The Irish girl with flecks on her cheeks balances on the wooden fence post. Beneath her, an old horse corral. In front of her, a gawking teenage boy. She’s walking a tightrope past him, her arms outstretched, one bare foot in front of the other. She says, You staring at my feet? Because I know you wouldn’t dare look at my ass. The boy hangs his head low. He doesn’t want to look up at her. Fine, she says, be that way. But if you’re going to be eyeing me—eyeing me the way you have been—you better be ready to take responsibility for your actions.
She jumps down from the splintered corral, lands with her knees in her chest. She says, I saw you, boy. She stands. She picks up one foot, plucks slivers from the dead skin of her calluses, says, Give me a hand? He nods then kneels in front of her, so she sits beside him, and the two tweeze fragments of wood from her feet with their fingernails. She says, I don’t mind you checking me out, but like I said: responsibilities. She squeezes the water from a split blister, then wipes her hand on the grass, among the creeping charley and dandelions. She says, Feel free to watch me leave.
No girl has ever talked to him this way, and he can’t understand what she means by responsibilities, or why his cheeks suddenly feel white-hot. He watches her tiptoe through the yard, avoiding patches of cracked dirt that might sting her open wounds, and wonders if someone hurt her once, or if it’s a continuous pain that sharpens her tongue. The setting sun illuminates the backs of her pale legs, beckons him to follow. He stands. Dusts off his knees. Puts one foot in front of the other, as if he’s tethered to her hips.
All rights reserved to Daniel DeWolf.
Illustrations by Gigi Rose Gray.