By Ashley McCurry -
CW: This story alludes to sexual violence in a non-graphic manner.
See this child, age thirteen or fourteen, eager to meet her girlfriends at the shopping mall, when there were still arcades with air hockey tables and stores selling flip phones. Imagine this child, yearning for womanhood, spending her allowance on an angel’s push-up bra, sixty-dollar cotton candy silky pink against her skin. Demurely smiling at the older boys who walk by, head hanging low, cheeks flushing, thinking they wouldn’t like her if they knew how young she was.
She sits on a bench, waiting for her friends, entranced by this mecca of fashion and perfectly airbrushed skin, among the aromas of acrid department store perfume and plush cinnamon rolls she desperately wants to eat, except she noticed stretch marks and dimpled skin on her thighs last week. She poked at her flesh, her body a bruised, blemished plum that would certainly be passed over by other hungry consumers.
But now, one boy sits to her left and another to her right, on the bench near the food court. It’s exciting for her. Except, these are college boys, maybe. They invite her to go to the woods behind the shopping mall and ask her questions as her face glows crimson.
Her friends finally meet her, late, so much later than anticipated. They order chili and chips. They watch a movie. She stares blankly at the glow of the screen while lovers kiss, her body rigid.
She walks home, through the woods, down the road of her peaceful subdivision, now aware of the shift. Now aware of the gazes—the grotesque, leering grins of husbands and fathers who wave as she passes neatly-manicured lawns. Her heart races. Her pace quickens.
See this child, arriving home and bolting the lock, pressing her body into the door, against the unfathomable weight of the world. Imagine her throwing the pastel angel bra into the trash, once-luxurious, shimmering foam resting atop candy wrappers, used-up cherry lip balm, and crumpled schoolwork. Imagine the smell of damp earth and pine mingling with coffee grounds and rancid fruit.
Ashley McCurry (she/her) is a writer and speech-language pathologist, currently residing in the Southeastern United States with her husband and four rescue dogs. She is also a slush reader for Flash Fiction Magazine. Her work has appeared in Bright Flash Literary Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Six Sentences, Microfiction Monday Magazine, FlashFlood Journal, The Dillydoun Review, Flash Boulevard, Shirley Lit Mag, Pigeon Review, The Metaworker, Five on the Fifth, and others.