Prior Fields: eighteen miles north of Hamady
A Change Is Gonna Come quivered under the needle of her dead dad’s timeworn record player. She ignored the annoyance and applied pink tinted gloss to her pouted lips. The trailer park boys all thought she was pretty, Royce with the rose gold hair, even though she barely filled her B cup brassier, and possessed the curves of a gardener’s beanpole.
“Sure,” the popular boys had often said, “you ain’t got much of a body, but your face is fuckin’ gorgeous.”
At the age of fourteen and seven months, she had finally matured, and the debased boys of Deleterious Estates could all kiss off. She checked her womanly look, and smiled.
Suck my cock, mouthed her reflection. Royce was feeling mighty proud of herself as she stood before the full length mirror and bled.
The record finally skipped hard enough to grab her full attention; she stepped away from her image in a huff, and replaced Sam Cooke with The Mamas and the Papas. No Salt on Her Tail wailed over the speakers, and she danced about, allowing the lyrics to seep into her bone marrow.
“I’m a woman now, motherfuckers,” Royce said aloud as she spritzed her wrists with eau de cheapo. She’d always admired the types of girls Garrett ran around with—they all smelled like menstruation, Rave hair spray, and drugstore parfum.
Garrett was a good big brother, violently protective of Royce’s virtue. He was also a hypocrite. Garrett had once been notorious for making it with most of the girls in the trailer park—girls with equally defensive brothers. Sometimes Royce felt sorry for him, missing out on dates with Melissa while he drove a HEMTT wrecker through Iraq; but mostly, she just worried about him being trapped by sand and sun and bullets and bombs.
He’d affixed a lock to the bedroom door the day he left. The Ricker had never touched his sister, true; but Garrett had frequently caught the boozer looking in on her with wild eyes while she pored over homework or danced to oldie records. Because she was pretty, Royce with the rose gold hair, and Rick was growing tired of his old lady.
“Promise to keep this door locked, always,” he’d told her. “Especially when you go to bed. And don’t leave this room at night unless the fuckin’ trailer catches on fire. Ya hear me?”
“I promise. Thank you, Garrett.”
“Don’t look at me like that, kid. I’ll be back before ya have the chance to miss me.”
Royce bit her bottom lip, and admitted, “But I miss you already.”
“Shut up, will ya? When I get home, I’m getting my own place. And you’re gonna come live with me.”
“What will Mom say?” Royce really didn’t give a good goddamn.
Neither did Garrett. “Who fuckin cares? I’m tired of sharing a room with my little sister, and I sure as hell ain’t leaving ya here!” His dark irises appeared to shudder, and he hissed, “Let Mom and the Ricker rot alone in this joint. Screw ‘em, ya know? Maybe we’ll just pack up and move back to Michigan.”
“Right on.” She wrapped her vine-like arms around Garrett’s neck, ignoring the car horn that hailed him.
“Gotta go, kid. I’ll write ya when I can.” He picked up his duffel bag and slung it over a sturdy shoulder. “Don’t take no shit.”
Royce lay down on her bed, and for a moment imagined she was living in a reeking barracks someplace hotter than a tin box in Texas.
She repositioned her lanky body so that she could press her bare feet against the window screen. Orange-pink light unfurled from the horizon and traveled through the window to kiss her freckled face. The August sun was setting, and Royce wished a childish wish for a cool night.
The sky opened its humid maw in reply, and exhaled a gust of spiteful laughter.
Royce with the Rose Gold Hair © 2019 Kindra M. Austin/All Rights Reserved.