Selena’s father bags groceries at the Pac N’ Save. His nametag reads Marcus but we call him Daddy Marc. Selena is good at making names for people. She has called me Colt since we compared underpants beneath a desk in second grade. I reminded her of a little horse crouched under there, she says, legs folded in, face long and still. My underpants had tiny horses all over, riled up on their hind legs and whipped by an even tinier blonde rider girl, but Selena doesn’t tell that part. She tells the story different. Either way, the name stuck, and most people use it, though my mother will only refer to me by my Christian name, Briley.
Daddy Marc checks me out when I buy cereal for Mother, buttermilk and candied nuts, bags of semisweet chocolate chips. I won’t eat any of it. In the three months Selena has been missing, I’ve lost twenty pounds I didn’t have in the first place. My thinning has received many compliments, but Daddy Marc keeps his eyes on the cashier’s screen, acting like I’m not before him, like I could be anyone at all.
That morning when I went to pick her up, I wore a light crinkled dress and it stuck to my back as I idled in her driveway. First period with sexy Fairfield and we didn’t want to be late. But she wasn’t home. No one was, not that I could see. I called and called her cell phone. I got out of the car and peeked in her little bedroom window. The blinds were drawn. I rang the doorbell. I walked around back and stood near the fig tree. I broke off a tiny branch and chewed it to rocky bits and spit it out in the dirt. A bald-spotted cat hopped on the fence and trotted along to the neighbor’s property. She would never ditch Fairfield’s class, I thought, having to pee sudden and desperate. We had waited all of high school to finally take senior lit with him.
I squatted on the side of the house and pissed and my ankles caught a mist of backsplash. A breakfast noise, dishes shifting in the sink, came from inside and I jumped, cut off my stream and ran to the car for fear Daddy Marc had seen me with my panties around my ankles, making a wide dark circle on his side yard. I pictured what kind of scene he’d pull if he caught me as I slammed it out the driveway. He had a way of recalling our offenses when the night grew weary, as his eyes fell tired. He would make Selena sorry. I went to school alone, half-forgetting the reason I came, worried more about Daddy Marc’s eyes on where they should never be.
A few days later her picture was up on every pole, in every shop window, people lighting candles on Shaw Avenue, those skilled at prayer communicating with God through microphones on the concrete stage of the town square. Bring us our Selena, Lord, let her walk back into the arms of the community. Girls who were jealous of her and talked shit on the regular stood misty-eyed with signs that read Save Selena. We love you, girl. They posed and were interviewed for the paper, answering questions in shrill voices, arms around each other’s waists, holding hard.
The excitement still thrives, though the hunger of those first few weeks has died down. Then, even the stink-faced girl at the Mickey Ds went nice on me and gave me free fries I didn’t eat, asked me how I was holding up.
They send out fewer search teams lately—everyone was certain her body would turn up in the Kerman Canal, where at least three small kids drown every summer—but no Selena, and now it’s just the same group of die-hard community members, the ones who will march about anything. They don their Save Selena shirts and go into the fields over and over, angrier each time they return without her decomposing body. If you wear your shirt and you look field-weary, The Right and Rooster will give you a complimentary buffalo chicken salad. I have seen families in the parking lot change into their shirts before walking in, mothers forcing stiff cotton over toddlers’ heads, spanking them hard when they cry that it is too hot, too hot. Selena’s posters have faded in the sun. She remains in prayers, people claim, but I’m sure she’s not first on their lists. I picture her body contorted in the trunk of a car. She is cut up, pieces of her floating in a shallow basin. But it’s not real, can’t be, so I have prayed to the Lord and wished to dream of her, to be gifted with vision. My best friend Selena, nowhere at all, but everywhere to me.
I never had a daddy, so Daddy Marc was it, I guess, by proxy, because we were always hanging around Selena’s house instead of mine. She said my mother depressed the shit out of her. My mother lies in bed and polishes the tiny glass cats she orders by the dozen off the Home Shopping Network. She divides them into families and puts them in tissue box homes each night so they can get their rest. They have tiny quilts with embroidered names. She laments my father, a man she barely knew, but thought she would be with forever. He looked like Merle Haggard, Briley, like James Dean. She hasn’t left the house in three years. Without Selena to report to, though, I’ve lost the humor in it. What’s funny about a woman who binds herself up in her old prom dress, straining seams down the back, and stays that way for days without taking a bath?
Selena’s mother is gone a lot, working and sighing, too tired to make dinner. She looks the other way when her Virginia Slims go missing, but once she called Selena a whore. She found her making out topless with a boy from the AM/PM.
When we practice dance routines in the yard, it makes Daddy Marc happy. His eyes narrow as if frustrated, trying to solve something, but his large mouth hangs open in a soft smile and you can see the thick ridges of his tar-stained bottom teeth.
“He isn’t my daddy,” Selena said one afternoon when we were in junior high. We were sitting in the shade spraying each other with the hose, drinking Dr. Pepper. “Look at him. I’m Mexican. He has red hair and a burnt neck.”
“What does your mom say?”
“She says some shit about me taking after her Spanish heritage,” Selena said. “She was running around.”
“Does Daddy Marc know?”
“He isn’t any kind of sharp tool, Colt,” Selena said. “But come on.”
“Don’t it make him mad?”
“He likes that I ain’t his,” she said, pointing the hose at my face.
Selena didn’t look like either of them, I thought. Like she came from somewhere else entirely.
“He likes it,” she said again and got up to go inside, tears streaming down her cheeks.
I haven’t been sleeping much and when I do it’s sweaty and part of me is still awake. The ceiling fan whirs always above, too cold with it, too hot without it. Last night I got down on my knees and I prayed to feel her. I know this can happen. I have been researching other gone-missing girls, and many times someone comes forth with an image from beyond, and then they find the person right away. Occasionally still alive. Police suspect Selena dead. Something about after two days missing, the odds of survival go down to almost nothing. I want to be the one to lead them to her. I want her to be saved and I want Selena to always remember it was me who found her. Those search dogs are useless. I’m the only one who can pull her scent from a crowd, the deep vanilla that makes something in the pit of me ten degrees warmer.
The first few weeks they suspected Daddy Marc because of his criminal history. After Selena went missing, newspapers blabbed all over town that years ago, he’d been arrested for taking his dick out in broad daylight near a preschool. He had said in the report that he was urinating and the kids happened to be on recess. Until she is found, police track Daddy Marc with a GPS system they slapped on the bottom of his clunker truck. They document his trips from the Pac N’ Save to home, home to the Pac N’ Save, supplying the town with updates about their Number One Suspect. A police man named Officer Geary asked me if I ever had reason to fear Daddy Marc. I felt confused about the question and told him no, he was all right. But later, an hour into biology, I ran to the bathroom and vomited everything I had, pressed my face to the cold floor tile. With a sharpie on the stall wall, I wrote Selena’s a slut, and went back to class. That night, I sat by the phone, picking it up and setting it back down. I should have called the police and told them more, told them something different.
Told them maybe of the time Daddy Marc had barbequed all day, in the heat of the valley sun. Sweating over the grill, searing thick burgers and dogs, white hunks of chicken. How Selena’s mother got a migraine and went inside. How the three of us ate on the lawn of their small backyard as the sun set behind rooftops, and Daddy Marc got sentimental over his high school days drinking his beers, and all the pretty girls he used to love. He told us about each one. He told us about the first time he ever tasted a girl, and I watched as Selena sucked an orange pop, tapped her foot to the country playing on the radio. He drank beer after beer and when he started saying that one of his sweethearts looked a damn sight like me, like she and I could be sisters, when he invited me onto his lap and Selena lit up one of her mother’s cigarettes, when all that happened and I felt the elastic of Selena’s bikini cut into my thighs, felt her top too snug and felt myself too big, I got up, said I had to go to the bathroom. I went instead to Selena’s room and waited. Wondered if this would be the kind of night she had told me about. The kind where Daddy Marc got ahead of himself. I took off the bikini and put on some of her soft cotton shorts. I got up three different times to go get her. Finally on the third time I stopped before the sliding glass door, and stared. I could see the glow of their cigarettes. I could hear the low push of their voices.
“What are you doing?” Selena’s mother had been sitting on the couch in the dark.
“About to see if Selena is coming inside.”
“She’s happy out there,” her mother said. She sounded slow and heavy, weighed down by her migraine medication, the one she took often. “I just let them at it. I think they get along better than Marc and I.”
“Any word?” I ask, as Daddy Marc scans Mother’s requested multi-pack sandwich cookies and powdered raspberry water flavoring.
“You’d know it if there was,” he says, eyes on the groceries. “Everybody would.”
“I’m sure she’s fine,” I say.
“I just feel it, she’s going to come back.”
Daddy Marc turns the register screen so I can see the total. He didn’t apply my usual discount. “Go on, Colt, this ain’t a good time.”
“I need to talk to you,” I say. “When are you off?” “I don’t think so,” he says.
No one is behind me in line. “I got more to say to the cops,” I whisper. “Afraid I may have to go back and tell them right.”
Daddy Marc closes the register. “Say whatever you please, just let it be true. You acting strange and sneaking around and I ain’t sure why.”
“You’re in love with her,” I said.
“You wouldn’t know the first thing about love.”
I walk off leaving the groceries. I go behind the market and scream on hands and knees into the dirt.
I count the days. I wait for a message. I write notes to the Lord on notebook paper that I fold into tiny ships and release in the canal. I ask Him questions but nothing comes. I tell myself at night that what I did is separate from all this, has nothing to do with it. I tend to think if anyone should be blamed, it’s Daddy Marc who has a weird contract with his girl, not me. And if no one will realize that she didn’t go missing that morning, that she didn’t get kidnapped on the way to school, but the night before as we all laid deep in sleep, then they are more stupid than I thought.
No one in the town forgets the scandal a few years ago when a girl from a different county wound up gutted in a college experiment crop field. Gone missing for a while, assumed runaway. Some Ag major guys found her and the town went crazy. They arrested Wiley Dansmere, a man who had recently been let out of prison. He had a history of hiding in women’s unlocked cars and jolting them with a taser gun while he raped them, usually in the evening hours in empty parking lots behind grocery stores. But no one can look to Wiley for this. He is locked up and done with.
I rejoin bible study, something Selena would laugh at, but I felt no other option. I have read that the Lord anoints some people the ability for prophecy, and I think I could be a candidate. I know her better than anyone, and I can feel the Lord growing close to giving me an answer. I recognize the need for my own forgiveness in all this, too. But it’s tricky, what needs forgiving.
Last summer Selena and I loved the same boy. His name was Colin and we became obsessed. We had a journal that we shared and we would write notes about him. Things we had observed about his looks and habits, his three crooked teeth and his left pigeon toe. Things we noticed when we would follow him around town, always allowing a few cars between his truck and my mom’s Taurus. It felt like a shared thing, sealed in the protection that neither of us would ever have him. He was only to look at, only to fantasize about. Until the day Colin asked Selena to the junior prom.
“I’m the prettiest girl in school, of course he wants to go with me,” Selena had said as we walked laps around the track in matching grey gym shorts. “I didn’t have to throw myself at him. I was sending him vibes.”
“How did he do it?”
“Last night he rang my doorbell,” she said. “I had just showered so my hair was all wet.”
“How did he know where you lived?”
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “It’s no secret. We know where he lives.”
“Does he like you?”
“Is that a real question?” She did a high kick, her knee almost reaching her nose. “He said he has liked me all year.”
“You and I were going to drive to the beach and say fuck prom.”
“That was before Colin asked me,” she said. “Don’t be jealous. It makes your skin age.”
“I’m not jealous,” I said.
“You should be happy for me,” she said, lacing her fingers with mine. “I liked him just like you did.”
The night of prom I stayed in and watched movies with Mother and got sick drunk on red wine. She braided my hair into hundreds of tiny braids and strung each stock with beads that appeared from the closet. They were plastic and glittery, depositing tiny flecks of shine across my collarbones.
“It’s horrible when a man leaves you, Briley,” Mother said. “I bet you’re imagining them together, ain’t you?”
“She always gets whatever she wants,” I said, standing up in front of the entryway mirror. The braids were too many. “This makes me look even more like a horse.”
“Sit back down,” she said. “Let’s add some Sprite to that wine.”
I looked at her. She plucked all her eyebrows out again and had drawn them on in the dark, mistakenly with a red lip liner. “Why don’t you get a date?”
“No, not me,” she said. “Only one man for me.”
I sat down and drank from the bottle of red. My mother shifted in her seat and the taffeta from her dress sounded like plastic. “Just one man.”
Selena and Colin hung out all summer and I made up reasons why I was busy. Then Colin went off to college across the country. Selena said he tried to get her to come with him, but she decided he wasn’t all that. We went back to normal, and I stowed the Colin journal in the box under my bed with my other Selena stuff. My pictures of her and a few of her hair ribbons. A small bottle of her vanilla lotion.
The thing is, Selena always wanted an older boyfriend. She thought that older men would understand her in new and uncharted ways. When I set up an online dating profile for her, I didn’t tell her about it. I wanted it to be a surprise when I found Selena the perfect match. I was trying to help her, to get her away.
The police want to know everything about Selena and me. Old Officer Geary has come by several times. He putters around our kitchen, right at home. He wears a white horsetail braid down his back and his denim looks ink blue, like it could rub off on fingers.
Mother raises her eyebrows from her place sunken down into the couch, says, “Need something?”
And he says, “No, ma’am, please don’t get up.”
“You come here to tell me you all found her?” I say, sitting at our small kitchen table in my nightshirt.
“No, see, that’s the problem, we can’t seem to find your girl anywhere,” Geary says, taking a seat across from me. “Her daddy called me up and said you might be holding back.”
“Daddy Marc has himself confused,” I say. “With him being a sex offender and all.”
“What would you say you and Selena’s biggest best friend secret was?” he asks.
“You mean, what our secret is,” I say.
“Of course. Is.”
“We once hid scissors in our purses and cut the security tags out of the nice jeans at Macy’s,” I say. “Will that help you find her?”
Geary smiled. “You never know what could help.”
“She’s probably off with some man,” I say. “Did you think of that? They all love Selena.”
“Any man in particular?”
I thought of the man from the dating site who called himself Angel. Lots of men messaged her profile, saying how pretty she was, but he was persistent and the one I replied to the most. He sent Selena’s inbox at least five messages a day. In one message, a photo of his naked body, face cut off. Tattooed over his dark patch of hair were the letters MOB. His penis was hard in the photo and he gripped it and pulled it sideways a bit. Not big, but I guess not small. I had looked at the picture until my eyes were dry. He wanted her address so he could leave her roses by her window.
“All men loved Selena,” I say again. “She could have had anyone.”
“You’re a nice looking girl, too,” Officer Geary says, standing up. “Do the boys ask you out?”
“Not really,” I say. “I’m shy.”
“You don’t strike me as shy,” he says. “You strike me as coy.”
“Ain’t the same thing as shy,” he says. “Look it up.”
“Need something?” Mother croaks from the couch. “I got some of them Ore-Os in the cupboard. Briley, get the man one of them OreOs and a glass a milk.”
“He’s leaving,” I say.
Geary pauses before the hall like he is going to step in my room and my heart falls from my chest to the floor. But he walks out the front door, tipping his felt hat to Mother.
“What’s about it?” Mother asks without looking at me.
“More Selena stuff,” I say.
“Why don’t you tell them what you all were up to?”
From the window I watch Geary pull away from the curb. Our neighbor Trish walks by, bends down and picks up a cigarette butt and pops it between her lips.
“He gonna keep coming around,” she says. “If you just tell him, he ain’t gonna think nothing of it. Just two little girls having some fun.”
Mother had used my computer one day to research how much her Beanie Babies were worth, and saw Selena’s profile. She had been angry with me at first, saying we were too young for something like that, and where did Selena take such slutty pictures? She grounded me for a day and then forgot about it.
“Selena used to call you a funt,” I say.
“I feel like I don’t know you much these days, Briley,” Mother says. “If you ain’t careful, I’ll show that old man into your room. Let him figure all that out.”
“There’s nothing to see,” I say.
“Let’s hope for it.”
Anyone would tell you that friendship boxes are something a lot of girls have. Since we were little I’ve been the collector. I’ve protected the important things. I saved up for a camera a few summers back, and bought black and white film at the Pac N’ Save. I took pictures of Selena lying out by the school pool. For some she posed. Silly model poses with pouty serious faces. But my favorites of her are the ones when she didn’t realize I was shooting. There’s one when her arm is up shielding her eyes. She had untied her suit strings and you can see a crest of boob.
“Colt, let me take one of you,” she had said.
“Okay, but tell me how to pose. I want it to be good.”
“Take off your top and, like, hold your tits together,” she said.
“Wait, take your hands away,” she said.
“Kind of saggy,” she said. “Ski jump boobs.”
I put my top back on.
“No, girl, I was messing you.” She laughed. “I want to take the picture. Hold still.”
The picture is weird to look at now. When it was taken, I never thought I was fat, but now being so skinny, it’s a body I don’t recognize. It’s the only one of me, and my hand is moving over my breasts and they are blurred and my face is sad. I don’t know why I’ve never thrown it away.
I saved the hair-ties she threw to the floor, a pair of panties she let me borrow, a container of wax she used to carry when she had braces. I used the bikini pics for her online profile. I used a fake name, too, which is the only reason Geary hasn’t discovered it yet. I named her Belinda. It seemed good at the time.
I take the box and drive to the dump miles outside the city and bury it there. A few tents are set up where homeless people sleep. There are used needles on the ground and I am glad I wore close-toed shoes.
I didn’t do anything wrong, but I can see how someone might wonder about the box. How could they understand our bond? She told me everything. Told me Daddy Marc sleepwalked into her room some nights, curled his body around her in the twin bed and breathed hard, pressed to her back.
Bible study with Denay. Denay is a believer in the charismatic tradition and thinks that when the Holy Spirit goes into you, He comes out your tongue on fire. So she squawks and hums and mutters other-language while she lays hands on each of us. I have yet to speak like this, but I think I will soon. Denay says the Holy Spirit is re-awakening inside me and when He comes out I will be changed. I will have answers.
“Prayer requests?” Denay asks us girls, four of us sitting in a circle.
“Me,” I say. “I need a vision of Selena.”
Denay looks at Amber and raises her eyebrows. “Why you need a vision? You don’t think the Lord is big enough to handle Miss Selena without your asking for visions?”
“She needs to be found,” I say.
Amber puts a hand on my shoulder. “Maybe Jesus has her out there to learn her something. Think of that?”
“And if He already took her home,” says Ramey, “Then it ain’t no business of ours.”
“I feel called to know where she is,” I say. “Please.”
“I have a prophecy.” Denay stretches her arms upward and closes her eyes. “The Lord says to look within yourself, Briley.”
“What else,” I say, eyes closed.
“And that she’s dead already.”
Ramey gasps. “Oh, fuck.”
“Lay hands,” Denay commands. She walks over to me and forms a chokehold around my neck and the other girls entwine themselves around me, around each other. Amber kneels before me and hugs my shins.
“Lord, let Briley feel Selena’s death. Let her process what it means. Where is the body? Where is the body?”
They begin to chant “Where is the body” over and over and it is Ramey who jerks on the floor and coughs and coughs. I close my eyes and listen deeply and I hear a heartbeat, thump, thump, and I think live, live, live, and I think, live, Selena, come out of the dark. I start to tremble and it feels like an earthquake until I realize that Ramey has braced herself against my chair and is rocking me back and forth, shrieking like an animal. When they stop we all sit in silence.
“Yes,” Denay says finally. “Dead.”
“I saw fields,” says Ramey.
“I saw sex,” says Amber.
I am the only one who didn’t see a thing.
Selena and I got frozen yogurt on the strip near the small row of independent shops selling felted bags and poorly made jewelry, a few days before she was no more.
“Just tell me the surprise,” she said, mouth full of vanilla.
“I can’t,” I said. “But you’ll know it when you see it.”
“I hate surprises.”
“That’s not true,” I said. “Come on, what’s the matter?”
“I need to move out my house,” she said. “Out the valley.”
“Let’s get an apartment,” I said.
“I want to get me some man with a job,” she said. “Daddy Marc and my bitch mom aren’t paying for college.”
“Live with me and my mom,” I said. “Or wait for prince charming.”
“Rather kill myself than live with your mom,” she said.
“Well, maybe something will happen soon,” I said. “Maybe you have a secret admirer.”
“Have to wait and see.”
I dropped her off at home, and that night I logged into the profile. She was so unhappy. I wanted to make her happy, and Angel loved all the things she did. And he was funny like her, and sarcastic, and he wanted to have sex. Selena had done it plenty of times before, and so I would write back that of course she was interested. This time there was a new message from Angel saying it was time to finally meet. What’s your address baby girl, where you stay? I leave you a present.
The box is gone now. The profile is deleted. I sweat all night and I have lost more weight. Mother comes into my room, wearing a long house dress.
“Geary called me up,” she says. “While you was in school.”
“Wanted to know what I knew.”
“He tell you Selena is dead?”
“He wanted to know about you,” she says. “Says they pulled a man over up the I-5 for speeding and in his car they found Selena’s purse. Empty.”
“Her purse,” I repeat.
“He just figuring you know more than you’re saying,” she says. “And I tell him, ‘Geary, my girl and that Selena, they speak their own language.’”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“I’m telling you because I know about your online Selena stuff, and all your flirting with them tattooed men, and I thought nothings to it, but then Geary said that, and I can put together two and two, Briley. That man from the Internet took her.”
“What did you tell him?” I stand up, pace around.
“I told him it’s a damn shame one of them gang-bangers stoled another kid. That is the truth.”
“What was the man’s name?”
“Angel-edo,” she says. “Something like that. They threw him in jail. Figured you heard already on the news.”
“No,” I say. “Get out.”
“Geary coming by. Best be ready.”
Did I know that Selena had a dating profile? Did I know she was engaging in an online romance with a man involved in the street gang, the MOB? That it stands for Money Over Bitches? That they run young girls on their prostitution ring up and down the I-5 corridor? Did I have reason to think Selena would willingly become a street worker? Had she ever mentioned Angelito? Did I know that usually they don’t find the girls, that she could be anywhere at all right now? That they could have put her on a plane and changed her name?
No, no, no, no, no, no. No, I told them. No, I did not know.
“You girls shared everything, right?” Geary asks me again. We are in the station. They have announced to our town they know who took Selena.
“I have nothing else,” I say. “I didn’t know about him. Why can’t she just have been kidnapped by him, and now you go find her?”
“When are you going to tell us that you created and operated the profile?” Geary smiles.
I say nothing.
“Not sure why you’re keeping it secret,” he says. “Unless for some reason you’re feeling guilty about it.”
“She wanted me to do it,” I say.
“Why did you dump that nice box with all them pictures of her?” Geary smiles wider.
“Have you been following me?”
“Course we have,” he says. “Figured if you all were as close as you’ve said, you’d lead us there eventually.”
“I never meant for this.”
“We doubt you did,” Geary says. “Just a one-thing-led-to-another kind of thing, am I right?”
Selena’s mother gave a statement to the news and they play it every ten minutes. She has tears pouring down her face, and she is asking Angelito to please, just break his silence, and say where she is, just say where she is. He sits in a jail cell claiming over and over that he left her in Frisco with MOB boys up there, and he ain’t seen her since. They have him on camera, and he smiles a tiny bit, and a small dimple can be seen. He says, “That was a beautiful girl.”
I drink a pint of Mother’s special strawberry vodka and call Daddy Marc.
“You messed with her, don’t think I don’t know.”
“Don’t you call here,” he says.
“I was trying to help her get away from you,” I shout. “She told me everything.”
“Listen close,” he says. “They gonna put you away for what you done.”
I start crying and realize the line is dead.
The news prints a story about the mysterious twist. The friend and the online profile and the box recovered in Tent City. And they show a picture of us together, one I took myself, my arm outstretched with the camera facing in. Selena looks tiny, her chin down, big eyes up, the prettier girl by a landslide. And people begin calling in from all over the country saying they’ve seen Selena at the bus stop, walking down their street, outside the Carls Jr. Mother has taken our phone off the hook because it won’t stop ringing. Angelito will not speak anything new. Denay writes me a letter that says she and the girls are praying for me, but they need to keep their distance. Geary comes by and tells me to hold on to my britches, that it won’t be long now, just a few more kinks to iron out. I ask Mother if I need a lawyer, and she says fuck if I know. She turns her program up and brushes the ringlets of her baby doll, counting strokes under her breath.
I finally dream of her like I’ve prayed, and in the vision I am twelve and I am in Selena’s backyard, looking through her window, the sun beating down on my bare shoulders. I can see Daddy Marc on Selena’s twin bed and his back is curved toward me. I step closer to the window and I see Selena’s tanned legs outstretched. Closer again and he leans his head down and I can finally make out Selena’s face, but it isn’t quite her. She is smeared and her eyes are white, mouth stretched in a long oval and Daddy Marc’s hair swims in flames. The window shatters and I run, barefoot through the sharp twigs home.
I put on Selena’s denim skirt and old tee-shirt to wear to court. They barely fit, and they smell like her. With her lip-gloss on I look in the mirror and my stomach sits full of something metal and heavy. I imagine Selena there next to me. Colt, she’d say, you’re long in the face.
I set out the gold eyeshadow she loved, the bronzer we stole from the expensive counter at the Macy’s. I can see her in the mirror. There’s glitter in a line above her dark lashes, perfect. Hair parted down the middle, cowlick-free. There’s the way she would bump her hip against mine without saying a word and it meant everything to me and nothing to her, I think. How she would turn to me and say, Here, let me fix you. Try her best to line my eyes cat-like. But it never worked on me, and my round lids would end up smeared and bruised-looking at best.
Yes, I see her next to me now. I see her visions all the time. She has called me Colt since the second grade. I reminded her of a little horse crouched under there, my boney legs folded in. My underpants had tiny horses all over, but Selena never told that part. No. She always wanted the story different.