Admission by Julie Buxbaum

CHAPTER ONE


            Now


            My younger sister, Isla, will claim that she heard the footsteps before the doorbell rang, like a swelling movie score. On. The. Count. Of. Three. That she knew then what was to come. The guns, the hard metal handcuffs, the cameras, the headlines, the conversion from human being into meme.

            The everything being over, just like that.

            I don’t believe her.

            Isla has also sworn that she had a dream about an earthquake the night before the big one in Thailand last fall, that she suspected Beyoncé was going to drop that surprise album, that three years ago she predicted everyone would grow tired of cupcakes and start eating macaroons instead. Which is to say that Isla likes to be the first to know stuff, to take credit for willing into being that which is incapable of being willed. I am always the last to know. Maybe this is the biggest difference between us, how comfortable we are anticipating that which can’t be anticipated, how prepared we are for that for which we can’t prepare.

                         I am not ready. The apocalypse shouldn’t arrive when you’re in flip-flops or wearing sweatpants that have your high school’s acronym (WVHS) spread along your backside. At least, this wasn’t how I’d always pictured the end: I’d expected to need a stash of batteries and a flashlight and canisters of water, none of which would have helped make this moment any easier.

            I certainly didn’t expect hungry paparazzi with cameras slung around their necks.

            I hear the doorbell, which triggers a Pavlovian burst of joy. The doorbell usually announces the arrival of something good: cosmetics I ordered from Sephora, a swag box from the studio that my mother will pass on to me and Isla; less often and less exciting but still plausible, a script sent in a rush from her agents, which may mean a new shooting location for my mom and a family adventure. Vancouver or Atlanta. Last time, Scotland. Once, luckily, New Zealand.

            But it’s 6:30 a.m. on a Monday, a school day, too early for UPS, too early for anything, really, except coffee. It’s still dark and foggy, the world cruelly indifferent to the fact that I am not, nor will I ever be, a morning person. When LA has not yet become the city I love, full of glitter and grit, and is instead a sleepy and quiet town. My toenails are painted in alternating cardinal and gold, a detail that will be dissected by the tabloids later. They match my brand-new oversized Southern California College sweatshirt. This last item, I will, of course, end up regretting even more than my polish or the letters on my butt, a convenient way for my idiocy to be memorialized.

                         I’ll be honest, since there’s no other way left to be: There’s a whole lot I will end up regretting.

            But before I swing the door open, I’m still blissfully unaware of what’s on the other side. In my uncaffeinated haze, I imagine a cardboard box on the stoop: the teal eye shadow palette I impulse-ordered last night to beta test for prom. Later, when all I have is time, when the hours stretch long and lonely, I will realize this first instinct made no sense at all. I didn’t pay for overnight shipping.

            When the chime fades, there’s a hard knock and an “Open up,” and I wonder what’s the UPS guy’s problem.

            “Coming,” I yell back, and then, “Relax, dude.”

            My dog, Fluffernutter, thinks I’m talking to her, and so she lies down at my feet and rolls over to expose her belly. I take a second to give her a quick rub. When I tally my long list of mistakes later, this will not be one of them. Fluffernutter, ever loyal, gave me one more moment of ignorance, an extra second in the before.

            Another knock, so I scoop up the dog, kiss the top of her curly brown head, and then open the door with a “Hold your horses.”

            When we watch this moment on TMZ, and then again on CNN and MSNBC, and even for a dark minute on Fox News, my face is blurred because I’m only seventeen and still a minor. Afterward, Isla will turn to me and say, “ ‘Hold your horses’? Really?” and I will shrug, like Who cares? though she will be right and again I will be wrong: This will turn out to be another thing that makes me look bad in the court of public opinion, if not a real court one day.

                         You don’t say Hold your horses to the FBI.

            The relief of my blurred-out face is short-lived. My picture will soon be splashed across magazines and newspapers and most indelible of all, the Internet, images borrowed from my mom’s old Instagram posts and therefore legally considered public domain.