.”

Instead of anger, her voice lowered in defeat.

“You might think you fit in with them, but you are just like me, Isabel,” she said. “If Charlotte had accused you, who do you think they would have believed?”

I didn’t say anything. My flight response kicked in and I headed to Cromore Road.

That night curled under a duvet with Sean, I rested my head on his bare chest. Lost in a haze of new love, I dreamt of what my life would be like if my last name were Casey instead of Juarez. But Eve’s words gnawed around the edges of my happiness.

“If Charlotte said I was threatening her, would people have believed her or me?”

“You, of course, Isabel,” Sean said. He ran his fingers through my hair as he kissed my forehead. “You are so…easy going.”




Melissa Flores Anderson is a Latinx Californian and an award-winning journalist. Her creative work has been published by Vois Stories, Rigorous Magazine, Moss Puppy Magazine, Discretionary Love, Pile Press, Variant Lit and Twin Pies Literary. Her work “Not a Gardener” was featured in City Lights Theater Company’s The Next Stage and Play on Words San Jose. She has read pieces in the Flash Fiction Forum and Quiet Lightning reading series.