The Shine Journal

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Leaving the Party


Leesa Wolfe


There's a party going on outside my bedroom window with dancing and spinning underneath a large, pearly moon.  This moon reminds me of the fancy drop earrings my mom wears as she and my new stepfather, Don kiss my little brother Thom good night; and Mom tries to make up after our fight by telling me, “We all say things we don’t mean.”  Don chimes in, “Why don’t you drop by, Kimmie after Thom falls asleep?”  The way their eyes glance nervously at my cherry colored hair and the newest tattoo on my arm, Crayola green devil’s horns that match my boyfriend’s, I know they don’t want me there at all.  

As soon as I hear the door click, I push some extra underwear to the bottom of my favorite lavender bag, (the last gift from my real dad.)  My eyes glance up to the window and I see partygoers circling, among them, my cousin, Emily.  My fingers cinch up my bag, tight.

I am almost seventeen, Thom is seven, and Emily, just turned sixteen. She looks about twenty, with her long legs and big boobs. I watch the men sniff around her like dogs after a juicy bone.  Don even checks out the way her hips swish from side to side as she dances with Jim Alexander, a college man now from the University of Miami. I used to have a crush on Jim, which seems like another lifetime now, when I imagined parties like this one where I was the girl he twirled around on the grass.

I study the two of them together. I had gotten over him forty-one days ago, before he moved a few miles uptown for college. He chucked me on my chin and said, "I'm going to miss these conversations, Kimmie about Shakespeare and stuff.  You're the reason I got all A's in Mr. Cushing's class." I feel almost nothing as I watch him laughing and smiling with Emily.  My fingers play with the latest metal stud in my ear.

They wander over to the refreshments, moving as one.  She touches her sparkly necklace and giggles again at something he whispers in her ear. She whispers something back, and he rescues her jacket from a nearby chair. Their bodies lean against the short wooden fence surrounding Mr. Johnson’s yard across the street.  As they sip their drinks from stiff Styrofoam cups, I clutch my stomach. My attention moves to the fence posts, and my mind tosses them around in the air and makes a raft.  I grab my pack, kiss a sleeping Thom goodbye, and then sail away from the party; the voices and laughter grow dim with each stoke of my cedar oar.

I stare into the night.  My eyes pick out three points, the Summer Triangle; the bright glow teases my senses. If these heavenly bodies could talk to me, what would they say? "Row faster!" So, I do.  As I round the bend towards Leewood Elementary, I find the North Star; at least I think this is it.  The star twinkles a little brighter than the rest and keeps a constant position, while the others move around it.  I look at that star, a mixture of envy and worship in my eyes.  I think about Emily, and I whisper, “Will you share your secret with me?” 

I startle at soft steps behind me and whirl around to see a pair of hungry eyes staring back and crouch down to offer my fist to a dirty, brownish dog.  I hold my breath waiting for his acceptance.  His warm tongue licks my hand, and I scratch his wet, scruffy neck, and he follows me like no one I have ever known, not even my little brother Thom.  After about twenty-minutes we reach the end of Kendall Palms; then, the two of us head towards the railroad tracks in the distance.

The steel tracks and everything around them appear still when we arrive.  It feels surreal, no breeze, no insects chirping just silence.  The dog kicks up some dirt with his paws almost like he senses this too, and I sit down under a purple spray painted crown.  The dog trots over and licks my hands and face.         

“Dog, you sure are ugly,” I say.  The dog laves my face again, undaunted.  His kisses smell like salty fish, but I don’t tell him to stop. 

I start thinking maybe if Mom will let me keep this dog then I might be okay.  Could I tolerate another year with Don?  I remember the fight this morning, how Mom, Don, and Little Thom all gathered around cousin Emily’s modeling pictures as if they were seeing the next Cindy Crawford; and I got into trouble because I tried to scurry upstairs.  Don pulled me by the back of my t-shirt like an errant puppy and dragged me over to rub my nose in Emily’s glossy 8x10’s.

“Not so fast, Kimmie, look at these pics of your cousin,” Don said.  “You should congratulate her.”  That’s when I channeled comedian Chris Rock and told Don, “Go fuck yourself.” 

I start to pick up my pack and notice the dog’s ears start moving like antennae forward and back.

I heard once that a tornado sounds like a train barreling right over you.  I put my hand down and feel the vibration of the tracks and can’t help but think about tornados.  For a moment, I imagine all my swirling emotions spawn this CSX train and drop it into the night just for me. As the thundering beast passes, I jump aboard, along with the dog that comes after a Dorito I dangle from my bag.  Does anyone miss me?  I tell myself I don’t care and that I don’t need any of them.  My thoughts turn to going west, meeting up with my bad boyfriend, and laying purple flowers on my dad’s grave.  The sky seems brighter, lit up in all the dark.  My eyes see stars.

Motivation: Inspiration after doing research on runaways

BIO:I am a South Florida native but currently call the Charlotte suburbs of North Carolina home where I live with my husband and two kids.  When I am not working on a story, I enjoy bird watching and making allergy free cupcakes for my son, who up until recently could not eat eggs!  My latest project is a collection of short stories called Rehearsals.

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Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

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