short stories ~ literary fiction ~ social commentary
copyright © 1999 - 2013
Even with the health classes, talks from Mom, ads on TV and events in the movie Carrie, Jennie wasn’t prepared to enter the bathroom to pee and exit a woman. She didn’t have blood running down her arm like Carrie, but she imagined the terror not knowing would bring.
She had the impish desire to show her bloodstained underwear to Roger. In upheld palm, she offered the cotton with three beautiful princesses forward toward the mirror, her head back, eyes half closed.
“Call me a little girl now!”
She looked past her reflection to the pink cocktail dress, very much like her mom’s, draped carefully on her bed. Rolling her eyes, she let out a long sigh, happy she didn’t get caught in the new dress. Sally got caught the month before in English class, a blotch on the back of her skirt noticed on her way to the chalkboard to diagram a sentence. The kids laughed, mostly boys.
The girls held their breaths and looked at each other.
“I though maybe we could go to the mall?” I can wear my new dress with the pumps and you can buy me dinner at Hooligans and hold the chair for me and everything!
Roger looked down his nose and slammed his locker. “Saturday? Tomorrow? Maybe I got plans, you know. Like Dad might need me to clean out the garage or something. Maybe I gotta wash my hair!”
“I just thought it’d be nice.” Jennie looked to the floor, hugging her books.
“No, little girl. I got me some big important plans, and I’m going have a great time! Sorry, little girl.”
Roger melted into the crowded hallway. She watched his back. “Tomorrow’s my birthday.” No one heard.
“That really sucks.” Bethany came up behind offering an obscene gesture in Roger’s direction.
“Mom and Dad’re going to the city. Can you believe that?”
“And, I thought Roger was your first choice. I think you gotta come over about eight o’clock, we can make some popcorn, watch movies and down a gallon and a half of Death by Chocolate.”
“There’s that Star Wars marathon.”
“Yeah! And, we can dress up. I don’t mean like the characters.”
“I got a new dress.”
“There you go! We can dress up and pretend we’re like at the fancy opening!”
Jennie dropped her head on Bethany’s shoulder. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than with my BFF.”
Jennie tucked her underwear in her palm at the sound of the door.
“May I help you with your makeup?”
“Sure, Mom. I was going to let Dad. He said I’d be hot as a Goth girl!”
“Maybe for Halloween.”
“For some people, everyday’s Halloween!”
Mom worked with a light touch on Jennie’s face. “Sorry about all your friends being busy. We could cancel if you want, even though the tickets were difficult to get and we might never have the chance again.”
“I really understand, and I’m not so disappointed I’ll slit my wrists or be found floating face down in the river. It’s just another day, really, and Dad said we can go some place special tomorrow night, although Chuck E. Cheese isn’t my idea of some place special, not for this birthday anyhow.”
“When I was about your age, Grandma took me into her bedroom.” She laughed, rolling her eyes. “She showed me her bra, told me someday I’d wear one, said one day I’d meet a man and he’d tell me what to do and I should do it.”
“What now? Some day I’ll meet a man, tell him what to do and he’ll do it?” Jennie giggled.
“A relationship should be a partnership.”
“Yeah, Mom, I got all that from watching you guys.”
Jennie stood before the mirror, knowing blood spilled from her body, her mother behind her wearing a similar dress. Jennie knew blood spilled from her mother’s body, too. Jennie saw herself reflected in the mirror and in her mother.
“Mom, it’s a perfect fit.”
“You wear it well, like all who came before you.”
Dad, overexcited about the trip to the city, almost forgot to say goodbye, hugging Jennie quickly. “Is today your birthday?”
“What are you? Like ten?”
“Dad! I’m thirteen!” She stamped her pump.
“Well, we should have done something special. Off to the show!” He pointed to the air, slipping out the door.
“Men.” Mom followed down the sidewalk.
Jennie checked her new watch, a present from Grandma, returned to her room, adjusted her twenty-eight Webkinz and realigned her six collector Barbies, each still in the box. She sat on her bed with Bear.
She nodded to the teddy bear. “Mom was so excited going out, I didn’t want to concern her about it. We can talk tomorrow.”
Placing Bear center on the two pillows, she stood, catching sight of herself in the mirror. “Women take care of things, after all.”
Jennie walked the sixteen houses, greeting neighbors, some she knew, some she didn’t. She liked being taller. She liked the feel in her calves as she walked, her heels tapping concrete calling out ahead: a young woman is approaching.
Bethany’s house was dark, only the back kitchen light on. Jennie could almost smell the popcorn and taste the ice cream. She let herself in the front door, quietly closing it behind her.
The lights came on and the room full of people stood up, all calling: “Happy birthday!”
Mom and Dad laughed from across the room.
Donned in a tux, Roger came forward and bowed. “Told you I had something important to do. May I have this first dance?”
Jennie learned why big girls don’t cry. Mascara runs.