Undead Girl Gang

Undead Girl Gang

Lily Anderson


THE PROBLEM WITH your best friend dying is that there’s no one to sit with you at funerals.

It’s not the number one problem. Obviously, my best friend’s bloated, waterlogged corpse being lowered into the earth for the rest of eternity is currently at the top of my list of Emotionally Debilitating Things That Will Take the Rest of My Life to Recover From.

But sharing my pew with strangers while Ms. Chu, the principal of Fairmont Academy, drones on and on definitely ranks high on the list of reasons why my friend being murdered is the pits.

Everyone is crying. It’s standing room only for a sea of red-eyed, sniffling Fairmont Falcons. Their bodies are pressed to the familiar floral yellow wallpaper of the Greenway Funeral Home’s reception room, their hair ruffled by the dusty air the heater is pushing through the ceiling vents.

The girl who slut-shamed Riley for dating a senior last year.

The guy who punted Riley’s lunch across the quad just to prove he could.

The girl who slapped Riley in the face for cutting in line for class schedules.

The Nouns clique.

The principal’s stepson.

The sole reporter for the Fairmont Academy newspaper.

All crying. Wailing. Stifling sobs into each other’s shoulders. Eyes puffy to the point of closing. Snot ropes trailing from noses to sleeves. Mouths twisted into grotesque gargoyle shapes. The video montage of Riley from birth to sixteen really broke them, despite the fact that none of them were in the pictures. None of them were her friends.

To be fair, they did have a pretty long dress rehearsal for this the day before yesterday.

I hug my jacket closer to my chest, pressing my cheek to the denim collar. I’ve cried so much in the last forty-eight hours I think my organs have started to shrivel. My face is numb. I’m sure people have noticed. The people sitting nearest me—Riley’s second or third cousins and some members of her parents’ church—must be wondering why the fat girl is glaring at the front of the room instead of weeping prettily with everyone else. They’ll think I’m an asshole, not understanding that I’ve spent two days screaming myself hoarse. That my eyes ache from use.

Two days is a long time when you can’t sleep or eat because remembering that your best friend is gone slams into you whenever you think you’re safe from it.

“Now more than ever, the community of Cross Creek must look to its young people,” says Ms. Chu, the words leaden with politician-like fake gravitas. She even gives a soft, wagging fist with it, her thumb pointing toward the front row of mourners. “We must do more than see their struggle. We must hear them with open ears. Fairmont Academy will lead by example. The Fairmont family will not allow harm to come to another of our own. We will do everything we can to preserve the memory of Riley Greenway . . .”

Open ears are not a thing. Neither is the “Fairmont family,” come to think of it. Fairmont is about as bloodthirsty as an artsy charter school can be.

But that’s problem number three—behind Riley being dead and me sitting alone. No one believes that my best friend was murdered.

Despite our town being named after its twin bodies of water, no one in Cross Creek actually goes near the creeks. They’re disgusting pits of algae and giardia. So when Riley’s body was discovered floating and bloodied at the right fork of the creek, I knew something shady happened to her. If nothing else, Riley would never risk her dye job with creek water. She lived in fear of her bleached-blond locks turning even kind of greenish and avoided all non-shower water as a result. She wouldn’t even use conditioner that wasn’t opaque.

More importantly, Riley and I had already squished together in the back pew of the funeral home this week. June Phelan-Park and Dayton Nesseth, two of Fairmont Academy’s most notable and obnoxious, hanged themselves in the park on Saturday night. Since Riley’s dad is the town funeral director and June was Riley’s brother’s ex, we got guilted into going to their service. Double suicide, double funeral. Tragic as fuck.

But also kind of a scene-stealer if you were Riley and planning an outdoor suicide of your own.

I’m not trying to be glib or heartless about it, but really: Why would Riley let herself get lumped in with June and Dayton’s honor society suicide pact? Riley was a lot of things, but copycat was not one of them.

“And now,” Ms. Chu wraps up, inclining her head, “Riley’s brother, Alexander Greenway, would like to say a few words.”

Mr. and Mrs. Greenway did not invite me to speak at today’s memorial. I’m pretty sure that my mom warned them about my “feelings” about Riley’s death—i.e., the murder thing. It’s easier for everyone to blame Fairmont Academy, to put the weight of tragedy on academic pressures and stress, the uptick in antianxiety prescriptions in the student body. And maybe that’s why June and Dayton decided that they couldn’t hack it on this plane of existence anymore—they were both involved in way too many extracurriculars, and all their friends were trash people. They were on the fast track to peaking in high school.

But that wasn’t Riley. Riley breezed through Fairmont. Last year, she literally slept through twenty minutes of her history final, woke up, and jotted down an A-plus paper.

She didn’t need a way out. She would have told me if she did. I’m sure of it.

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