19 comments

Fiction

TW: Sexual Violence


No Divided by Yes


“Don’t be rude, Kimmy. Give him a kiss.” Mum puts her hands on her hips and makes an angry-parent noise.


Uncle Brian looms in the doorway, his bulky frame blocking the sunlight. His gut sags over his belt and wriggling chest hairs escape from under his shirt.


“A kiss, Kimmy,” he says. “You heard your mother, don’t be rude.” He smells of sausages and shame.


He puckers his lips. They’re thick and fat, like two pink slugs. Mum pushes on my back, her nails poking through my t-shirt.


“Kimmy,” she hisses, and I know she means business.


I shuffle forward, my sandals glinting in the sunlight, into Uncle Brian’s shadow, and their sparkle fades.


I offer him my cheek. He grabs my face with both his meaty hands and kisses me on the lips. His are parted, wet and juicy. Two pink slugs.


I pull back, but his grip on my face is too strong. I wait, fleshy palms squishing my cheeks, lips pressing against mine, and sausage breath crumpling my understanding of the world.


Mum makes a satisfied-parent noise. Uncle Brian brushes past me into the house.


I’m seven years old. And I wonder why I’m the one that’s rude.


*


Minus Myself


“Mum, I want to go home,” I whisper, cupping my hands around the space between her ear and my mouth.


The women in the lounge stare, their glasses full, their lips thin, punctuating their disapproval with silence. Mum smells of perfume and whiskey, and a dinner that isn’t coming.


Her bracelets jingle as she waves me away, swatting like I’m an incessantly buzzing mosquito. “You’re here to see your friends, go play,” she says.


She lowers her voice and fixes her pale grey eyes on me. “Don’t be rude, please.”


I pick at a thread on my skirt. “Mum—”


“Kimmy.”


Ice clinks in a glass, and someone coughs. I turn for the door.


“She’s just tired from a big week. Kimmy always…”


She doesn’t wait until I leave the room before she’s explaining my shortcomings. I walk down the hall and enter the fray.


I’m not tired. They aren’t my friends. They’re older than me, and playing a game I don’t like.


In the bedroom.


The game makes me feel icky, so I stand in the corner, leaning against the wall, tracing my fingers over the patterned wallpaper. Learning the art of camouflaging with a smile. Perhaps they won’t notice me.


The bottle spins. It’s my turn. I don’t like it. Everyone laughs.


I’m twelve years old. And I wonder how small I’ll have to shrink to be safe.


*


Plus a Failed Rebellion


“She verbally attacked our Etiquette and Comportment teacher.”


The principal looks at Mum and picks up a pen, armed, in case my hedonism is contagious.


Mum’s bracelets jingle as she rubs her forehead. “Kimmy’s always been difficult,” she says.


Hearing her dismiss me so easily deflates my confidence for a moment. Then it fuels the fire. Why must I stifle my truth because it makes others uncomfortable?


“It’s Kim.” I push back my chair. “And I didn’t attack her.”


The principal puts down his pen and stares at me. So does Mum.


I stand, indignant righteousness seeping out of my body in shallow breaths.


“We got pulled out of calculus to get taught how to walk with bloody books on our heads.”


“Kimmy—”


“By some model in serious need of a pie.”


Mum gasps. The principal’s lips disappear, sucked into his mouth like a lizard stealing a fly.


I carry on. This is my moment. I’m diagonally parked in a parallel universe, and I’m setting my truth free.


“I know how to walk. I learnt that years ago. I didn’t learn any maths today, but I would’ve, if this image driven, god-forsaken hole of a school cared more about my education than my appearance.”


“We’ll have to suspend her,” the principal says.


“Of course,” Mum replies.


I’m sixteen years old. And I wonder if I want the fight or the win.


*


Multiplied by Silence


“You got suspended? Cool.” He’s in my year at school and his spray-on deodorant is doing a poor job of hiding his insecurities. “Wanna beer?”


I nod. It’s hard to distinguish between the greater sin, being honest, or sneaking out to a party. Two sides of the same coin.


The beer is bitter, and I don’t like it. But I’m moving in a different world now. I take a swig and try not to gag, setting the can on the windowsill. The pulsing music fades to a warbling love song, the crowd cheers, and someone dims the lights.


“Wanna dance?” His hand stretches out to me, palm up, its glossy sheen glinting in the gloom.


I don’t.


I take his hand and hope the song is short. His fingers drift south of my hips. I rest mine further north, on his shoulders, hoping he’ll take the hint.


He doesn’t.


He kisses me, his tongue wriggling like a worm burrowing under the ground. I pull back. His fingers are sweaty as he tucks my hair behind my ears.


“It’s okay,” he says, and kisses me again. I’m not sure I’m looking for reassurance.


“Wanna go for a walk?” he asks.


I don’t.


I smile and nod, and we stagger through the crowd of swaying hormones. Someone wolf whistles and he raises his hand in triumph, then leads me to the reserve next door. He licks his lips. I lick mine too. My mouth is dry.


My body knows how to say no.


I don’t.


He takes off his jacket, and we lay on the grass. It’s wet, so I try to sit, but he kisses me, pushing me flat. Am I doing it right?


He takes off my top. I swallow. His fingers tremble as they unbutton my jeans. I want to say no.


I don’t.


He’s lying on top of me. It hurts. I want him to stop, but everyone knows I agreed to this. It’s leading him on otherwise. That’s not cool.


His breath is hot on my ear, and it smells of beer. I close my eyes, curling my fingers around the wet grass, and they touch something slimy. Maybe it’s a slug.


Amongst the grunting and grinding, I find my voice.


“Stop,” I whisper.


He doesn’t.


“It’s okay,” he says. I’m not looking for reassurance.


“Stop,” I say again. Louder, my voice growing wings, setting my truth free.


I raise my hands, trying to push him off me. He grabs my wrists.


And carries on.


I could fight more. I could make a scene. But I shrink instead.


I’m sixteen years old. And I wonder if anyone really sees me at all.


*


Equals Change


My daughter dithers in the doorway of the rest home, clinging to my leg. Uncle Brian sits in the corner by the window, his bulk spilling out over his recliner.


“Come, give your Uncle Brian a kiss.” He says to my daughter, patting his chair and puckering his lips.


She buries her face in my jeans.


“She doesn’t want to,” I say.


Uncle Brian frowns. The chair groans as he staggers to his feet.


“You need a firm hand with girls nowadays, Kimmy. Otherwise, they’ll never learn any manners.”


“It’s Kim.”


"Pardon?" Uncle Brian fumbles for his walker.


“My name is Kim.”


 He opens his thick lips, ready to speak.


I lift my chin, stare him in the eye, and get in first. “And she doesn't have to give you a kiss. It's her choice.”


I want to offer an appeasing smile to reduce the tension. A smile that says, I’m small, don’t hurt me, I’m friendly.


I don’t.


He looks away. And doesn’t argue.


I’m thirty-four years old. And I understand my mother’s legacy.


I rest my hand on my daughter’s back. That’s not the legacy I’m handing to her. A new generation is emerging, one where we are seen. We don’t shrink to make others comfortable in our presence. We hold our feelings high, along with our boundaries. We own our truths. And our bodies.


That old legacy, it ends with us.


#MeToo


September 17, 2021 09:39

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19 comments

Delia Strange
19:48 Sep 21, 2021

Such a powerful story, beautifully expressed. The ending was satisfying and gave me chills (the goosebumps kind). Like someone else commented here, the repetition of 'I don't' gave each scene a tragic yet compelling ambience. Cheers :)

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Beth Jackson
00:27 Sep 22, 2021

Thank you so much for your kind comments. I really appreciate your feedback. :-)

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18:45 Sep 21, 2021

Wow, what to say? This is beautifully uncomfortable and painfully descriptive. A difficult read but an important one. Thank you for being brave enough to post it

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Beth Jackson
00:31 Sep 22, 2021

Thank you Katharine, I really appreciate your kind and thoughtful comments. :-)

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Jon Casper
10:22 Sep 19, 2021

It's a sad fact that boys and men often don't have any parallels to the constant threat girls and women live with every day. It feels like there is an awakening now and I hope it gains traction. Stories like this are tragic but educational. The ending is uplifting. The repetition of "I don't" is outstanding, especially its new context at the end with refusing to smile. Very good story!

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Beth Jackson
18:16 Sep 19, 2021

Thank you Jon! I really appreciate your kind comments! :-)

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Amanda Gielink
22:26 Oct 01, 2021

This story is hauntingly wonderful. I found myself nodding in recognition in certain parts and cheering for Kim in others. Well done!

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Beth Jackson
01:34 Oct 02, 2021

Thank you, Amanda. I really appreciate your kind comments. :-)

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Keya Jadav
11:45 Sep 24, 2021

Such a powerful and inspiring story, like a flower, finally blooming in the dark. The way you parallelly mentioned the ages, it added a unique charm. And how you added the mathematical notations...perfect! (Whoosh, the title!) Love this story Beth, great job!

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Beth Jackson
18:58 Sep 24, 2021

Thank you so much for your kind comments! :-)

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Kerry Williams
07:49 Sep 24, 2021

Wow, I thought this was amazingly well-written, and such a powerful story with a very important message.

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Beth Jackson
08:21 Sep 24, 2021

Thank you so much for your kind comments! :-)

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Ferris Haney
12:28 Sep 22, 2021

this is so good. love the work

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Beth Jackson
17:46 Sep 22, 2021

Thank you so much! :-)

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Suma Jayachandar
05:35 Sep 21, 2021

Your words blend into the theme to create magic. Absolutely loved reading it!

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Beth Jackson
06:14 Sep 21, 2021

Thank you so much for your lovely comment!! I really appreciate it. :-)

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Nice job!!!

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Beth Jackson
02:09 Sep 18, 2021

Thank you! :-)

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My pleasure! :))))))

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