Volume 44 ~ 2022
 
                  

Jacey Kent

 
 
 
 
 

A Piece of Our Puzzle

Hands lashing out, shoulders hunched over.

Sides smarting, face aching–

I call him “old man”,

He calls me “young woman”.

Dad hits me and I hit back…

And mom laughs as we wrestle in the kitchen,

Our teasing remarks framed in the fading glow of the evening sun.

His fingers tickling my skin

My hands flapping uselessly at him.

Mom rolls her eyes but her smile betrays her 

She loves our silliness.

She pushes me to fly so high,

But always appreciates my moments of simplicity.

She’s my mom and I’m her little girl.

 

But I’m not little to her:

My baby sister.

I’m her designated driver,

Her wallet, her therapist, her alarm clock–

The rock she clings to in the torrent of high school

When her insecurities and friends beat her down

 

But I’m a younger sister to them.

I’m the prodigy, the daughter who skipped her rebellious teenage phase.

I’m the awkward conversation, the bad jokes, the cringy one-liners.

I’m the nerd, the goofball,

The goody-two-shoes.

I’m the book-smart girl who would be lost on the street,

Ready for a sister’s good-old-fashioned bad influence.

 

 

 

Hiding a Body

I felt like a thief.

The bottoms were a snag,

Cheap and they fit just right.

I felt like Goldilocks

In the bright Walmart changing stall 

That exposed every embarrassing curve and blemish

The first top fit sung

Molding to my body 

Painting my torso a deep maroon

The second flowed loose;

It embraced the first like long-lost friends.

It completed the look, it had its style.

I looked amazing, 

She told me.

And the scant pieces of my mind

That contained confidence agreed with her. 

But we pick apart ourselves the most–

I pick apart myself the most.

So I slid on the loose gym shorts and the baggie hoody,

My partners in crime for hiding my body.

Raine’s Monologue

I remember the exact moment the idea came to me. It was one of those thoughts that just made you feel guilty for having like you did something wrong or ran over someone’s puppy. I think it’s ridiculous, that our thoughts can make us feel guilty… like we’re all masochists. Nevertheless, once the idea popped into my head, I couldn’t shake it. It made me quiet at the dinner table and reserved during our daily rounds. Mother and Father never noticed, but Lorra did. I could tell. She would watch me out of the corner of her eye, like a hawk scrutinizing a kitten it thought would be easy prey. Her sharp, suspicious blue eyes made me paranoid. I would wake up sweating from nightmares where she told Mother and Father about my half-baked plan. It’s funny how she and I share the same face and I’m still so terrified of her. Maybe I fear her because she has my face, but it’s most likely because she holds my life in the palm of her delicate hands. I think it’s the fear and paranoia that made me do it. 

Mother and Father never informed us of a test until it was happening. They said it showed our true character when we did it that way, which just made losing even harder. One day, I was in the kitchen practicing my baking. I’d been trying for so long to find something I could do better than Lorra, something to give me a chance. I couldn’t find the piping bags and the cupcakes were cooling down fast, so I ran upstairs to the study to ask Mother where they went. I was about to knock on their door when I heard them talking. Mother and Father never go to the study together– they like working alone at home. They only ever agree with each other in public, where our people can see. I should have knocked, I should have opened the door and called their names. But I didn’t, and I blame the door. The heavy, mahogany door. It called to me, turning my head– like a magnet or a puppet. The wood chilled my cheek and goosebumps crept along my arms and neck. Their muffled words reached out from the crack, dragging me closer by the ear. 

“... Patron Clydesdale. He’s very peculiar with his women and has very lofty taste. Who knows, he might not favor either of them.”

“That wouldn’t happen, not to our girls. Especially not Lorra.”

“Of course not, dear. I was just trying to clarify the difficulty of the test. Never fear, this won’t be easy for them.”

“It better not be…”

They continued to discuss details, when Clydesdale would arrive and when we would meet him. I tuned it out; it didn’t take a genius to realize our parents wanted us to seduce Clydesdale for our next test. And it didn’t take a genius to determine that I would fail this test, just like the others. Lorra could swing her hips, twirl her hair, and bat her eyelashes with precision. She would have Clydesdale wrapped around her finger in minutes while I stood to the side, grasping for what to say. 

I was wrong before. The idea didn’t pop into my head. It stepped out from the shadows it had lurked in for years, fed by my parents’ disappointed faces and my desperation. I wasn’t strong enough to push it aside again, not with the temptation of this knowledge. Turning, I walked swiftly to the kitchen. I packed up the cupcakes and left them in the servants’ quarters before scurrying to my haven. My head swiveled like someone would catch my evil thoughts if they saw me. I closed the door to my room softly and slid to the floor, breathing heavily. I don’t remember grabbing my computer, the one my parents keep hidden from our people. I don’t remember opening the search engine. But I do remember typing in his name. Clydesdale. I will never forget that name. 

I researched him. It sounds harmless, good even. You’re supposed to study for tests, I think. But my parents’ tests are different, and if they knew what I was doing….

The pictures were easy to find, and they made his type obvious. Young, skinny, tall, dark complexions– my sister and I. Defeat settled in. Lorra is skinnier and proficient at makeup. Her hair stays controlled and she hardly ever breaks out. She has an impeccable sense of style and her clothes fit just right. Clothes…. Raking my eyes over the screen, I examined each girl’s outfit. They never showed too much cleavage and their skirts went below their knees; they dressed with faux innocence. Clydesdale was an old pervert who liked little girls. Clearing my search history and exiting the browser, I shut down my computer. The plan clicked into place and I glanced at my alarm clock. 3:56 p.m. Lorra would arrive home from the spa in about four minutes. Running back to the maids’ quarters, I snagged my untouched cupcakes and put them back on the kitchen cooling rack. I stood there for a few minutes, heart pounding, palms sweating. When I heard the front door open, I whipped around and faked rummaging through the fridge for icing. Lorra’s heels clicked steadily against the evergreen stone floor, louder and louder until they stopped. 

“What are you doing?”

I paused and glanced over my shoulder, maintaining an anxious expression. 

“I can’t find the icing or the piping tubes and I’ve been stress baking all morning because of the next test and I forgot to preheat the–”

“Next test?” Lorra snapped, cutting me off. “What next test? Do you know something?”

Her accusing glare caused sweat to prickle on the back of my neck. I gulped and shut the fridge, playing with my fingers as I faced her. “Yes. I heard Mother and Father talking in the study. They were discussing our next test. A Patron will visit tomorrow and we have to… we have to…”

“Have to what?” Lorra barked. I swallowed again.

“We have to seduce him,” I whimpered. Lorra froze and a victorious smirk slowly spread across her angelic face. Our angelic face. 

“Oh, this is wonderful,” she slyly exclaimed. “Another easy pass for me. I’d wish you good luck sister, but we both know you’ll need more than that.”

Laughing, she strutted out of the room, flipping her hair as her heels clacked. 

I silently counted to ten before I dared to put the cupcakes away and flee to my bedroom. I collapsed on my bed and stared at the ceiling. My plan was in motion, and it was too late to turn back now.

The next day, Mrs. Auldson called Lorra and me down to breakfast, like every other morning. Mother and Father were already seated, sipping coffee and reading their newspapers. I came down first, my flats whispering to the tiled floor. The bottom of my dress hit the middle of my shin. The skirt flowed down from the elastic waistband. The top part loosely clung to my skin and the round neckline exposed a hint of my collarbone. The long sleeves billowed out before tapering in a cuff at my wrists. The white fabric dotted with different shades of brown paired perfectly with my complexion. My hair was in a simple French twist and I had minimal makeup on. I looked exactly like the women Clydesdale chases.

I whispered good morning to my parents. They scrutinized my outfit and nodded their heads, picking up their newspapers again. They never said a word. 

“Good morning Mother, Father,” Lorra chirped as she strode into the kitchen, and we all did a double take. Her hair was down and straightened and her face was heavily made up, but not in a bad way. Her blood-red dress was skin tight and had a deep V down to her sternum. The dress hit her mid-thigh and off-the-shoulder sleeves framed her tan shoulders. The open back exposed the entire expanse of her small frame. In her black stilettos, she towered over us.  

“Good morning, honey. What, um, are you going out tonight?” Mother inquired. 

Lorra smiled cheekily. “Nope. I just wanted to feel extra beautiful today. I don’t know why.” She cast me a smug smile. 

I don’t need to explain the rest. When Clydesdale came, he only had eyes for me. He barely glanced at Lorra and when he did it was with disgust. She glared at me all day, her face red, and wouldn’t talk to me for weeks. 

I passed a test and surprised my parents that day. Lorra never mentioned my eavesdropping– she took advantage of it too, just in the wrong way. I took a risk, and it paid off. I did what I had to give myself an edge, but I just prolonged the inevitable.

Parental Guidance

Originally appeared on KUVR's Town Talk

She makes noises without knowing

Humming while she thinks

The joint of her middle finger between her teeth

Lips pursed and eyes unfocused.

She vows to cease her pop addiction

But he just smiles and pours her a cold Dr. Pepper

Because she doesn’t realize it yet

But finding joy in the little things 

Is more important than fitting into those jeans.

She doesn’t tuck her opinion behind her back

But she knows when to speak and when to listen

She doesn’t care what people think

But the thoughts of her loved ones

Are cradled in the syllables of her words

She is a woman on a mission

Always going going going

So we respect her blue moon lazy days

Sprawled on the couch watching an action or romance

She demands our all

Expects our best

And sometimes we hate her for it

But at the end of the day

She created four amazing women

 

He pops homemade popcorn

I don’t even have to ask.

I punch and kick the air around him

And he feigns that he raised a ninja

Indulging my passive-aggressive spontaneity.

He keeps my kitten-smuggling adventures a secret

But silently backs mom up when she finds out.

He tells me to look left when there’s a bookstore on the right

But lets me go in nonetheless.

He makes PG “your mom” jokes

And the student has become the master.

He indulges my fantasies of making a dirty farm cat

My therapy pet for college.

He cheers when I get up after falling over the hurdle,

And hugs my sweaty body after every game.

He enables my chocolate runs

And changes his plans whenever I want a movie night.

He pushes me to use his credit card

And when I put the Captain Marvel bobblehead back

He sneaks it into the cart anyway.

He proudly declares himself a trophy husband

And treats mom like the queen she is.

 

In short, I know what kind of love I want to have

And what kind of person I wanna be

Thanks to parental guidance.