After the tenth shot, Giant said we had to run.

“Fuck no,” I said. This wasn’t what we’d practiced. I pictured Laura and Quinn and Danisha barricaded in Ms. Kellin’s classroom, prepared to use pencils and rulers as weapons. Why had I gone to the bathroom?

Giant threw open the door. Bang. Bang. Bang. Screams. I ran ahead. The broom closet. I motioned for Giant to follow me in. I couldn’t believe it when he actually did. We were so close I could feel his breath on my cheek. This boy, Giant, the one who’d kneed me in the nuts for doing cartwheels with Jessica during gym. Giant was crying. I was crying, too. We’d done drills. I never thought it’d be real.

Giant’s breathing got louder. Bang. Bang. Bang.

“I’ve gotta get out of here,” he whispered. “I don’t care what happens.”

But I cared. Mom said she’d be out in time for Christmas. We were going to be a real family again.

“You gotta chill, bro,” I said, using his kind of words, hoping to calm his six-foot body down until it was safe for us to leave. Giant reached for the doorknob.  I grabbed hold of his wrist, the same wrist that had a hand attached to it, a hand that had rammed into my cheek yesterday because of my purple nail polish.

I dug my purple-polished nails into his flesh. I said, “What kind of animal would you like to be?”

I could see his eyes in the darkness.

“Come on,” I said. He gulped air.

“A puma,” he whispered back.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Piss trickled down my thighs.

“What’s your favorite soda?” I asked, my teeth chattering.

“Dr. Pepper.”

“Would you rather die in a fire or drown?”


“Me, too.” The last time Mom took too much, the 911 operator told me to keep her talking.

“Ask me another question,” Giant whispered. “Please.”

“What are you gonna be when you grow up?” Mom had started crying when I asked this. She never answered.

There was a pause and then Giant said, “Army sergeant…what about you?”

Didn’t he remember my performance? How I’d done my best pirouette for the entire school? Gotten a standing ovation? Received flowers?

Steps. Screams. Steps.

“Principal ballerina,” I whispered. “With the New York City Ballet.”

I couldn’t feel my fingertips. My whole body vibrated.

The steps got closer.

We were still breathing. I could hear our breaths. I covered our mouths with my hands.