| Home | About | Advertising | Staff | Contests | Submissions | Publishing | Workshops | FAQs | Blog | Archives | OS TV |

 

2012 Richard Bausch Contest - 1st Place

 

The Hasselblad

by

Joeclyn Johnson

 

 
     
   

 

Share |

 

Sometimes when you stand face to face with someone, you cannot see his face.
                                                                                               
                                                                                                -Mikhail Gorbachev

 

May 1986

 

THE RAIN FALLS HARD LIKE QUARTERS. Cold drops pelt Jodi’s hair, soak her button-down until it clings to her. Her knapsack, canvas and sadly not waterproof, darkens in a rash pattern under her grasp. She’s put it on front-ways, curled it against her narrow chest so fiercely that her shoulder muscles ache. The bag holds her camera: her Hasselblad, angular and precious like a mechanical heart.

‘If a car stops for me, if my camera isn’t ruined, then I will find Aisha, then we will both be saved.’ Jodi says this like wagering when you can’t afford to lose. 

A plastic grocer’s bag billows, caught in the guardrail. According to Aisha, thousands of these things make their way to the ocean, choking sea turtles and other majestic creatures. Also, you must tear through the white looped rings that hold together soda-cans in sixes. Aisha would break the gluey loops with great pressure from her wrists. Aisha, with whom Jodi lay face to face; who ran a finger over Jodi’s dry lips like shhhhhh. Jodi plucks the plastic bag and tries to stretch it over her knapsack. It whips anxiously and takes off in a gust of wind.

‘A-ish-a.’ The name makes sore places in Jodi’s throat. She thrusts her thumb out at the highway again.

When Jodi looks up, red lights are flashing. Twenty yards ahead, a car has pulled onto the narrow shoulder, hazard lights reflecting in crimson streaks. A reluctant distance, and maybe not even for her, this stopping in the rain. Still Jodi’s jogs toward the car, her Converse slapping wet pavement, her camera knocking the same bruised spot of breastbone.

She pauses behind the vehicle, catching her breath.

It’s a Porsche, candy red, with California plates and a canvas-convertible roof.  The back window is low, slanted, so Jodi has to crouch to glimpse the driver. He will be hairy or balding or ponytailed. He will smell of antiseptic or aftershave. Instead, Jodi sees a female silhouette behind the wheel, feels a mixture of relief and bright new terror. Girls are like foreign countries: strange and wonderful and terrifying and beyond translation.

Jodi steps around to the passenger window.  At first, it reflects her own face back: milky skin, dark hair looping wetly over her eyes. Then the window opens in jumpy cranks. Bouncy music escapes and Jodi feels herself bouncing too, mostly with a frantic kind of chill. The driver-girl is leaning long over the gearshift, her right arm extended, her breasts nearly tumbling from the scoop of her neckline. A girly kind of girl, she reminds Jodi of those seniors back at Pacific with landscaped bodies, straightening blouses and culottes over Maidenform.

‘Get in!’ the girl says, righting herself behind the wheel, raising her voice above the music. The Bangles? Bananarama? It sounds even more desperate for attention once Jodi has folded herself into the seat and rolled the window back up.

‘Oh, I thought you were a b¾’ the girl does not finish. She dials the music down, starts again. ‘Why are you hitchhiking in the rain?’

Her voice is throaty, textured like the fabric of the dress she is wearing. It’s a sweater dress, tight and short but with longish sleeves, a fleshy tan color.  Coral lipstick covers her mouth. The music thumps impotently, stripped of its volume, but there is something about the driver-girl’s voice that immediately makes Jodi feel stripped to bone.

Jodi clears her throat. ‘I didn’t plan to hitchhike in the rain,’ she says. ‘It just started raining when I was, like, hitchhiking.’ She pulls her wet knapsack onto her lap.

Jodi steals another glance. The girl has streaky blonde hair, not quite feathered, more like unfurling spirals. Pretty, round shoulders. A tan, flawless mask of a face. Dark mascara coats her lashes.

‘Where you headed?’ the girl says.

Jodi looks at her knapsack. Coughs. ‘Just east.’

The driver-girl laughs a quick burst, and Jodi feels herself flushing. These days, every emotion seems to register on her skin. She eyes the dash, the array of dials and panels and extensive stereo. A city girl, she is not used to cars; they have no timetable, no fixed route. She must get a map, so she can keep the name of the next town closer to Aisha on the tip of her tongue. So she won’t have to say idiotic things like, ‘Just east.’ Wetness gathers on her lap, seeps into the leathery seats beneath her, making tide-pools.

‘Sorry,’ Jodi says.

‘Huh?’

‘For dripping all over your car, I mean.’

‘It’s not mycar. Besides, it never rains here.’

The song ends with a hiss. The cassette automatically ejects. The girl flips it over. On the b-side Bon Jovi gives love a bad name.

‘Well, I’m heading back to Warm Springs,’ the girl says. ‘That’s east-ish. Is that, like, east enough for you?’ She shifts out of neutral, looking at the road over her shoulder.
‘I’m Renee,’ she says. 

They meet eyes for a half- a second. ‘I’m Jodi.’

Renee pulls back onto the highway, accelerating quickly. They launch into the fast lane. It feels altogether frictionless, like skating. And Jodi cannot help it, she lets out a small whoop, her face breaks out in a toothy grin.       

***


The rain slows in minute, unseeable increments, the sky finally drying to a cornflower blue. They drive past red rocks and long stretches of pine. Renee rolls down her window and wags her arm out, making long, languid gestures against the wind. Jodi glimpses Renee peripherally: airborne hair, dark eyes, and eyebrows that look like she’s painted lacquer onto them. This girl looks nothing like Aisha. Aisha has deep brown skin, black hair, a spray of reddish freckles across her nose that will catch you by surprise.

‘So, you’re not from around here?’ Renee eventually says.

Jodi coughs again. ‘San Francisco.’  She can’t think what else to add.

Jodi decides then to pull out her camera. The bag, her clothes are all damp, but her camera seems dry and perfect in its case. Jodi turns it over, its boxy body. She can feel Renee eying it, but she doesn’t ask about it.       
            
‘I’m from L.A,’ Renee says. ‘My father, my stepmother, they moved us here to Colorado last summer. They were like, We want to get out of this city, go some place safe. Ha.’ Renee takes her hands from the steering wheel long enough to make quotation marks in the air around ‘safe’. ‘My stepmother, she was bored of Los Angeles or it was bored of her. She’d pissed off one too many of her fundraiser friends.

‘So you live here now?’ Jodi says, thinking she should probably hold up her end of the conversion, even if it feels effortful, like moving furniture. ‘You go to school around here?’

‘Most days,’ Renee says. ‘Class of  ’86.  I'm supposed to be graduating in something like two weeks.’ She sighs, then her voice picks up: ‘Didn’t go today though. Thank you, Father! Thank you Father’s Diner’s Club Card!’ She gestures to the tiny backseat full of shopping bags with horseshoe handles and tissue paper angling out.

Jodi tries not to narrow her eyes. Must be nice, Jodi thinks, to get everything you want.

Renee drives for a while, singing along to a run of Kate Bush songs. Eventually exit signs start to crop up and Renee pulls onto a shoulder off an exit. Jodi can see a gas station in the distance.

‘This is me, so...’ Renee says.

‘Right,’ Jodi says.

The car idles loudly.

It’s awkward—every single ride is—and Jodi is anxious to get out. But after this ride, there will only be another. Odds are, the next ride will be worse somehow. Jodi slides her camera back in its case, back into her knapsack, and reaches for the handle.

‘Thanks,’ Jodi says. ‘For picking me up, I mean.’

‘It was nothing. I was bored.’
            
‘Still.’

Jodi is getting out when Renee touches her arm. Jodi bristles at the contact, but doesn’t pull away.

‘I’m still bored,’ Renee says, grinning mysteriously. ‘I’m going to get something to eat, girl-with-camera. I’m getting something on Father’s Diner’s Club card. I hate being seen eating alone. It always looks so desperate.’

Jodi might get another ride soon, or she might walk for hours. Besides, she is hungry. She meets Renee’s eye. ‘Desperate is worse than boring,’ she says.

Renee drums the dash. ‘Desperate bites.’

***

The waiters wear tuxedos, stand poised over pitchers of ice water. Like penguins, Jodi thinks. She's not sure whether to laugh or back away. The walls are lined in mirrors, with one expansive window looking out on bright green turf.

‘Eighteen holes,’ Renee says, adjusting her clingy dress in her reflection. ‘Don’t worry. I’m a member.’

For lunch, it’s mostly men eating. They look like clones in matching power suits: gray and navy and taupe. The man at the door with the reservation book has a narrow, pinched face.

‘Don’t you dare stick us in the back,’ Renee says. ‘Or by the kitchen.’

‘Of course, Miss Landry.’

‘And we’re hungry! Starving!’

Surprised, Jodi snorts laughter. This causes the man to raise an eyebrow at Jodi, and in turn, she touches her own dark hair. Shorn at the back, longer in front, her waves tend to dry rebelliously. Her flannel is gaping, exposing a not-too-clean t-shirt. Her jeans are frayed, patterned white with bleach. They weren’t even nice to begin with when she bought them at Army Surplus. The restaurant looks so spare, and everybody in it—the bright clink of glasses and the wanting sound of water being filled. This is a thirsty place, Jodi thinks.

Renee is standing too close. ‘I guess Father isn’t here today,’ she says.

Then, like it's nothing, Renee leans onto Jodi’s shoulder. Leveraging with her elbow, the girl brings a foot up, adjusts the strap on the corded platform sandal she is wearing. Jodi can smell her perfume counter smell.

It’s nothing like the salt and soap smell of Aisha, a scent Jodi remembers from the day they laid face to face. They’d been talking about Chernobyl—it was all over the news. Aisha wanted to know, Would people just keep at it until they destroyed everything, until there was nothing left but radiation and ash? She was all worked up, talking with her hands. The deep V of her sweater fell into asymmetry, exposing the perfect brown curve of her shoulder. Both girls burst out laughing, and when they stopped, Jodi leaned in, touched her lips Aisha’s bare skin.

Jodi shifts her weight, but Renee’s knobby elbow is still pressing. ‘He better not make us wait,’ Renee says.

‘Um, stand up, okay?’

‘I’ve almost got it.’

‘Get off, okay?’
            
Renee teeters back onto her own two feet, looks hard at Jodi. Jodi wills her face steady, blank, like a sheet of white paper.

‘What up with the camera of yours?’ Renee says.

‘It’s just my camera.’

‘It doesn’t look normal.’

‘It’s a Hasselblad.’      
 
Eventually a waiter leads the girls to a small table near the center of the restaurant. Renee orders for both of them, lobster and tomato bisque, then puts her father’s credit card on the table, next to bluffs of white cloth napkins. When the food comes, red on the gleaming white plates, Renee sneers at its presentation. Jodi tries to sip the soup, but Renee slurps it.  Jodi taps open a lobster claw and Renee cracks one with a tool that looks like it's meant to shatter bone.  Everything is so rich that Jodi goes from being ravenous to feeling sick.  Even so, she keeps eating, foiled by the memory of hunger.

***


After lunch, without explanation, Renee drives Jodi back out to the edge of town.

‘The rocks,’ she says. ‘That’s where we’ll go.’

‘Sure,’ Jodi says, wary of returning to the highway. She is working up the courage to ask for a donation before they part: a few of the choice bills undoubtedly tumbling around in Renee’s purse. Jodi wants to buy a map, a roll of film, a box of Tampax. She needs a bus ticket. It would mean nothing to this girl.

It must be nice.

Before they leave the parking garage, Jodi asks Renee to put the top down. Now the wind tunnels Renee’s hair back as the Porsche climbs a winding road. The shopping bags rustle and quake in the backseat, all during the short drive. Renee parks at a pullout beneath a crown of rocks.

‘Up there,’ Renee says.

There is a suitcase stashed in the Porsche's tiny trunk. Renee calls it her portable bar, tucking her shopping bags around it. Inside are crystal bottles with knobby or faceted toppers, cork-lined. Different shades of liquor have been poured into these perfume-bottle-looking things.

‘Choose your own adventure,’ Renee says, running her fingers along the tops. She picks up a bottle filled with an amber liquid, takes a swig, and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. 

Jodi grabs her knapsack. It settles on her back, into the furrows the straps have dug. Her camera, the weight of it, hits against her spine, so she shifts the clothing inside to soften this contact. She follows Renee, trudging up the slim path past prickly bushes. Her Converse rubbing her ankles raw, her footfalls emancipating clouds of dust. Now Jodi is perspiring, sweat making dark patches under her arms.

A few paces ahead, Renee climbs barefooted. Jodi notices that Renee's legs are bristly, like a few days after one shaves. Jodi feels herself flush, even though she hasn’t shaved her own legs since before high school. It’s embarrassing, seeing this other girl’s dark hair breaking the surface, like spotting a menstrual stain streaked on the back of some sophomore’s white Jordache.

‘Oh. My. God!’ Renee says from up ahead.

Renee has crested the path, and Jodi thinks this girl must have come up on some natural disaster. But no—the winding narrowness has opened up. Renee is standing on a plateau. ‘Pretty, right?’ 

Jodi steps onto the flat space, looks out in every direction. They are higher than everything except the washed out sky. She look down on the town:  the neat black rooftops, the quaint downtown clinging, all tied together by a maze of roads.       

Jodi sits cross-legged near an edge, and Renee comes up beside her. She must be hotter than Jodi even in that dress. The color of it, in this light, gives the effect of Renee being overdressed and naked all at once.

‘Here,’ Renee says, relinquishing her snowflake patterned bottle.
            
Jodi grabs it by the neck, takes a swallow. The liquor burns its way to her center. She looks at Renee, seeing her altogether for the first time. In the car, in the restaurant, Renee was just parts: breasts, brow, legs. Now there is something athletic about the whole of her, the way her chest heaves as she rests, hands on her knees. The muscles in her thighs rise tautly under her dress. Renee sits too, her knees drawn around her, pulling her dress down as she arranges herself.

The last time Jodi saw Aisha was back in April. It was the day Jodi put her mouth on Aisha’s bare skin. Before that day, she’d seen the girl a hundred times, walked home nearly every afternoon like some schoolyard crush. But when her lips grazed the Aisha’s shoulder, the girl gasped surprise, and Jodi almost ran for cover.

‘I live over there,’ Renee says, pointing into a bluff of pines across the valley.

‘Not down in town?’

‘No. Over on that hill, across from this one.’

Jodi squints and looks over, shielding her eyes with her hand, to another rise of land. It’s greener, gentler in slope than the rocks they stand on. ‘All I can see is trees. I can’t see anything.’

‘It’s private,’ Renee says. ‘You’re not meant to see.’

They pass the bottle back and forth for a while, drinking too quickly. Jodi pulls her backpack into her lap.
            
‘Why did you leave home?’ Renee says out of nowhere. ‘Like, what happened to you?’

Red-faced, Jodi clamps her mouth shut. It’s not what happened to her, it’s what she did. What she let happen. After Aisha had gasped, she’d lifted Jodi’s chin with two fingers, held Jodi’s gaze. Something was happening, like a change in the air. Then every body was touching, no longer two girls, but instead one exquisite creature: all skin and blood and breath.

Jodi takes the bottle, takes another swallow. Renee draws her knees up, looks at some faraway point in the distance.  ‘So I don’t go to school for a few days,’ Renee mumbles. ‘What are they really gonna do about it?’

The thing is, that last day in Aisha’s room, they were so consumed with each other, they didn’t hear the front door creaking, the footsteps on the stairs. Aisha’s mother was always so composed, but when she saw Jodi with her daughter, the woman’s expression turned on itself. She moaned, her mouth curdled as if she’d bitten into something soft and rotten.

‘When I graduate, I’m out of here. I’m going to move back by the ocean: Santa Barbara, maybe. Get discovered.  I can dance, nobody knows that about me, but I can.’

Jodi takes a long pull on the bottle, looks around. The afternoon is slipping; the light is full of change.
            
‘Everybody says they’ll be famous,’ Renee says, ‘but I really will be.’

Jodi fumbles with her camera case. She does not want to be famous—not even a little bit. She only wants to find Aisha, to see her face to face.
            
Renee is holding her knees, rocking. ‘Can I take your picture?’ Jodi says.
            
Renee goes still, rakes her fingers through her hair. ‘I probably look like shit.’  

‘One shot?’ Jodi says, angling the light meter. Renee stiffens, so Jodi holds a hand out. ‘It won’t hurt. I promise,’ she says.

How did it get to be sunset? The light is doing summersaults: lavender and pink falling all over themselves. Jodi feels herself stand, her legs wobbly at first. The Hasselblad juts from her breastbone; the weight of it grounds her here.

‘This is where,’ Renee says, ‘the prep-school boys bring you if they want to poke you in the name of nature. It’s only natural, right?’ Renee makes air quotes again, more lavishly this time. ‘There’s only one way down. You can’t easily get away.’

‘Right,’ Jodi says, thinking Renee is full of it.  A drama queen.  Jodi says, ‘Move this way, a little,’ and Renee does it; she moves into the light. Jodi loves looking down through the hazy gridded scope, loves this queer view of the world. In the viewfinder, Renee touches her face, and Jodi can see now that makeup is involved, that liquid kind certain girls keep bottled in purses. The light shows a tiny fault line at Renee’s jaw where makeup meets skin. 

‘There, that’s better,’ Jodi says, trying to get all the settings right.

Then Jodi crouches,
steadies herself,
pulls the thin metal slide out,
and clicks.

‘That all?’ Renee says finally.

‘I promised,’ Jodi says, less confident now that the picture is taken.

***


Renee doesn’t talk but just drives, barefoot still, and more slowly down the mountain road. It's cooler now, the sky settling into the bright blue of evening. The Hasselblad sits in Jodi’s lap, her knapsack just a shell. The Porsche’s lights track the road, all the way around town and up the other hill, where Renee had pointed. Jodi hopes, for the night, she can crash there.

Even in darkness, the house is impressive: the gate, the massive garage that Renee pulls up to. When Jodi walks past, she sees it is showroom of cars. The house is lit by floodlights, widening yellow beams that start as pinpricks hidden in a rocky landscape. Renee brings in the suitcase of liquors, hangs the paper bags in pairs up and down her own arms.

‘You hungry?’ Renee says in the foyer.

‘I am,’ Jodi says. Hunger always returns like one’s shadow.

Renee shuffles in, flipping on lights as she goes. The house is a maze of corridors that open up to large rooms.  She drops the bags off in a darkened room, then leads Jodi past a formal dining area. Behind it: the kitchen. Deep blue tiles, so glossy they look wet, grid the floor. Renee ferrets out an impressive number of take-out containers, peeks under foil, sniffs. She pulls out plates and utensils with an echoing clatter, starts the first plate on the turning dish on the microwave floor. All the while, sipping a new drink she’s made for herself.

Jodi wanders off to find a bathroom then drifts through the empty house. It is so quiet, she can tell no one else is home. Renee is used to being here alone, Jodi thinks; something about the way the girl moves through the house. Jodi draws toward a center room where someone has left a faint light on.

She runs her hand along the seam of the wall until she finds switches. More lights rise foggily from wall sconces, accompanying the first. The room is dotted with pedestals, holding small alabaster sculptures. Nudes with missing limbs. Watercolors line the walls, and at one far end, an oil painting hangs in a gold frame.  

Light collects on that farthest picture, angled in from three directions. Jodi makes her way over. It shows a woman in feathery strokes, naked and writhing in a bed of green. Her pale pink cheeks are blushed by paint to match her nipples. Her neck thrown back, her hair unleashed. When Jodi leans in, her camera pendulums across her chest. Her eyes rove over the body.

Jodi hadn’t heard Renee come in, but suddenly, they are side by side, gazing at the painting. Jodi glances at Renee, noticing how her makeup has thinned. Her eyes seem deeper set, like the sockets have retreated into her face. Or maybe it’s just the light.

‘It’s real, you know,’ Renee says. ‘The rest are fakes¾sorry¾reproductions. They aren’t worth anything. But this one is real.’

***


Renee’s room is a sprawling, complicated space, with a television, a stereo case, and at least two novelty telephones. A sliding door opens to a patio with a view to a lima bean-shaped pool. Jodi threads through the room, noting the suitcase and shopping bags by the door, and steps outside briefly. The pool’s surface is spackled in light; a few anemic leaves float on its surface. Renee stands in the window, a juice glass of liquor dangling in her hand, her forehead licking the glass.

They eat sitting on the edge of Renee’s unmade bed, but the food is not quite hot at the center. ‘It’s good,’ Jodi offers, but Renee raises an eyebrow, like the man at the restaurant. She clicks the TV on, dials the sound down, pauses on the news. It’s the Ukraine again, ‘the disaster’, still making its nightly appearance. ‘God,’ Renee says, then flips past it. She releases the dial on JR jeering at Sue Ellen. Then the phone rings.

Renee jumps to get it, stands over the jangling lip-shaped phone, like she is waiting for a sign of what to do. 

‘You gonna get that?’

The phone keeps at it. On the third round of rings, Renee relents. She brings receiver to her ear, speaks quietly. ‘Hello?’

Then Renee is pacing, cradling the whole apparatus, the spiraled cord trailing behind her. ‘Wait,’ she says. ‘Who is this? Why are youcalling here?’

Renee shuffles into the bathroom, but the cord only reaches so far; she can’t close the door. ‘Are you kidding me? Are you for real?’

It’s embarrassing, to hear Renee’s voice break, so Jodi takes her last bites, abandons her plate on the nightstand. She crosses the room, trying not to step on anything. There are clothes everywhere. Magazines. Shoes. Jodi steps over a bra, scalloped along its top edge. Panties are scattered everywhere, like flotsam.

‘He’s your what? Oh my God, that is so funny.’
 
Jodi heads toward the bedroom door, thinking she will wander the house some more, but the shopping bags catch her eye. She reaches into the closest bag, trying not to rustle the paper. She fishes out items: a blouse, a scarf, another long-sleeved sweater dress, everything hanging with tags.  In the bathroom, Renee turns on a faucet and Jodi drops the clothes back into the nest of bags, not wanting to be caught with her hands on this other girl’s things.

‘Understood,’ Renee says, her voice faltering. ‘But don’t call here, okay? You or him. Don’t call me anymore.’

Jodi finally perches on the far side of the bedroom, on a Papasan chair. It offers a view to the patio, but Jodi can still see Renee’s face reflected in the mirror. The girl is pulling her hair back, wiping her face with a washcloth in broad, coarse strokes. When Renee finally comes out of the bathroom, she pauses in the doorway. She is holding the receiver, the phone is bleating, but she doesn’t hang up right away. The recorded voice of the operator kicks in:                                                    

Willyoupleasehanguptheline?

By the time Renee steps into the light, Jodi already senses it¾the clothes, the makeup¾still she can’t help but stare at the dark smudge under Renee’s right eye, still hoping it might be mascara running.

Renee drops the phone, crosses the room quickly. She flings herself beside Jodi, curling into the roundness of the Papasan. Pulling her stubbly legs up, she weeps into Jodi’s collarbone.

‘I’m not stupid, you know.’ Renee is crying. ‘I knew this boy…we’d even done it before. He was like… decent, you know. He has this little smile, like trouble, but the kind you want to get into. This one day, we went up to the rocks…and I was like no and he got so angry. It was like the boy, he disappeared, and I was up there with a stranger, a monster.’

Renee sounds hysterical, her voice broken up and full of mucus.

‘… nowshe calls me, says she’s his girlfriend. Says he already told her what happened up there, what I did…’

Listening, Jodi realizes she’s been holding her breath. You cannot easily get away, Renee had said.

***

            
‘I’m going for a swim,’ Renee says after she is done weeping. ‘You can too, if you want.’ At the sliding glass, Renee strips down to her underwear and another version of the clamshell bra, this one strapless and pale as pearl.  ‘Or you can go to bed, on the loveseat, but I’ve been told it’s short. Or in my bed, your choice. Either way, I’ll drop you off in the morning.’

Renee looks Jodi up and down before going outside.

Jodi can’t help but think of Aisha. Jodi should have known better, should have stopped the whole thing from happening, or secretly made it happen a million more times. At least she should have acted differently in the days after Aisha’s mother found them. If Jodi hadn’t kept calling, hadn’t banged on Aisha’s door late one night, surely Aisha would not have been sent away. Jodi had managed to get Aisha on the phone, only once, before Aisha vanished from the city. The conversation was vague, watery, Aisha crying softly the whole time. Aisha said she might killherself. Said she didn’t even know this uncle in Virginia. Said her mother thought she was sick, or extremely confused, and in either case would be cured.

Renee doesn’t so much swim as lie on the water, among the leaves, her arms floating at her sides. Her hair melted down to nothing. 

At the edge of the pool, Jodi takes off her Hasselblad. She sets it atop her bag, on a lounge chair, hoping she got the picture of Renee right. She unbuttons her shirt, steps out of her jeans, her big toe catching on a snare of thread at the hem where the bleach ate through.

The water is freezing, still Jodi presses through it. She shivers as water crawls up her t-shirt. She wades out to her ribs, her reflection crossing Renee’s body, until she can see up close the deep blue bruises on the girl’s face.  She anticipates the other marks even before she finds them: angry fingerprints grasping a forearm, something oblong and knee-shaped high on the inside of a thigh, like proof the act of love is an extraordinary gamble.

‘It looks bad now,’ Renee says, her face placid. ‘But they’re fading. Soon, they’ll be invisible and no one will ever have to know.’

Jesus, Jodi thinks. ‘I’m sorry,’ she says. She means it, but it isn’t enough.

Jodi hovers, feeling the icy tug of water. She meets eyes with the floating girl. An urge seizes her to run and press her fingers along Renee’s bruised face. She wonders, would this girl wince and turn away, or would it be a kind of balm, to be touched where it hurts.

 

OS

     

Joceyln Johnson at Our Stories

Joecyln Johnson

Jocelyn Johnson writes, rewrites, and teaches art in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her essays and fiction have appeared in Storyglossia, Life with Objects, Salome Magazine, Literary Mama, and elsewhere. She blogs about art and parenthood at Jocelyn’s Stories, jocelynjohnson.com, and is currently working on a novel. 

 

 

Work Harder | Workshops @ Our Stories
   
   
           
 

 

 

Follow Our_Stories on Twitterdownload our iPhone app today!Follow the OS BlogOS TV on YouTube!
 

 

 

| Home | About | Advertising | Staff | Contests | Submissions | Publishing | Workshops | FAQs | Blog | Archives | OS TV |

 

 

| Our Stories Literary Journal, Inc. © 2006 |