Teenage girls make the best friends, and the worst enemies. It’s better to learn that early on.
One August afternoon, I was curled up on the couch at our cottage when someone knocked at the door. Hardly daring to hope that it might be Alex, the boy next door that I’d been crushing on, I jumped up off the couch. But it was just Laura, the niece of our neighbours on the other side, the Schantzes. She wasn’t exactly a friend, but I had to be neighbourly.
I pasted a smile on my face and opened the door. “Hi Laura,” I said.
“Hi Kelly!” she squealed.
“When did you get here?” I asked.
“Just this morning. I’m up for the weekend.”
“Oh, okay.” I was relieved. I could only take Laura in small doses.
She interrupted my thoughts. “So, I was like, wondering if you wanted to walk to the store? I thought we could get some candy, you know, like when we were little kids?”
On the spot, I couldn’t come up with a good excuse to say no. “You going to walk?” I asked.
“Yeah - I’m trying to lose some weight and this diet that I’m on is not working. Do these shorts make me look fat?” She spun around, placing her hands to frame her butt. God, I hated when girls did that - especially the skinny ones like Laura.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and said: “No, you uh, you look great. Um, sure - I’ll come. Just let me grab some money and my shoes.”
I scribbled them a quick note for my mom and dad, who’d gone out sailing, then slipped out the door.
I ran out of things to say about five minutes into our walk, but Laura droned on about her love interests. After Laura launched into her fourth story about a boy, this one about the guy who was always passing her notes with hearts on them, I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Hey - “ I interrupted, “what do you think about Alex Phillips?” If we had to talk about boys, at least it could be one I was interested in.
“The cute one next door?” Laura shrilled. I nodded. “Oh my God, he’s like, so hot! Is he here? I was looking for him earlier, but I didn’t see him anywhere.”
“No,” I sighed, “he’s not.”
“Do I have a story about him!”
I almost tripped at her words, but managed to cover it by bending down to fix a shoelace. “What story?” I asked warily.
Laura took a deep breath. “Okay, so, last summer, I was up here for like a whole week.”
“Really?” I didn’t remember that.
“Yeah,” she continued, flicking her long black hair over her shoulder, “You weren’t up. Not sure where you were.” She paused for a moment and I rewound time in my brain. Ah - I’d spent a week in the city doing lifeguarding training. “Anyway, love my aunt and uncle a lot, but a week is a really long time to spend with anyone and I got so bored. So that day, I’m sitting on the breakwall, looking all cute in my new suit - ” I groaned inwardly, but she kept going. “And Alex comes over, and starts like totally flirting with me…”
My jaw clenched and my hands in fists, I tried to tune her out, but she gossiped on. The sunlight kept pounding down and rivulets of sweat were trickling down between my breasts. I kept my focus on the lake, just visible between the trees, and on my feet, setting one down in front of the other. Thank God the store was just around the corner.
Laura was still talking, and her next words tore my attention back to her. “And then we kissed. And oh my God, Alex is such a good kisser!”
I stopped in my tracks. “Uh, sorry, what did you say?” I was trying to be calm, but the break in my voice betrayed me.
“You okay, Kel?” I must have looked upset at that point, since Laura actually noticed.
I gave my head a little shake. “Yeah, no, I’m fine - just feeling a little warm. Go on,” I prompted.
“Oh yeah, the kiss with Alex! It was like, totally unbelievable!” We’d reached the store and Laura stepped inside first, beelining it for the candy display.
I paused with my hand on the door. Laura and Alex? The boy that I was feeling all kinds of new feelings for. The one that I wished was mine. Thoughts buzzing through my brain, I picked out a diet Coke. Paying for it in a daze, I took it outside and sat down at a picnic table. I pressed the cold can to my forehead briefly, and then downed it. Laura was still inside, probably picking out a bag of Hot Lips. When she finally emerged from the store clutching a paper bag full of candy, I had my head buried in my arms, fighting off images of Alex and Laura with their lips locked. I did not want competition for Alex’s attention.
Fast forward to May. The previous summer now a memory, but not a distant one. I was still crushing on Alex, and still not over what Laura had revealed. My friend Steph and I sat waiting for a ride home out front of our school. With the Victoria Day long weekend coming up, my thoughts had turned to summer, and Alex, and what to do about Laura.
“You need to do something,” Steph declared.
“Like what?” Another summer was coming up, but maybe Alex and I were not meant to be. “Maybe Laura is more his type. What chance do I have against little, perky, and flirty?”
“All kinds of chance! This Laura girl sounds like a loser.” Steph picked a piece of lint off her trademark black jeans. “Besides, you and Alex haven’t kissed yet, have you?”
“No,” I admitted.
“Then he doesn’t know what he’s missing. Yet. Here’s what we’ll do…” Steph leaned in and whispered her plan, my eyes growing wider as she spoke. Steph was into some strange shit, everything from Ouija boards to tarot cards. I wasn’t sure I wanted in on this.
She finished the last detail just as her mom’s Volvo pulled up in front of the school. She got to her feet and seeing me still sitting there, said: “Well? Are you coming or what?”
“I don’t know, Steph, this doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
“Listen, do you want Alex or not?” Steph narrowed her black kohl rimmed eyes at me.
I did. So badly I could barely sleep at night. I nodded my head slowly in response.
“Then come on!”
I gave in and we ran for our ride, backpacks bouncing.
An hour later, three of us sat around Steph’s kitchen table, Steph, me and our friend Sara. Laid out before us on the wooden surface was a voodoo doll of Laura that we’d made. It was the saddest looking doll I’d ever seen: a body made of paraffin wax, toothpicks arms and legs, and a walnut with a garish caricature of Laura’s face as a head.
“Guys, maybe we shouldn’t do this,” Sara whispered, casting a nervous glance around.
“What are you whispering for?” Steph exclaimed. “It’s voodoo, not murder!”
“Yeah, but what if it works? What if Laura dies?” Sara demanded. We’d told her about the whole cottage love triangle.
“Don’t be stupid!” Steph insisted. “We’re not going to try and kill her, we’ll just - give her really bad acne, or chronic halitosis, or something like that.”
Okay - bad breath I could handle. Maybe I could go ahead with this.
“Wait a minute!” Steph gasped. “We can’t do this!”
“Oh good,” Sara sighed in relief.
“No, I mean not yet,” Steph said. “If we want this to work, we have to do it right.”
“Right?” Sara asked timidly.
“Right!” Steph repeated. “For voodoo to work, you need something from the real person.”
“What kind of ‘something’?” Sara wanted to know.
“Don’t you two ever watch movies? We need a fingernail or a strand of hair or something like that.” Steph spoke impatiently.
“Okay, how are we going to get that? Where does Laura even live?” Sara asked.
I thought for a minute. “I think Arthur, or some little town near there.” I actually didn’t know.
“Well, we’re not taking a bus there to steal her hairbrush. We’ll just have to concentrate really hard,” Steph decided.
We drew the blinds and deadbolted the kitchen door, the room in darkness except for three candles flickering on the table. Steph solemnly passed the doll over to me, along with a thick red marker. “The honour is yours,” she announced.
I hesitated for a minute. As much as I resented Laura for having kissed Alex before I even got the chance, what we were doing didn't seem right. But voodoo wasn’t really a thing, anyway. Then Steph and Sara started chanting: “Voo-doo, voo-doo, work your magic! Voo-doo, voo-doo, let Laura have it!” and their chant was all the push I needed. I set to work, dabbing red dots all over “Laura’s” face. I worked slowly and carefully, and when I had finished, I passed the doll over to Steph and Sara. Their faces lit up.
“Ooh, look at that... Her face is going to be one huge pimple!” Steph exclaimed.
“And Alex will be yours!” Sara cheered happily, tossing the doll up into the air. But she didn’t move fast enough to catch it and the doll came crashing down on the ceramic tile floor. Nobody said a word. I flicked on the lights, walked over to where the doll lay, and picked it up gently. Both of its toothpick arms had broken and its walnut head had come loose from its body.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” I muttered.
“What happened to it?” Sara asked, her hands covering her eyes.
“We, uh - we broke its arms, and um, decapitated it,” I replied, hurrying over to show them.
“Decapitated?” Sara screeched, then clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh, this is not good,” she moaned. “Whatever you do to the voodoo doll happens to the real person!”
“Not necessarily,” Steph said. “I mean, intent matters. We didn’t want Laura to die, we just wanted her to be a little less perfect. And we didn’t use any real part of her, so the effect can’t be as strong. She’ll be just fine.”
“I hope so,” I said doubtfully.
“So do I,” Sara agreed, holding her head in her hands. “I can’t go to jail - I’d never survive!”
I didn’t sleep for the next two nights, worried that something terrible would befall Laura. Then, unable to stand it any more, I fake-casually asked my mom if she’d heard any news from the Shantzes. I winced as I waited for her response, praying that the whole family hadn’t been in some awful accident.
“Actually, Vivienne did call yesterday,” my mom shared.
“Oh. And they’re, they’re uh, all fine?” I almost couldn’t get the words out.
“Vivian and Carl are fine. But Vivian was telling me that Laura fell at gymnastics this week.”
My palms started to sweat. “Oh, no - is she okay?”
“Broke her leg in two places, apparently. Going to be in a cast for at least eight weeks,” my mom made it sound like no big deal, just a fluke sports mishap. I turned and bolted from the room, burning to go call Steph and Sara.
“Where are you going?” My mom’s voice trailed after me.
“I uh, just remembered there’s some homework I have to finish for tomorrow,” I yelled over my shoulder. Shutting my bedroom door tight, I sank to the ground and frantically dialed Steph’s number, biting my nails as I listened to it ring. Never mind jail - the three of us were going to hell for this.