Remember Us Girls
Kenzie Bedner invites us to Orlando. Her mom drives the three of us up in her Range Rover. We don’t know why Kenzie chose us. Our theory is that her mom likes us, the Brittanys, the good girls, the ones who have never gotten in trouble.
We all sit in the back seat and make her mom the chauffer. We listen to O-Town and Mandy Moore. We’re all wearing jeans and Sugar Lips tank tops. Mine is purple, Jensen’s is gold, and Kenzie’s is hot pink.
“You have a muffin top,” Kenzie says to me. My jeans are too tight and my stomach hangs over them. I picture a muffin rising over its edge while baking.
“I have my period,” I say, but I don’t. Not even close.
“You eat like crap,” Jensen says, eating a piece of celery from a Ziploc bag, a “healthy snack” Kenzie’s mom had prepared for the car ride.
“At least I don’t drink Diet Coke!” I say.
“I love Diet Coke!” Kenzie beams. “You drink DC?”
“Hell yeah,” Jensen says.
“Mom, can we pit stop for some DC?”
Everyone seems like my enemy lately, like the world is against me. I eat Chips Ahoy! out of a Publix bag, hiding my snack from the girls, dissolving each cookie in my mouth so I don’t crunch when I chew. They don’t notice, though, as they analyze each other’s arm hairs, the thickness, the length, the color, a contest for no one to win.
At the rest stop, Jensen and Kenzie get large Diet Cokes from the fountain and I get a Nerd Rope and orange Fanta to rebel. I don’t care about my weight. I probably should, but I know I’m not fat. I’m just…well…my stomach could be flatter.
Kenzie Bedner is special. She just has that kind of magic popular girls have. She has dark brown hair, almost black, brown eyes, and is tan and thin. She has big lips and the best collection of purses out of anyone we know. We’re still in middle school, but she’s dated highschoolers. We’re fourteen, but she looks eighteen. She can have anything she wants.
Kenzie’s mom insists we walk up the stairs to our hotel room rather than take the elevator.
“We can’t burn calories in the elevator!” she says, lugging her Victoria Secret duffle bag up the stairs, Kenzie in tow. Mrs. Bedner is tall and has black hair like Kenzie. She had a body like Kenzie’s too, lean and taut.
Jensen slings her duffle bag over her shoulder and I pop the handle back into my wheelie bag to carry it up thestairs. Five floors later, we make it to room 512.
“Five is my favorite number,” Jensen squeals.
“Oh my gosh, twelve is my favorite!” Kenzie squeals back.
“How can twelve be your favorite number?” I ask. “It’s so random.”
“It’s not random,” Kenzie says. “It’s my jersey number for lacrosse!”
The room is a suite with one king bed and one pullout couch in the living room. Kenzie’s mom takes the bedroom and Kenzie, Jensen and I all share the living room. We spread our clothes out all over the arms of the couch, the chairs, the coffee table. We compare outfits that we’ve packed. How many pairs of shorts everyone brought, how many shoes, what kind of hair-taming tools, how much makeup, any cute tops, slutty clothes for at night versus daytime theme park appropriate wear.
As we pick out bathing suits to wear for night swimming, Jensen sneezes. She sneezes in threes, the way she always does.
“You just had one tenth of an orgasm,” Kenzie says.
“What?” Jensen asks. “Why?”
“A sneeze is one tenth of an orgasm.”
“If you open your eyes when you sneeze, your eyes can pop out of your head,” I say.
Kenzie and Jensen laugh like it’s the stupidest thing they’ve ever heard. They do their hair and makeup without me in the bathroom. I get ready in the kitchenette on a stool, balancing my compact mirror against a fake orange. I put too much eyeliner on, but the girls don’t say anything when they come out and see me. We’re all wearing tankinis and jean shorts with platform flip-flops. Jensen has her hair in a cowbell, a style she made up where you put your hair in a ponytail and on the last loop you leave it so it looks like a bell. Kenzie grabs her scrunchie on the way out the door and Jensen’s hair falls in waves against her pale back. This is the kind of magic trick I’d pay to see again.
Kenzie’s mom doesn’t give us a time to be back. We’re free. Out and about. The night is young and we want to kiss boys. Kenzie links arms with me and Jensen and all my mistakes of the past are forgotten. We are girls of the night.
Jensen points out two boys playing volleyball in the water, but Kenzie says there’s no way she’s getting in the water, unless there’s a hot tub. We stroll around the hotel’s grounds, palm trees and viburnum bushes surrounding us, enclosing the pool area. The ground is wet and it’s a little too cold outside to be in just our tankinis, but we keep moving. Kenzie eventually points out that the lifeguard is hot, but there’s only one of him, and he probably has to work.
We rest on lounge chairs without towels and the straps stick to our thighs and leave marks. I want to go back to the hotel room and watch TV, fall asleep to the sounds of Seinfeld or Frasier like Jensen and I usually do, but Kenzie won’t give up.
I want to ask her for the room key. I want to tell her that it’s okay if she stays, but that I want to go. It’s okay, I think, they can have their time. But then Jensen says she has a stomachache and we head back to the room. Kenzie doesn’t say a word on the walk back and Jensen falls back close to me. We don’t speak, but I can tell she’s nervous that she’s upset Kenzie. I can tell she faked it because she too wanted to go back. I give her a nod, signaling, I’ll never leave you, and she nods back like, sorry about before, about everything, about the Goddamn Diet Coke.
Kenzie pauses before she opens the door to our room. She leans up against the wall and exhales a long sigh.
“That pool was like a barren wasteland,” she says. “Let’s see if our mini fridge has any vodka.”
We can choose between going to the outlet mall andgoing to EPCOT. It’s obvious that I’d rather go to the parks since we did drive all the way up here to Orlando and I’d like to ride some rides. But Kenzie argues that there might be boys at the mall. Jensen says she doesn’t care, but I know she wants to go to EPCOT. She’s only being neutral because of her stomachache escapade.
“They’ll have Sbarro and Peking China at the outlet mall,” Kenzie says. “I know you love your junk food.” Kenzie snaps her gum at the end of each sentence.
“EPCOT has way better food than the mall,” I say. “They have like every country and food from around the world!”
“There’s eleven countries,” Jensen says. Kenzie glares at her. “ Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, Mexico, and… the United States.”
“Do you think someone would buy us margaritas in Mexico?” Kenzie asks.
Kenzie’s mom ultimately decides that Kenzie doesn’t need any more clothes, so we drive over to EPCOT. She says we can walk around the park by ourselves, but we have to meet her for dinner in Germany at 7:00pm.
“Don’t take the boat around the countries,” Mrs. Bedner says. “Walking will burn you lots more calories!”
We all wear our Sugar Lips tank tops to the park.
“G-d, this place is freaking huge,” Kenzie says.
“Every person comes out tired,” I say.
“What does that mean?” Kenzie asks.
“That’s what EPCOT stands for. Every. Person. Comes. Out. Tired,” I say again.
“It actually stands for environmental prototype community of tomorrow,” Jensen says.
“Are you like, a new employee for Disney or something?” I ask. Kenzie bends over laughing hysterically, breaking her arm link with Jensen.
“Oh my G-d, you two are so funny!” Kenzie says. “You’re like a comedy duo.”
We spend the rest of the day making Kenzie laugh until she almost pees in her pants on the Norway ride. When we pass through Japan, we see a stand where you can get your name written on a piece of rice for twenty dollars. It’s almost time to meet Kenzie’s mom for dinner, but we all decide it’s worth being late to get our names on rice and wear them around our necks.
“Maybe we should get something that matches,” Kenzie says. Jensen and I look at each other. We understand that we have broken ground, passed through a barrier that was once before impenetrable. We have crossed over into the land of the charmed.
“What about ‘Best Friends Forever’?” I say. “We can each get one word, but then they’ll all go together.”
“Oh my G-d!” Kenzie says. “I love it! I want ‘Best’ though!”
“I call ‘Friends’,” Jensen says.
I’m happy to have ‘Forever’ around my neck, a reminder that even when Kenzie Bedner eventually forgets about this trip, forgets about us, I can still have a piece of this moment now when we were part of her magic.
We each pay twenty dollars to the little man in the booth and wait. We sit in silence, the sky getting dark, dinner approaching and her mother’s potential wrath, the time closing in on us. But it will be worth it once we have our necklaces. We watch as the man fits such small words onto grains of rice. He uses a magnifying glass and a quill pen with such skill, such patience. He encloses each grain in a bead and strings it onto black cord. When we show up late for dinner, Kenzie’s mom isn’t even mad because she thought the necklaces were so cute. When we go back to school after Spring Break, people will see us together, they will see our necklaces, the words forged on tiny pieces of rice, and they will covet our jewelry, our friendship, the time we shared in Orlando.
Brittany Ackerman is a writer from Riverdale, New York. She earned her BA in English from Indiana University and graduated from Florida Atlantic University’s MFA program in Creative Writing. She teaches Archetypal Psychology at AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Hollywood, CA. She was the 2017 Nonfiction Award Winner for Red Hen Press, as well as the AWP Intro Journals Project Award Nominee in 2015. Her work has been featured in The Los Angeles Review, No Tokens, Hobart, Cosmonauts Ave, Fiction Southeast, and more. Her first collection of essays entitled The Perpetual Motion Machine is out now with Red Hen Press, and her debut novel The Brittanys will be published with Vintage in 2021.