My hand is digging down the front of your pants like the neighbor’s puppy in Mama’s flower garden. My other hand is wrapped around yours as you push the barrel of Papa’s pistol against my sweaty cheekbone. It is cold and hard, just like our resolution. Two hours ago we skipped out on 41 bucks in gas and a bottle of soda pop at the Stop and Slurp off of Highway 7. It’s the only road that can get you into this shithole town and it’s the only road that can lead you out. We wanted to go where no one knew us, where no one would ever know our story.
We left this morning, after all the other kids scattered to first period and the blacktop was deserted. I traced a heart in the gravel alongside the basketball court with the tip of my pink jellies and waited for you, the sun a tarnished bottle cap in the sky. I had a backpack full of clothes and my stuffed unicorn. I chewed my bubble gum, snapping it with my teeth, the sound reminding me of the Bang Snaps the kids on the block would buy at the fireworks stand for the Fourth of July. We would throw them down on the ground as hard as we could and wince, waiting for the noise, waiting for the puffs of smoke. BANG, SNAP!
The adults never seemed to pay any mind to us kids when it was Fourth of July. My little brother Joey would always wet himself, scared of the noises, and I would struggle to carry him back to the house on my own. Mama would stay inside the living room to chat with the other women while Papa sat in a busted lawn chair in the driveway; his legs sprawled out like a broken doll. He would pass you a beer from the ice bucket sitting in between your chair and his, a ritual I can remember ever since I was knee-high to Papa’s work boots. You would both talk about your days together back in high school playing football while Papa reached further down into the ice bucket, his hands shaking as he fished out another beer.
Your eyes began to follow me right around the time I could rest Joey on my curving hip, when it started to hurt my breasts if he clung to me too tightly. Our secret rendezvous—that’s what you called them—became a routine after the bell rang at school. You would wait around the corner in your Chevy until I came running out to find you, my breath catching in my throat. We’ve been stuck together like super glue ever since.
Papa came looking after I didn’t show up for fourth period and he brought the police along with him. You told me they had your truck out on the APB and skipping out on that gas probably didn’t help us any. I can see Mama in the crowd of dark blue uniforms. Her mascara is streaking down her face like two exhausted storm clouds. The police are surrounding our truck, guns pointing straight and steady like a hunting dog’s snout caught on a scent. There’s a voice pleading through a megaphone to put the gun down. It sounds like Papa when he’s been drinking too much—what Mama calls his whiskey voice. I feel like someone stole my last good breath.
I think about the farm—the land out back of my bedroom window the morning after it snows. How there’s a million crystals embroidering the yard like one of Mama’s quilts. How it burns my eyes to look at them all at once. I want to crawl into my bed and pull the covers over me so no one can see me. I want to hug Mama and say goodbye to Joey. I want to tell Papa that I’m sorry. I need to tell him I’m still his little girl, but sometimes true love finds you in the emptiest of places.
The police keep looking at you and then looking at me and making motioning signals with their arms. They’re gonna take you away and lock you up, just like you said. We’ll never see each other again. I think of your hands touching me, weightless, like aged silk slipping across my body. You nod your head and I do the same.
There are fireworks in your eyes as you kiss me, your lips hot like metal and tasting like cigarettes. You taste like the home we will never have. You pull away from me and your hands aren’t shaking at all as you push Papa’s pistol against my forehead. I squeeze my eyes shut. I am squeezing them so hard that all I see is white. I am listening. I am listening and I am waiting for the noise.
Hillary Leftwich lives in Denver with her son where she is associate editor for the Conium Review and nonfiction editor for The Fem Lit Mag. In her day jobs she has worked as a private investigator, maid, and pinup model. Her stories can be found in WhiskeyPaper, Hobart, NANO Fiction, Monkeybicycle, Dogzplot, Euonia Review, Progenitor, The Citron Review and forthcoming in Pure Slush and Crab Fat Magazine. She would like to thank her writing tribe, Fishtankwriters, for their support. You can find her on Twitter, or not, @HillaryLeftwich.