“Unity Orders” by Kate Simonian
Hot stuff. Just-what-the-doctor-Orders. Five-foot-ten at twelve-and-a-half years old, with a body to be reckoned with, a body with curves we had just learned to describe as convex. Unity would have been memorable for her name alone—a sentence unto itself, one teacher said—but over the summer she’d developed a larger-than-life sex drive to boot. Libido had left her crooked. Her lazy eye had got lazier, as if set free in her body’s general riot. Still, Unity was the prettiest girl with a not-normal eye I knew.
At lunch times, Unity lay on the benches with her skirt yanked up, thighs juicy like two burnt offerings. We watched with fascination. How, when a male staff member finally walked past, he’d stop, his ears pinking hard. There would be something in his voice—Cover yourself, Miss. Orders—that meant more than it said. Unity would follow such requests with her confronting rendition of Kylie Minogue’s “I Just Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”
Unity told us about the men she’d had over the summer. She sucked their peens right out of their pants. The boy in her apartment block, a friend of her father’s. They all taste different, she said. But mostly bad.
On a field trip once, she took out a pink razor shaped like a Pringle and raked it up her legs, leaving bloody scratches. She pressed her cleavage against the bus windows. Her bra was blue. We saw too much altogether of Unity Orders.
It may have been the stories we carried home to our parents. It may have been what she did with the school’s creepy clarinet teacher (known to students as, Mr. Woodywind), or the time she cornered the headmistress’s son, or when she drew a cock on the overhead projector so detailed that she should have got biology credit, but whatever it was, the school intervened. Our grade was made to attend breakout role play sessions, in which we were asked to imagine a peer who was aggressively sexual to fathers, teachers, innocent commuters. We prayed for this girl and her poor, beleaguered decency.
That didn’t end the fascination with Unity. She still had pride of place in the canteen line. People still wanted to sit next to her; it was like straddling a smoking crate of fireworks. I was one of the few who distanced myself. In eighth grade, church had become a thing for me. I went to bible studies and got high on Jesus. At school, I walked around muttering, sin sin sin. I didn’t like to touch pencils. I was sickened by the skin of things. And Unity? She was so dirty, it burned.
One day, Unity opened her locker to show us a beer that she planned to drink in the bathroom at lunch. I convinced a friend to tell the Dean. Unity was expelled. She moved to another school and we forgot all about her.
As for me, I stayed religious until I went to college and discovered mauvaise fois and the twilight of the idols and that all religion was crud on the bottom of the thinking woman’s boot. I got wild. It became de rigeur for me to screw a couple of guys each weekend and sip vodka from a water-bottle during class. Things sped up. I got pregnant and married the guy and eight years later I moved with my kid back in with my parents and nothing happened for a very long while. I was thirty-two and finishing my associate’s diploma. I tried not to think about my life.
I was shopping with my mom one day when we ran into Melanie Orders, and her daughter.
“Unity’s visiting from London,” her mother said. “She’s got a legal practice out there.”
Unity was thinner. She didn’t have a lazy eye. I must have misremembered or she’d got it fixed. Unity unclipped and re-clipped her coif and peered at my face, trying to place me.
“What are you up to now?” she asked.
“H.R,” I said. I spun some half-truths until our mothers ran out of talk and we pushed away from one another.
At the cashier, my mother whispered, wasn’t that the pretty girl at my school who’d been expelled?
“So much has happened since then,” I said. “I can hardly remember.”
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Kate Simonian Artist Statement:
Kate Simonian hails from Sydney, Australia. She is an English Ph.D. student specializing in short
stories, although she also writes poems, essays and flash fiction. Her work has been published or is
forthcoming in The Kenyon Review Online, Overland, and Best Australian Stories. She is the recipient
of a Truman Capote Fellowship and attends Texas Tech as a Presidential Fellow.