Shine Not Burn
Author:Elle Casey

Kelly was standing very still too, a confused expression coming over her face.


“You heard me,” said Candice, sounding very confident. “If you hold in your gas, if you don’t break wind, you can spontaneously combust.” She looked at us like we were the stupid ones. “It’s a medical fact, look it up.”


“Again. A reminder of how your talents were wasted by you not going into medicine.” I shook my head in sheer amazement. “Where did you learn this particular fact, may I ask?”


“Why are you asking?” asked Kelly, sighing. “You know you’re not going to like the answer.”


“If you must know, I saw it on Southpark,” said Candice, lifting her chin in the air.


“Southpark,” I deadpanned. I lifted up a finger and pantomimed cleaning out my ear. “We’re getting our scientific medical facts from Southpark episodes now?” Candice scared me often. This was one of those moments where I wondered how she got through a single day without getting herself run over by a car or a person on a bike. Or a toddler on a tricycle.


“Hey, say what you want, but they bring up a lot of real world situations on that show and deal with them in a way that gets people talking.” She pushed on my shoulder. “Now sit. I have magic to do here.” She lifted up a lock of my hair. “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”


“Desperate?” I said, feeling like I’d just fallen down the rabbit hole. Thank God she was better with hair than she was with medical knowledge or I’d be seriously screwed. I took another big swig of the firewater.


“Yes, desperate. With a capital D. You just got dumped by a dick-for-brains, you’re in Vegas,” she looked at her watch, “and it’s eight o’clock and you’re still sober.” She put her fingers on the bottom of my glass and pushed it towards my face. “Drink up, sister of my heart. Relax and let Candice the Great make you beautiful. We’re going to help you find a new man tonight. A hot one!” She giggled a little too crazily.


I put my hand out, taking Kelly’s fingers in mine. “Pray for me, Kells.”


“Our father who art in heaven…,” she said, drowning out the rest of her sentence with swallows of her drink. Her eyes crossed as the liquid burned its way down her throat, but that didn’t stop her from going for more of it just seconds later.


I closed my eyes and drank the rest of my cocktail and the second round of it that Kelly put in my glass, listening to the snip, snip, snip of Candice’s scissors near my ears. I prayed I wouldn’t look like Pink by the time she was done because I so looked like a little man when I had short hair.


My mind strayed to thoughts of Luke, the motions of Candice moving my hair around making me totally relaxed and zoned out. The cocktail might also have had something to do with that feeling of floating, but I didn’t fight it.


Why had I continued dating that turd after he’d given me the liposuction gift certificate? And the cheating thing? A kiss isn’t that big a deal, but I’d been thinking for a while that there’d been more than a kiss for him to confess. I’d never pushed him to tell me more because I hadn’t wanted to know the truth. Why? Because the truth would have messed up my plans. My crazy plans. Was I so dead set on seeing them to fruition that I’d force any old guy into the mold? Apparently so. How depressing. I hadn’t even told Kelly and Candice everything there was to tell about Luke. About all the times he made comments about my hips. About how he was always trying to convince me to go blonde and get a boob job. They hated him enough without me giving them more fuel for the fire. I felt like crying, thinking about how much of myself I’d lost over the last three years. I’d forgotten what it meant to be strong and spontaneous and fearless. I’d let Luke mow me over so that he wouldn’t leave me. So that we could still get married and have kids. God, how pitiful can I possibly be?


I was jerked out of my reverie by Candice’s proclamation. “And I’m spent!” she said, putting her scissors down on the table next to my chair. “Behold. The new and improved Andie Marks. Party Girl is in the hizzy house.”


“Party palace,” said Kelly, lifting up her drink. Her arm swayed a little unsteadily. “Party girl is in the party palace. This is a palace.” Her arm swept the space in front of her as she spun, making it unclear whether she was referring to the hotel room or Las Vegas itself.


I stood, a little unsteady on my feet. “Whoa. Dizzy.”


“Get her another drink,” said Candice, handing my glass to Kelly.


“One more cocktail, coming right up!” Kelly banged past my chair and into the hotel room.


“She’d better slow down or she’s going to burn out before the fun really gets going,” I said, stepping into the room behind her. “Am I supposed to dry this or something?” I asked, reaching up to feel my still-wet head.