How To Make Yourself A Monster
by Jennifer-Oksana

The words wouldn't stop echoing in Lilah's head.

"In case the queen is unable to fulfill her duties, the first runner-up will assume the title and responsibilities of--"

Fucking rich bitches. Thought they were all so goddamn great, all of them with their attitudes and daddy's money and mommy's valium and vodka stash and ski trips to Aspen and summers in Italy and football team boyfriends.

The world was not fair. She knew and accepted that, but there was a limit. She was just as smart and pretty as the pampered princesses, and she had deserved to win. Of course, when the winner's daddy is the guy in town who is the town, deserved doesn't mean all that fucking much.

But Lilah needed the money, needed it a lot more than some rich girl who was going to use it to pay for her sorority. The title could go fuck itself; who wanted to be Miss Modesto 1986? It wasn't like she was trying to be a professional beauty queen or anything stupid like that. It was just a way to earn money, money she needed and Miss Modesto 1986 did not. And if nothing else, Lilah was pretty. Everyone admitted that.

"I heard," and fuck, fuck, fuck. Kadey. "I heard she did a little private dance for the judges--and she still couldn't win."

She was going to ignore her. Screw Kadey. Kadey snorted so much it was a miracle she wasn't gushing blood from the nose all the fucking time. If it weren't for the part where everyone followed Kadey around because she had the killer instinct, Lilah would pretend Kadey didn't exist. She was better than this. None of them could do what she could do, not with the smile she managed to keep on her face.

4.0 GPA, fourth in her class, 1380 SAT, picture editor on the yearbook, regular service for Catholic charities in town, four years of track, two as a varsity starter. All while working thirty hours a week and making sure Mom didn't realize she didn't have friends or date. She tried to think of that. She was getting the hell out of here. In two months, she'd be in North Carolina and these girls would be stuck here. Forever.

Forever forever forever, married to alcoholic husbands who hit with a bunch of stupid, fat kids who shot at cans for fun. They would all die wishing they were her.

"Hey, Morgan!"

"What?" and shit, that was a mistake that only happened because she'd been on her feet since six this morning and it was going on eleven-thirty at night.

"Did you swallow?"

She'd had to sell her car--an avocado green 1975 Ford Pinto, so no big loss--to pay the shortfall between her scholarship and the cost of Duke. Expected Family Contribution, EFC, money Lilah didn't have, and no matter what she explained to her guidance counselor about Harold, it never sunk in. oh honey i'm sure once you explain...

Lilah had explained. Exactly once. And Harold had consequently made it very clear that she wasn't his daughter and she wasn't getting a fucking penny. Except she was being claimed as a dependent on taxes until she was twenty-three or he'd make sure Mom felt it.

On the bad days--and lately, they'd all been bad days--she thought about how easy it would be to kill people.

Starting with Kadey. Maybe moving on to Miss Modesto 1986 herself, Rebecca. Rebecca, who wasn't unpretty, who Lilah would have liked to be friends with, and who was laughing just as hard as the rest of the girls, who were incongruously still in sequined evening gowns as they smoked up, did a couple of lines, and sneered at the white trash princess in their midst.

"Screw you," Lilah said under her breath. Harold had guns. Lots of guns. Well, a BB gun, two hunting rifles, the .45, and maybe the replica Colt still worked. Pop pop pop pop, pretty little dead beauty queens all in a row. Or she could do like Carrie and kill everyone at the prom. Of course, for that to work, she'd have to be telekinetic and want to die, too. Also, she'd have to have a date for prom.

No, no, and no. Also, no. That wasn't how she operated. Lilah knew she was going to be okay soon enough, once she got the hell out of this fucking town, and she didn't need to do more than dream. She could turn the other cheek until both were sore, because she was getting out.

"Did you hear me?" Kadey snapped. "I'm talking to you!"

"I heard you," Lilah said evenly. "What do you want? I lost. It's over. Don't you have three grams of coke to inhale before you get date raped at a local kegger?"

"At least I ain't givin' it up to my stepdaddy, the judges, and every guy who hands me a dollar," Kadey said. "Does your mommy know her little Catholic schoolgirl princess fucks for money?"

There was no answer that was a good answer.

"Excuse me," Lilah replied, standing up and turning to go.

"Fucking answer me, Morgan," Kadey said, barring her way. Lilah was at least four inches taller than her and probably tougher, but Kadey had a crazy look in her eye. "Are you a whore or not?"

"Does it matter what I say? Either way, you think I'm a whore," Lilah said. "You're fucking high, Kadey. Get out of my way before I ruin that vision in aqua taffeta. What were you, wasted when you picked that thing, too? At least in the trailer park, we have some taste."

That was going to cost Lilah, but at least she'd managed to say it. Kadey's insults were rubbing off, and Lilah was nothing if she wasn't a quick study.

"Come on, Kadey," one of the other girls said. Rebecca, Lilah's brain supplied. Rebecca in her pink sequins and rhinestone tiara. "This is getting boring. Let's go already."

Neither Kadey nor Lilah moved a muscle. Lilah didn't blink. This was by far going to end up being the worst day of her life, but she wasn't going to do this. She wasn't going to say she was a whore. Not after five years of making sure Harold never touched her. Fuck that.

"Not until this fucking whore tells me how good it is when she takes it hard from dear ol' dad," Kadey said. "Come on. I saw you."

"Get out of my way, Kadey," Lilah said again, her stomach quivering. "If you don't move, I'm going to hit you."

"Like, Kadey?" Rebecca suddenly said loudly. "Who fucking cares if this fucking slut fucks her dad or not? Like, whatever. We all know, whatever the fuck she says. Jay's going to be at the party and I mean, if I miss him, I'm going to totally gag. We're so totally going now."

Lilah, who had managed to spend two months being Kadey's favorite target without so much as flinching, turned away, shrank, and found herself sobbing noisily. Kadey snorted and pushed past, elbowing Lilah in the kidney as hard as she could. Everyone else followed silently. Except Rebecca.

"Jesus, stop crying," Rebecca said, pulling a Kleenex out of the front of her dress. "I didn't mean it. Stop being such a pussy. You know she'd leave you alone if you weren't so damn pathetic."

With that, Miss Modesto 1986 walked off, leaving her first-runner up to stare down at the floor for a good minute before throwing up violently on the linoleum and ruining a perfectly useless dress in the process.

Lilah realized that Rebecca was right about ten minutes later, red-eyed and swollen, her mother's arm over her shoulders as they walked toward the station wagon, Harold grumbling about her clearly being drunk as hell, and a screaming headache between her eyes. She was pathetic. Weak. Everyone knew Lilah really wanted to fit in and be liked like all the other girls. The whole above-it-all act was just that, an act.

"Are you sad, honey?" her mother asked. "You shouldn't be sad. You're prettier than that other girl, the girl who won. I bet she isn't going to Duke like my girl is, either."

"I'm not sad, mom," Lilah said softly. The revelation had sort of paralyzed her, leaving her feeling weirdly calm. She was a loser. Eighteen years old and a total loser. "Just kind of tired."

"Yeah, I bet. Cuz standing around wearing that thing and shaking your T&A, that's hard work," Harold said, noisily lighting one of his cigars.

She could be anyone. Because it didn't matter who she was. Lilah Jean Morgan, virgin, honor student, athlete, yearbook maven, all-around nice girl, almost-beauty-queen. No one cared. She was pathetic. She could be anything she wanted to be because all that she was didn't register with anyone at all.

It was almost as if she didn't exist. She could do anything, because no one here remembered her already. At her ten-year reunion, no one would recognize her, or recall if she'd been the daddy-fucking whore or the yearbook nerd who was almost Miss Modesto.

Anything was possible, as long as Lilah stopped being so damn pathetic.

"Language, Harold."

"Ah, I'm just messin' with her, Suzie," Harold said, giving Lilah an unfriendly leer. "You know that, don't you, Lily Jean?"

Of course she knew. She was well aware that Harold always wanted to mess with her.

"Sure," Lilah said, watching the smoke curl out of his lips. "You know, if you keep smoking those things with your cholesterol and blood pressure, you're going to have a heart attack."

One of these days. Poor Harold, working so hard to raise an unruly stepdaughter and keep his Jesus freak of a wife away from the bingo tables. All that fatty food, all those cheap cigars and cheaper beer. It was really a pity.

They'd find him sitting there in his favorite armchair, the stinky striped one he'd never let Lilah get rid of, even though it gave Mom headaches all the time, looking like he was watching the TV. Slumped a little, maybe, with his eyes closed. The beer next to him, a last cigar stumped out in the ashtray.

Dead of a heart attack. He probably wouldn't even feel it.

Poor Mom, she'd be devastated. Lilah would have to be there for her--it would just be Mom and her again, like it had been before Mom had married Harold six years ago. They'd have to be strong for each other.

Such a horrible thing to happen at Christmas. The insurance money would help. It would make sure Lilah's school was paid for--so thoughtful of Harold to do such a thing. He had always been so kind to Lilah, really. Loved her like she was his own.

"Mind your own goddamn business," Harold replied. "Why aren't you out with the other girls at a party, anyway? Didn't they ask you to come along?"

"I don't really like those girls," Lilah said. "They're snobby and they do too many drugs. One of these days, someone's going to have an accident."

And she could just see that, Kadey swearing she hadn't had too much to drink, that she hadn't meant to drive off the side of the road, but Rebecca had been screaming so loud because Miss Modesto's royal coke had been laced with PCP, and she'd just jumped out of the moving car in front of that tractor trailer, crying and yelling like a crazy person.

It would be a tragedy, one of those awful accidents that happen over Labor Day, right when Lilah was on a plane on her way to a better life. She'd cry when Mom called and told her that Rebecca had died on the way to the hospital, and she'd really mean it, too. Rebecca had such a bright future ahead of her, and it was all over because of drugs. How could some crazy person do that to someone as lovely and popular as Rebecca? And what would her parents do?

They'd send her the crown just in time for Rush. And Lilah would tell all the girls at the house about what Rebecca had had to do to get it, and how she, Lilah, just wouldn't do that sort of thing.

Poor Rebecca.

"That's my good girl," her mother said. "Come on, let's go home. We have a cake waiting for you, baby. German chocolate!"

"I love you, Mom," Lilah said gratefully, the smile still fixed on her face. And she did.

And it was all going to be okay.


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