By: Jordan Thompson
My floors creek under the footsteps of ghosts.
Hide and seek. Just the two of us.
Pitch black except for the muted beam of sunlight breaking through the filthy basement window.
Count to ten.
Memories rattle chains.
His heavy boots dropped at the foot of the bed.
Catching salty tears on my tongue as they run past my open mouth.
Howling wind slams the shutters and whips the trees.
The smell of blood and chamomile tea in the morning.
I scrub his stain from my skin and with it the blueprint of my escape.
My chariot of shame arrives to take me home to rest for round two.
“Your sisters are coming with you tomorrow.”
Smile for the camera.
The car sped around another corner and the three of us kids slid across the brown bench seat of our
mother’s old Buick. The twins giggled and I pressed my fingernails hard into my thigh.
“I don’t want to go to his house.” I whined.
“Don’t start, Jordan,” my mother snapped.
“But my stomach hurts.”
Mom adjusted the rear view mirror so she could see me. I twirled a handful of stringy blond hair around
my fingers and placed the strands in my mouth.
“Your stomach always hurts,” mom said.
“But it REALLY hurts today.”
Her hand swung back and yanked the hair from my mouth. I tucked my knees up tight against my chest.
“If I don’t take you to his house, I can’t go to work and then I can’t keep a roof over our heads. You want
us to be homeless?” she said.
I looked over at my sisters who were looking back at me with pleading eyes. I dropped my head to the
space between my legs and my chest and filled it with my whisper.
“No,” I said.
“I can’t hear you.”
“NO!” I shouted.
Ivory skin and crimson soap.
Silence swirls around the drain –
bubbles turning screams into whispers.
Hot water cleanses the way holy water absolves.
Clean hands, filthy with ruin, make the sign of the cross.
Fingers crossed and another promise –
God doesn’t spare little girls who lie.
Jesus doesn’t hear little girls who cry.
I hear my mother’s car pulling into the driveway. My heart flits around in my chest like a caged bird trying
to avoid being held. My sisters run to the window and yell “Mommy.”
The door opens and the cool night air fills the room. For a split second the stale stench of dust and
secrets is gone.
“How did your day go, girls?” Mom asks.
“Fine,” he answers.
“Were you girls good for Colin?”
“Yes,'” the girls answer in stereo.
I try to make myself invisible. It’s as if my pulling away offends him so he reaches out, pulls me closer by
the scruff of my shirt and tousles my hair. His hand on my head sends shivers down my spine and I pull
“Jordan, what’s your problem?” Mom asks.
“She’s still mad I didn’t let her win the game we played today,” he says and winks.
My mom throws her head back and laughs.
“Sore loser,” she snickers “Put your shoes on, girls.”
Pink lip gloss to distract from my bitten tongue.
A blossoming girl. Already a broken boy.
I sever the locks from my cage, one strand at a time.
Climbing trees and spreading knees.
Duct tape and tampons.
Dragging memories across my skin and wearing their shame on my sleeves.