*optional content warning at bottom of page*
When everyone was running about the house to get ready for the movie, we lay on the couch under the thickest blanket in the house. It spanned from end to end and could curl up and over the back of the couch. Behind me, my adoptive sister lay on her side with one arm tucked under her, invisible to the world.
The other lay along her side, the hand resting lightly on my hip. She was nearly skin and bones, despite her age and the amount she ate. I was too, but at only nine or ten my chest had just started to bud and I hadn’t any curves yet. We fit there, sinking into the cushions with just our heads above the water.
Lying on my right side, I squeezed my eyes closed and my mouth, too. She curled against me, her legs touching the back of my legs, her long skeletal hands pushing at the soft band of my pajama pants. She went down, further into those places, and parted my vulva with uninvited fingers. I wanted to speak but there it was. The hairless skin was dry and when she found the spot she wanted, she pushed against it with the edge of a pen. Capped, with a small spongy bulge for a finger grip, it scrapped against one side then the other.
I whimpered, it hurt worse than the last time. She seemed to be in a rush.
I had known what she wanted, as soon as she crooked her finger at me in the hall. When I followed with slow long steps, she had pulled me beneath the covers. She had already covered herself but I drug on, my eyes down to the floor. I knew at any moment others would return. Can she get what she wants in this short a time? I opened my eyes, felt them water, and closed them again. She grunted, made one of those happy sounds mom says not to make when you’re at the dinner table.
I can hear them coming, feet booming against the stairs like thunder, ready to play the newest Blockbuster on VHS. Mom is yelling from the other room – I’m sure telling everyone to slow down. I see my brother come to the door of the family room, pausing on the lip before stepping down onto the carpet. He’s looking at me, I know he is, and I open my eyes to catch him. Our gazes meet and before he can speak she opens her mouth.
“When are we going to put the movie in?” she asks as she pushes the pen in and out. He sucks his teeth and rolls his eyes. That’s what he’s into now. Attitude.
I want to whip the covers back and show him where she’s putting her hands but I know he doesn’t like me. He hits me, putting his fists on my face, on my back, sometimes smacking on my thighs as I run up the stairs. It’s funny to him but I don’t like it. I don’t think brothers should hit their sisters. Boys shouldn’t hit girls, anyway.
“I’m the only one that can hit you. That can hurt you,” I remember him saying. It wasn’t true. They hurt me at the last place, she hurts me now, they’ll hurt me in the future and I know, I just know he won’t stop them.
Another foster girl comes to the door, a bag of extra-buttered popcorn hanging from one hand. She has a gaggle of napkins clutched in her other and she glances at us quickly before popping into the room like a cheerleader. The pen goes in and out but slows a bit. Her other hand touches me at the top of my folds. I flinch as she pinches there.
“Are y’all ready to watch the movie?” I hear my adoptive mother ask. She’s yelling from the kitchen, as she always does, and everyone but me calls back.
She’s scrambling to remove the pen, using two fingers to pull, pull, pull, and it’s deeper than I thought. It comes out with a scrapping and my thighs tense in the effort to not cry out.
“Hey, get up off that couch! You’re taking up all the space,” mom says and I look up at her. I want to speak. Tell her. She says I can tell her anything but she lies. When I tell her she tells others. When she tells others they tell me. They sing it to me with laughter in their voice. I don’t much like to tell her things.
She’s fast enough to pull her hands out of my bottoms and slides up the back of the couch like a snake. Her arms release me and I float down to the floor. Everyone laughs as I take my tumble and I feel that tickling at the back of my eyes that you get when the tears come. I push up on my forearms and watch the other fosters come to settle in the room, taking up residence on the opposite couch, the chairs round the back, and the space before the small tv.
Mom stands just beside the doorway with this look on her face that tells me she knows something I don’t know. I avert my eyes and climb to my feet. I’m hurting, down there, and I have to keep my knees wide when I walk. When I pass her she puts a hand on my arm but says no words. I look up at her and first see the breasts against her chiffon shirt. Then the folds of her neck and the small curve of her chin. I don’t meet her eyes but I focus on the small uptilt of her nose.
She releases me and I turn toward the living room. It’s muscle memory, the walk to my bedroom. I’m tired. I want it to stop. I wince with each wooden step I take and once I’m safe in my room I go pee. I feel the muscles moving down there and I lean forward on the toilet. Something sharp stabs me and I whimper and lean further.
Reaching down with tentative hands, I touch, and feel, and move my fingers around, and there it is. Something sharp is lodged in there, it scrapes against the pad of my fingertip and I push another finger in to grab. And I’m grabbing and I’m crying. I can’t hold my breath and hold the tears at the same time. Finally, it’s there, between my fingers and I pull. It scrapes as it slides out and a small sound pushes between my teeth.
It’s the cap from the pen. She’d pushed in the wrong side. I clutch it between my slick fingers and stand, forgetting to wipe. I pull up the soft bottoms and the band snaps around my tiny waist.
I’m running. I hit the stairs quickly and have to catch the railing to keep from tumbling down. I’m through the living room and the floor bows slightly beneath my feet. Expensive figurines clink in the small china cabinet – stereo duo. I know I shouldn’t run in there but my feet move anyway. When I’m at the family room door I can see it’s dark, aside from the glow of the TV. They’ve turned out the lights. They’ve moved along as if I didn’t matter. I’m standing on the edge of the step-down, my toes wavering in the air.
They can see me, I’m sure of it.
The light from the kitchen just down the hall always illuminates this room when you’re on the other side, but no one looks in my direction. My mouth opens and I gap like a fish. I look at all their faces as they speak, getting their words out before two hours of silence begins. I can see her sitting there, her knees pulled up tight to her chest, like a child.
The cushions are depressed but empty next to her – where I’m supposed to be. The blanket is on the floor, discarded like forgotten trash and no one moves to pick it up. They just ignore it, chattering on about things more important.
I want to clear my throat and interrupt them. I need to, I feel it with every fiber of my being. I want to scream at them to shut up and let me speak. Then I stop. I take in a shaky breath and take a step back, out of the glow of the light. I could scream all I want, yell all I want. I could tell mom everything I want. But I know she’d never be willing to quiet. I know she will never truly listen.
*mentions child abuse – molestation*