by Jessica June Rowe

The anger came from her hands. Eight-year-old Natalie listened to her mother yell about some minor mishap, and in her mind, she felt sorry; in her child-chubby cheeks, the flush of shame at being scolded. But deeper, the anger was there, in the tight coil of her tendons, in the disappearing space between her bones as her short fingers clenched into fists.

She held them until the color disappeared from her knuckles, until her entire hand was white from rage—except for a small sliceof red, a cut from a ragged nail where the bright spark of hate at her fingertips could slip into her soft tissue, calcify in her blood and coat the inside of her skin. Natalie thrust her hands behind her back to prevent herself from letting them fly and knock the teeth out of her mother’s sneer.

Eventually, Natalie’s mother finished, and sent her to her room. She went quietly, but there was no appeasing the anger that grasped her little body like she grasped the toys, the clothes, the bedding she would destroy, out of control. And even then, once done, the wreckage of her life around her only served to inflate her childish fury further. Natalie’s hands unfurled, and the rush of blood back into her joints sent shivers up her arm.

Eventually, Natalie would grow up. Eventually, her cheeks would thin and her grown-up mind would forget this moment, how it began. There would be doctors and diagnoses; therapists, and their questions: how do you feel, why do you fight, what’s going on in your head?

But it was never her head that knew, and she could hit and slap, scratch and cut until she scarred, but under the surface it never changed. Violence had soaked its way into her fingernails, her cuticles, the veins of her palm and wrist. Eventually, life would go on, but Natalie was cursed knowing that whatever she touched, her hands would touch first.

Jessica June Rowe is Editor-in-Chief of the Southern California Review and a Playground-LA playwright. Her work has appeared in Noble/Gas Qtrly, The Cultureist, and Gryffin, as well as on the stage of the Zephyr Theater in LA. She really loves chai lattes. Find out why by following her on Twitter @willwrite4chai.