Beauty Queens

13,044
05.03.2019

Fawnda might not have been likeable. She might not even have been a nice person. But she had something: anger. It gave her a reason to wake up in the morning. And she wasn’t giving it up just to make some guidance counselor or church group feel okay. Deep down, Sosie had admired her. Because what had she herself done? Rolled over and showed her belly. Like me and I won’t be any trouble at all.

But things were different out here in the jungle. It was as if the wheels were coming off the old Sosie. She wasn’t interested in being everybody’s good sport anymore. The sweet deaf girl mascot. Fuck that.

Bye, Bye, Birdie, she thought and let the spear fly. It veered to the right, missing the bird and bouncing into the bushes. With a panicked rustle of feathers and probably a lot of squawking, the bird flapped its wings and scuttled away.

“Damn,” Sosie said. There was a tap on her shoulder and Sosie whipped around, ready to fight.

Jennifer put her hand up. “Whoa! Peace!”

“Sorry,” she signed. She retrieved the spear from the bushes.

“Cool. Very B-A-D-A-S-S,” Jennifer answered and finger-spelled. Her signing had gotten pretty good. “Want to go for a swim?”

“Nah. Wanna bag the bird. Sick of fish.”

“Okay. Let’s …” Jennifer stopped. “What’s the sign for hunt?” she asked. Sosie showed her and Jennifer repeated it. “This is cool. Like having a secret code.”

Sosie glared and Jennifer’s stomach tensed. “What did I say?”

“It’s not code. It’s how I talk.” She both said and signed it, her fingers moving sharply.

“I-I didn’t mean …”

“I just need you to know that it’s not some cute code. It’s a language. My language.”

Jennifer nodded. “What’s the sign for ass**le?”

Sosie grinned. “Did you see which way it went?”

Jennifer shook her head.

“Crap.” Sosie stuck her spear into the ground. “Hey! I’ve been working on a new dance based on girl superheroes. Wanna see what I’ve got so far?”

Jennifer nodded enthusiastically. Without hesitation, Sosie launched into her sequence, a modern dance full of grace and power and vulnerability. When she was dancing, Sosie felt as powerful as any superhero. Her body did what she wanted it to without her having to say a word. With every flex of her foot or contraction of her muscles, she came wondrously alive, blood pumping, emotions playing across her face. Once, while dancing a piece from Swan Lake, she’d cried, so overcome by the beauty of it that she felt as if she really were the dying swan. But this dance was not about wounded bird girls, and Sosie reveled in unleashing the full power of her body.

Jennifer watched, awestruck, at Sosie’s grace and power and utter lack of self-consciousness. For most of her life, Jennifer had learned to hold her emotions in check. But it was obvious that Sosie had full access to hers, and Jennifer felt envious of her ease. She wondered why she’d held so tightly to her feelings for so long, and if it might be possible to give them some slack.

Sosie stopped, breathing heavily. “That’s all I’ve got so far.”

Jennifer clapped enthusiastically. She made the sign for awesome.

“Yeah?”

Jennifer nodded.

Sosie grinned and reached out to her friend. “Come dance with me.”

“Oh, no!” Jennifer waved her off.

“I’ll teach you! It’s easy.” Sosie pulled on Jennifer’s arm, but Jen resisted.

“I can’t dance,” Jennifer signed.

Sosie scoffed. “Everybody can dance. It’s about passion. It’s like kissing. If you can kiss, you can dance.” Sosie looked her square in the eyes. “Can you kiss?”

Jennifer blushed hard. “Well, yeah, but —”

Sosie brightened. “Then you can dance!”

Jennifer folded her arms across her chest and shook her head.

There were few things Sosie loved more than a direct challenge. If she had to pick a personal motto, it would be “Bring it!” Her grin was a dare. “Gonna make you.” Laughing, Sosie made another grab for Jennifer’s arms, but Jen, also laughing, broke away.

“You’re not the boss of me!” Jen yelled and adopted a fake ninja pose.

“I can make you… .” Sosie taunted. She snapped her fingers across her body like one of the Jets in West Side Story.

“Stop!”

Sosie stretched out her arm as if wielding some invisible energy source. “I have a secret weapon. A secret weapon … of dance!”