The last time I was called Christina was in the middle of tenth grade. I remember the day very clearly: it was sunny and warm, perfect weather by most people's standards. The courtyard at The Nightingale-Bamford School was bustling with freshmen and sophomores, sharing the latest gossip and copying homework from the night before.
I was sitting on top a wooden picnic table, sipping my fat-free iced chai latte I'd picked up from Starbucks on my way to school. For some reason I'd decided to walk that day, probably because of the weather. I often did that when I was younger, when the birds chirping early in the morning woke me up. It felt like a good omen every time; if the birds and the sun woke me up, it was a walking day. If Annette shook me awake, I'd take the ride in my father's car that was offered to me.
Juliet came over to me. Freshman year was the year she moved to Manhattan. Her father was a famous playwright in London who wanted to open a theater somewhere in New York. So without her or her mother's permission, he picked up all of their things and shipped them all to America. I couldn't say I really felt sorry for Juliet. Her family lived in a penthouse in some ritzy hotel and her father was in the process of buying an estate somewhere in Westchester County. I did love to hear her complain though. It always the same; how boring New York was as opposed to London, where she could drop everything and visit Paris or Amsterdam for a weekend of clubbing.
It was stories like these that made her and I fast friends. Juliet and I were partners in crime, frequenting shops and art galleries in SoHo during the week and the Meat Packing District on nights and weekends. We wandered all over the streets of New York City, taking cabs from Brooklyn to Greenwich Village or anywhere else that we felt like going that particular night. We never got into too much trouble, just enough to satisfy our curiosities.
Juliet's father didn't pay too much attention to her, even as a small child. We'd been to her house a few times and every time she tried to tell him something, or ask a question, he was always "too busy writing". I always assumed her acting out was to get his attention, though she would never admit to that, even on her deathbed.
She bought a fake ID off of someone one weekend and decided to get a tattoo behind her ear of a crown. "Princess Juliet," she said, smiling and wincing at the same time as the artist buzzed the tender skin for a few minutes before the simple design was complete. She asked if I would get one as well, sort of as a best friend ritual or something. I refused, as I wasn't as brave back then as I am now. Freshman me was exactly that: fresh. Innocent. I still believed my parents were too busy to come to my field hockey games and art shows. I still believed that I was meant to go to Dartmouth and then the Wharton School at UPenn, like my father had, and someday take over his company. But most importantly, I still believed that all boys had good intentions and wanted to sweep me off of my feet like they did in the movies.
My refusal to get a matching tattoo led to an argument, which led to Juliet calling me a "pussy", which led to me downing my first shot of alcohol from the hand of a preppy college boy who was hanging out by a fountain with his buddies at New York University. Juliet and I had heard about a party that would be there from some senior girls gossiping in the halls at school earlier in the week, so we thought it'd be a good idea to crash it. Apparently the guys hosting the party were graduates of Trinity, Columbia Prep and other brother schools of ours so we could pretend to talk politics with other trust-fund babies all night.
When we finally made it to campus after the tattoo incident, we ran into three clearly older boys wearing button-down polo shirts and khakis with boat shoes. I thought it was weird that they were all dressed nearly exactly alike, with the exception of the colors of their shirts: light yellow, baby blue, and mint green.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," the tall, slender blonde in the mint green said as Juliet and I tried to walk away after giving them a subtle glance, a tactic we'd learned from reading too many issues of my mom's Cosmo magazines. We were also dressed for the party, which was themed "C.E.O.'s and Office Hoes", each of us in tight mini skirts, black bandeau tops, blazers and 5-inch-heels. Thinking back now, I think we would have attracted their attention without the use of the "subtle glance tactic".
"Who do we have here?" The boys in the mint green and baby blue made their way toward Juliet and I, as we stood tall in the middle of the NYU campus. As the boys came closer I could finally see how attractive they were, at least 2 of the 3. The third was still too far away in the dark to tell for sure.
Juliet and I smiled widely, trying to portray confidence, as Cosmo said this is a girl's sexiest attribute to a man. "Hi," Juliet said with her stunning accent, taking a step forward in front of me to lightly grasp the blonde's hand. "I'm Lilly."
Lilly? Juliet and I hadn't discussed giving out fake names. My stomach flipped with unease. "Ah! British!" He commented on her accent. "Pleasure, Lilly." The blonde kissed her hand. The brunette in the baby blue, who was slightly shorter than the blonde, but had pounds of muscular advantage over him, smiled at me and took my hand, just as the blonde took Juliet's. "What's your name, beautiful?" He asked with ease in his voice.
I shut my eyes for a half of a second and opened them to a dark bottle in the brunette's hand. I'd never seen it before, but he clearly saw me staring at it and held it up to me. It had a red label across it.
"You like Bailey's?" He asked, handing the bottle of liquor over like it was nothing. I managed a chuckle.
"No, no," I started, but then changed my mind. I could sense Juliet eying me, as if she was worried I'd blow our cover as high schoolers in front of these extremely attractive and older guys. "I mean, yes, I do. But it's funny because my name is Bailey. I just can't believe that's what you're drinking."
Both the brunette and the blonde laughed and I could suddenly tell how drunk they both were. Drunk, and possibly high off of something.
"Oh wow, you two are adorable," the blonde said, wrapping his arms around both Juliet and I, leading us over to the fountain where the third member of their party was sitting on the ledge, messing with something that was laying on the stone work.
"Really," he continued, "you two are so sexy. Where are you off to looking like that?"
"A C.E.O.'s and Office Hoes party," Juliet said, sitting close to the blonde, as the brunette slid me on to his lap. I was uncomfortable at first; I'd never really been this close to a guy so much older than me. He had to be at least 21, a junior in college, while I was 15 and barely in high school. Yes, I looked older, and so did Juliet. I was 5-foot-9, 115-pounds, trying to get into the modeling world as much as I could. Juliet was way more mature-looking; she had D-cups and a half-Hispanic ass that could rival JLo's. We knew we could pass for high school seniors on the outside, but on the inside I was still not even completely comfortable making out with a boy my own age, let alone sitting on a 21-year-old's lap in the middle of a college campus on a Friday night.
"Fuck that party," the brunette said, pushing my long, dark hair behind my frail shoulders. He pulled me back towards him a little more and whispered in my ear, "come party with us".
I pulled away a little bit but was caught by his surprisingly strong grip. I glanced over to the still silent third boy who had rolled a joint and sat taking a long pull of whatever was inside of it.
"You smoke?" The blonde asked Juliet, taking the joint from the boy in yellow and handing it to her. She looked at me, her eyes pleading me to play along with whatever games she wanted to play, almost as an apology for not getting that tattoo with her.
She took the joint and, without another word, inhaled deep, held it, and exhaled a cloud of thick smoke. The puff made its way to my nose and I turned away from the dank smell, trying not to cough or make a sound. I wanted so bad to be as reckless as Juliet, but I knew it would take time, and I wasn't about to have my first puff of weed in front of hot older guys and cough all over them like a geriatrics patient.
Unfortunately the brunette passed the weed to me after "Lilly" was done with her turn. "Smoke?" I did the only thing I could think of; I grabbed his bottle of Bailey's and took a giant swig and swallowed hard, trying not to notice the strong taste and slight burning that filled my mouth and throat.
"I'd rather get drunk tonight," I said without thinking, smiling up at the boy in the baby blue, whose name I still hadn't learned. "Are you in?"
He leaned in a kissed my neck softly, sending shivers down my spine in a way I didn't know was possible. He leaned in again and whispered, "Let's do it."
The morning after was a blur, as the rest of the night ended up being as well. I think I was still drunk when I woke up at 9AM to a screaming, frumpy-looking blonde standing over the bed I had passed out in with Baby Blue. I was naked, as was he, and according to all of the screaming which I tried to tone out as I grabbed my stuff and bolted out of his apartment, his girlfriend was supposed to be in the Hampton's with her sick grandmother until Sunday, but had come back Saturday morning to surprise him for their 2 year anniversary.
I called Juliet with on my nearly dead Blackberry and, surprisingly, her phone was still alive too. We met up at the same fountain we'd parted at the night before and made our way to the street, bearing visible shame in the form of deep purple hickeys, smudged eyeliner, and outfits that made us look like streetwalkers in the daylight.
She hailed a cab and the two of us went back to my apartment so she could clean up without her mother seeing her. I made it an entire cab ride and half an elevator ride before the tears started flowing freely and the sobs and moans flew from my mouth. Juliet hugged me with genuine regret.
"I'm sorry, Christina," she said, holding me and rubbing my back. "I really am sorry."
"It's not your fault." I really believed that, too. Juliet hadn't forced me to drink at all. It was my bright idea to take shot after shot, only to get so intoxicated that I hopped on top of Baby Blue's lap in the middle of a house party the 5 of us found and start kissing his neck, as he had done to me in the park. The kissing lead to fondling, his hands up my tight skirt in places no one's hands had ever been, including my own. The touching lead to more drinking, so I wouldn't feel as awkward about the whole situation. And, subsequently, more drinking lead to me losing my virginity at 15 years old, to a boy whose name I did not know; a boy who had a girl friend that was visiting her sick grandmother on their 2-year anniversary. Not only was I a slut, I was a home-wrecker.
"I understand if you don't want to be my friend anymore," she said, as I felt a tear fall from her cheek onto my bare, bruised shoulder. "I wouldn't want to be my friend after that."
I shook my head. "No, no," I said, and managed a smile. "I'm just upset about, ya know, the thing with the boy. That's not your fault. I had fun while I was with you."
And that was the truth. Besides feeling used and forgotten by someone who, no doubt, would be a part of my memories for the rest of my life, I did have a good time. Juliet was fun and, as much as I didn't believe it before last night, I realized we had more in common than I thought. I had a bit of a reckless streak in me, too.
She was still holding me, even as the elevator reached my floor. "Promise me," she said, "from now on, we'll do everything together. Everything. We're sisters, okay?"
Neither one of us actually had a sister; she had a half brother who still lived in England and I was an only child. We decided that it was absolutely ludicrous to go through the rest of our lives, or high school at least, without someone to share clothes with, tell our darkest secrets to, and prepare for college parties with. And, honestly, that elevator ride gave us a revelation: we were each other's soul sisters.
As ninth grade came to an end, Juliet and I had grown up in a hurry. The memories of that once heart-breaking night had been replaced by other nights similar to that one. Another weekend, another party, was how I looked at it. Another night, another boy, another cab ride home with Juliet in the morning. We got accustomed to packing our cell phone chargers in our clutches so, in the event of a hookup, we'd have our phone's charged and ready to use in the morning to meet up again. We played games sometimes: who could make out with the most guys in one night? Or, who could snag the hottest guy first? By the time tenth grade had started, I was accustomed to popping ecstasy before I went out each weekend, and Juliet had started to date a dealer, one of her mom's friend's sons, who'd give it to me for a discount. It was more casual than an actual addiction. I never did it during the week, purely on weekends for recreational use, and only because I liked how it felt when I had sex.
Juliet was now calling me Bailey on the regular, even though Lilly never stuck with her. She still made up tons of fake names every time we went out; a new one came out of her mouth every 5 minutes when she was stoned or drunk. The best thing about Juliet was that she wasn't one of "those girls", the girls who ditch their friends when the get a boyfriend and obsess over him every hour of every day. Nope. Juliet ditched plans with him to party with me and eventually ended up breaking up with him when she heard a rumor that he'd slept with a senior with herpes who went to our school. Truth or not, there was no messing around when it came to herpes. That shit's for life.
My name Bailey took on a whole new meaning the night of April 26th. The snow had finally melted off the Manhattan sidewalks, as it was an unusually warm week for late winter. I'd met a boy, Julian Monte, in the Pinkberry on 8th Avenue one afternoon after class. I'd walked home that day, for the sole purpose of stopping for frozen yogurt after getting a B on the last exam I'd taken, rather than the A I was used to getting.
I wandered into the shop with my navy skirt, blazer and blouse on, and filled up my cup with chocolate frozen yogurt topped with raspberries. I sat down alone, wallowing in my less-than-stellar performance, when an Italian-looking boy around my age sat down with his yogurt and chatted me up for an hour before I gave him my number and went on my way.
We talked and hung out for a good 3 weeks before he asked me out officially. I even waited all three weeks before agreeing to have sex with him.
It was definitely worth the wait because, from then on, I never wanted to have sex with anyone else. I was certain Julian was my soul mate. What 16-year-old white boy had an 8-inch dick and knew how to use it? None, that's who. None except Julian.
The night of April 26th was the same as any night. I came over to "help him with pre-calculus", the line we fed his mother, which really meant bone all night until his parents got suspicious. His room looked the same as it always did; cornflower blue walls with posters of Yankee players scattered across it, a queen-sized bed with pinstriped sheets. He was a huge baseball fan.
Julian took me to his bed and didn't waste any time. We had sex for an hour before he started acting kind of off. He told me he had to get up early to go in and talk to a teacher about a grade he had gotten in English Literature. Julian, to my knowledge, hadn't ever lied to me in our relationship, so I took his cue and left without another word.
Two weeks later I learned why he'd been acting weird. A video, smartly titled Bailey gets Creamed, had surfaced on a few online amateur porn sites and had been seen by my American history teacher, who threatened to call my parents if I didn't take it down. Sophomore me was too naïve to know what to do, so I let it be, hoping that no one else would see it.
But that was only the beginning.
After a week of "letting it be", I was now the hottest gossip of mine and Julian's Manhattan prep schools. Words didn't need to be said to inform Julian that we were broken up. None of that mattered anyway, now that all of the World Wide Web could see his massive penis in full-force from an aerial and bed-side view, making some poor girl scream and then cuming on her stomach to finish.
Needless to say my father was furious when he found out about the video and sued the pants off of Julian Monte's family. My mother was different though. She wasn't mad; just sad. In reality, the only thing she managed to say about the matter was, "I am so disappointed in you, Bailey".
So the next day, as the bird woke me up, I decided I needed to take every good omen I could get. I walked to school and, on my way, stopped at Starbucks for my latte, and sat in my usual spot on top of the same picnic table I sat on every day. Juliet came over and sat down beside me. "So what'd your mom say about this whole thing?"
"'I am so disappointed in you, Bailey.'"
I wasn't sure why, but my mother never called me by my real name again.