--I'M GOING BACK TO THE START
I’ll Never Tell
The house stayed dark but a looming moon helped me find my way past the rooms where things were happening.
I could hear. I could hear Holly, my older brother’s girlfriend, giggling and saying, “Not there, here.” In the other room, my brother was convulsing while the hollow door rattled and bucked.
I was supposed to be watching TV, but I had to pee. I didn’t want to hear them. This wasn’t my idea. They could have left me home. Eleven wasn’t that young. I’d already seen my mother kill things—chickens and hogs. I’d felt the burn of swinging leather on my ass.
When they came out, it was dawn. My brothers looked drunk and disheveled, yet, shirtless, their bodies were corded with muscles that seemed even more engorged. The girls had reapplied their make-up. One of them smelled like molasses and brown sugar.
“Hey, Sweetie,” Holly said to me. “Wanna give me a massage? I got a kink.”
My brother sniggered. “You got a kink all right.”
“We’re going to do a breakfast run,” my other brother said. “You want anything?” He was asking Holly, not me.
Holly had just lain down, smashing her face into the navy shag, so she grunted.
The screen door screeched before banging shut. A whirl of chilled air tossed Holly’s hair, bringing up sheets of goose flesh on both our skins.
“Any day now,” she said.
I put my palms together the way I did when I prayed. I left an opening and blew hot air and rubbed so they wouldn’t be cold on Holly.
She was soft bread dough. She was bags of rice and my fingers trembled as they ran over the smooth grains. “Uh uh uh,” she said, pushing my hands from where they’d slid. “Just the back.”
I worked the gaps that lattered down her spine. I pinched and twisted and smoothed. “I hear you’ve got another brother, in prison.”
I said, “I guess so.” I had never met him. He was much older, and from another of my Mom’s husbands.
“You sure are shy,” Holly said. “Nothing like Eugene and Gary.”
When I started in on her neck, fluttering my forefingers and tugging with my thumbs, she moaned. The sound made me flinch. My cottonmouth was so bad that my tongue had turned into a crusted sock. I wondered if she could feel my pulse throbbing out of my knee.
“Tell me something,” Holly said.
“A secret no one knows. I’ll keep it. I’ll never tell.”
Movies flickered in front of my eyes: horror films, chase scenes and déjà vu dream sequences that were real.
“Come on,” Holly said.
My hands were still on her neck. It wouldn’t be so hard to envelop her throat, choke her to death, but I didn’t want to do that. I’d rather have kissed Holly, right beneath the ear. Then, if she persisted, I’d whisper every dark thing until she shivered and said, “Stop. Enough.”
“Waiting,” Holly sang.
“Okay, but you might not like me after.”
“I’m the forgiving type.”
I thought: I’ll just start. I’ll begin with bits and work my way up to the really bad stuff.
“I have a journal.”
“Like a diary?”
“Yeah, and it’s filled with secrets.”
“Then tell me one already.”
I knew the one to share, the one that would shock her enough that she’d want the others.
“All right, well, so, for example, two years ago I came home from school early. I had a stomach ache. No one had answered the phone when the school nurse called, so I assumed nobody was home but then when—“
The door swung open, one of my brothers out of breath. “Dingleberry left his wallet at home. Do you have any spare cash?”
Holly sighed. “Seriously?”
She pushed me off and arched her back. Her stomach growled. “You guys are a piece of work.”
“Hold on,” she said. “I’ll get my purse. I’m starving.”
When she came back, she said I could grab some juice from the fridge but the chocolate milk was hers and not to touch it. She didn’t say goodbye. She didn’t ask if I minded being left alone. She just left.
That night I finished chores back at our house. A minute inside my room, I could tell someone had rifled through my things because the mattress was off kilter and I liked having my shirts and underthings folded a certain way and now they weren’t.
The same thing happened the next night and almost anytime I was out of the house.
Holly had lied to me and now my brothers were afraid.
I decided to let them read the journal and learn all of the secrets. They knew most of them anyway, because they’d caused each one in some form another. But I decided I’d parcel them out, in stories tricked-up by fictitious identities and jerry-rigged with different settings. I’d write every last story, but make them have to do the work to figure out who they were, what they’d done, and why.