EXCERPT | Taken From "Bunny"

by Mona Awad

I am staring into the eyes of the one I call Cupcake. Because she looks like a cupcake. Dresses like a cupcake. Gives off a scent of baked lemony sugar. Pretty in a way that reminds you of frosting flourishes. Not the forest green and electric blue horrors in the supermarket, but the pastel kind that is used at weddings or tasteful Easter gatherings. She looks so much like a cupcake that when I first met her at orientation, 
I had a very real desire to eat her. Bite deeply into her white shoulder. Dig a fork in her cheek. Tonight, she wears a dress 
of cerulean blue patterned with sinuous white clouds and one of her many matchy cardigans. Blond hair freshly flat-ironed. Lips shiny but colorless because lipstick is for whores, Bunny, I have heard her say and I really couldn’t tell if she was joking or dead serious. Glinty pearls around her neck that she never takes off. She’ll often gently tug on them in Workshop while reading aloud from her work—the most recent iteration of which was postfeminist dialogues between herself and various kitchen implements.

I think she’s going to greet me like she usually does, like I’m an unfortunate patch of gray sky from which she should soon take cover, or a tall, mildly disease-ridden tree—it is so sad and creepy about my bare and unseemly branches. Normally if she and I catch sight of one another in the halls or around campus, she’ll draw her Christopher Robin cardigan closer, clutch her books tightly to her chest as though, tut, tut! Looks like rain. Oh, hi, Samantha, she’ll say, looking around at anything like it might be a buoy that will save her from the fact of me standing right in front of her. A telephone pole in the distance. A gnat only she can see. Frankly, I don’t know what I did to get on the wrong side of Cupcake. Perhaps she sensed my hunger when we first met and has understandably kept her distance.

But tonight, Cupcake smiles at me. Her pink-and-white face lights up. “Samantha, hi!” As if she’s actually delighted to see me. I’m a jewel-colored cardigan. I’m a first edition of The Bell Jar. I’m a marzipan squirrel. I’m a hairdresser who knows exactly, exactly, how to handle her carefully undertucked bob of golden hair.

So glad you could make it. Bunnies! Look who’s here! She came!”

SHE TAKES MY HAND—ACTUALLY TAKES MY HAND—AND LEADS ME INTO her giant living room, which is what I pictured and not what I pictured. Lots of soft, lush, cushiony fabrics. Ceilings that stretch up and up and up. A white fireplace in which she has placed a vase full of delicate pink blossoms. They’re all sitting around a candlelit coffee table as though they’ve been kept waiting for a guest. Creepy Doll, aka Kira. Vignette, aka Victoria. And of course, the Duchess, who in another life is merely Eleanor. On my way over, I’d envisioned various nightmare scenarios of what awaited me. I feared they might be naked, reclined on whimsical furniture out of Alice 
in Wonderland. Or else in pastel lingerie, using Anaïs Nin erotica as fans. Massaging each other to the music of Stereolab. Obscure yet erudite porn projected on some massive screen. Reading sex manifestos from the seventies using pastel dildos as mics. A tiered tray of erotically themed cupcakes, I had no idea. But instead, they’re just sitting in a circle like it’s Workshop, wearing their usual clothes, notebooks clutched in their laps like purses. Normally when I enter Workshop, they give me tightfisted Hi’s, little upward jerks of their lips, making me feel, as I take my seat, like a portentous fog has somehow settled into the room. But this time they’re all looking at me and smiling like I’m the actual sun. Smiling with the whole of their mouths and eyes.

“Samantha!” Creepy Doll gasps. “You’re here. We thought you got lost or something.”

Lost? I look into the amber eyes of the one I call Creepy Doll. Because she reminds me of the creepy dolls I used to want when I was little, with their saucer eyes and their velvet dresses, their Shirley Temple curls of blood red hair and their Cupid’s-bow lips molded into little pink oh!’s of wonder at the world. Writes fairy tales about girl demons, wolf princes, the cozy phantasmagoria of her native New Hampshire. Collects antique typewriters, each of which she claims has its own unique “ghost energy” that she channels into her stories as she types, head tilted back, eyes closed. She is the literal doll-pet of the other Bunnies. Sits curled in their skirted laps like a cat. Purrs when they pet her, makes hissing sounds when they stop. Her voice is the feathery baby voice of children in horror films. I have heard that same voice go down about five octaves when she thinks she is alone, become deep
as a well. Out of all of them, she is the first to usually extend a social hand to me in the form of a random troll emoji, or a last minute invite to places they already are.

Hi Samantha, We’re having bento boxes. You’re welcome to join ☺

She’s also the only Bunny who attempts to talk to me at social functions. She’ll come up to me and ask me questions like little digging hooks and while I’m answering, she’ll nod and murmur cool while her eyes flit from side to side. Like she is a child who has dared herself to knock on Boo Radley’s door, and now that he’s opened it she isn’t sure what to do, should she run?

From BUNNY by Mona Awad, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Mona Awad.

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Issue 166
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