Another short short fiction piece (these are all just drafts for fun, ok?), somewhat inspired by the following interview by a writer who just compiled a coming-of-age anthology:
Lillis wanted to go into the hemlock grove by the back fence, something we did only if the task at hand was forbidden. It was damp and dark in there, like a dimly lit bathroom after somebody’s taken a long shower. There was a garden shed and an old, rusty wheelbarrow, its small tire sad and flat, blending into the duff. Thin lines of ivy stretched over the edge of the tin roof, then through a broken window. There we cobwebs along the gutters and shredded tarps rumpled in a pile beneath. Everything smelled like battery acid and rust.
We sat down on the soft ground, knee to knee, and Lillis drew a thick quilting needle from her coat pocket.
“Where’d you get that?” I asked.
“From Home Ec,” she said, “when Mrs. Roberts wasn’t looking.”
“You can bring it back after we’re finished,” I suggested. Lillis shrugged.
“You have to promise,” she said. “It’s the only thing that will make it real.”
I laid my hand into her lap and closed my eyes. “I promise,” I said. “But don’t tell your real sisters. It will make them jealous.”
“Blood sisters are just as good as real sisters,” she said, then pinched my pointer finger at the first knuckle and dug the needle into the tip. The pressure hurt more than the prick, and it seemed like we waited forever for the blood to well up. I exhaled and looked up at the sky, scissored by ancient boughs of evergreens. The clouds were thick and grey as my grandmother’s old sweater, and when I looked back down Lillis had released my hand and pricked her own.
“I thought I was supposed to do it to you,” I said.
“It doesn’t matter who does it,” she said. Her brown eyes were wide. She looked right at me but it felt like she was someplace else. “It matters what we do next.”
Holding our fingertips above our heads, we pressed them together and chanted a soft melody:
Sing, song on the faraway shores.
Sing, song when you’re at my door.
Sing, song through blood evermore.
Sing, song like our sisters before.
Later, when Lillis had to help with chores, I walked back across the street and washed up for supper. I took my time in the bathroom, the cracked Dove soap slick and pure in my hands. I felt changed, like she was a part of me now and a different part of me was gone forever. The place where the needle went in had already puckered shut, leaving no trace of our kinship.
We ate chicken divan and broccoli and I stared at my parents through the steam rising from my plate. I could hear their silverware scrape across their plates and the click-click-pant of the dogs beneath the table. There were bugs caught in the halogen lamp above us and cars slicked by on the rainy streets outside. My mother asked if I’d finished my report on shellfish and I told her yes, “I promise.”