Electra by Mary Catherine Curley
Before they found Ryan dead in his apartment; before he moved to Boston (even though he’d always talked about New York); before he got a job at Walgreens and spent nights lit up by fluorescent bulbs that darkened the crescents under his eyes; before he stopped coming home to Vermont for Christmas and we stopped calling him when we got together to drive the back roads; before he started posting black and white self portraits on his Facebook that made him look beautiful, broken, and too skinny; before he graduated high school and broke up with Kyle; before we burst out of Club Electra, laughing and panting in the gravel parking lot; before we commanded the dance floor on 18-and-under night, while the rest of the under-18s milled the shadowed edges of the place looking for flasks or a ride to a real party, leaving Ryan and I each a good ten feet to power slide across the floor towards each other making Naomi Campbell faces; before we screamed over the music to each other, over and over, You look beautiful!; before Ryan kicked his leg above his head and sank into a split like a Rockette; before I danced around him madly, with no skill but a willingness to humiliate myself for even a fleeting love, loyalty enough to last me to the grave; before we pulled off the highway onto a back road that led us to what looked like a warehouse, and we stepped gingerly out of the car, dressed in what we thought was fabulous, me and Nichole smeared in body glitter, Ryan and Kyle in deep v-necks and gel-swept hair—before all that, Ryan sat in the passenger seat with his socked feet up on the dashboard, on the long highway ride to Electra.
The moonlight made his clean socks glow: our car’s own small moons. I remember how much Ryan and Kyle seemed like parents in the front seats, the first time I’d ever thought that about a couple my age—when Nichole and I slid into manic falsetto, screaming along to the radio, Kyle declared: “I will pull this car over if you two don’t stop screaming.” Ryan glanced over his shoulder at us the same way my mom always did in the middle of my father’s tirades, giving us a conspiratorial smile. For a moment, we stared back at him, transfixed. He frowned, reached up and patted his hair.
“How do I look?” he whispered.
“Beautiful,” we said. “God, you look beautiful.”
Mary Catherine Curley grew up in the shadow of a nuclear reactor in Vermont. She received her MFA from Hollins University, where she was a teaching fellow. Her work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Barrelhouse, River & Sound Review, and Eleven Eleven Review, among others. Her story “Elbows” was chosen by Danielle Evans as one of the Wigleaf Top 50 Short Fictions of 2012.