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The Thrill of white cotton

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Lucy is Eight when the stirrings of difference begin to whisper at the edges of her consciousness. She is a smart, curious and tough little girl like any other. She enjoys watching her mother put on her make up on Friday nights when her father is going to take her out for their date night. She likes to wear her mother’s shoes and prance about like a prize pony while her babysitter is talking on the phone with her boyfriend, whom she has never seen but knows an alarming amount about. Lucy’s greatest source of joy is besting her 12 year old sister, Frannie at a game of scrabble. It’s her greatest joy because it’s a rarity, what with her sister’s 4yrs worth of vocabulary at her disposal.

 On Sunday mornings her father plays Motown music and reads the paper at the kitchen table while her mother fixes breakfast before everyone gets ready for church. Little Lucy will amble down the stairs, still warm from sleep and sit bleary eyed at the table while Otis Redding croons about Cigarettes and Coffee. This is perhaps her most treasured family tradition.

After Church her father takes her to the park, still in her Sunday best and she gets to run wild chasing imaginary monsters and avoiding being tagged by the boys. She always comes home with stains on her dress, a bruised knee or elbow…one time even a bruised chin, to her mother’s chagrin. She is daddy’s little girl and Russel Fabray is eternally charmed by his little girl’s antics.

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At nine Josh H brings a mirror to school. This innocuous object is the loose string that will eventually undo Lucy’s life. The girls borrow it so they can look at themselves; they pass it along with a lip gloss wand as they apply it on their lips. Its Cherry flavored.

After lunch Josh takes his mirror back so he can attend his afternoon lessons which he shares with Lucy. In typical Boys will be boys fashion, they find the most bratty way to put the mirror to use shuffling it on the floor while trying to look up the girls’ skirts, for what? they will never be able to tell you. Never one to be left out…Lucy demands a turn. The teacher catches her while she is looking up Becky Mitchell’s skirt. The thrill she feels when she sees her white cotton beneath her skirt is only dampened by her father who usually defends her against her mother and her demands that she be more lady like, looks at her for the first time like a tarnished trophy. After that her mother has sole control over Lucy’s upbringing which means, church, church socials and so many dresses.

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Quinn’s clearest and most cherished memory belongs to Lucy.  She and Frannie are playing tag in the back yard on a sunny Saturday afternoon while their mother hangs up the washing. The wind is blowing gently making the white cotton sheets billow softly in the wind. If she stands perfectly still and angles her face towards the sun in just the right way she can still smell the freshly cut grass and the way it felt on her feet while she chased after a an unfairly taller Frannie.

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Deep breathe in, Quinn comes back from her memories to occupy a time and space with her parents at the dinner table with herself and Finn Hudson. He has a pained look on his face, more pained than usual she thinks. She isn’t sure if he is uncomfortable or if he needs to take a dump. She takes in his leg, bouncing nervously up and down under the table. The way he keeps rubbing his damp hands up and down his leg and decides… Uncomfortable. He is uncomfortable right now, with her father looking through him and her mother bending over backwards trying to make the night a success.

Lately her mother has been staring at her strangely. Looking part knowing and part desperate as though she knows the secrets of how the world will end.  On these days Quinn will lie awake in the middle of the night panicking. She lies there with her mind going over all the ways that her life would come to an end. She feels her heart rate elevate, feels the way it vibrates against her palm when she hold it over her heart for reassurance that she is still alive.  She feels her skin go damp from sweat, takes account of her vision going in and out and she feels trapped in her own body. The body currently growing a human she has no idea how to hide.

On days when she is feeling more like herself she rationalizes that her mother would have said something if she even suspected that she was pregnant. But that argument is lost when she takes in the way her mother’s eyes keep darting all over the dinner table, never settling on anything and she keeps making insipid small talk as if she is trying to diffuse a bomb…Quinn knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that her mother knows she is pregnant. She feels relief for a second and then she remembers her father and how he has distanced himself from her for years now. She feels the loneliness envelop her.

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She is deaf.

She sees Finn standing unsteadily on his two feet; he tries to fix his crooked smile into reassurance as he pulls out a boom box, seemingly from thin air. His mouth is moving and he tries to meet the rhythm  with his clumsy body all while snapping his fingers out of tune. Even from her silent prison she can tell it’s out of sync. He has never had any rhythm. Her mother is staring at her with urgency that screams stop this before it cannot be taken back. Her father stares on in growing disgust. She knows when the reality finally dawns on him, when he takes the lyrics being enthusiastically sung at him to heart. Because she is 9 again and she has just seen Becky’s white cotton panties and her father just seems lost to her even more. All that rings in her ears is a chorus of  “Disappointment. Disappointment. Disappointment.”

She gathers herself, smooths down her dress and takes stiff but measured steps towards her bedroom to gather her belongings.

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