Our cheap motel room faces the pool. Every morning I watch a dark-haired girl dive into the deep end – barely make a splash – and swim six laps. The night after the horse show, I run into her by the ice machine.
Olive eyes glaring, she asks, “What’s with you anyways?”
At nine, I don’t know what she means.
“Like what you see, you freak?” She balls her hands into fists.
“Yes.” She is long and graceful; I ache to swim like her.
“Dyke.” She uncurls her fingers and pushes my shoulders. I can’t bear to watch her walk away. Full of disquiet, I return to the bed I’m sharing with Kate and bawl into the pillowcase bleached white and thin.
Driving away from the state fair the next morning, Dad asks, “What was your favorite part?”
My brother shouts, “The games!”
Kate screams, “Cream puffs for breakfast!”
Mom says, “The horses.”
“Already have enough manure to shovel.” Dad chuckles.
New to farm life, he’s figuring it out. We took two cows and a pig to show. A single red ribbon swings from the rear-view mirror. Dad asks, “What about you, Meggie?”
I twist my hands around, uncomfortable with the attention. “I liked the pool.”
“Goddamn it,” my father snarls. “The best this whole state has to offer and all you can think of is that stinking pool?”
I blink. “Chlorine.”
“The smell? It was chlorine.”
“I don’t care what it was; it stank.”
I cringe, curl into myself, stare out the window. We’re past the city limits, entering suburbs. There will be forests soon, before it gets dark. My stomach rumbles. Conversation continues around me, punctuated by things I could have said.
Everything but my truth.
Growing up in western New York, T. L. Sherwood lived near a creek, farmland, swamps, and forests. She stalked wildflowers and longed to stumble across a man half-submerged in quicksand so she could calmly save him then brush off the feat as no big deal. Her blog, “Creekside Reflections,” can be found here. When not writing flash, she works on novels.