Summer is a Terrible Prison (I Know That Isn't Quite True)
Molly Faerber

after Meredith Luby

By late June, I was hungry and I was alone. Kathy was gone at sleep-away camp and Dad was just gone—I know that now, but at the time I figured he might still come back. Mom was there and not there; she walked like somebody still asleep. She didn't say much.

I was tired most days, though it could've just been the heat. I was fourteen, but in makeup and hairspray I could've been any age, maybe even old enough to touch. I knew what people thought when they saw girls like that, I just didn't care. I looked good in a dress I borrowed, but when I smiled I still worried about my teeth turning red from the lipstick.

At the only bar I could walk to, men said, why the long face, sweetheart? One said, you look like a nice girl. I figured he wasn't so bad, but I'm almost never right about these things. Outside he gave me a drag off his cigarette while people wandered out of the bar. They didn't act like they recognized me, but I wondered. Then he kissed me. It wasn't anything special—it tasted like metal and gauze. I pretended my eyes were closed but really I was peeking at how his face looked so serious. That surprised me. Afterward I walked home barefoot and there were rotting cherries on the sidewalk.

Mom was in the kitchen when I came in holding her shoes I'd taken without asking, and for once she looked awake. She said, what's that you got on, and then she slapped me hard so I reeled and had to grab the counter. I waited there till I heard her go upstairs, and everything looked red for a long time after. I wished she'd go someplace I wasn't.

Then I went to bed and it took a long time to fall asleep. I wasn't heartbroken, just maybe a little lost, and bruised along my jawline.

Molly Faerber is a student in Brown University's MFA program in Literary Arts. She has fiction in Harpur Palate.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of David DeHetre.

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