The Hunt
around in a blur, then slowed, coming to a stop at the boy sitting across from me.
    Then it continued to inch forward slowly, as if through glue, until the bottle mouth, like the gaping mouth of a dying goldfi sh, came to a stop. Pointing right at me, dead center, no question about it.

    “Suck fest,” the boy next to me said bitterly. “So close to me.”
    And it was as though an electric jolt shot through the girls’ circle.
    They started whispering, heads huddling together, casting me luring, excited looks. In a fl ash, a girl reached forward and spun the bottle. The bottle twirled fast, then broke into a slower blur.
    When it was crawling through its fi nal rotation, girls leaning back in dis-appointment as the bottle passed them, and just as it was slowly THE HUNT 37
    passing by Ashley June, she reached forward and stopped it with her foot, the mouth of the bottle pointing at her.
    “Wow,” she said, “fi gure that.” And because it was Ashley June, they let her get away with it.
    A minute later, Ashley June and I were inside the closet. We stood mere inches apart, the wals enclosing us tightly. The smel of pine was thick inside, the darkness complete.
    Neither of us moved. I heard the others talking outside the door, their voices miles away. I stared down at my feet, breathing through my nose in long, controled breaths.
    I thought to speak to her, this being the perfect— the only —
    opportunity to express what had been bottled up in me for years.

    Ashley June, I’ve had feelings for you for a long time. Since the fi rst time I ever saw you. You’re the only one I’ve ever been drawn to, the only one I think of every day.
    “Should we get a move on?” she asked in the darkness, her voice whispery and surprisingly low. My opportunity, so fl eeting, gone.
    We bumbled awkwardly in the confi ned space as we took off our arm sleeves. I grabbed the zipper, puled at it, felt it give.
    With our sleeves off, we paused. Now was the moment. Was she waiting for me to move fi rst? Then the sound of her neck cracking, a loud bony snap. A low rumbling in her throat, then a snarl, so close, the hiss wetting the wals and ceiling and fl oor of the black-ened closet enclosing me.
    I let my mind go blank, an erasure, then a replacement with a primal urge manufactured in the imaginings of my mind. I opened my mouth and a snarl hurled out, its raw savagery and urgency catching me by surprise. My arms fl ew forward toward her and our forearms colided, nails gashing against skin. For a second, alarm shot through my mind: if blood was spilt, her ardor would 38
    quickly— in a microsecond— shift, and she would be at my neck, her fangs sinking razor quick through my skin, and the others outside would pour in just seconds later, diving inside in an orgy of outside would pour in just seconds later, diving inside in an orgy of blood. But caught up in the moment, I did not stop, we did not stop, but brusquely brushed aside arms, so many impeding us, shoved elbows and shoulders away, jostled for position. We knocked up against the wals confi ning us on every side, holow thumps thud-ding as our elbows and knees hit against the invisible wals.
    I got there fi rst. Before she could regain her footing, I shoved my elbow into the socket of her armpit. The way I had read about in books, seen in movies. I had her. Her body tensed in anticipation as my elbow locked into her armpit. And just like that, her body lost al tension and softened. I swiveled my elbow in long, luxurious circles, and her body moved in rhythm. Salivary wetness slivered between and around her snarling teeth. I concentrated hard after that, keeping up with appearances, making sure that the snarls came out in the right fevered pitch, that my body oscilated with enough passion and frenzy.
    Afterward, Ashley June and I bent down to fi nd our arm sleeves.
    In the dark, our arms bumped into each other; and in one unfor-gettable second, our hands briefl y

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