Vanity Fair by RL Goldberg

Jin’s walk-in closet is maybe as big as my bedroom. We sit on the floor, Indian style, and try on her shoes. They are organized by color, lined up on the shelves. She picks a pair of brown ones and says, “These are called Wallabees and everyone cool wears them. I can’t believe you don’t even have a single pair.”

I say, “My mom buys sneakers that are stylish and athletic so I only get one pair.”

Jin slips her bare feet into the suede shoes. They have large, rounded toe-boxes. They look orthopedic. She says, “You can have these.”

I say, “Really?”

She says, “I have like, five pairs.”

Jin hands me the brown shoes. There is pale green gum stuck to the rubber sole of the left shoe. I poke it with the tip of my left pinkie finger. It is barely tacky. I say, “It’s okay. Thanks, though.”

I am afraid her mother will see me carry them from the house and think I am stealing them.

Jin says, “That was a test. To see if you’d take them.”

I say, “Oh.”

Jin says, “I basically already figured you out. I am an expert at reading people.”

In front of her mirror, we try on different belts. Some have large metal buckles with bullhorns or rodeo motifs. Some are heel rollers. Jin tears flared jeans from the hangers and leaves them rumpled on the ground. She says, “Cheesecake will fold them later,” and I don’t want to ask who Cheesecake is because Jin says Cheesecake as if I should know who or what it is.

We are listening to the radio. The deejay is playing Dixie Chicks. Jin’s window is open. There is not a cloud in the sky. Her brother, Collins, is playing in the pool. Jin brags, “It’s a salt-water system, not chlorine.”

Each time Collins jumps in he shouts, “Major air!” before we hear the splash. Jin is swaying to the music on the radio. She is wearing a halter-top. She says, “Be a doll and undo this for me, will you?”

She is holding her long hair in both hands above her nape so I can untie the knot.

Jin pulls the halter-top around her stomach. Her nipples are bare. She says, “Look at my buds.”

I say, “Nice.”

Jin says, “Let me see yours.”

At night, I sleep on my stomach to flatten them out so mine don’t grow. I think it’s working. Mine are at least smaller than Jin’s. I say, “I don’t have any.”

Jin says, “Do you like, iron your chest?”

She doesn’t put her top back on. She says, “Come sit on my roof.”

Jin’s bedroom is on the second floor. I poke my head from her window. Her roof is slanted, but not steep. The tiles are the color of cigarette ash. The pool is visible many yards away, located centrally in the backyard. Collins is getting a running start for his next cannonball. Jin pushes me aside and says, “Like this.”

She slides through the open window, legs first. I say, “Aren’t you worried about anyone seeing you without a shirt?”

“Stop being such a prude.”

I’m not as graceful as Jin when I climb onto the roof. Red silky thongs are balled in the gutter. I say, “Why are those out here?”

“So Cheesecake doesn’t find them.”


“Cheesecake is our cleaner. She lives with us. If she finds them she’d tell my mom. She pretty much finds everything.”

“Would your mom get mad?”

She puts her hand over mine. She massages the web between my index finger and thumb. We listen to Shania Twain. Jin squeezes my pressure point. By the pool, Jin’s mom tells Collins to shower before supper. He asks what they’re having. Jin’s mom says they’re having steak.

Jin stares at the paved walkway below the slanted roof. I am ready to crawl back into Jin’s room. She says, “Push me.”

I don’t answer her; Jin is chewing on her lips. Her nipples are hard. Collins jumps three more times.

Jin says, “This isn’t a test, Rachael. Push me. Now. Now. Push me.”