When I was twelve, my friend Jean Anderson and I found a body in the woods. We were exploring, as we often did, the creek behind Jean’s house and by extension mine. It was not really a creek at all but an overflowing drainage pipe which, when the summer rains came, would belch out items that were occasionally of interest to us: brassy rings, great wads of hair, rusty nails. It was extraordinary, the way that that pipe flooded, as if it had been waiting all year just to bestow on us the uninteresting refuse of other people’s lives. I felt about these items as I did when I saw a dead jellyfish at the seashore that I occasionally traveled to with my mother; revolted, and fascinated.

          Jean’s family did not go to the seashore, or at least not the seashore as I knew it. They went instead to Atlantic City, where her parents played craps and pool and let Jean and her brother have the run of the boardwalk. And so once a year, she and her brother Joey would be spoiled. They would have hot dogs and french fries and cotton candy and an unlimited supply of whichever soda they wanted. That was what Jean considered fun. She was the kind of girl who liked to go on rollercoasters, not the new ones but the old wooden kind that jolted you so far forward that you bruised yourself and screamed for your life. She was the kind of girl that people in town called a handful. In a few years, less charitably, she would be called fast, and fast she was, but perhaps not in the way that they meant it.

          It was not entirely her fault, that unfortunate moniker, for her clothes were clean but worn, ragged, and her short white blouses were sometimes so see-through that they made the men in town blush and the women pinch their faces shut in the unrelenting disapproval that I associated with most of the maternal figures I knew. Nor was it her fault that she was tall and narrow but ungainly or that she grew breasts before the rest of us didno, it wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t looked after properly. My mother was different; she was vigilant, much more so than the other parents I knew, and although she was friends with them, she did not wholly approve of Jean’s mother and father.

         My mother was not, however, altogether respectable, for I had no father to speak of. She told people she was a war widow, and in a way she looked the part; her face drawn and bruised-looking, her hair flat and pitch-dark. I took my mother’s premature aging, however, to be a sign of her strength, and sometimes I would look at the hollow rings of her eyes and the knots of her hands and feel afraid of how much knowledge they seemed to hold. Especially after finding the body, I sought comfort in her physical capabilities, for when she drew my face towards hers, reassuring me that everything would be fine, that I need not worry about the corpse that had unceremoniously appeared in our backyardas if it were ordinary, as if the bend in the filthy creek was an ideal stopping point and belonged not to Jean and myself but to some mysterious order that dictated that such ugly things were permissibleI felt myself to be in control again.

          The body had washed up on a July afternoon, when, cross and sticky with heat, Jean and I had been ordered out of the house by her mother. My own mother, a teacher, worked all the time, and that summer had a job at the local library, to help us stay afloat. She felt bad about this, and told me not to give Mrs. Anderson too much trouble. “That woman has a lot on her mind,” she’d told me grimly, expertly spreading peanut butter on the white bread sandwich I ate every day. “You don’t give her a hard time, you hear me?” She did not expect me to, I knew, but I also knew that she was worried about leaving me on my own with a woman, who according to Jean, could not always get out of bed due to her nerves, and who, when angry enough, would take the broom to her children and run them out of the house. “She doesn’t spare the rod, that one,” my mother would say. “She’s got so much on her plate, but still.”

          She didn’t know about the drinking.

          But most of the mothers I knew, in fact, were like Mrs. Anderson. They kept house, and regarded their children with a watchful, almost proprietary anger that I liked to think hid softer feelings. Jean’s father, on the other hand, was a businessmanof what sort I didn’t knowwho went to and from work each day in the same shabby brown suit and thin white shirt, a ratty fedora slouched over his tobacco-stained face. He greeted me politely when he saw me, but did not seem to recognize me otherwise, even though I was almost always over at their house during the summertime. I grew tired of the pride that Jean had in him; not because I mourned for the father I did not have (in fact my mother and I were enough for each other and always had been, as she frequently insisted), but because it did not seem merited. It grew to seem childish, persistent, and a cover for something else which was evidenced in her mother’s hardness and stringy, furiously alert form.

          And yet I followed Jean everywhere doggedly, perhaps because I felt deflated and stupid with the heat and the humidity of the New Jersey summer, like a moist weight bearing down upon me. She was physically brave, Jean; she trudged through the brambles and poison ivy behind the chain-link fence as if they were nothing. I tried to mimic her, but I flinched at the cuts and scrapes already forming on my knees, which my mother was sure to ask me about. I was and always had been a fastidious kid; I would never have roamed around on my own like this, but Jean was never content being still, and neither was her mother, which was why, working her way through her third gin-and-tonic that afternoon, she’d kicked us out of the house in the first place.

          The water that day looked even hotter and more limpid than usual, and we were accosted by a foul scent. “Geez Louise,” I heard myself say, my voice sounding as if it came from miles away. Indeed: it was the only moment in our childhood friendship in which I found Jean at a loss for words. Nevertheless, she squatted clumsily in the green-brown brambles and pushed them aside. We saw the hands first, palms up, white and grimy, still and pathetic, and then, clinging to a foreshortened and unremarkable corpse, the remnants of what looked to be a house dress of indeterminate color which, when it dried, would turn out to have been pink at some earlier juncture.

          I understood then that what lay before us was not an ordinary body but something profoundly rotten, desecrated by shit or by blood or perhaps by both, and I jumped out of my skin. “Go get your mother, Jean,” I said. SheJean, that iscouldn’t move for a second. I can still see it now, her small pinched face dumbfounded as if she herself had been struck dead, her upper lip quivering not of her own accord but of some instinct that remained unknown to both of us. With her short hair, dark and unbrushed, she appeared nearly as grotesque as the corpse itself, the shock of death suddenly seeming contagious.

          She clambered up the bank then, and I followed suit, flinging open the chain-link gate to her backyard and running across the parched lawn. On the clothesline between the two dogwood trees–thoughtlessly placed near the back window of the Anderson household–flapped her mother’s nightgown, the white sleeves waving at us in a peculiar ‘shooing’ motion. Mocking us. Mrs. Anderson, went out to see for herself, and came back the color of the tinned pea soup my mother and I sometimes shared on rainy Sundays. The heat had left us in a thoughtless stupor, but now we were alert; even the walls of Jean’s kitchen, all dark paneling and white-painted beadboard, seemed menacing, as if they could betray to us some special mystery: an idea of how things really were. My childhood terror of inanimate objects had come back to me full force, and I was alarmed to find urine, practically amber-colored, dripping down my leg.

          “Go to the bathroom,” Jean rasped, and I did so obediently, my hands shaking as I held the toilet paper to my leg until it tore, having been soaked through. When my mother came to pick me up that afternoon, Mrs. Anderson caught her at the door, and explained apologetically what we had seen, as though it were her fault. By then the police had come and had carried the body away on a stretcher. Their figures seeming to quiver in the vicious heatwave that had just come through, their faces grim and tired, as if this was something they did every dayuncovering drowned women in the backyards of miserably identical homes. They had covered that corpse as if was something to be ashamed of, and perhaps it was: the surreal and naked body, left out in the open for tampering, for goggling, vulnerable to desecration and the other filthy things I soon learned people did to inanimate forms. There was some gurgling mystery to it, the white cloth flung over the lump of head, stomach, and legs. There was some scrap of pleasure underlying the whole beastly thing.

          When my mother and I returned to our own little kitchen, she turned on the lights and opened the windows, as if she knew that its resemblance to the Anderson household upset me. At first she made me tea--an odd thing, a thing she had never done before–and then she questioned me, one could say she cross-examined me. When and where had we seen it? What did the body look like? Did we tell an adult immediately? What did Mrs. Anderson say? Was I alright? Was Jean alright? When did Mr. Anderson come home? I was capable at that point of only stammered monosyllables, and eventually she gave up and put me to bed. I expected a lengthy illness, a Victorian frailty from the shock I had endured, but instead I woke the next morning as alert as I had ever been. It was only my limbs that felt heavy and strange; it seemed to me that my feet and my hands, especially, were no longer connected to me, but moved of their own accord, as if they knew they had to push me forward. I was both pleased and disappointed: I was tougher than I’d thought I was, apparently.

          My mother took off work the next day, to make sure I was alright. I spent most of that time in the living room, trying to read--something, anything--and take my mind off what I had seen. I sought to comfort myself in the concreteness of my surroundings, something I had often done when I was smaller and being punished, when I shuddered with grief at the thought that my mother might never forgive me for whatever transgression I had inadvertently committed. Here were the pine panels, there was the rocking chair and the cold empty fireplace, and there were the white beadboard walls of the corridor into the kitchen. There was a brass lamp and a blown-glass vase that my mother had always been convinced I would break. Here was the lawn, brown and ugly in the unforgiving heat of that summer, which we tried to keep up by watering the sickly blue-and-pink hydrangeas and by sweeping the pebbled cement walk regularly.

          But it was no use: my mind drifted always to the shattering image of those hands, protruding almost nonchalantly from the flat and maggot-filled water the day before; drifted always to the plain little face, lips and eyelids whitened in death. I wanted to go over to Jean’s but my mother wouldn’t let me; she said we would only wind each other up and besides, her brother Joey had just gotten home from staying with Mrs. Anderson’s mother.

          During the weekend I did not see Jean, either; her mother said she was sick. Finally, on Monday, when Mrs. Anderson was out grocery shopping, we reached other. We combed over that incident and we analyzed the most minute details of what we had seen.

          “I know somebody in the morgue,” Jean said.


          “I mean somebody who works in the morgue. We could go and see it–her.” I froze, partially out of fear and partially because I knew I would be a coward for refusing. Jean often did that, she would smirk and cajole me if I hesitated; she was always the instigator.

          “Isn’t your mother coming home soon?”


          “Well, who is it you think will let us in?”

          “Danny Schultz.”

          Danny Schultz, tall and red-haired, the son of a doctor. A few years older than us. This was not an opportunity that I could pass up. I imagined him being impressed by ourlet’s face it, mytwelve-year-old bravery and my adolescent bolshiness. I was Jean’s willing accomplice, but it was me he’d be taken by. My quietness and carefulness. Extraordinary, how visceral my fantasies were then: I could almost believe they were real. This happened to me a lot: quite often I would dream something and think that it was true, and then, just as I was about to recount the story to my mother, I’d realize that it was entirely drawn from my imagination, and that I had very nearly humiliated myself. I was always on the brink of lying about things.

          “So will you go?” Jean asked.

          “Go where?”

          “Jesus, Natalia. I’m trying to talk to you. The morgue.”

          “Alright,” I said.

          Danny Schultz was fourteen years old, and was going to be a doctor, like his father. It was evidenced in the swinging self-importance of his white lab coat; in the sureness with which he moved around the bodies, as if they had never been people at all. When we walked up to him I stared insistently at his red hair, his high cheekbones and his freckles. His eyes slid over my face indifferentlyalmost cruelly, I thought.

          “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said, when Jean asked him.

          “We have a right to know. She showed up in our yard,” Jean said.

          “So? It doesn’t mean the body’s under your jurisdiction.” Jean’s face changed then, her expression quivered with the embarrassment of not knowing what he meant. I had a brief wave of guilty pleasure: that I knew something she didn’t.

          “It was very upsetting,” I said softly. He glanced at me, and then he reached into his pocket suddenly, revealing a large key ring.

          “Fine,” he said. “But if you tell anybody, you’ll wish you hadn’t.” We did not doubt him: in that moment we remembered that he was male and we were female, that if he wanted he could make our lives hell. He could rat on us, but that would be almost too feminine, too dignified; secret torture was more probable. I was overcome by a flash of dislike for this swaggering power he had; it was almost as if by letting us into the morgue he’d deflated the possibility of it.

          “Sickos,” he muttered. And yet nevertheless he yanked open the cold metal box, impressed us with his fearlessness. He looked straight into the woman’s eyes, which were blissfully closed. I was not as revolted as I had anticipated. She had been cleaned up considerably, and her limbs were as white as the walls of the room. Her arms and legs were pale and short, revealing muscled calves and surprisingly pretty ankles. Her stomach was smooth and curved, almost flabby; and her breasts, neatly spaced, were unremarkable. It was her hair that seemed to me to be the worst part, seemed to recall a kind of waste: for it was thick and red and beautiful. Long and slightly straggling, which was unusual for women at the time; our mothers always trapped theirs in small shining domes or respectable chignons.

          “A working girl,” Danny said aloud, the sneer in his voice impossible not to detect.

          “What do you mean?” I asked stupidly.

          “A prostitute, silly,” Jean said. “A woman of ill repute.” The ends of her mouth twitched; she was almost smiling.

          “But how do you know?” I asked.

          “I don’t know. My dad said somebody came in and identified the body,” Danny replied. “It’s a shame,” he added perfunctorily. And of course the three of us knew that it was not a shame, that this was the sort of thing that happened to women like this. A working girl. She likes to have a good time. What gleeful euphemisms we employed then, full of the happy knowledge that this would never be our fate, if only we kept ourselves in line.

          “She probably drowned,” said Jean.

          “Don’t think so,” said Danny. “Those purple marks on her neck–well, those are fingerprints, guys.” I hadn’t noticed them, and had he not explained them to us I would have assumed that they were some sort of bizarre skin condition, some manifestation of the grimy and unseemly trade she was in. “Probably a john did it,” he said authoritatively. “Or one of the people that moved in that part of town.” You mean a black person, I could have said aloud, but didn’t.

          There are so many of them, people would say; I don’t know why they want to come here, of all places. And my mother would say something staunch and defensive, would say, ‘they have just as much a right to be here as we do.’ People would glance at her then, would smile faintly at her vehemence, content in knowing that it was she who somehow ended up looking silly and not them. (What is she, some fool kind of Negro-lover?) And I would cringe, hearing them and pretending not to hear them, knowing that to take the bait would only yield the grossest satisfaction. It was not always easy to be my mother’s daughter, and yet I loved her in knowing that this difference was, perhaps, what made her carry herself so elegantly; what made her lift her chin almost haughtily, what accounted for her ramrod-straight posture. The knowledge of her rightness a kind of protective cocoon around her.

          “Thanks for showing us,” Jean said. Danny nodded coldly, and slid the silver box shut once more. We walked home then, and parted ways, as we often did, in the cement driveway between our households. Just then we saw her father coming down the road. I was alarmed by the unsteadiness of his gait, and when I saw his legs moving jerkily forward, his hands knotted at the ends of their arms, I finally understood why Jean was afraid of him. “I’d better go,” she said softly, and walked slowly and deliberately to her front door. I knew that she was taunting himfor Jean often taunted peoplebut I understood that her pretense of bravery before him was a farce, that it was terror that kept her shoulders rigid, her back proud.

          I was ashamed then, of my own parental luck, though of course I did not always think myself so. There is guilt in knowing that someone else’s parents are worse than yours; there is relief in it, too. When my mother and I heard the sounds of the furniture being knocked over, of Jean’s wails, at first short and sharp with panic, then long and hoarse as Mr. Anderson took his belt to her, we did nothing, but sat in embarrassed silence. We told ourselves that we didn’t want to pry, that we didn’t want to know, but of course everything had already been revealed to usalmost everything.

          My mother did not know about the trip to the morgue.

          I could have told her, and on several occasions I was on the verge of doing so; I had some irrational belief that if I uttered a word about what had happened, I would suspend the visceral agony of my friend next door. But I knew, too, that it would lend only me peace of mind: my mother would be disgusted and disappointed that I had partaken in something that morbid; she would declare herself afraid of me and she would accuse me of trying to show off to Danny Schultz. Accusations which were not, unfortunately, unmerited. No, better to be guilty and silent, I thought; I would sympathize with Jean later and, as she had done many times before, she would solemnly show me her bruisesarms, calves, thighs, lower back, shoulder blades. Mr. Anderson was clever about the way he dealt them; they were never too red or too obvious. Only the faint purple insults of bruises, taunting Jean’s adolescent skin with their almost-invisibility, could be seen if one looked hard enoughand adults did not search for such things in those days, they had better things to do.

          And so I had sat in stunned silence as Jean Anderson was dealt a punishment which surely I, too, deservedfor going along with it, for taking part in a farcical turn as an amateur detective, for making sport of something which was not sport at all: a fact that both of us knew. Afterwards she didn’t show me the bruises, but I knew they were thereI noted the slowness of her movements and I saw the way she winced when the fabric of her threadbare cotton dress scraped against her knees. In our shock we talked not about the body we had seen, not even about the trip to the morgue, but about our futures. I was struck by the fact that Jean had considered hers as thoroughly as I had mine.

          “I want to get out of this place,” she said. We were walking through the barren fields at the edge of town, our sandals crunching through the grass, the pitiful yellow stubble jabbing between our calloused toes. On the horizon line you could make out a wave of heat, thick and trembling, ominous as a thundercloud. I looked at her in surprise: I was always taken aback when others had ambitions like my own.

          “Where to?” I asked lightly, kindlycareful to contain my curiosity, for I knew that it made me vulnerable to all kinds of mockery.

          “Oh, wherever, I guess. California maybe,” Jean said, and then, embarrassed by the loftiness of her dreams (as both of us had been conditioned to be), she added quickly, “But I’ll probably just stay around here, you know.”

          “You’ll get out.” Both of us knew I was lying. For how was she to escape her drunken mother, her father whose fists pummeled her regularly? Mr. Anderson beat not only his daughter but his son, too. When he walked down the street, women averted their eyes, only the bolder ones summoning the courage to nod politely. The most respectable of men would make way for him on the sidewalk, although, like his daughter, he was intimidated by them: for Mr. Anderson’s mockery of such people was, like everything else about him, a well-worn disguise. Not until that moment I’d seen him walking home had I realized that I hated him.

          It was fortunate, then, that he was rarely there, coming in late most nights, if at all. I don’t think I ever saw him and Mrs. Anderson in the same room together, and perhaps that was as it should have been. For surely she, like her daughter, must have been afraid of him, surely she would have known of the tremendous strength in his wiry frame, his long bones, would have known that there was something sinister in his leathery face and in the way that his clothes never fit him right.

          I told myself that my dislike of Mr. Anderson stemmed from his actions towards Jean, and yet I failed to be surprised by his behavior. Plenty of people were beaten, I was sure, by him: punishments like his were dealt in private, affording him the respectability that his wife plainly lacked. To utter a word about what he did to Jean and Joey was unseemly. (Why were you listening so hard? Don’t you have anything better to do? People would ask).

          I didn’t.

          That was my problem.

          It was also problematic, of course, that torture was considered a family matter.

          At some point, later that summerit had to be late summer, for the heat had tapered offmy mother decided that the neighborhood had become too rough, that we needed to move elsewhere. I tried to think sentimentally of it, I told myself that I was undergoing a great change, a turning point even: still I felt nothing. The creek had been spoiled for me since the day that the body washed up, and since the late afternoon in July that we’d walked through the field on the edge of town I had barely seen Jean. Shortly after the incident with the body she and Joey were sent again to stay with Mrs. Anderson’s mother. That year in school we had no classes together, and the summer afterwards she got a job at a local ice cream parlor, which enhanced her status considerably among the boys in the neighborhood where I’d once dwelled.

          Because of this she was required to wear a red apron over those god-awful white blouses and thin pastel dresses she used to wear. She was growing her hair out, too, and in her leggy walk and poised expression, I saw a trace of the woman she would become, not riotous and bitter like her mother but an able pretender, a master of disguise. Like her father.

          In a short while she had gone from being ungainly and even occasionally worthy of contempt to being vibrantly sexual and intensely feared. Everybody disapproved, even me: I had always been a prude, and it struck me that, somehow, despite the fact that the body had washed up in her backyard, despite the fact that she was the one who was beaten, Jean Anderson had somehow managed to surpass me. I was not there—as a friend, or as a competitor—any longer.

          This was due, of course, to the fact that I was living in a different neighborhood. It was quieter. The houses were further apart, and we had a fencenot chain-link but white picketaround our yard. In that neighborhood I discovered that I was neither very smart nor especially pretty. Things which I had never given much thought to before–my lack of a father, for example, or the dark, unruly hair now sprouting on my legs–were of interest to others (interest that was not so very far from hostility) and instantly marked me as an anomaly.

          I learned to hate the sound of my name, could not think of it without hearing the voices of my classmates when the teacher called roll. Natalia Salieri, they would say, drawing out the i and the e. You can-a smell the garlic on her, can’t you. Sometimes the teacher would scold them; other times, if she was particularly tired, or if she happened to know which side her bread was buttered on (certainly not mine), her mouth would twitch with amusement. And so I changed. I shaved my legs and armpits assiduously; I tried, unsuccessfully, to shorten my name to Natalie. Sometimes, if I was especially hard up for attentionwhich, let’s face it, was more frequent than I would ever have admitted to myself at the timeI would tell the story of the body.

          It was something I was good at, and I embellished it, insofar as it was necessary, to captivate my audience. The story was eventually spoiled, of course, by a teacher, understandably weary of my antics. “You have a vivid imagination, Miss Salieri,” she’d said. Such a comment was enough to dispel the brief aura of mystery around me, to reveal the real reason I told the story. I lacked the strength to argue with her; instead I let my cheeks burn, could feel my classmates turning against me. Thus my era of self-hatred began.

          I used to wonder if in being hated by her father if it had never occurred to Jean to hate herself, as if in some way the pain Mr. Anderson inflicted upon his children had removed them from the introspection that tortured me. I sought blame then, and I turned against my mother, albeit temporarily; I held her responsible for my differences. I demanded to know who my father was, and found the answer to be entirely anticlimactic. A soldier, killed not in battle but during flight training. He never really took off in any sort of way, my mother said, wryly. At another point in my life I would absolutely have laughed. As it was, I accused her of never having loved him, and she told me bluntly that love had never factored into it, as far as she was concerned. She could do this, my mother; she could answer my cruelty with a relentless practicality that I both resented and was in awe of. We drew closer later on: I loved her again.

          She found friends, friends who worked at the school that she did. To them she was exotic, with her dark hair and eyes, her bare ring finger, and it wasn’t until then that I discovered that my mother was both still young and still attractivethat is, in the eyes of everyone but myself. Once she had been aged by my youth; now it was the other way around.

          By the time I was eighteen, that hot day in July, some six years before, had almost escaped my memory. It seemed so fantastical, so utterly out of place with the normal rhythm of my quiet upbringing, that I wondered if it had even been real–such was my imagination in those days. I knew my memory to be capable of filling in the spaces where nothing had seemed to happen; I wondered if the body had simply been a manifestation of the fear that I felt in my childhood neighborhood, or if it was a tall tale that I’d heard in elementary school. Not so, of course.

          My mother had found his picture in the newspaper one dayMr. Anderson’s, that is. I was in the midst of studying for my final exams, and she thought it better not to tell me, perhaps remembering better than I did the anguish that finding of the body had temporarily caused me. It was at a gathering of ours that I overheard her talking about it; a tea that she was giving for me, in fact, in honor of my graduation.

          “So you lived next to this man?” somebody asked.

          “And did he ever seem capable of it?” said another.

          “Capable of what?” I asked pleasantly.

          They were silent. My mother looked sideways at me. What was that expression, what did it mean? A helpful hint, perhaps, for me to shut up. A warning, one of the many warnings of hers that I was lately in the habit of ignoring. In any case, I looked away.

          “Why, the murder,” somebody said.

          “Eloise,” my mother said quietly, “She doesn’t know about it yet.”

          “Know about what?” At that point I folded my kneeswhich were already on the verge of giving way entirely—beneath me, and plopped down inelegantly on the carpet, barking my shins on the coffee table. One of her friends righted it with a brittle expression on her face.

          “Mr. Anderson murdered that girl,” my mother said strangely. “That girl you and Jean found. Woman, rather. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five or six, right?”

          The body.

          My mother spoke about it naturally, publicly; she could not let it be a secret. She had done it this way, I was sure, because if it had been only the two of us, my reaction would have been outsized. And here it was presented as a natural thing: a plot point, a source of interest for her friends, ever in awe of our uncertain background. The rest of that day I felt as if cotton wool had been wrapped around my head. I found myself unable to eat, or drink, or participate fully in conversation; I could hear myself talking pleasantly but I don’t remember what kinds of things I said. It was similar to the detachment I’d felt after first seeing the corpse, when it seemed as if my very limbs operated of their own accord and entirely out of sync with my troubled mind.


          Illegal betting.



          His crimes dutifully recorded in the article. And the face of the girlthe womanincluded in the column to the right. She bore little resemblance to the pale, red-haired figure on the slab that I had seen all those years ago with Jean at my elbow, egging me on, probably hiding her own disappointment at the anticlimax that was death. In the photograph, the woman’s expression was difficult to read; and this disconnect between what I had seen and her everyday appearance pained me.

          The article didn’t mention her profession, but it must already have been clear; she was from a small town nobody had ever heard ofa place even smaller than where I had grown upand had no family to speak of. An orphan, my mother said; no one to mourn for her, how sad. I probably should have, but I didn’t: couldn’t let the sorrow seep in again. I was eighteen and had much to look forward to; I was going to college; I was growing up. Better to forget, then, the days when I had followed Jean Anderson around as dutifully as a dog, soaking in the air of unbalanced danger that she projected.

          I wanted to talk to her just then; I wanted to call her. I knew for certain that she was getting married. What to say? I’m sorry that your father just got arrested for murder and sentenced to life in prison? I remembered her wails; I remembered her bruises; I thought she was probably glad.

          In fact I never saw her again, not since that summer that we’d spent together. She was spoken of, of course. Both spoken of and spoken for. She married him, too. They moved to Atlantic City, and worked at a casino together. People said she seemed happy.

REBECCA BIHN-WALLACE is a studio art major and a professional writing minor at the University of California, Davis. After a childhood spent in Maryland and North Carolina, she settled in San Francisco, California. She is a language and film enthusiast.