Madison thought she was something special because her parents bought her a peacock. We were both in eighth grade and lived on opposite sides of a street that dead-ended on the lake. In sixth grade, she told everyone that her dad was my dad’s boss at the power plant down the road. My dad just laughed and said, “Rick wishes.” Madison’s dad built a special fence in their backyard for the peacock. My dad called it a doghouse.
“It’s a peacock,” Madison said, “not a peahen, that’s a girl peafowl.” Kids at school pretended to care about her stupid facts because she got boobs in seventh grade. “A group of peacocks,” she said, “is called an ostentation.”
She brought the peacock’s feathers to school and gave them to her cheerleader friends. Each girl tucked a single feather into the back of their ponytail. Except for Madison. She wore two of them, crossed in a vivid “X”.
Feathers became the symbol of coolness. This loser, this girl Chelsea, got a fake feather and wore it in her frizzy red hair. Madison and her friends got all the boys to walk by Chelsea in the hallway and whisper how fat her thighs were and how she should just kill herself. I didn’t see it, of course, but I heard Chelsea lost her shit in social studies and hit this guy Andrew in the face with an electric pencil sharpener.
Madison had parties every Friday night because her parents went to the bar at the bowling alley. Tinny-tween anthems and K-pop blared from I-Phone speakers. My friends and I hung out at the beach behind the power plant on Friday nights because the water was warm there all year round.
We made bonfires and threw shit into the flames to see what happened. One time, this guy Ben made a can of baked beans explode. His friend Danny threw an entire pack of sparklers in, box and all. A soft, sulfurous rainbow hovered over the fire for a minute. Another time, my best friend, Renee, swiped a bottle of peach schnapps from her stepmom. We got drunk and the guys talked me and Renee into flashing them. I kept my basketball bra on. Renee showed full tits and jumped up and down.
The next week, Ben brought his brother and his friends. They were in high school. They gave us beer and tried to talk Renee into flashing them. I waited for them to ask me, but no one cared about seeing the tic-tacs under my sports bra. Renee did it after two beers. She pulled her sweatshirt up and sipped her can of Milwaukee’s Best while her tits shone red from the blinking lights of the power plant.
On my walk home, I heard party music from Madison’s. The rest of the houses on the street were dark. I still had a beer buzz and walked right up Madison’s lawn. The grass felt softer than it did in my yard. In the glow of the backyard, I saw the glint of a teal feather. I bent down and picked it up. And then I took another. And another.
I sat on my bedroom floor with seven feathers laid out in a circle. Some were long and sleek but others were frill and short. I wondered if I had seven friends to give them to. I imagined passing them out like flower necklaces people got in Hawaii.
The next morning was Saturday and I slept in. I decided it was dumb to give my friends feathers so I weaved them into a crown. I took off my shirt and wore the feathers on my head like a fairy queen. No matter how much I squished my boobs together or sucked my stomach in, I couldn’t get them to jiggle like Renee’s. I still looked pretty awesome in that crown. I was ostentatious.
I wore my feathers to school Monday. It had a supernatural effect. Boys who never looked twice at me stepped aside so I could pass them in the hallway. Girls who didn’t want me in their study groups clutched their books and mouthed “Oh-my-god”. Renee was at her locker, flanked by two guys, and they looked at me and laughed. Not “Ha-ha” laughs, but “Ha-you’re-fucking-awesome” laughs.
I made it to the end of the school day before Madison and her friends blocked me on the sidewalk in front of the funeral home just off school property. They were in a tight chain, each with feathers in their ponytails. Madison stood in the middle, her feathers crossed. I worried they were gonna jump me. If I had an electric pencil sharpener, I’d have used it.
“Just who do you think you are?” Madison asked and stuck out her big boobs.
I froze. This whole idea was idiotic and I wished I could take it back. The feathered crown bristled against my forehead and itched. Behind them, a crowd formed of seventh and eighth graders.
A brown pickup truck squealed to the side of the curb. I saw Ben in the passenger seat and his older brother was driving. Renee stood upright in the bed. “Hey, losers!” she yelled.
Madison and her friends briefly turned away from me to look at her. While Renee had their full attention, she crossed her arms, yanked up the bottom of her t-shirt, and let her tits jiggle. No one said a word. They were that awed.
I jumped into the back of the pick-up truck and Ben’s brother peeled out. Renee bounced up and down until she collapsed on top of me in a heap of giggles. I took the crown off my head and chucked it in the wind. Feathers flew in our faces and we laughed some more.
Meghan Louise Wagner is a writer and playwright from Cleveland, OH. She is currently pursuing an MFA from NEOMFA. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in places such as Minola Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Literally Stories, and Jellyfish Review.
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