This story is by Alexandra Aloia and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
“Eve and Lilith”
Michelle sat quietly at her window seat staring out into the world. If she looked out at the right time when the sun was shining, she had a view of the Hudson river and Palisades, could dream she was sitting in some bygone era. The light softened her, above the noise, above the dirt, above the fray.
“No fucking way!”
Michelle swung her head around.
Her daughter Eve was laying on the floor with her friends Lilith and Brie, all three laughing hysterically at something on their phones.
“No cursing ok, ladies?”
The girls smiled and slid their eyes sideways at one another in that way that all teenagers do.
“Man, you guys are always on your phones….Why do you have to text each other when you’re all sitting in the same room? Ridiculous.”
“Mom, you’re the very ripe old age of 42. This technology is beyond you.” She smiled mischievously. “Snapchatting is legit.”
Michelle rolled her eyes. “Can you guys please start your homework? I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of it in 9th grade.”
“Yeah Eve, you don’t want to lose your place on the honor roll,” Lilith said mockingly.
Michelle scowled at Lilith’s sarcasm but said nothing.
Lilith was the daughter of Michelle’s next door neighbor and best friend Haley Church. Michelle worked from home so the girls often came here after school. Haley lived in the high powered world of corporate law. They’d been friends since the kids were five.
“Please,” Brie chimed in. “Eve never struggles with anything.”
Michelle watched Eve feign more humility than she probably felt. She thought about how Eve had been voted “most likely to succeed” in middle school.
“Ok mom you win. Homework. We’re reading Lord of the Flies. That’s one of your favorites right?”
“Definitely.” Michelle smiled. “It’s awesome.”
As the girls laid themselves out on the floor and read, Michelle returned to her spot on the window seat.
Her thoughts walked a clear path to the night two weeks ago when Eve came home crying. What happened? Michelle had asked frantically. It took a while for Eve to admit that Lilith had done something terrible to her.
Eve had begged her to do nothing, citing the awkwardness at school. Michelle had pretended to give in for Eve’s sake, but the truth was that she hadn’t done anything because she was afraid of losing her only friend in Washington Heights, of the school fallout.
After a day or two Michelle knew she had to take some action. She made an appointment with Mr. Maggio, both Eve and Lilith’s guidance teacher at St. Margaret’s.
“What can I do for you, Mrs. Miller?” Mr. Maggio had asked kindly, clearing his desk which was covered in papers. Michelle could see names of students on those papers and thought this poor old guy needed a better organizational system.
“Well, Mr. Maggio, I hope we can keep this between us.” Michelle had to say this, because things had a funny way of sneaking out at St. Margaret’s.
“Of course,” the old man said. “What’s going on?”
“I would really prefer if Eve and Lilith have different schedules from now on. Something happened between them.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Mr. Maggio said. “Is it possible that you tell me about the nature of the incident?”
Michelle looked at all those papers on his desk with student names, but figured it was safe to simply have a conversation.
“Well, I don’t want to get into specifics, but Eve and Lilith were hanging out with two boys, and…and Lilith physically hit Eve when Eve refused to participate in a…sexual activity with them. She has bruises and scratches on her arms.”
Mr. Maggio bristled with discomfort. “Oh my,” he said. He thought for a moment. “Perhaps we should pull Lilith and her mother to discuss this…”
“No!” Michelle said, cutting him off. “I know how these things work. Eve will get ostracized, it will be a whole thing. I just want them to be separated during the school day. Maybe Eve will make some other friends.”
“Ok,” Mr. Maggio frowned. “For now, I’ll make sure their schedules are different for next semester.”
Michelle had thanked him and left, feeling better.
Now Michelle wondered if she’d done enough. She brought her focus back to the sun, the sky, the Palisades across the Hudson River. It was darkening outside, the sun had taken a step behind the trees, light which had glowed brightly now grew amber and deep.
Knock, knock. Two raps in quick succession.
Michelle glanced at her watch. 4:45. Wasn’t it too early for Haley to be home?
Michelle walked to the door and opened it. Haley standing there with Brie’s mother Laura. Weird, she thought to herself. Why was Laura here too?
“Hey ladies,” Michelle said. “Come in.”
The two other women came slowly into the apartment. Michelle could sense some strangeness. It was the way they moved, their tight smiles, their purses close to their bodies.
“Hey girls,” Haley said. “ Would you mind going across the hall to our place for a few minutes? The adults need to chat.”
Puzzled, the girls left. The door shut behind them with a thud.
“Everything ok?” Michelle asked.
There was a moment of silence that lasted too long.
“Michelle, how could you?” Haley said.
“How could I what?” Michelle said.
“Your daughter beat the shit out of my daughter last week!” Haley burst out.
“What…..” Michelle said, shocked.
“Yes, yes she did. They were hanging out with these two boys, and I guess they started fooling around. Lilith told me that Eve tried to get her to…perform oral sex….on one of the boys while they all watched. When Lilith refused, Eve became like an animal. She punched her in the stomach.”
Michelle licked dry lips.
“This is impossible…” she said. Her mind raced. Was this some kind of ruse? Some kind of way to take the blame off her own daughter? “First of all, how did you find out about this alleged event? And second of all, why the hell are you blaming me for it? We’ve been friends forever!”
Michelle still clung in the moment to an obsolete hope she could avoid this confrontation and make things go back to how they were.
Haley’s pained face looked real, but Michelle knew her friend’s skill as an attorney. And there was the matter of Laura – why bring Brie’s mother with her? It had obviously been planned.
“How did you find this out?” Michelle repeated.
“I had to stop by school to talk to Mr. Maggio, about Lilith’s summer program. He ‘informed’ me that Eve and Lilith now had different schedules. When I pressed him on why, he told me the gist of the story. Lilith filled me in on the rest.”
“This is crazy,” Michelle said. “The truth is your daughter beat the shit out of my daughter! Eve came home sobbing that night. She showed me the bruises and scratches on her arms.”
Her mind worked for another moment. She remembered the papers all over Maggio’s desk – all the papers with student names.
“Of course!” she said. “You saw an incident report on Maggio’s desk, right? I should have known better. He must have written one up about our conversation. You saw the one I wrote up and now you’re trying to flip the facts – in front of an audience no less – to blame Eve and make her the villain. Smart move, Madam counselor.”
“Michelle, this is sad,” Haley said. “Get a grip.”
“You believe this garbage, Laura?” Michelle asked. “Seriously? You’ve known both our daughters forever. Do you really think Eve would do this? We all know what Lilith is like! Sarcastic, rude, controlling. We don’t say anything because it ‘isn’t our business’ and we all like the status quo. Tell the truth.”
Laura cleared her throat uncomfortably.
“Michelle sorry, but why would Haley lie? Ok, Lilith can be sarcastic…but I’ve heard Eve tease Brie in a..nasty way…I’m just saying it’s not impossible.”
“Garbage!”Michelle heard herself yelling, heard all the niceties drifting away.
“Oh, shut up!” Haley said. “Laura, let’s get out of here.”
Suddenly the front door creaked. The girls. That’s right, the girls! All three women had the sudden realization that they had probably heard the entire thing. Slowly they ambled into the room.
“Mom?” Eve said. “What’s going on?” She took off her sweatshirt, wearing nothing but a tank top underneath. She artfully displayed some bruises and nail scratches to the crowd. Lilith glared at her. Brie stood, head down, playing with the phone in her pocket.
Haley and Laura stared at Eve’s bruises, dumbfounded.
“Lilith, you swore to me that Eve lied and that’s how your name wound up on that incident report!” Haley said.
“Mom,” Lilith said. “She did try to force me to do those things. I swear. She punched me in the stomach, but I had my clothes on – I didn’t get a bruise. I was only trying to defend myself! They were defensive wounds.”
“You’re a fucking liar!!” Eve screamed at Lilith.
Michelle seethed. “Lilith, you have always had a hold over my daughter. But that ends tonight. Not being able to tell the truth even when you’re confronted is bad enough. Blaming Eve for your actions is absolutely disgusting.”
“I’ll handle this Michelle,” Haley hissed. “Back off.”
Laura spoke up. “Listen, we’re leaving. I don’t want us involved. Brie, let’s go.” She started to pull her daughter by the sleeve, but Brie hesitated. “I said let’s go, Brie.” Brie slowly shook her head.
“No,” Brie whispered. “I have…something that might help….” She fumbled in her pocket for her phone.
“I’m…I’m friends with one of the boys you were hanging out with. He…sent me this…video the day after.”
“Give that to me,” Laura said. She took the phone and hit the play button, the rest of the room crowding around her.
The video was scratchy, the audio garbled. Eve and Lilith fighting. Boys laughing.
“I can’t see that,” Michelle said. “Play it again. Slow it down if you can.”
Laura hit the play button again, but this time in slow motion. An image began to emerge through the grit. Eve swinging her fist into Lilith’s stomach, and then Lilith punching and scratching Eve’s arms. The slowed down quality of the video made the boys’ laughter sound like demonic screams.
“See I was telling the truth!” Eve and Lilith said at the same time.
Michelle and Haley looked at one another. Both vindicated, both destroyed.
“We should leave.” Haley said. She slowly turned and walked out with Lilith. Michelle knew she wouldn’t be back. Then went Laura and Brie, silent. The sound of door closing punctuated the ending.
“Eve, why didn’t you tell me what really happened?” Michelle asked wearily.
“I did,” Eve said. “Ok you saw me hit her first. So what. We were playing around. You didn’t see everything that went down on that video.”
“I risked my reputation…you were always such a good girl..” Michelle rattled on to herself.
“Mom, seriously!” Eve said. “We’re not little girls anymore. Everything is different now… you just can’t possibly understand…what happened that night…”
Michelle wanted to explain the very common phenomenon known as “coming of age”, to explain to her daughter that in the future most fights won’t leave physical bruises, but emotional ones, but just dropped her head in her hands.
“Please Eve, just go to your room for now.”
Michelle went to close the blinds at the window. She stared for a moment. She could no longer see the Palisades across the Hudson, couldn’t feel part of a bygone era above the dirt and fray. The dark sky was littered with stars, and all of them and none of them witnessed what happened that night.