It is Sophie's idea to steal the car.
Sophie sits in the passenger's seat of my brother's Honda, gnawing on the straw of a Wendy's Frosty. Her hair sweeps across her forehead, ironed flat, all milky-chocolate breath and runny eyeliner. Friendship bracelets wrap around both of Sophie's wrists, and she wears a tight pair of cutoff denim shorts with a cropped shirt, damp from the mid-summer humidity. The light from the single streetlamp makes her bare collar look like raw stripped bone.
It's Sophie's idea, always.
Three weeks ago, Sophie gave Tommy Hill a blow job in his garage after school. Tommy Hill's garage was made for blow jobs; the couch from the basement had been dragged in, along with a lamp and an old stereo system. The garage was separate from the house, and he could have a whole party there without his mom hearing. Sophie walked over after school, and they watched an episode of South Park on Tommy's laptop before she leaned over and unbuttoned his pants.
"What was it like?" I asked.
Sophie looked at me like a mean babysitter.
"It was exactly like you think," she said, and she licked her lips.
It was her tongue I thought about for the rest of the day, flitting from her mouth like something uncaged.
My brother Joel thinks there's a specific, calculable moment when a boy becomes a man. I heard him telling that to his friends after the senior keg party, when they all came home smelling like sweat and beer and they whispered loud in the kitchen. Joel became a man the first time he had sex with Kelly Robbins. He'd had sex before, but not like that, he snickered, and I watched from the staircase as he made a humping motion in the light of the refrigerator. The next morning, we found vomit in mom's rosebushes.
Now, Joel is at a concert in Miami, and Sophie and I are sitting in his Honda. We are allowed to borrow it under two conditions: no drunk driving, and no nasty shit.
So we idle in an almost-empty Arby's parking lot off the highway. It's two in the morning — we sneaked out through my mom's basement window, crawled under the porch, and pushed Joel's car down the driveway to start the engine in the street. Once, my mom had woken up to the sound of Joel's engine as he sneaked out, and she chased him down the driveway in her pajamas. He was grounded for a month. He's never careful.
The Arby's has been closed for hours because it's closer to dawn than it is to dusk. Hulking shapes of tables and soda machines loom behind the darkened windows. It's too quiet, without any buzzing lights. The chairs are stacked on the tables, and from here, they look like a morose mountain range.
"Check out that car," Sophie says.
It's an old Subaru — the only car besides ours in the Arby's parking lot. The paint is chipped, and the driver's side door hangs partially open. The windows shine beneath the solitary streetlight.
"What about it?" I ask.
"Someone just left it here."
"So," Sophie says. "The driver's side door is open. Dare me to get inside?"
I think about Joel and the yellow light of the refrigerator. I wonder if it's the same for girls. If there's a moment where we can say: I am grown now. Look what I have become.
Tommy Hill wasn't the first for Sophie, though she doesn't tell me this. I hear it from the other girls in the locker room after gym class. Jackson McElroy, Dario Rodriguez, and apparently even Benson Harford, who plays the bassoon. Skanky Sophie, they call her . Mostly it's just kissing, though Dario told everyone she took off her bra in the science classroom when they sneaked in during a basketball game. I asked Sophie about this once, and she rolled her eyes.