It always reigns on the unloved.
My name is Amber Jenelle Morgan LeFave, and I rule Cloverdale High School. The minions whose existence I actually acknowledge are allowed to call me “Ambs,” if I’m in a chipper mood. I don’t have friends. Being a tyrant is a lonely business, and I can’t afford to let anyone see me as their equal. My enemies-- which I have plenty-- call me “that stuck-up bitch”, or that “cunt-faced whore” or something equally as creative; but never to my face. Martin Scorcese-- or some dead Italian-- once wrote, “It is better to be feared than to be loved.” I totally agree with that. High school is a vicious, deadly place, and no one gets to the top by being nice. If I have to step on the face of some pimply, nearsighted,4-H chick in my Jimmy Choos to cement my reign, you better believe I’ll be cleaning the gunk from her whiteheads off the bottom of my heels before second period.
This morning, I get up on the wrong side of the bed, almost rolling over Brad Fritz who lies on my 400 thread counts sheet like a huge lump. A small puddle of sweat had collected in the crack of his ass, and I know that it’s over between us. I don’t care if he’s the captain of the football team, and that his capped teeth have made him the all-American dream; drooling, snoring and excessively active sweat glands are all little imperfections that ruin the serenity of the temple that is my bedroom. I decide to break the news to him gently, maybe even before I find a replacement. I don’t want him getting all clingy and showing up at my house in the middle of the night singing soft rock love ballads.
As the teen queen, I am required to always look my best in public. And while you may think that all the makeup and hair and accessories are gilding the lily when I have been blessed with natural beauty, I need to maintain the image of untouchable perfection. So I tiptoe around the still-snoring Brad and begin my morning ritual of washing, moisturizing, making up and mystery-building. I hope the lavender essence that I splash into my bath helps hide the gamy smell of Brad’s flesh that clings to me after last night’s adventures.
Once, when I was mostly paying attention in Social Studies, I heard that primitive tribes used to use face paint to communicate their intention to outsiders. I’m in a “don’t fuck with me” mood, so I choose a “don’t fuck with me” shade of lipstick. It’s a reddish purple that reminds me of some kind of poisonous flower. My nails are painted jungle red. I’m looking over my mascara again to make sure that each eyelash is separate when I hear the bathroom door creak open and bear-like padding over the sheepskin rug on the floor. I can see Brad stumble bleary eyed behind me, and he’s about to kiss my bare shoulder when I hold up a hand for him to stop. “Don’t you dare touch me until you’ve had a shower. I cannot go through the hallways smelling like a line of scrimmage.”
Brad smirks. “I think you need to brush up on your football terms. I could give you some lessons.”
I roll my eyes. Another of Brad’s flaws is that he talks. If he could just stand there and look pretty, I suppose I could forgive all his stinks and secretions and excretions. No, I couldn’t. But it might have taken me another week or so to get bored with him and be so eager to cast him aside. He moves close enough that I can feel his body heat, and lowers his voice to what he thinks is a sexy growl, “Hey baby, how ‘bout you and me go another round? We could miss first period.”
I hold up one finger. “First of all, I’m already made up. I not letting you smear my lipstick or fuck up my hair. Second of all, I have to make my entrance. I have never missed a morning entrance and don’t plan on doing it now just so you can get your rocks off. Third, the Good Lord gave you hands for a reason. I suggest that if you’re that fired up, you make good use of them.”
I must admit that it gives me a dirty sort of joy to see Brad look like a kid who only got socks for Christmas. He stumbles away from and half-whimpers, “Amber honey, it’s just that I love you so much and—“
I cut him off. “Of course you do. You can’t help it.”
I make it to school in time for my big entrance. Every good monarch needs a parade, and I am no exception. Five minutes before the first bell, I walk through the halls sprinkling benediction and scorn on my subjects, who all need to be reminded of their mistress’ face. I allow two other girls to walk with me today, Lisa Eriksen and Misty Degrace. They follow me at about a half-step behind, sort of like ladies-in-waiting. They’re pretty, popular and most importantly of all, beneath me. I keep them hungry for what I have, and they dispense all the sneers and smirks, allowing me to keep my face placid and serene as I make my way among the mortals.
Heads turn as we walk in through the great double doors. Conversations turn into murmurs and whispers. I can hear my heels click on the green and white linoleum. I am pleased. My people are again giving me the proper respect. Eyes lower as I pass them. A boy with dishwater blond hair looks at me and frantically looks away, his nostrils flaring like a rabbit’s. A girl with a huge stack of books and an oversized sweatshirt nearly walks into my path because she’s looking the wrong way. Lisa shoves her hard into a locker and books fly out of her arms and scatter across the floor. There’s nervous laughter from behind me, but I do not bother to look back. My pace is steady and assured. I hear my name on the lips of the faithful, and I smile now and then at someone almost worthy of my gaze.
I’m almost at my locker, and thus the end of my walk when something almost extraordinary happens. There’s a new girl standing in the hallway with her hands on her hips. Her eyes are not lowered, and she is not staring at me in awe, or with the hopes I will favor her with a glance of acknowledgment. She staring at me with something I haven’t seen in a long time. Defiance. This new girl is challenging me. I slow my walk, so I can take her in. She’s wearing all black. Split ends. The tips of her frizzy hair are dyed purple. Black lipstick that she didn’t blot properly. Too much cheap silver jewelry. Smudged eyeshadow. Pale with a thin line of blackheads along her hairline. I bare my teeth at her. This new little goth girl is daring to challenge me? I loudly whisper to Misty, “I’m going to destroy this bitch.”
Misty laughs hysterically and shrieks, “Let’s drag Dracula’s daughter into the daylight!” The goth girl’s eyes narrow at me as I pass. I blow her a kiss.
I forget about the goth girl until third period, when she comes into my Honors English class. She’s got that same sullen look on her face as she scans around the room looking for someplace to sit. There’s an empty desk to my right, and predictably she moves over in that direction. Just as she starts to recline, I say in my most honeyed tones, “Oh sweetheart, you can’t sit there. It’s reserved?”
She glares at me. The barbell through her tongue clacks on her teeth. “Reserved? For who?”
I smile sweetly, “For humans.”
She mouths the word “bitch” at me and stomps off to sit elsewhere. She will have to be broken.
I’m in the cafeteria being bored by some story about how Brad saved the day at homecoming and becoming increasingly irritated at the way Misty throws back her head whenever she laughs. Lisa is playing tonsil hockey with Gilles, the French foreign exchange boy, and the slurping sounds are nauseating. I scan the room for fitting replacements for the current members of my entourage, when I catch the little goth girl staring at me. She’s got a look of naked hatred on her face. It’s probably past time to deal with her, and I figure this will be more entertaining than teary pleas for mercy I’m going to get from Misty and Lisa when I find new girls to take their places. I sigh deeply and rise from the table. “I need some air. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Lisa disentangles herself from Gilles and asks, “Want me to come with?”
I shake my head. “I’d prefer to be alone.”
They all watch as I make my way from the cafeteria, but only the goth girl follows. She thinks she’s being sneaky, but her eagerness to challenge me has made her clumsy.
I wait for my new foe behind the kitchen, in a cinderblock alcove where the dumpsters are. Shadows from an aluminum overhang make patterns on the dirt. Although the stench distresses me slightly, I figure it’s an appropriate place to dispose of the trash. I light a cigarette and watch tendrils of smoke waft skyward like incense. I do not inhale.
The new girl rounds the corner. She clenches and unclenches her fists and curls her lip into a snarl. I smile at her as if we were old friends, “Oh, it’s my dear friend Morbidia. Have you come to share your dark poetry about how you’re so terribly misunderstood and how much you suffer?”
I can hear her knuckles crack. “You think you know me. You don’t know me. But I know you. Girls like you think you can do whatever you want. You think you can treat people however you want. Why the fuck are you such a bitch?” Her voice cracks on the end of her little speech.
I smile again and toss my cigarette. “I believe the traditional answer is ‘because I can be.’ But I’ll let you in on a little secret. The truth, even. It’s because it keeps you in your place.”
Her eyes turn yellow and glow with a sickly light. She howls and her voice sounds warped and high. “You don’t know what you’re dealing with!”
The wind picks up and swirls the dust around our feet. She makes complicated motions with her hands, and the shadows cast by aluminum overhang lengthen and take on an oily texture. Witchcraft. A goth who dabbles in magic, how cliché. I look untroubled by all of this, although I’m annoyed at the sudden wind that is fucking up my carefully coiffed hair.
She starts to chant in some forgotten language that sounds more like gargling smushed up bananas than actual speech. The shadows on the ground start to writhe like snakes and leap up to strike at me. I’ve had enough of this. I leap back from the really unattractive-snake shadows and will my talons to return, despite the fact that I’ll have to re-do my nails in the afternoon. I slice the shadows to ribbons and they fall to the ground oozing a foul-smelling black liquid. The goth girl reels, and I open my mouth revealing rows of sharpened teeth. Before she can turn to run, I’m on her, claws digging into her shoulders, heels digging into her thighs. I close my jaw on her throat. There’s the crunch of cartilage, the scrape of tooth against bone and the sound of tearing flesh. Hot, salty blood spurts into my mouth. I turn my head and spit out tattered flesh and gobs of blood onto the dirt.
I feel my gorge rise, but I manage to control myself. Give me a properly cooked filet mignon over raw, greasy human any day.
There’s a look of surprise preserved on the face of the dead goth girl. I almost feel sorry for her. She’s probably watched too many high school comedies where the underdog defeats and humiliates the mean, popular girl. In real life, girls like me don’t get their comeuppance until ten years later, when they’ve lost their looks and are worn out from too many kids and a loveless marriage to the football captain who now has a beer belly and a dead-end middle management job. Girls like me. The biggest benefit of never aging is that my high school glory days never have to end.
for March of the Monsters