Posted on: October 14, 2013
Condensation on the glass cascades into a wet ring on the railing; it leaves a slick smear when I wipe it. I down the sweet tea and vodka and the mix punches me hard, the taste a reminder of the first time Diane and I got drunk together, giggling in our church clothes and hoping no one would smell the liquor on our breath.
The drink settles in my stomach, but it offers no distraction. I twist one of my rings, anxious from the calm stillness of humid air. I don't know why I am worried, but I am certain that I should be.
We met when we were both broken and needed mending. I was thirteen, and my first period confronted my father with the unshakeable realization that there were some conversations only moms could have with daughters. We didn't acknowledge my womanhood, and because I knew it changed his perspective of me, I rejected it. I wore baggy clothes and my hair hung in tangled knots around my plain face.
Diane's father was the new doctor; though they weren't wealthy and her dad traded check-ups for produce, she was still ostracized for airs she didn't put on. She kept to herself, barely noticeable, like embers in a dying campfire.
Embers still burn, and like Prometheus, I saw the value of her spark. It came in math class, when a slip of paper fluttered down between us.
"Sorry," Diane mumbled, her black hair tumbling as she bent to grab the paper.
"You drew that?" I asked. I pointed to the drawing: a wolf howling, silhouetted against a full moon.
"Yeah," Diane said. "I like wolves."
"Me too," I said, and I pulled the chain out from underneath the loose shirt, an old plaid one that used to be Dad's. The pewter charm was the shape of a wolf's head, fangs bared. "I’m Sandra."
"I know," she replied with a shy smile. Mrs. Baker stepped between us and cleared her throat; we were silent for the rest of the period, but I could occasionally see Diane glance in my direction.
We didn't get another chance to talk until the end of the day, when we both lingered on the schoolyard.
"Which way?" She asked casually. I could hear the hope in her voice. "I live past the square."
"I'm the opposite, behind 7th Street," I said, "but my dad doesn't come home till past midnight so I can walk with you and cut back. It's nice enough."
We took the first of many walks together, and we learned we both favored wolves over horses, school over church, and George White to his elder brother John.
I left Diane at her front gate, watching as she glided over the walk, leaves crunching with each purposeful step. When she was halfway up the porch, she whirled back to face me.
"You know what we are? We're wolf girls."
"Wolf girls," I agreed, and I knew what she meant: different from others, but bound all the same.
The phone cuts through the hazy afternoon stillness. Its impatient ring summons me from the porch.
I needed another drink anyway.
It happened on my eighteenth birthday.
Diane came over with Jimmy right after dinner, and Ken wasn't far behind. We listened to the radio in the living room and got tipsy from lukewarm beer Ken swiped from his garage, sure his mother would think she forgot to buy more. Diane surprised me with a decadent chocolate cake, and we each ate two slices because the rich sweetness reminded us of childhood.
"I love you," Ken said when they left. "I've been wanting to tell you for years."
His lips were sweet like chocolate.
When I woke, my watch said it was just before midnight. I pulled on my shirt and jeans to raised voices. By the time I made it out of my room, the argument had escalated to a full-on brawl, my father's fist connecting solidly with Ken's nose. Thick crimson blood cascaded onto my mother's favorite rug.
"Daddy!" I shrieked. Ken fell back; my father was on him, beating him senseless.
"Stop it!" I cried out. I tried to pull him off, but he turned on me. The bruises from before had only just faded. He always won, either by my submission or his endurance.
He would have again, if not for Ken.
I shoved my father. The momentum was stronger than we expected. In an attempt to regain his balance, he stepped on Ken's leg. I watched my father fall, heard the snap of his neck against the table.
When Diane came to pick me up for school in the morning, I didn't come out. She walked in, the stale smell of blood greeting her. My face was swollen.
"Wolf girls," Diane sighed, and held me in her arms as the sobs bubbled out of me. When the salt dried on my cheeks, Diane's voice was soothing and low in my ear.
"We need to clean up."
"Sandy?" I can hear the fear and panic in Diane's voice. Oh, Diane: my worry is for you.
"What happened?" I ask. She chokes back sobs, and it must be bad if she's trying to restrain herself even with me.
"Jim had a stroke," Diane says this as calmly as she can, but there's anxiety seeping from my receiver.
"Is he going to be okay?" I stare down at my rings. I already know what the answer will be.
"No," Diane's voice is a whisper, "and he doesn't want…Sandy, I don't know what to do."
"Wolf girls," I respond, tears in my eyes. The hollowness she feels now is what I looked like decades ago, curled up between the two men I loved most, dead because they loved me too much for the other to live with.
"Wolf girls," Diane says, relief flooding her voice.
Written by: Erin Justice
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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