By Rowan Beaird
Linda picked up the softball from the tangle of unmowed grass, holding it upwards in her hand like an apple. This was the summer of the robberies, the summer when the Earlham boy blew off his hand with a firework, the summer when Ms. Nussbaum, the kindergarten teacher, lost her bathing suit bottoms swimming in the lake and got hypothermia while waiting, in the cool water, for everyone to leave the beach.
The air was thick as teakettle steam, and Linda’s neighbors cloistered themselves inside their air conditioned houses. She’d been pitching for the past hour or so into her practice net, watching the ball bounce limply off the frayed white ropes, running to pick it up like she was being drilled: ball to hand, hand to glove. The pitch itself lasted no more than a second, the motions to her as primitive, as instinctual as sex — the rock back on her heels, the forward stride, her worn glove momentarily in line with her target, shoulders open, a snap of the wrist and the release. The dull thwack of her pitching hand against the back of her thigh was the only sound in the late summer quiet of the backyard.
Linda’s skin was red with sun. It was almost one in the afternoon, and she had not eaten since rising from her bed at eleven. Her parents were in New York and had been for the past two weeks — her father on business, her mother needing a vacation from long lunches and tennis lessons — and had left Linda behind to look after the house. The house was a study in neglect: dead leaves clumped in the pool like burial mounds, bowls piled up in the sink, flies circling their milk stained rims.
She finally got her last strike, winning her game. Her rule was that she had to score ten hits in a row in the strike zone, that holy space outlined in red, gummy masking tape, before she could eat. Yesterday she had stayed in the backyard until after three, arms shaking, until she hit ten. She’d started to let out guttural yells when she got close and missed, whipping her mitt in anger at the wrought iron deck furniture.
After dropping the ball into her mitt and throwing both on the kitchen table, she ate peanut butter with a spoon on the living room couch and smoked a cigarette. Linda thought her mouth was made for smoking cigarettes, the angle of a Marlboro jutting out perfectly from the clean, thin line of her lips. She only smoked during the summer, before practices picked up in late August. She smoked because her parents forbid it, because her friends nagged her to stop.
That afternoon she was supposed to meet her friends at the country club, a ritual of summer that caused the days to bleed together so that the past seven weeks seemed to last no longer than an afternoon by the pool. Nothing was accomplished. They sunned themselves in the folding deck chairs for hours, the rubber rungs leaving pink imprints on the back of their thighs.
Linda’s bare feet, slick and oily from the grass, padded down the hallway towards the staircase leading to the second floor. When alone, she liked to run up the staircase so quickly that she had to angle forward, her fingertips lightly touching higher steps to help keep her balance. Once her mother had noticed — flipping through a magazine in the sitting room, manicured feet tucked tightly underneath her — and commented that fifteen was too old for a girl to run on all fours. So in her absence Linda did this every time she went up the stairs.
She was accustomed to having the house to herself. The first night her parents left her alone, a few weeks before her thirteenth birthday, Linda drank liquor from one of her father’s Irish crystal decanters and ended up vomiting, curling into herself like an ammonite on her parents’ enormous bed. Since then she limited her rebellions to slovenliness; as much as her friends begged her to throw parties, she always refused. Her house was her own, and only she had the right to make a mess of it.
Linda’s closest friends were Emme and Lauren, though she could not say why she particularly liked either girl. She loved them like she loved her family, out of shared history and obligation and necessity. Their pairing felt fated. One day in grade school their heads rose from their desks and their eyes locked, a bit like falling in love; really, it was no deeper than a recognition of mutual good looks and expensive clothes, an unspoken sense that they were better than everyone else. As they passed into high school, Linda grew quieter, having grown accustomed to an empty house, dinners eaten alone in front of the television screen. She spent more time on the softball field, and she could tell the others resented her silence; it gave her an unexpected power, the sense that she was withholding something. But still, the girls felt bound together: desks side-by-side, weekends coordinated, ears pierced by the same safety pin on Emme’s plush bedroom carpet. Emme in particular had grown crueler with age, and Linda had several dreams where her friend died of unknown causes. At the funeral service all of her classmates lined up on risers like a choir and accused Linda of killing Emme with a baseball bat. In the dream Linda ran from them, tearing from the church on her horse. After those nights, after waking up to her empty house, her heart would lift when she saw Emme in the hallways the next morning. Lauren was often lost to summers at Camp Morasha, and Emme — for all her vanity and savagery —was her constant.
Linda stripped bare and pulled on her navy striped two-piece, still damp from the day before. She put on a pair of shorts and one of her many thick cotton polos, the summer uniform that few at the country club strayed from. On her way out the door she paused at the gold leaf mirror that hung in the front entranceway, frowning at the flush of sunburn across her forehead.
Her flip-flops slapped against the concrete as she began the fifteen-minute walk to the club, a towel draped over one arm. Still five months shy of her sixteenth birthday, Linda did not have a license. She walked in the middle of the road, occasionally skirting the neatly trimmed lawns to let a car pass. The others would have been at the pool for the past hour or so; this had been the case all summer, as they had parents who wouldn’t let them sleep until whenever they pleased. This difference in schedules created an even greater distance, and lately Linda felt that her friends quieted when she arrived, as if they had been discussing her.
Linda shuffled by the familiar sequence of colonials with deep green shutters against white wood, plastic signs with their son’s football number pricking the soft grass. A child wailed like a police siren, a car trunk slammed shut. A lawn company pick-up passed, two men sitting in the truck bed, t-shirts roughly cut off at the shoulders. Sawn branches had been thrown haphazardly beside them, making it seem as if a tree had taken root in the steel truck body.
The country club comprised several tennis courts, a modest pool and a clubhouse that resembled a log cabin. Throughout the grounds were picnic tables and wooden lounge chairs where older town residents would fall asleep in the afternoon sun. Its appeal was its rustic, unostentatious seclusion. High hedges lined the club’s borders, and you could not be admitted unless you were sponsored by another family. Still, the wealthy members believed this was not the elitist country club of other suburbs — there were no sport coats required, no crystal stemware in the clubhouse dining room, no golf course.
Linda signed in at the front desk, making her name an indecipherable series of sharp upward pen strokes. The club was a part of her history: she learned to swim in its pool, had several failed tennis lessons on its courts, angrily holding her racket like a baseball bat in protest. One of its picnic tables was the only place she had ever seen her parents kiss, her mother leaning back into her father’s chest, her sun-browned face turned upwards at an uncomfortable angle to meet his mouth. They looked like Roman statues. Linda noticed the line of her father’s calves, her mother’s fingers cupping the weathered wood of the bench, their faces solemn, unchanging.
“For the love of God, stop picking at it,” a mother snapped at her young son as they walked from the fenced-in pool. The boy jerked his fingers away from a small, brown scab on his forehead, pushing his hands behind him in two fists, his mouth forming an exaggerated ‘O.’ Linda remembered asking her mother once why she had no brothers or sisters, and her mother responding that she couldn’t fathom going through the hell of having a young child all over again.
Emme and Lauren were at the far end of the pool by the diving board, their tanned bodies in the black bikinis they’d bought at the beginning of the summer to look more mature; the sorbet shades of last year now deemed unacceptable, the swimsuits of pre-teens. Scattered around the pool’s concrete edges were mothers and nannies lathering sunscreen on children, small bodies swaying from the heavy, insistent hand strokes; stick-thin middle schoolers splashing and screaming, and the obese Sullivan kid, sitting forward on one of the deck chairs, his back shimmering with sweat.
Linda noticed that the boy Kiel was there again, his hair wet, as if he had just gotten out of the water. He reminded her of a golden retriever; there was something canine in the shape of his skull.
“He’s here again,” Emme said as Linda dropped her towel on a deck chair. Kiel was two years older and came to the pool once every few weeks to do laps in one of the roped off lanes. They had never spoken to him, but often it seemed he was all they spoke about.
At high school, many of the girls were emphatic that Linda was not attractive.
“It’s not even that she’s not pretty, there’s nothing wrong with her, but her face is almost like a boy’s, I think. Handsome, maybe,” Emme had said at lunch — holding her fork upright as if to eat the air —when she thought Linda was out of earshot. .
Linda always found girls incredibly adept at describing the ways in which a pretty girl is not actually pretty. She saw this dissection as an art, a skill acquired after years of critical, cold observance. Inoffensive words take on an air of complete disdain: healthy means inelegant, American means bland, athletic means not thin, pretty means not beautiful. Older generations may not trip over these words, only other girls can hold them up to the light, see the different shapes they take, the cruel shadows.
“You smell like cigarettes, and you’re sunburnt,” Emme said when Linda sat down.
Lauren laughed as she picked at the ends of her hair, each strand the color of browned butter.
“I was practicing pitching in the backyard,” Linda said, touching her forehead to where the burn was. It was a gift Emme had, to zero in on any new flaw: bangs trimmed slightly too short, a loose seam on a sweater.
“Well, I mean, it’s not that bad,” Emme said, turning back to her magazine.
“It’s really not,” Lauren said, though she hadn’t looked up once from her split ends.
Their voices always flattened with insincerity; they couldn’t be bothered to be convincing, to truly put on a show. It was the same tone they took with parents, with teachers: I can’t participate in gym today because of my runner’s knee, her parents are going to take us, I don’t know what happened to the money you left on the counter. They had gotten less passionate in their lying with age, their eyes as unclouded and blameless as a deer’s.
Emme put on her oversized sunglasses, resting them on her slightly too small ears, ears that she always covered with her sheet of white blond hair. Linda snatched Lauren’s bottle of sunscreen from the concrete and began to rub it into her skin, noticing Emme and Lauren exchanging smirks out of the corner of her eye, as brief as a camera flash. She knew they were slowly pulling away from her, but each backward step was so minute she felt like there was nothing to do to stop it, no moment she could pause and ask, Where are you going? Who will I have when you’re gone?
The next few hours passed in a languid haze. It was rare for them to go into the water, a last resort for when the heat became truly unbearable. Instead they drank Diet Cokes and flipped through their mother’s Vanity Fairs and Vogues, brushing past the text heavy articles and lingering on the models reclining on a Scottish heath in wool and tartan, tripping along cobblestone streets in Madrid wearing trench coats and printed silk scarves. The pages were film stills of a life each girl felt she would one day lead, though this was something they were unable to articulate to one another, instead cooing, ‘Oh, how pretty,’ or ‘I love Chanel’ as they crossed and uncrossed their ankles.
Throughout all of this, they monitored his movements. They compared him to boys in their year and found them wanting; he was over six feet, with a long, hairless torso. Their eyes followed him as he chatted with the lifeguard, as he dived into the deep end and sliced through the light blue water with precise, confident strokes, the muscles of his back moving like a tangle of fish just below the skin of a river.
Linda did not find him particularly attractive. She had fallen in love with Sean Connery at a young age, and had since been drawn to friends’ fathers, history teachers, the men who did renovation work on her house, softball coaches. She loved their thick calves, the dark mat of hair on the back of their hands. But it was never made known, obviously never acted on, and she had gotten used to the script of teenage boy adulation: a remark about their eye color, or how their hair fell across their forehead.
“I was thinking we could have people over to your house Friday?” Emme said a little after four, just as the mothers and children were starting to trickle out of the white wooden gates. Only the teenagers and the older men half-asleep in their chairs lingered.
“No,” Linda said. “You always ask, and the answer is always no.”
“Okaay,” Emme said, teasing the word out like a piece of taffy. “But your parents aren’t there, and we would help you clean up afterwards. I know you think we wouldn’t but we definitely would, and everyone would come, because Patrick was going to hold one but then his sister started making herself throw up at summer camp, which is ridiculous, I mean what kind of an idiot becomes a bulimic when she’s sharing a bathroom with ten other people? But anyways, his parents had to come back from St. Thomas.”
“But if we had people over to your house, we could invite him,” Emme said, tipping her blond head towards Kiel, lying in the sun like a seal.
“I don’t care about inviting him.”
“Yes you do,” Emme said, her eyes narrowing.
“No, okay? I don’t. And I’m not going to have my house trashed just so you can have sex with some boy in my parents’ bedroom,” Linda said, the last few words coming out in an angry rush.
“Fine. Fine,” Emme said, shrugging her shoulders.
“You two are a lot of fun today,” Lauren said. She was sitting cross-legged at the edge of her chair, and Linda noticed a tanned roll of baby fat puckered above her bikini bottom.
“I think I’m going to go home,” Linda said, dropping her magazine to the concrete. She was tired of the heat, tired of Emme’s voice.
“Okay, go home. But next time you come here, maybe bother to shave your legs?” Emme said, looking at the dark stubble brushed along Linda’s calves. “I know your parents abandoned you yet again, but I’m sure they left you with enough money to buy a razor.”
Emme put on her sunglasses and leaned back in her chair like a queen, though Lauren stayed hunched forward, her mouth agape; even she knew this was too much. Linda felt her cheeks burn, and her pitching arm flushed with heat. She was overwhelmed with the desire to break Emme’s jaw, shattering the bones that looked as delicate and small as a house cat’s. Her heart beat against her breastplate, the sensation similar to being on the mound, the feeling that plagued her every game: that she couldn’t do what she wanted most, that she could never pitch fast enough. The catcher would often rise, shaking her gloved hand, her palm puffed and stinging. It was not enough. Linda wanted to snap her fingers back and crack the ball right through the glove’s leather.
The other girls on her team believed she was cold, selfish, a bird preening before the awed men and women in the bleachers. It was not conscious on her part, this neglect of her teammates; it just never struck her to care about anything beyond the line between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. All her anger was released in that stretch of muscle, on that patch of dirt.
Linda rose from her chair and dressed in silence. There were other ways to show anger. There were other ways to make someone hurt. She walked to the other side of the pool, rubbing the sweat off her brow with her forearm. The boy, Kiel, looked up at her she approached.
“Do you want to come back to my house?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said, like he’d been expecting her, a waitress offering him a glass of water.
They walked mostly in silence, as Kiel’s polite questions were met with brief, monotone answers — her parents were not at home, they would not be back for another week. Linda had not considered anything beyond the walk across the hot stippled concrete, the satisfied glance back at Emme’s face as Kiel put on his t-shirt and slipped on his sandals. But now he was here, and soon they would be at her home. She thought for a moment that she should have sex with him, ridding herself of her virginity like a damp bathing suit, but the image of him emptying into her made her physically sick.
They wound around the side of her garage, passing the pile of newspapers that had accumulated at the end of her driveway. He did not comment on her house, undoubtedly his was very similar: the acre of grass, the shale walkway leading to the front door from the driveway, the stainless steel hardware on the rows of glossy kitchen cabinets.
“Yours?” he said, picking up the baseball mitt and slipping his long, pink fingers inside the black leather. She nodded, itching to wrench it off his hand. “You’re not a lesbian, are you?”
“No,” she said, though she did not like how low and defensive her voice sounded in protest. Boys always asked her this when she was slinging her cleats over her shoulder or pushing their hands away from her underwear. She was not, truly; she found the idea of kissing the blushed lips of another girl just as unappealing as the insistent mouth of a teenage boy. She would often find herself staring at tables full of them at the cafeteria, shoving each other’s shoulders, stealing hats and French fries, sometimes speaking in a fevered rush, other times laughing uproariously, their mouths open so wide she could see full sets of teeth. They seemed incapable of tenderness, more likely to swallow her whole.
“Well at least that’s something,” he said, smiling and putting the mitt back on the table.
Kiel laughed at the boom of the explosion, the puff of smoke and the bright flames reaching skyward. His laugh was high and breathy, a dry whinnying in the back of his throat. He was so graceful in the water, but on land he was just another boy.
“Man, that’s what I’m going to do once I get a new car after graduation, I’m just going to blow the old one up in the middle of that airfield by the movie theater,” he said, pointing at the screen.
“You’d get arrested.”
“No, I wouldn’t. It’s my property,” he said, his lip pulled into a slight snarl. He got up to use the bathroom, and Linda could clearly hear the steady stream of his piss from down the hallway.
Linda thought of Emme. She would now be telling her mother what happened, her bare feet swinging loose as she perched on one of her kitchen’s bar stools, her mother listening sympathetically from the other side of the granite island. Emme’s mother was overweight, with dimpled, pink arms and a roll under her chin, a pale half moon. Her wedding portrait hung in the foyer, and she was unrecognizable: light as Emme, narrow waist defined by the delicate ‘V’ of an ivory bodice. Emme used to always tell Linda how lucky she was, to have such a beautiful mother —Linda’s mother’s face a sharply drawn heart, her hair blown out once a week at the salon, white capri pants perfectly ironed. But what use, when they barely spoke, when Linda was sitting alone in this large, cavernous home while Emme was eating dinner at a busy wooden table, her little brother pulling at her blond ponytail.
“How about a tour?” Kiel said upon returning. The show had ended and the sun was setting in the distance, the room a pale blue.
“Um, sure,” she said. She clicked off the television set as he cracked his knuckles, a dull kk-kk-kk. Perhaps she could simply walk him through the first floor and then sweep him gently out the front door, like a dinner party guest who had lingered too long; she had seen her mother do it countless times, the fingertips on the elbow, the lowered voice, almost as if they were lovers, almost as if they shared a secret.
The rooms were softly lit; Linda did not like a darkened house so she never turned off the lights. They walked through the front sitting room, all creams and cat-fur grays; past the shock of orange tulips in a vase on the dining room table, half the petals fallen to the glossed wood, revealing their black pollen hearts; her father’s study, almost Nordic in its minimalism, though there were battered paperbacks on the shelves, a football loose at the seams, items that her mother did not want on display. Linda’s limbs started to feel leaden, her house seeming to grow in size, as if carpenters were silently propping up new walls.
Kiel peered into the rooms as if they were in a museum, a heavy velvet rope hanging limply in front of doorframes, though when she gestured to her half-open bedroom door, he walked right in as if it was his own. Linda saw herself grabbing the neck of his t-shirt and pulling him back out into the hallway, but instead she fell in step behind him, clicking on her white ceramic desk light. She had already lost Emme; she could not afford to have this boy tell everyone at school how violent and cold she was.
Linda’s mother redecorated her bedroom every few years, surprising her after a visit to her grandparents or a softball tournament. With each new paint color and bedspread selection it became clearer to Linda that rather than giving a gift to her daughter, her mother was creating the rooms she had dreamt of as a lower middle class girl biding her time in Rockford, Illinois. They were bedrooms neatly cut out from 1970s issues of Home & Garden — flat, yellow florals, an ivory vanity highlighted by thin lines of gold, blush pink floor rugs perfectly off center. The only items in the room that Linda felt truly belong to her were the baseball mitt lying under the cushioned bench and a pack of cigarettes hidden above one of the curtain rods.
Clothes lay in piles on the floor, grass streaked jeans and wrinkled t-shirts, their underarms delicately tinted with summer sweat. The comforter and top sheet had been kicked to the bed’s edge, the throw pillows stuffed in the closet. Empty Diet Coke cans were lined up like soldiers on the top of the bureau. Linda felt as if she should apologize for how it looked, but it made her proud, like the room was finally her own.
“It’s getting pretty late,” she said.
“You trying to get rid of me?” Kiel said with a smile, slowly walking around the room, letting his fingers fall against the back of her chair, the top of her dresser. Linda sat on the bed, her feet on the floor. She crossed her arms defensively against her chest, with a familiar swell of frustration tightening her throat.
“So those girls were your friends, by the pool?”
“We’ve known each other since grade school.”
“I’ve seen that blond one around school,” Kiel said, sitting next to her on her unwashed cotton sheets, making her immediately regret her choice of sitting places. His shoes had a thick white sole, so they appeared too large for his feet.
“Emme,” Linda said, rubbing her hands along her legs as if she was cold, feeling the small pricks of hair. She knew what was coming next, imagined the different ways she would stop it — a hand against his chest, a turned cheek.
“Yeah, she seems like kind of a cunt.”
Linda was always surprised at how easily those words came to boys, as if the syllables had been playing in a loop in their head all day, waiting to skip off the tongue. He was close. She noticed the skin was peeling near his hairline, a delicate puckering, like the wings of an insect.
“Yeah, I guess she is,” she said, and with the ‘s’ still hissing past her two front teeth, Kiel leaned towards her. She dipped her head back reflexively, like a boxer dodging a punch. He smiled, strong bone-white teeth, and moved closer.
There were no voices, but Linda felt them beneath her, moving like fish from one room to the next. Doors opening, the sound of something being dragged across the floors. She brought her hands up to her face, her fingers tracing her eyebrows, her cheeks, the dry curve of her bottom lip, an unconscious gesture to see if she was still there. Her bedroom blurred and focused, each element of it seen in a new, white light — the window was too high for them to jump from, the lamp was too large, its base unusable as a blunt object to break over someone’s skull.
The footsteps were coming closer, one set, now two, and she realized they must be near the bottom of the staircase. She had left her cell phone on the kitchen counter, and earlier Kiel had lamented that his was dead. Her mother had bought her an antique telephone, its cream cord wrapped around the base, no portable receiver she could carry. One of her old softball bats was propped up beside her vanity, the leather looped around the handle loose and frayed. She picked it up, grabbed Kiel by the sleeve of his shirt and as quietly as she could, opened her closet door and ducked inside, closing it softly behind them, the metal latch making a solemn click.
Linda pushed through the dresses on wooden hangers: the pale pink her mother bought her for her cousin’s wedding, the green chiffon Emme she wore once to a Bat Mitzvah. She pulled Kiel down beside her, thought of throwing clothes over them, but there were not enough to hide both their bodies. Their backs were against the smooth plaster. Kiel kept running his fingers back and forth through his hair, the tips making a scratching noise like a match against carbon. She gripped one of his wrists to stop him, convinced the men below could hear.
Everything within her —the blood rushing loose and wild under her skin — quieted at the sound of feet moving up the staircase. She could hear the swish of a vinyl jacket and for a moment wondered how they could bear it in the heat. They lingered outside her doorframe, the hinge creaking as it swung open like a mouth. Foot soles entered the room, moving from the floor to the carpet; a brief clearing of a man’s throat, the loose sound of spit. Next to her, Kiel put his head between his knees. He smelled like chlorine and sweat, the scent so consuming she thought she might vomit. Then came the swish of a drawer opening, then another, the smooth sound of wood against wood. The slight scratch of a fingernail across the drawer bottom as clothing was pushed to the side, then a sweep of the arm across her vanity, the bright clink of nail polish bottles and porcelain jewelry dishes against the glass top.
Her parents would be at their hotel room, her father neatly folding his jacket and laying it over the desk chair, her mother wiping off her lipstick with a tissue. Emme would be lying on her striped comforter, her long, browned feet flat against the wall as she talked to Lauren on the phone. All of them had left her to this, to them. So come in, she found herself willing the men outside her closet, angling the bat forward like a torch, just try, just try, just try.
Once when she was no more than six, she had locked herself by accident in the bathroom after her mother had drawn her a bath, the metal somehow jamming into the door slot. Her mother had to call the firemen to get the door open, and Linda distinctly remembered standing naked, her towel wrapped around her shoulders like a flag, as strange men broke through the lock. When they first arrived her mother cooed to her through the door, telling her she was right there, that it was going to be just fine; but then nothing. All she could hear was the men’s labored breathing, the clang of metal against metal, metal against wood, as the door buckled and broke under their weight.
It was difficult to say how long they stayed in the closet after the house fell silent. When they emerged it felt like the door opened to a new existence, the world after an atom bomb, the molecules rearranged so that even its scent was slightly different: leaves burning in autumn, fresh dirt, mint.
Linda walked down the staircase ahead of Kiel, the baseball bat hanging limply from her fingers. Many things were gone that could never be replaced: the gray pearl studs her father brought her from the Dalmatian Coast, her grandmother’s crystal bowl that opened like a lotus, the small painting of the lavender fields in Avignon, the one her mother had to hang close to the ceiling because Linda, as a small child, would run her fingertips along the canvas where the thick drops of oil paint held the light so that they looked as if they hadn’t yet dried. All were lost, and in their place were shards of glass on the kitchen floor, cabinets and drawers hanging open, naked and exposed as children. The men had come through the door leading out to the deck, a door that now hung open to the dense, shape-shifting darkness of the backyard. Everything was quiet except for the roar of crickets and katydids.
“Jesus, I can’t fucking believe this — I mean, they could have killed us, they could have just shot us in the face, like boom, dead,” Kiel said. “Shouldn’t you call the cops?”
“Man, my parents are not going to believe this shit,” Kiel said, rubbing his palm along his forehead. He let out a short, harsh laugh.
Linda looked at him, another stranger in her home, another stranger who would leave her to this empty, broken house. She lifted up the baseball bat, shifting her weight to her back foot, knees bent, hands six inches from her chest. Kiel’s lips parted in confusion, his brows curved upwards as Linda swung the bat across the top of the granite island — a carton of orange juice hit the wall, pale streaks of liquid splattering against the cream paint, the pieces of an Italian ceramic bowl falling to the ground with the bright crack of a bell.
Kiel yelled, his forearms shielding his face. She responded by crashing the metal tip of the bat against the mirror next to the kitchen table. It shattered in a burst of light, a firework over a dark bay. Kiel ran into the street as Linda went through the house, her feet red and raw with blood, cracking through the static black of the television screen, breaking the cabinets holding wedding china, vases and picture frames becoming nothing more than glass and metal, knowing that she could not stop until there was nothing left, until she could hear the men and women applauding from the bleachers, telling her it was over now, the house was once again her own.
Rowan Beaird is currently teaching English in rural Japan. She was previously the Program Manager for Grub Street in Boston, and was the recipient of the Propper Prize for Poetry while getting her B.A. in English Literature from Kenyon College. She is originally from the suburbs of Chicago.