I’m just an average girl.
I mean, I don’t have self-esteem issues and I DEFINITELY don’t hurt myself like some of those attention whores I know. I just mean that I am literally average. As in, normal enough that the popular girls don’t freak out when they have to sit next to me, but not quite good enough to ever be invited to their parties. Unless, of course, it’s one of their big parties where they invite almost everyone in the school.
But I’m rambling…
Anyway, so it was kind of a big deal when I found myself sitting next to Katie and Shawna at the football game. Actually, given their status as co-Most Popular Girls At School, it was a downright lifetime moment for me. They had come with their college boyfriends, but both of them left during the second quarter to go get drunk or something. Being an absolutely average person, it was not uncommon for there to be empty seats next to me and this was where Katie and Shawna decided to wait and see if their boyfriends came back. It was reassuring, on some level, to at least know that I wasn’t an embarrassment to be seen around.
It took me nearly fifteen minutes to get up the courage, but I finally asked them what they thought about the game and if they had even started on the project for biology. They were so frustrated at having been abandoned by their boyfriends that they actually let their guards down some and talked to me. It was the first conversation I’d had with either of them since fifth grade and before they had each hit puberty. They both said they thought our team sucked and neither of them planned on doing the assignment because they already had someone who would do it for them. I didn’t have much to say back to that and I was strangely terrified that they would get bored and leave when Shawna spotted someone.
“Isn’t that Debbie?” she asked pointing up a few rows and to the right.
“Yeah! That’s fat Debbie!” answered Katie, “I’ve never seen her at a game. I didn’t think she ever left her house except to come to school.”
I had no idea why these girls were interested in someone who even I would be embarrassed to be seen with. If I had been honest, I would have admitted that there was a hint of jealousy in my voice as I asked, “So what’s so special about Debbie?”
“Oh there’s nothing special about Debbie,” replied Katie, “except that she’s a freak.”
“Yeah,” chimed Shawna, “like seriously messed up. Her whole family actually. Like something out of one of those old circuses with all the creepy attractions. I think it’s genetic.”
I looked over their shoulders at the girl. She must have weighed over three hundred pound and she was sitting by herself. There were at least four seats between her and the nearest people. She was dressed all in black except for a blue mechanic jacket that was at least two sizes too small and which was wrapped around her shoulders to offer some protection from the wind. Her hair was matted and a mottled shade of black. It was obvious that she had dyed it herself and in several places it faded into a grayish color as if she was some old woman trying to look younger. I couldn’t remember when Debbie had first come to our school. Seventh grade? Maybe earlier? I did remember that she had played the clarinet in eighth grade band, but had dropped out halfway through. She hadn’t come to school much after that. A few people tried to start rumors about horrible things happening in her family, but no one cared enough about her to even keep the rumors going. Something about her mom being really sick…
We turned back to the game and Katie and Shawna began discussing all the latest gossip around the school. Some stuff about teachers and what they did on the weekends. I had no idea about any of the things, but I didn’t want to seem as average as I was so I played along. I even added in a few details that I may not have known for sure were true, but they seemed to fit and some of them even managed to surprise Katie and Shawna.
“Is she leaving?” asked Shawna looking back up where Debbie had been sitting.
“Nah, she’s probably just going to the bathroom. See, she left her phone on the bleacher,” pointed out Katie.
Shawna looked at me. “Go get her phone. Let’s see what’s in it,” she said in a voice that was both excited and demanding. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t go around taking people’s stuff.
“Yeah! Hurry, go do it!” squealed Katie, “The line to the bathroom is always long. You’ve got plenty of time and we’ll put it back before she even gets here. Besides, it’s not like anyone is going to care enough to tell Debbie they saw you take her phone.”
I was nervous. Going through someone else’s phone without them knowing seemed like too much for me. But Shawna and Katie were staring at me and I didn’t want to blow this chance. I gathered my courage for the second and awkwardly scrambled across the bleachers to the phone. I was so panicky that I almost tripped coming back. Several people turned and stared at me.
“Well, that was subtle,” said Shawna sarcastically as I handed her the phone.
“Like a ninja,” said Katie. I was blushing. Shawna turned on the phone. There was no password.
“Alright, let’s see who’s in here. Oops, I think I see your boyfriend’s number, Katie,” said Shawna teasingly. They went back and forth for a few moments arguing over whose boyfriend was the bigger pig before they realized that Debbie would be coming back soon.
“There are only three numbers in here!” said Shawna.
“Let me see,” demanded Katie as she took the phone. “Wow, and I’m pretty sure one of these numbers is for the pizza place.”
I looked over her shoulder at the screen. “That second number is for the fire department,” I pointed out, a bit shakily due to the adrenaline still in my system. Katie and Shawna looked at each other confused. “My uncle used to work as a paramedic,” I explained. They shrugged.
“It has a camera. Let’s see if the freak has any sexy pictures or videos on this thing,” suggested Shawna. I was starting to feel uncomfortable. Even though I had never really talked to Debbie, she had never done anything to me or anyone else for that matter. She was just a strange girl who kept to herself and nobody really cared enough about to mess with. Until Shawna and Katie. And I had helped them.
“I bet she does. Fat girls are always so desperate to put out. Probably of her sucking off your boyfriend,” said Katie.
Shawna ignored it. “Knowing that slut, it’s probably her dad she’s blowing,” she said with a wicked grin. This was going too far. I wanted to tell them to stop, but I just kept my mouth shut and kept looking at the screen. Katie continued to scroll through the phone.
“Damn. No videos. Just a few pictures.”
She tapped on the first image.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” exclaimed Shawna, “Look at that fat bitch trying to pose.”
The screen showed Debbie in what looked like her own bathroom. She was looking into the mirror and what appeared to be horribly cheap makeup. It was thick and caked on, but it was clear from Debbie’s expression that she thought she looked beautiful. She was wearing a dress that might have once been white, but had since faded to a yellowish shade―almost like a nicotine stain on a smoker’s teeth. The dress was a few sizes too small and it was obvious that back was not zipped or buttoned. It had a few rips in it and some oddly colored stains. Most of these were in the lower front part of the dress and the holes reminded me of the time someone in biology class spilled stomach acid on a piece of cotton. Yet the strangest thing about the picture was the look in Debbie’s eye. For while her smile and expression seemed to be one of joy, her eyes were lifeless. It could have been the flash from the camera, but it looked like they had rolled back in her head leaving nothing but the grotesque white parts.
“I think that’s a wedding dress she’s trying to pull off there,” said Katie.
“Probably the only chance she’ll ever get to wear one of those. I bet it’s her mom’s,” added Shawna.
“Didn’t her mother die,” I asked, trying to maybe make them lighten up some.
“That was just a rumor,” replied Shawna.
“No, I think that part was really true,” corrected Katie, “something about her stomach and they had to wait months for her to finally die.”
The next three pictures were of Debbie in the same dress, with the same white eyes, just different poses. In the final one, an incredibly fat man could be seen through the open door behind her. He appeared to be admiring her.
“What a creepy fucking dad,” said Shawna, “I would kill myself if I had to live with someone like that.”
“You know he’s been doing stuff to her ever since her mother died,” said Katie in an evil tone, almost as if she enjoyed the thought of it, “He was probably doing it even before she died. Probably been touching Debbie since she was just a little girl.”
I wanted them to stop. They weren’t just being mean. Not even cruel. No, it was something more. They seemed to be taking genuine pleasure in the horrible things they were saying. They were no longer just self-centered assholes with bleached blonde hair and college boyfriends. They were predators. They were hunting. They enjoyed the taste of their wicked words. I knew I should say something, anything, to make them stop. I tried to gather my courage for a final time, but something held me back. Some quiet part of my mind that told this would all be over soon. They would get tired of their game and put the phone back. Debbie would come back, get her phone, and go on with her lonely life. Shawna and Katie would go back to their boyfriends and whatever they did and I would go back to school maybe just a little bit better than average because I didn’t blow it when the two most popular girls sat next to me. I said nothing.
Suddenly Katie cried out, “Look! There is a video! I swear there wasn’t one the first time I looked. These cheap phones always get screwed up.”
“Let’s see who she’s blowing!” said Shawna as she grabbed the phone back and held it between me and Katie. She pressed play.
The video began to play, but the screen was still dark.
“See if you can adjust the brightness,” begged Katie.
Shawna tried to find the right setting, but before she could do anything we heard a light switch on and suddenly the screen lit up. It was Debbie. She was wearing the same white dress as before. Her makeup was still thick and caked and under the fluorescent lights it looked horribly white. She was standing in a bathroom, but it was different from the one in the pictures. This bathroom had a long row of sinks and a concrete floor.
“Is she in the stadium bathroom?” asked Shawna.
“Who the hell is holding the camera?” asked Katie.
I didn’t say a word. Something wasn’t right.
Debbie stared into the camera. It looked like she was staring directly at me. Almost as if she could see me through the lens. The lights flickered behind her. She closed her eyes and began to rock back and forth like someone was holding her. When she opened her eyes again, they had rolled back in her head and were now solid white. A soft laugh escaped her lips and she tilted her head slightly as if listening. A wide smile broke out across her face and she began to giggle. Suddenly her head snapped upright and the giggling stopped. Now her face became sad. A tear escaped and began to slide down her pale cheek. Her gaze had drifted to somewhere behind the camera, as if she was looking at whoever was standing behind it. As her chest began to heave, she slowly nodded her head three times.
Then she leaned forward and whispered: “Momma, I’m coming.”
Her hand appeared, holding a razor, and dragged across her neck. As the blood began to stain her yellowed dress, Shawna dropped the phone. It fell through the bleachers. Shaking, and without saying a word, the three of us ran to the bathroom. Caution tape was stretched across the door and a sign read: “Closed For Repairs.”
A man working the concession stand saw us and said, “Sorry, ladies. You’ll have to use the restrooms on the visitor side of the stadium.”
Ignoring him, we pushed through the door and stepped into the bathroom. The lights were on. There was no one in there. We looked in every stall. There was no blood on the floor. Then, at the exact same moment, each of our phones began to ring. Our ringtones had changed though and were now all the same. A soft, almost giggling sound. The laughter of Debbie.
by Ward Hocut