Michaela had only drunk half of her beer when I arrived, but I could tell right away that something was wrong. Her eyes were already glazed, too quickly after half a drink; they didn’t roll quite smoothly in their sockets to focus on me as I squatted down beside her picnic blanket and wrapped an arm possessively around her. There was also something about the two boys’ expressions as I surveyed them, rearranging my features to hide the panic brewing in my stomach. The one on the left had a haircut à la Justin Bieber before he could sing. He dissolved his sneer into a lazy smile that made me want to hit him. The other boy was scruffy and sat in an awkward, folded-up position, his hands buried deep in his pockets.
Mostly, though, it was the smell, which I caught on her breath as she turned to stage-whisper in my ear, “I’m having a great time!” Michaela was too old to be hanging out with these dumb kids, too smart to be accepting drinks from strangers, but Michaela did whatever she wanted and telling her to stop triggered worse issues. I was grateful she’d had the presence of mind to text me that she was going to the park.
“Let’s get you out of here.”
The boys looked at each other, their faces telling me all I needed to know.
“No, Rachel, no, I’m not even… done!”
She brought the beer bottle up to her mouth and I grabbed it, unceremoniously sloshing the contents all over Michaela’s shirt and the elephant-shaped locket that always hung around her neck.
“Hey, what are you doing, man?” Justin Bieber cried out. The awkward one stood up.
“Yeah, what are you doing?” Michaela slurred, and she tried to pick up the drink again but her movements were not normal Michaela movements. Michaela the ballerina, who made even picking up dog poo look graceful.
“We’re out of here, Michaela.”
We were at the hospital fifteen minutes later, Michaela gulping big breaths of air like she was drowning. “The drink was laced with something like GHB,” the doctor said, even though I already knew. “We’ll have to run further tests to understand exactly which drug.” He’d asked a lot of stupid questions, like whether the boys tried to give us any pills “that looked like Rockets candy”, but I told him Michaela wasn’t that self-destructive.
Sitting on the ground beside Michaela’s hospital bed, I plotted revenge. I considered solutions: Hunt the idiots down and drag them to the police. Inject them with something worse and see how they enjoy it. Force them to sit through a course on empathy.
Michaela would be fine. But I wondered about all the girls out there who weren’t, and the anger burned in me like a fire.