When Madison S. didn’t show up to school, and word got around that it was because her boyfriend threw his phone at her mouth and knocked out four of her teeth, the junior girls of Clark High turned into monsters. Taloned, screaming things driven by rage and revenge. We swarmed her boyfriend, Josh C., by his car after school, and though he tried to beat us off with his lacrosse stick, our numbers were too great, our sisterhood too mighty. Soon there was nothing left of him but the lacrosse stick and four teeth, which we delivered to Madison to show her that justice had been done.
Or that’s what I wish happened. The truth is much lamer. Because the truth is that the junior girls of Clark High definitely did not form a united front against the patriarchy. When word got around that Madison S. said Josh C. threw his phone at her while they were arguing, some girls said there’s no way that happened and Madison S. probably hurt herself practicing for field hockey, since she was kind of sucking this season. Some girls wondered if you could even throw an iPhone hard enough to knock out teeth, and also Josh C. would never throw his phone; he loved that thing. And he was such a nice guy. He always gave both Madison S. and Hannah W. a ride home after field hockey. And he did volunteer tutoring hours every day after school, which yes may have been mostly for college apps, but he was so nice about explaining why X equaled 3.
Some girls said maybe he did hurt her, but Madison S. shouldn’t have been dating an older guy, anyway. A senior? Who did she think she was? And it was rumored they had slept together. She had slept with her last boyfriend, too. Some girls did believe her story and did want Josh C. to fall in a well, but I’ve been told I have Daddy Issues, so I never trust men anyway. Some girls wanted to wait until they got all the facts before forming an opinion either way. After all, it was a he-said she-said scenario, even if Josh C. definitely did have a broken phone and Madison S. definitely wasn’t at school. When someone asked him how he broke it he said he tried to gently toss it to Madison, so she could add her pizza toppings, and she dropped it. He said he didn’t know how she hurt herself. A lot of the girls believed him, because who would lie about something like that?
So on Monday, with rumors flying, I sat at the lunch table with my friends and wished there was some way I could help Madison S. We weren’t friends, just barely acquaintances. I wasn’t the type of girl who played sports or was friends with people who played sports. My friends were in band and theater and I personally didn’t believe in after-school activities. It would have been weird to go over to her house after school, and I didn’t have her phone number. So I just sat there and ate my peanut butter and jelly and listened to Ashley tell her boyfriend, Chris, that she was so grateful for him while Chris said he was sure it wasn’t actually that big a deal, that the rumor mill was making it seem worse than it was. And Alexis said she couldn’t imagine being in love with someone who hurt her. My sandwich was hard to swallow.
And then Madison S. showed up to school the next day with four fangs replacing her front teeth.
I just mentioned the Daddy Issues because I think it’s only fair that you know I’m an unreliable narrator. We just learned about unreliable narrators in English while reading The Sound and the Fury. So I thought you should know about my trust issues, and also a lot of this story was overheard or pieced together from rumors and subtweets, so you can take it or leave it. I’m not gonna tell you what happened with my dad. I tell everyone he’s dead.
Anyway. Madison S. came to school Tuesday with four fangs: two on the top, two on the bottom. They were just a little longer than the rest of her teeth, but sharp and deadly-looking. When she smiled, which she didn’t that day, they weren’t always immediately noticeable because they fit into each other and didn’t leave any gaps in her smile. But even if you didn’t notice them right away, the hairs on the back of your neck would stand up in a small-animal-instinct kind of way. She couldn’t remember what they were made out of, but it was something strong. The dentist said it would take a lot more than a phone to knock her new sharp teeth out. She looked beautiful.
We should have lined up outside the dentist’s office the moment school got out. We should have all jumped at the opportunity to level the playing field a little, to bite back. But most of the junior girls still didn’t really believe Madison S.’s story. It was much easier for them to believe that she was a lying slut than that a boy you loved could overhand throw an iPhone 7 Plus with a shatter-proof case on it at your face so hard that, when it collided with your mouth, it split your lip and knocked out four teeth. It was much easier to believe in attention-seeking girls than in trust-shattering boys. And maybe I was kind-of jealous of them. Jealous that they still believed the people you loved wouldn’t hurt you.
I didn’t approach Madison S. on Tuesday. I should have, maybe, to tell her I believed her and I liked her fangs, but I felt weird and awkward. Since we weren’t friends, I didn’t want to make her feel weird, too. The worst thing was sympathy from strangers. So instead of talking to her I just glared at anyone who talked shit about her. My glares are pretty intimidating, if I do say so myself. When I got home from school I told my mom all about it, and she snorted when I got to the part about Madison S.’s fangs.
“Good for fuckin’ her,” Mom said. She’s great. “If you ever wanna go get fangs of your own, just let me know.”
“Maybe,” I said.
But the truth was I wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit to sharp teeth. I respected Madison S. for them, but they were also like a flashing sign that read “damaged.” Everyone already knew about Josh C. but no one knew about my dad. We had moved to a different state to make sure of that. If I got fangs people would wonder why. So I wasn’t the first girl to follow Madison S.’s footsteps.
Samantha A. and Sarah B. were at the mall Saturday afternoon when they noticed three older men kept looking at them while they slurped milkshakes at the food court. They noticed the men again as they left H&M. Then again when they left Forever 21. They were being followed. They had been planning on hitting a few more stores, but they were creeped out now. With the men following them a couple store lengths’ behind, they found a security guard and told him what was happening. The security guard said he couldn’t do anything since the men technically hadn’t done anything. Maybe it was just a coincidence that they seemed to be following Samantha A. and Sarah B. It was a small mall, after all. He’d walk them to their car, though. They sighed and decided not to argue that it wasn’t fair that they were the ones who had to leave and had the security guard walk them to Samantha A.’s car, where they drove straight to the dentist’s office.
Samantha A. and Sarah B. came to school Monday with fangs. They were like Madison S.’s, sharp and deadly-looking, but they had chosen to get just their top canines replaced, so they looked kind of like Twilight groupies. I sat next to Sarah B. in physics so she told me the whole story while we worked on gravity formulas. She said next time some creepy man followed her she thought she could scare him off with her teeth. That the teeth were better than pepper spray or those keychains that looked like cats but were brass knuckles. I nodded, hoping she was right. She said they weren’t actually full teeth, not like Madison S.’s, that they were just caps, and it didn’t hurt at all. She was recommending them to every girl she met, she said.
And her recommendation worked. Abigail M. got them the next week. Four fangs instead of her top front teeth. No one knew why she got them, and she wouldn’t say why, only that she liked them. Alexis had band with Abigail M. and said Abigail was really nice about it but just kept saying the new teeth made her feel safe. That was all anyone deserved to know, anyway.
Then Olivia got them that Friday. She had more caps added than anyone, four on top and four on bottom. She said the final straw was getting beat up by three senior boys on her way home from school, again. It was the only surgery her parents would let her have, since they’d only barely agreed to hormone inhibitors. With makeup covering her black eye, Olivia bared her new sharp teeth for me at our lockers after school and said she almost hoped those fucking boys would call her the t-word again. Her eyes were like sparklers. I hugged her and offered to walk home from school with her. She agreed, and when we got to the corner where the boys were waiting she smiled wide and fierce. The boys scattered, shouting “Freak!” over their shoulders. We shouted the worst curse words we knew back at them until our insults turned silly and we started laughing. It felt like a victory. I bought Olivia a slushie at the gas station and my mom picked me up from her house.
Jessica P. getting fangs was the real turning point. Jessica P. had been homecoming queen both Sophomore and Junior year and was probably going to be prom queen, too. Her house was twice the size of anyone else’s at Clark High, and she got a brand new SUV the moment she got her license. She had a boyfriend who had never thrown a phone at her, to the best of my knowledge.
She had both sets of canines replaced, but she didn’t look like a wannabe vampire at all. More like an actual vampire, deadly and not to be fucked with. Before the fangs, she had already walked like she was untouchable, and with them, she seemed to glide through the halls as people made way for her. When people asked her why she got them she shrugged and tossed her long silky hair.
“It seemed like the thing to do,” she said, and winked. I knew she was friends with Madison S., so I wondered if the fangs were in solidarity. On her, they weren’t a flashing “damaged” sign. They flashed “dangerous.” But then I remembered the rumors that had been flying just as I transferred to Clark High the year before, about a teacher who had been fired and no one knew why. Jessica P. had been one of his favorite students.
Now that Jessica P. had made them cool, more girls got fangs. At least a dozen more junior girls headed to the dentist. Some got just their canines, some just one random tooth. A few boys complained that they made girls look weird, but the same boys also complained about how mom jeans weren’t hot and it’s not like we stopped wearing them. In homeroom, I overheard Jake M. and Ethan T. complaining about the fangs, how they were ugly, so I leaned over and said, “Like either of you idiots wouldn’t still go out with Jessica P. if she even looked in your direction,” and they told me to shut up but from the way their ears turned pink I knew I was right.
Some girls’ parents couldn’t afford fangs, or wouldn’t let their daughters get them. So Kaitlyn H., who won a district-wide art competition last year, bought a bunch of cheap plastic Halloween vampire fangs online and revamped them with molding clay and non-toxic paint. She also cut them so you could still talk normally while wearing them, and started charging girls twenty bucks for them. She sold out in the first week and had to order more. I bought a pair, to try out. I locked the bathroom door at home, put them on and made faces at myself in the mirror for a long time. They felt heavy. And I didn’t know if they’d actually do any damage if I bit someone, or if that even mattered because if it got to the point of biting you were already in trouble, anyway. I wasn’t sure if it would have mattered or not, having fangs. If Madison S. had had them, Josh C. might have still hurt her; her teeth just wouldn’t have fallen out. I’d have Daddy Issues with or without fangs. The plastic teeth in my mouth felt like a bad costume, one that didn’t make me look or feel like someone else. Someone not damaged.
So I took them off and went down to dinner and told Mom about Kaitlyn H.’s thriving new business, but not that I’d bought a pair.
“Maybe I should get some. Whaddaya think, am I too old and uncool for fangs?” she said, smiling.
“Moms don’t need fangs,” I said and we were both quiet for a moment, wishing it was true.
“Yeah, we don’t. We have claws,” Mom said, and reached under the table and scratched my leg with her weirdly long and fast-growing pinky toenail that I tell her is an embarrassment whenever she wears open-toed shoes. I laughed and jumped and tried to scratch her back and she scratched me again with her other foot and we ended up finishing dinner still giggling, sitting cross-legged in our chairs so neither could reach the other.
In the better version of this story, more and more junior girls would get fangs until we all had them, a horde of sharp-toothed teens. We would visit Josh C.’s house in the night, the moonlight glinting off our smiles, and get revenge for Madison. Then we’d track down the men who followed Samantha and Sarah at the mall, then the boys who had given Olivia a black eye, then the ex-teacher. We’d ruin anyone who ever hurt us. The blood of our enemies would turn us into something new, some sort of untouchable, unknowable creatures, no longer just girls.
But here’s the crappy, truthful version: no one really got revenge. The ex-teacher got a job at a Best Buy one town over. The bullies grew up and maybe grew out of their bigotry, or maybe they just became better at hiding it. The men who followed two sixteen-year-olds around for three hours did the same thing the next week, and the week after that. Someone, maybe me, keyed Josh C.’s car, but that was it. Madison and her parents didn’t want to press charges. Madison formed a support group for victims of domestic violence, and some of the girls who joined had fangs, and some didn’t. The junior girls of Clark High still talk shit about each other, but in a gentler way. There’s more talk about bad hair and less about sleeping around. I think most of them believe Madison now.
Alexis and Ashley both got fangs. Ashley said her boyfriend Chris was super into them. Alexis said they made her scary and then she snarled at me and we both laughed. They did look like the same girls, my friends, just with sharp teeth and a dash more confidence. But I liked the idea of scary, not scared. I went home and told my mom I’d like to go to the dentist.
I got my front two teeth capped. You can only see them when I smile, but I like the looks I get from strangers. It does make me feel stronger. Still damaged, I guess, but that’s okay. I’m more shatter-proof now.
We’re still just girls.