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My Big Mouth

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My Big Mouth

Repentant as she was, Marion thought it was best for her to go on home. It was obvious to her that she needed to be punished. Definitely not in the way her father had usually intended but she needed to rid herself of temptation and at VicMu temptation was everywhere. Drinking, smoking, dancing with strangers, consorting with deviants, even being kissed by one! Was there even a limit to all she was capable of doing?

A haze of madness, that's what it was, a lovable, breathable, addicting and pleasurable, haze of madness.

Marion begun to wonder that night, before Betty had returned from wherever it was she had run to. During the bath before her father's intrusion, Marion had been thinking on it all, trying to add things up in her head. She realized that she actually had been sinning a lot. This latest sin was not something she participated in but it may have been something she courted, an idea she never really thought through. It wasn't her fault that Betty kissed her but she did notice that Betty was different with other girls, very different indeed. And didn't that make her party to it all? To know that special treatment is being given, to know that someone is being much more open with you than they ever are or were with anyone else? Is it wrong to want to touch someone, be close to someone, if not in a sexual way, but just in a needy way, a selfish way? All these questions goaded at her being.

Now, having lived through what happened, Marion couldn't help but recall all her affectionate behavior towards Betty. She did want to be near her, all the time. She did stare openly and provide commentary to Betty that was very different indeed than the commentary she bestowed upon others. It was an unsettling feeling, to realize how openly adoring she had been towards Betty, especially now, knowing the full extent of Betty's intentions. Even if she had not been doing things on purpose, even if she had not been trying to convey a certain degree of mutual affection, Marion realized that her behavior was different. And, in difference, therein lies the problem. Marion didn't want to be different. Marion wanted to be right for her God and that is all.

After all the meditation, and all the days away, Marion realized that she couldn't fully absolve herself of responsibility. What happened with Betty, it wasn't a fluke or an accident. On some level Marion knew that she must have wanted it to happen. Why she would want this was still beyond her, in reasoning. But at least now she knew it was true, she knew that she played a role in this big crazy occurrence. And she couldn't blame Betty anymore. It actually hurt her to blame Betty. Marion knew now that there was something wrong with her.

Being home was doing nothing for her sanity. With only chores to keep her busy, Marion was spending more time in her own head than she was really accustomed to spending. She tried not to be caught up in her memories but they were the only happiness she had, the only happiness in all her years. At night, in the day, outside, inside, at the store, even in the washroom, Marion was hounded by these joyful memories. They followed her like a shadow, bringing her happiness when she should be sad, infecting her mind with their pleasantries. Her happiness was evidence of her difference, she had never been really happy before. All her smiles, all her cheer, it was all supposed to be wrong and yet everywhere, everyone was happy without the guilt that she carried. Soon the questions began to change in her head. Since she had come to the realization that she was different she started to wonder why God would make her so and why God would give her happiness after so many struggles if not to teach her how to live? Why could others smile and laugh and have joy without too feeling this burden that she felt, this constant nagging at her soul. Her father had taught her that everything happy was a sin, everything. But other people didn't live their lives like she did, other people were allowed to laugh and find joy in things. Would they be rejected by her God? How could she believe that heaven had no place for the human race?

At home there was nothing to tempt her, and not just because her father stayed close by her side. Her home town was behind the times, nothing showy about it. No bars for over thirty miles, the only dances were put on by the church, and the only store in town had a very vocal owner with prominent ties to the church, a talkative man with very loose lips, a man who knows every citizen by name and isn't ashamed of telling the truths of others. No booze without guilt. And all guilt all the time. Coming back home was a culture-shock. Marion scarcely smiled in this place.

But it wasn't the lack of alcohol that made her anxious. It wasn't the wanting for cigarettes or the desire to dance with men and women alike that was tearing at her mind. Mostly she missed the companionship. All that time in Toronto, though rather bumpy, Marion had spent it enjoying almost every little bit. Even when bad things happened, good things came out of them. When she had to take those pictures for her papers, she grew closer to Betty, she found herself a friend. When Lorna accused her of stealing, she was almost attacked but she got to hear Leon sing and to her, that was worth it. Every small piece of her time in Toronto, she could look back on with no regrets. She knew that she would do it all just the same, given the chance. There was no stone she'd leave unturned, not even the kiss, not even that last goodbye kiss, the first in her life.

Marion had never bought booze before her new life, but she could sure use a drink now.

Dreamer, Marion thought to herself. Today there's a celebration at the church. It's the harvest festival to celebrate fall and bless the crops for the incoming harvest.

"Marion!"

"What is it Daddy?"

"It's Ronald, he's waiting for you."

"Just a minute." She dressed for the festival in a new dress her mother had made for her before growing ill. She had tried to finish the dress in time for Marion's departure for her new life but things were spiraling out of control so the dress had taken a backseat to the big escape. Her mother was looking considerably well these days. When Marion had come back her mother was on the verge of death, just one day from giving up completely. But now her cheeks were flushed again, she was almost up and about, and she took to sitting in the family room and dwelling out on the porch when the wind came in at night.

Fall must be taking it's time this year because the wind is still a pleasantry, even at this late month. Marion's favorite time of day is the evening, she loves sitting out on the porch with her mother and watching the leaves blow down the street. In the chaos of the nighttime wind, Marion's soul turns to song and she delights her mother with her voice. Torturing them both sweetly, singing songs of pain and loss, saying the words they are never brave enough to say to one another. Somehow in a song, it's alright to voice her pain and her struggles. The two of them say very little to one another but it's almost as if they can feel the turmoil in their hearts and that feeling is an instant and constant connection that keeps them grounded and sane. Marion would not have come home should her mother not be there, and if, please God don't let this happen, her mother does succumb to disease, Marion will quickly vanish and she knows it in her bones, she feels it every day and it scares her. Her family is the only thing grounding her and she has seen how quickly she can be corrupted.

October means death and rebirth and that's what the harvest festival is all about. Her father had given a sermon this morning on the vibrancies of life, a surprisingly positive sermon for her alarmingly unhappy father to have given. Many were pleased with the change in the morning spirit and dozens had held Marion's hands in their own, telling her she should be proud of her father for all the positive work he does in the community. Marion felt sick after that. It was great for people to be finding joy in his words but the man on his own was more hateful than any she had ever met. She wasn't about to forgive him his sins, it wasn't her place to do so, and trust was not in her grasp. It was clear in her mind that her father was not even one reason why she had allowed herself to come home. He was almost the only real reason to stay away, and that still held true. Even with his positive sermons and his newly turned leaf of actually practicing in self-restraint, he was still a monster. Marion came back to see her mother but mostly she ran to keep herself from being lost to Kate Andrews. Kate Andrews had no limits, Kate Andrews could fly off the face of the Earth laughing and singings and loving to death. Marion needed to feel herself again and that wasn't possible at VicMu, she had to find herself again.

In the mirror she finds herself timid, like a shell of her former self, a new version. Often she finds herself like this, actually feeling damaged, broken, or somewhat unclean. But today she has no room for these feelings. Ronald Melcher has finally convinced her to let him take her out. Today she will feel special, even if it hurts her to do so. In the mirror she doesn't see Marion and she doesn't see Kate. The woman before her is altered from either of these two familiar personas. Marion is finding her new duel self to be much more complicated than either of her former selves. If she had known the pain that Kate Andrews was going to cause her Marion might have stayed home all together. But the joy of Kate Andrews was too strong to deny and as hard as she tried she could not believe that Kate Andrews was all evil.

"Hello."

"Howdy! Gosh, you sure look beautiful."

"It's a new dress. Mama made it. Do you like it?"

"Of course I do! You ready?"

"Ready."

"You kids take care, I'll be along in a little bit." Her father always attended town gatherings, he felt it his duty. He was a badger and a spy, always judging for God, always placing his nose where it didn't belong. Her father wasn't making her nervous anymore. Although, there was hatred in her heart now and it sickened her. She wasn't scared of her father's hand because her father was a sinner, more so than her, more so than any. If he hit her it was almost satisfying. Not the pain of it, the pain of it was still there and she didn't relish it at all, but the satisfaction solidified something very important in her. If he hit her it proved that he was wrong. She didn't realize this until he had seen her hit Betty the way he did, throwing her half across the hall without so much as a glance to see if she was alright. That was an eye-opening experience. Marion never thought he would hit another person, a person he didn't even know. Now she was certain. Vernon had evil in him and it wasn't going away, it was only getting worse. Now when he found it necessary to lash-out, Marion found satisfaction in knowing that he was ungodly, that he was sinful, just as she, if not more so.

Ronald opened the door for her to raise herself up inside the bed of the truck. He wasn't the best man, not even one of the good guys, but he was persistent and boredom was a recipe for dark thoughts in Marion Rowley. She would rather live a life filled with movement than dwell at home with all these thoughts of how she was failing others, failing herself, and failing God. The more time she spent in her own head, the more twisted she was beginning to feel. Weeks away from Toronto with all those memories in mind, she wasn't sure if she had been poisoned by them or maybe liberated? She was beginning to hate her home.

When she was little Ronald used to throw dirt on her shoes like a little animal. Marion always found that unsettling so she tried to avoid him but in later years he found new habits, equally memorable ones, to keep her from forgetting he was around. His most recent habit was to offer her a cigarette. He would watch her like a hawk until she decided to find herself alone, then he would popup out of nowhere and offer her a smoke.

It happened once and Marion accepted, from then on he was her supplier. The only physical sin she could find and indulge in, and it was aided by Ronald Melcher, that dirty boy from down the lane.

Marion knew that lots of people smoked, but she had never seen Ronald smoke before she came back. She had half the mind to ask him if he had seen her on her first day back when she snuck out after dark to smoke one of Betty's cigarettes. She had stolen Betty's cigarettes the night before, she wasn't even sure why she did it. But holding them and smoking them calmed her, and she still had the empty carton, she would hold it all the time and inhale deeply every now and then, breathing in the remnants of tobacco that lingered in the empty case. The smell brought her back to the boarding house, made her lose herself for a shining moment out of a dull and broken day.

Even now, weeks later, the cigarettes are calming. Avoiding Ronald isn't something she does now. Every time he offers her a cigarette she remembers VicMu and imagines she's just on break, talking to one of the inventory men and living an independent life with little to no cares.

When they got to the church most of the town was already there. The mayor made a spook house and a few women had baked cakes for the annual costume contest. Gus Bear was leading group hey-rides on his big truck, telling spooky stories with his loud megaphone. Pumpkins were being carved, scarecrows being stuffed with corn husks, and children were running around everywhere screaming joyously under the hum of deeper laughter, the laughter of adults telling their own tales free from their children.

Marion found the scene disturbing. She couldn't find joy in anything at home. Her father used to bring her to all these events and then force her to stay by his side. She never got to enjoy any of it, she would never be one of those laughing children, those happy children. Even now it was hard to just push that all away. Being Vernon's daughter was such a large part of who she was that it burned to even try to forget it. The children laughed but all she could hear was her own inner-turmoil from all the years before when she waited patiently by his side, listened to his hate and his judgment, and tried to keep herself from ever feeling even the slightest tingle of happiness. Before VicMu she never knew life could be filled with so much joy, so much pleasure. Trying to categorize her time in Toronto was becoming harder by the day. Was it sinful? Was it normal? Was it un-Godly? The problem was, she didn't know. The bible says many things about joy but it was all in a different time, a time so different than now. Everywhere she looked people were happy, they were smiling, and there she was, in her prison of a body, feeling trapped, unhappy, and battered. It just didn't seem right to her, it didn't add up. She didn't know freedom before Toronto but now she had tasted it, she knew she could never forget that taste and she knew she didn't want to forget.

"You alright?!"

"Yeah…"

"Hmm.. Why so glum?"

"I-I don't feel well is all. It's cold." He hugged her arms but they weren't really cold, he stayed there anyway, taking advantage of his position. Ronald had been yearning for Marion since he was old enough to know the difference between need and want.

"Come on." He said, taking her hand. He was leading her off toward the back of the church. Marion watched a few children scamper by. One of them was wearing extra clothes and large boots, he neighed like a horse, passing her quickly.

The back of the church was mainly abandoned, only children played beyond the building, the adults were always at the entrance, wanting to be seen, wanting to converse, but the children wanted to be alone, they wanted to have secrets and Marion always understood that. When she was little she wished that she could have secrets, at least from her father, but that proved to be impossible, he kept a tight leash.

"Here." Ronald said, offering her a cigarette. She took it reluctantly, realizing now how horrible she was. She couldn't even refuse it, she did want it now, it was an old comfort. As Ronald lit it, her sense-memory brought her back to a break at VicMu. She thought about Gladys sitting with her and she missed her horribly. "You uh, wanna talk about it?"

"With you?" She peered at him defiantly. "I don't think it's a good idea…"

"Why not…"

"It's complicated is all. You might not understand." Marion had gotten very good at being guarded.

"Try me."

"It's not the sort of thing you just try. It can go well or it can go very very badly."

"You really think you can't trust me with some girl story."

"Well, you are the only person I can talk to here, and you have been a good friend. But only if you PROMISE not to get upset."

"I promise. Nothing you can say will possibly upset me."

"You think that now." Ronald boasted.

"I know it." Marion smiled, feeling more like Kate Andrews. It had been a couple months at home now and she was finally starting to lose that sense of a double life. She was starting to feel more like Kate and Marion were the same person. Her two personalities had finally become one but the only thing that novelty brought her was more and more pain. Marion and Kate both wanted to be gone from this place, they both wanted to leave Vernon to the dust and live a life that had joy in it. Marion refused to believe that God put her on this Earth to be the only, truly, unhappy person around.

"I don't even know where to start. My father is a bad man. I guess I can start there. He's a very evil man. Have I lost you already?"

"No, nah, I can see that. Everyone knows he gets violent. Hell, I've even stuck up for you before… you probably don't remember that."

"I do." She said, stepping forward and kissing his cheek. A few years back her father had made her sing in front of diner. Ronald had seen, she was so beautiful and her voice like an angel… When Vernon saw Marion notice Ronald in his ball-cap, he was overtaken with rage. Vernon charged at her and was about to swing a back-hand at her face when Ronald strode up out of nowhere, holding his hand back with an unexpected strength, he was still considered a boy. Marion remembered her mother gathering her up and pushing her towards the house. She looked back and saw Ronald and her father in a verbal brawl, and then she saw her father strike him, not once but twice across the face. Thinking of Ronald standing up for her reminded her of Betty… Ronald had a black eye at school and she knew her father had put it there. After that he didn't stick up for her when he saw her father yelling and never yielding. She couldn't really blame him but it was apparent and she understood sadly, wishing she had the strength to stick up for herself.

Marion laid herself back down on the wall of the church, steeling a long drag from her cigarette trying to wash away all the bad memories. There were too many bad memories. That memory used to be one of her happy ones but she knew better now, her life in Toronto was vibrant and all these memories were stale.

"Father is such an evil man that Mother said I had to go away. She bought me forged papers, made me a new name, and sent me off to work in a factory where I made bombs for a living." The way Marion said it, she may have been reciting a soliloquy, something completely disconnected from her own life at present.

"Gee."

"You just let me know when it gets to be too much. I've never told anyone here about this and you better not let a word of this through your own lips or I will leave again to keep my family from shame."

"Y-you got it Marion. Whatever you want."

"So, I did this. I became Kate Andrews, and I lived in a large boarding house filled with women, and I made bombs for the war, instruments of destruction." Marion's eyes sparkled at this last bit. Ronald couldn't help but see a smile quivering in her lips but, despite the urge, Marion didn't allow herself to smile.

"So, what made you come back?"

"A few things…"

"Anything I should know about?"

"Not sure… mother was sick, I had to come for her. But there was something else, I did something… sinful."

"Well, we all sin Marion, there's no butts about it, no way around it."

"Yeah well, I guess you can say this sin was major." The contempt in her voice was confusing to Ronald and inside Marion found herself more angry at the situation than her own reactions. She hated the world she lived in, she hated that everything happy was a sin. She had never hated this much in her whole life.

"What'd you do?"

"I don't think I should tell you…"

"Fine, tell me more about these women that you lived with."

"Oh, they were lovely. There was Gladys, beautiful, like a movie star, and real well-off. She never had to cash a check. Her father owns a chain of grocery stores and they were supplying the food to the troops. Good people. Then there was Vera and Lorna and Edith. All the girls, they were so strong, so much stronger than I was. It was like they were teaching me how to be a woman…" Marion thought about this guiltily, taking another drag, and looking down at her clean shoes. Thinking of the girls calmed her down. If they were here they would make her smile and there would be no sin it, she knew it. "One girl was different than the others, my first day in the boarding house she came from across the hall and helped me get into my room. Just like that, out of nowhere, she came and then left, it was almost like I didn't really see her. She could've been a ghost, that's what it felt like. But later, she was my boss. She taught me how to pour petrol, how to keep things safe. I almost lit the place up on my first day. She should've fired me, I put everyone in danger." The guilt in her deepened.

"Why didn't she fire you?"

"I don't know…."

"Sounds like a man."

"Huh?"

"She sounds like a man. That's how men act. Did you cry?" Ronald was unconsciously rubbing his chest with his hands. He would walk to one side of Marion, lean on the wall, then push off the wall and walk to the other side, dancing around her almost effortlessly. He was so much bigger now than she remembered him that day on the street. His hair was dark brown and he wore suspenders that made him look like more of a man given his broad chest and large biceps. Now that Marion looked, he was actually quiet handsome, she pondered on his beauty but also made note of his comment. He knew nothing of Betty, how dare he compare her to a man. Her feelings were irrational but she hated Ronald for his comment, it came straight out of left-field and she found no truth in it. What on Earth had driven him to say a thing such as that?

"No.. well, what does it matter if I cried?" His comment had flustered her.

"Did you cry?"

"I couldn't help it."

"She saw you cry and she couldn't do it, she couldn't can you."

"Well, she's not a man, she's a woman, and you're right, she couldn't cann me." Marion tried to calm herself, shaking off his dirty comment.

"Hmm… odd."

"It doesn't matter Ronald. What matters is that these girls became my new family. They protected me. My papers were trash, they weren't official. I was going to get sent back home if I didn't find a way to save myself, so I went to Betty."

"Who's Betty again?"

"The woman from the boarding house, the one who fixed my door and disappeared."

"The one who didn't fire you." Ronald was adding things up much quicker than Marion had expected.

"Yeah."

"Right…" Ronald was growing agitated with this story. Something about this Betty character didn't sit right with him but he tried to act patient, he really did want to know where Marion had been for such a long time.

"Betty knew this man, who could get me papers, and I was willing to do almost anything to stay where I was, you have to understand that. One night, I went with her, met this guy, and got some papers."

"Just like that?"

"Just like that. I was safe, she came with me. There wasn't anything dangerous about it."

"Sounds too good to be true."

"It was… the only ramification, other than feeling used, was my father finding pin-up photos of me and throwing them back in my face."

"I think I'm in love with Kate Andrews!" Ronald was beaming now, holding his hands over his heart and blushing. Marion watched him lay back on the wall, his mind exactly where she thought it was.

"If you can't control yourself I'm not going to finish. This is a very serious story with a very serious ending." Marion was telling the story but she wasn't getting pleasure out of it. Going away and coming back had jaded her. Living a life without joy was not something she could anymore tolerate. She was only speaking to see if things would change in her, to see if opening up to someone might give her a little relief. At this point she was willing to try anything. Life at home was so miserable, lying to everyone made her feel way worse about everything that had happened in Toronto. She was committed to not forgetting her life as Kate Andrews but no one wanted to talk with her and even strangers rubbed her the wrong way with ill comments on things they should not know.

"Well, I already know the ending, you're here and you're safe."

"Am I?"

"I can touch you, see." He nudged her shoulder, playfully, rocking her. Marion smiled at his playfulness. He was a grown man but even he could be sweet as a kitten.

"After the papers I was in the clear for a while but then Mrs. Corbett found my locket and she accused me of stealing so I was sent down to work in the storage room. It was an abandoned place, not a place for women to be working alone."

"Who's Mrs. Corbett."

"She was my boss, right under Mr. Akins. She was always real nice to Betty, she was no nonsense, really patriotic. Her husband fought in the first war, lost the feeling in his legs."

"Gee…. I guess we don't meet many people around here, all these characters sound made-up."

"Well they're not, believe me. I was there right with them and they all looked at me like I was the odd man out. Preacher's daughter in a rough and tumble world like that. It was all very new."

"I bet." He said, lighting another cigarette for her, taking a drag and then handing it off.

"I was singing in the storage room. Everyone found my singing off-putting. I guess it's not a normal way to behave, just singing whenever you feel like it no matter where you are. But… I was singing in the storage room and I heard this glorious voice, a man's voice so deep and smooth. I had to meet him but he disappeared, I never saw his face. A few days later I thought I met him in the storage room but he was a bad man. He tried to force me to be with him but someone came out from behind some boxes and knocked him out, just saved me like it was no big deal."

"Let me guess, Betty?"

"No, no… I wouldn't have put it past her but this time it was man, a black man."

"Get out! A negro?"

"A negro."

"Wow… you don't say?!"

"The man who saved me, the black man, belonged to the sweet voice from before. He taught me how to sing like Billie Holiday. He had a band and I went and saw them… one day he let me sing with them. On a stage and everything, with an audience, in a big city, not a small one like this." Marion was retelling the story as if it weren't her own, no joy in her eyes, not excitement in her voice.

"Sounds like a dream."

"It felt like a dream… Betty was there, we had fought but it wasn't important, she came anyway."

"What did you fight about?"

"It was nothing, she was worried I wasn't up to the challenge…"

"Sounds like a pretty good reason to fight."

"No, she was right. She was wrong… but she was right. I could have easily failed. I might have choked up and ran off stage if she hadn't of been there. Once I saw her I knew it was all going to be alright. I was singing a negro song in a room filled with negros… she was right."

"Hmm… yeah… interesting world this Kate Andrews found." Ronald swiveled on the wall mimicking Marion's dreamy far-away gaze, he tucked his thumbs under his suspenders and sighed deeply, losing himself in the world of Kate Andrews. He hated to admit it but he really liked Betty all of a sudden, he thought about it and decided that he would've acted in just the same way with regards to Marion singing in a negro club.

"After some time, father came. He had found my pictures, told me he knew about my new life and how sinful I had become. There was no one in the boarding house and I almost thought he would kill me but then Betty came home early from the movie. She saw my door open and knew something was wrong. She stood up to my father. Told him she knew the kind of man he was because of the scars on my back. It worked and he left."

"Scars on your back?"

"It's nothing."

"Doesn't sound like nothing."

"I told you he was a bad man. Did you think I would lie about that?" Marion spoke sharply. It was almost like she would tell him this story only if he had no comments, no thoughts, and no retorts. Ronald was trying, but it was hard not to react to all that she was saying.

"No. Sometimes people need to know how bad others are being, otherwise things get out of hand."

"What do you mean?"

"If I had known more about your father, seen scars on your back, perhaps I would have attacked him. You ever think of that?"

"You told me yourself that you've seen him abuse me. What more proof or reason would you need to stand up for me?" Ronald grew quiet at this. Marion was right. "Some people aren't leaders. Some people see others in pain, in situations like mine, and they just think it's not their problem, not their place." She detached again, losing her anger.

"Well, isn't that what the bible says?"

"Maybe. But I just can't see the good in people turning a blind eye. Betty would never turn a blind eye."

"She actually sounds great, this Betty character. Your father hit me once, that's all it took, I knew not to mess with him."

"Yeah, well, don't go loving Betty yet." Marion was stuck on his first comment. She cared little about Ronald's reasons for not kidnapping her in the night like she expected every knowledgeable person to do, given her situation at home.

"No?"

"Before I left, the reason I really left, it was Betty's fault…" Ronald was surprised by this. It seemed that Betty was the only one looking out for her. To think of Betty betraying Marion after all that was said was a bit of a shock. "We were all torn up about the news, Pearl Harbor… I was supposed to be singing with Leon but instead we just sort of mourned the loss of those people and wallowed a little in the idea of the war getting worse. All this time we had been helping to win the war, and then Pearl Harbor hit the radio and we were being told that, not only was the war not over, it was only just beginning. It was a very sad day… probably the worst day of my life…" Kate paused, she had a strange expression on her face that reflected all the pain that she had inside, and the conflict, Ronald couldn't read it but should Betty have be there or even Gladys they would've known it straight-away and scooped her up into a hug that could break all sadness. Marion gulped at the thought of a hug, she wanted that so badly that she almost felt it happening in their absence. "Betty had come to walk me back, she had hurt herself in an accident, she was almost killed by these swinging bombs on the line and I swear I almost died watching them hit her. I would've thrown myself on her, I know that now. I was going to do it, I was ready to do it." Marion detached from reality again, trying to feel nothing in these cold musings. Her face fell blank and she began to stare off into nothingness once again.

"This factory doesn't sound like a place for women."

"Oh but it sounds like a place for men?"

"More so, yeah…"

"Well you didn't work there, I did. And I think we all did a hell of a job. All the men did was distract us on purpose, try and get us to be scared, they didn't take anything seriously. They didn't care about the war, they just wanted to get us in bed."

"They sound like chumps."

"They were. But I've never seen you in a situation like that. I don't know how you are with your friends. What you say to girls from other towns, how you treat the women walking by."

"I'm a perfect gentleman."

"I hope you're right." Marion stomped out her cigarette and tucked her hands behind her on the wall. The sun was almost gone now and the darkness was swiftly approaching. "Betty told me she liked me. She said she really liked me. Then she kissed me, in the bar, with all those people around."

"She what?!"

"She kissed me."

"That's disgusting."

"That's what I said. I told her, 'that's disgusting and if you can't see that, you're disgusting to.'" Ronald was quiet for a minute so Marion went on. "But… as soon as I said it, I felt that I had stabbed her. As soon as I said it, I wanted to take it back. But… it was too late. She was my family but I lost all that, in the moment."

"You were right. What you said was right."

"Was I? Was it?"

"Yes."

"She protected me." Marion said, finally showing some emotion. This whole time she had been reading off this story like a lifeless narrator and now she was angry. "She kept me from being sent home. She almost died on the line more than once. She didn't fire me when she could have. She supported me like a sister. When father came back she instantly tried to send him away. She wasn't scared of him, it didn't matter to her that he was stronger, physically. She protected me despite it all."

"Yeah, because she wanted you. She's a wolf, Marion! She supported you like a man. Like… like a lover!" Ronald was suddenly enraged and Marion realized too late that she should not have revealed so much.

"It wasn't like that Ronald. I didn't know. And even if I did know, she was still my friend. My first day in town she saved me, and she saved me every day after that. Every day… I'm only back here because I thought mother was sick. I would not have survived in Toronto without Betty, that's a fact." Marion was getting supremely protective. She had never imagined that this story would truly enrage Ronald. Ronald backed down to her father, what right had he to hold such passionate feelings about women kissing women when he couldn't even protect her like Betty did? Marion's anger rose in her chest. Trying not to feel was suddenly impossible.

"You would've stayed with her?! After what she did? After finding out who she really was?!"

"Yes… I think I would have." Her coldness returned suddenly. That question was something she thought of often and it gave her reassurance, a peace of mind.

"You're in love with her?!"

"NO. No. I didn't want to be kissed. It just happened. But I would stay there. I wouldn't have abandoned her if I was capable of thinking clearly. She's the kind of person who doesn't turn a blind eye. She treated me like she would've treated anyone who was in trouble, anyone anywhere."

"You know that's not true Marion."

"It is true, Ronald. You weren't there, you've never met her. You don't know her."

"Yeah well, maybe it's time I did meet her. What would you say to that?"

"What?!" The look of panic on Marion's face could be seen from miles away, it was so clearly marked, so painfully felt, that it may have etched lines of worry in her face for all time.

"Maybe I've a right to give her a piece of my mind. You've got something to say about that Marion?!"

"Ronald, it's not your place, I-I should not have even told you." So taken, she stuttered helplessly. His reaction was so irrational to her, so unexpected.

"Yeah well, it's like you said before. Some people aren't leaders and they see people in pain and think that it's not their problem." Ronald had severely misunderstood her messages, mixing them up in his mind and hearing only what he wanted to hear.

"You think I'm in pain because of what Betty did?" Marion's visible panic did nothing to him emotionally. Ronald was trying to walk away from her but she flew after him like child or a persistent bug.

"I know it."

"It isn't true. I'm in pain because I came back. I'm in pain because I hurt the only true friend I have."

"I can't deal with this now. It's time to be a leader." Marion grabbed at him desperately but he flung her hand off of his arm, almost pulling her to the ground with his violent twist towards his truck. She tried to run after him but Ronald was possessed by an unexpected urgency. He walked briskly to his car filled with anger and purpose, frightening a few old women by the cake stand. Shaken, Marion was frozen with fear, what had she done, why did she feel it necessary to share her burden? And why on Earth did she think that Ronald Melcher, of all people, would understand?

The children kept to their running but Marion tried desperately to catch up to Ronald, his force had alarmed her and now she was very far behind him. The children, in seeing her, began to follow her like it was a game. They grabbed at her legs, laughter pouring out of them, until she fell to the ground with tears in her eyes, a bed of children holding her up from the grass. Their little legs were soft and their small hands brushed at her face lovingly. Tiny fingers, so sweet, brushed at her tears, unknowing.

The sound of Ronald's truck starting up sent a shiver down her spine. As she watched him pull away she saw her father's car scuttle forward. There was no way to get out of this mess. The children's laughter was salt in her wounds. Everything about her world was so much different than the worlds of others. She closed her eyes, allowing the tears to escape and thinking back on her solemn face and her hand clutched in her father's hand years before at this very same carnival. Not only did she not find laughter, she did not even know the pleasure of a smile that day. The tears flooded over her, she was sick of trying to fight them away so she just let them fall as the children's laughter simmered and they eventually left her to play their games once again, unaware of her bitter sadness, unaware of all the pain in the world.