"Oh, bright girl," she'd hummed and my head
had shifted quick and low to my shoulder,
an unintentionally bare thing with a lip locked
to it and no winking freckles to speak
against when it was hot. If I wanted
to admit it, "bright girl" might have been my name.
She called me girl more often than I liked. "A name
that doesn't suit you, girl, ain't got no place in my head.
I'm gonna know you different than anyone," she said. I wanted
to keep some part of myself sane. I gave her the shoulder
she'd bared, but she took other parts of me. She knew when she spoke
through the window I'd listen, even if I cried or kept the door locked.
"Bright, stupid girl," she screamed once to me, muffled through a locked
glass door, "you think I don't know you? You think I need to name
every dumb thing you ever thought or did or spoke
to me to prove it? Bullshit, girl, why don't you head
on home if you're so scared?" Her shoulder
rattled the glass. I didn't know what I wanted.
It was usually like that because she wanted
to fight all the time, whenever I refused to lock
eyes with her or that one time I gave her the cold shoulder.
"You lonely, insecure girl. I will always trick you into naming
what you need from me." She gripped the back of my head
with both hands and murmured, "Speak."
I did whatever she said. When she wanted to speak
to me about my anger, my needs, what I wanted
from her, I snarled and bit out words so rough they shook my head.
She held my wrists to the ground like she was trying to keep me locked
beneath her. She said, "Now thank me," and called me by my name,
rotten and mean and strange in her mouth. She stamped her teeth into my shoulder.
The first time I argued with her, she pulled over to the shoulder
of the road and curled a lined thumb around my lip when I tried to speak.
I bit her and called her a thousand stupid names
for that. She kept it still. It wrinkled on my tongue. "If you wanted
to leave girl, you'd do it now." I shoved the lock
of the car door down and grasped the sides of my head.
The last time I saw her, her shoulder was scratched (4 lines, not deep) and I wanted
to hear her voice. She was speaking to a boy who held out his hand and locked
hers inside of it. She called his name, a test, and he kissed the side of her head.