What You Think of When You’re 16 And Your Step-Father Tells You for the First Time That You’re Really Filling Out Your Bikini

by Alaina Scarano

CW: sexual abuse

You look out the window and shut your eyes tightly and your mind goes back to your very first kiss: the passenger seat of your ninth grade boyfriend’s red Pontiac Sunfire as he dropped you off from school on his way to the skate park late on a fall afternoon. The way the windows were open and you could hear leaves blowing across the sidewalk, even over Mariah Carey’s honeyed voice on the radio. How you noticed him leaning towards you and you hardly had time to close your eyes before his hand cradled the back of your head, lips like putty landing on yours, his tongue gently parting your lips, something that had never happened before. You think of the way the sun warmed your back and the way it felt like forever but somehow was over too soon, and when he pulled his face back, when the world started spinning in a new direction, there was a sweet softness in his eyes the color of your favorite toffee as he smiled at you. You remember how all the words left your brain, you could only think of how everything was glowing, so you said nothing, just opened the car door and got out backwards and stumbled up the steps to your house. How you opened the front door and your mother was home in the middle of the day for some reason, having coffee in the kitchen with your aunt, the windows open to the backyard, everything brighter and more alive than when you left for school that morning. You think about how you blurted out he just kissed me, and your mother clapped her hands together and threw her head up to the sky, and your aunt cackled and asked why you were in the house instead of still in the car, kissing, drawing out that moment that only happens once in all your days on this planet. The way your mother asked if you wanted a cup of coffee for the first time ever. Your mind goes to the tenderness of that afternoon, the way you felt as if your body was a flower, blossoming, a thing to be shared, the softness of his hands, of his skin, of his way of being, the way you would wonder for years why it couldn’t always be like this, sunshine and lips and red cars with the radio on, feeling like someone worthy. Your mother asked how was it? about the kiss, she reached out and put her long fingernails under your chin and shook her head, looked in your eyes with a sadness you’d never seen before, the ache of a mother watching the last moment she could think of her daughter as a child. You think of how, after that day, she stopped asking things and you stopped telling her them, like the first time your boyfriend put his hand under your shirt or the first time he unbuckled your jeans, how you don’t tell her when your stepfather starts coming into your room early on Saturday mornings while the rest of the house sleeps, the way you close your eyes and pretend to be asleep, always with your back to the door, praying he sees you resting and leaves you alone. You remember the way she cupped her mug in her hands on that autumn afternoon, the way she looked at you like something had broken, then shifted her eyes down to her coffee. What you think of, mostly, is how it was the one perfect day when you had an idea of what a man’s touch would be like, gentle and tender, the way you weren’t scared. The way he wanted nothing from you in return, like the sun offering up warming rays that cut through the breeze on a September afternoon. The way you could still feel him touching you, long after he’d driven away. The way those things linger.

Alaina Scarano is a writer from Denver, Colorado. She received her B.A. from the University of Colorado. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Gastropoda, Watershed Review, Allium, Litro, and elsewhere.


Photography by: Nathan Dumlao