The Exit Colony
The summer comes but your mother talks about your return to school. She's sewing your clothes, but she says "you're gonna be needing some training bras. I can't make those." That's what she tells you and you're embarrassed and scared and excited all at the same time. You wait for your mother to mention it again because you want her to know that you are growing up and you want to ask about wearing make-up but something happens to your sister and suddenly you can no longer talk to your mother; she seems annoyed by your very presence.
Something has happened to your sister, though you don't know what. Hushed conversations, sudden silence and admonitions to "go find something to do" abound.
Then she's gone; you don't know where. Your sister's gone but your mother swears she's coming back. Just gone for the summer, that's what your mother says. You're unsure if you want her to come back.
You can stretch your arms out in the bed now, open your legs as wide as you want. You roll from side to side across the mattress simply because you can. But there are nights you stand at the window.
One afternoon, down by the creek, Tommy Watson tells you that your sister is a "dirty whore."
You are surprised by the sound of anger in his voice and frightened by his words.
"She lets old men stick their thing in her," he tells you and runs off.
You pick up a handful of rocks from the bank and you throw them at Tommy but he's already disappeared.
At home you ask your mother why your sister has left.
"Is it because she's a dirty whore?" you ask. You expect your mother to slap you, but she doesn't. There are tears in her eyes and she leaves the room.
You don't go to church all summer and you're happy. You thank your sister for whatever she did, and you do not wish her back.
So you don't know what to feel when your uncle drives up one evening and deposits your sister in the yard.
You want to go to her, but you hold back like your mother, the both of you just looking at your sister, searching for a sign from her, maybe, as to what you should do. You don't do anything though your mother takes wooden steps toward your sister, opens her arms to her.
You watch your sister fold her arms around your mother. She looks over at you and rolls her eyes.
Later, after an early dinner, you lie beside your sister in the bed you share again.
"I'm a woman now," she tells you but you notice a hesitancy in her voice.
You tell her what Tommy Watson said she was. You are surprised by the light laughter.
"People in this town are jealous," she tells you. "They can't just let things be." Tomorrow, she'll tell you everything, she promises. "Some of it hurts to talk about, but you should probably know."
Tomorrow, she'll tell you. "I just wanna sleep now," she says, moving across the mattress.
"Mr. Whitley," she whispers in your ear. "Phillip," she says.
"Phillip," she repeats in a voice drifting off to sleep. She pulls you close, slips her hands beneath your pajama shirt.
You lay quiet in her arms. You close your eyes and will yourself to sleep. She will never tell you what happened and for months, you will feel your sister's hands where your breasts would be.