Paige’s father built her a bed of mahogany when she was 12 years old. He planned for it to become a family heirloom of sorts, so he cut the wood two inches too thick and durable enough to withstand monsoons. She was fond of it. She liked the way the lines running through the headboard were the same lines that carved into her father’s forehead after her mother’s death. She grew with it. When she was 13 she awoke in a small semi-circle of blood, clutching her abdomen and feeling like a bruise was spreading across her ovaries. The red sunk onto to the mattress, the mattress that cost almost too much, and she tried to hide it from her father for three days. The red grew stiff and crusty and she couldn’t bear the feel of it as she tossed and turned at night, so she finally confessed. Her father scratched his brow and placed an uncomfortable hand on her shoulder and said, ‘Tell me what to do.’ She scrubbed most of it away and the hard crimson eventually faded to a soft brown. When she was 15 she got so sick that her coughs felt like sandpaper scrubbing against concrete. She woke up from three-hour naps with the white sheets plastered to her legs in a grimy, stale sweat. When the doctor told her it was pneumonia she responded, ‘How do you spell that? Isn’t the G silent?’ The doctor wiped away a few wet strands of hair from her forehead and told her to stay in that bed for a week. She did. When she was 16 she met Fran. Fran was two years older and had shoulders like a linebacker. She painted her nails tar-black and wore padded bras and skipped fifth period everyday to smoke cigarettes behind the football field’s bleachers. Paige picked up the smoking habit and also painted her nails black. Her father didn’t question her when she came home late at night, because he didn’t know how. Her first night getting drunk included five shots of whiskey, two beers and a pesky button on her shirt that popped open whenever she leaned forward. Joseph was the boy who handed her the first beer, and then the second. He had blond shaggy hair and an odd tessellation of freckles on his left cheek. Paige and Joseph climbed through her window at 3:00 a.m. that night. The way was overgrown with t-shirts and dirty jeans in heaps on her floor, and they laughed as they stumbled over sleeves and landed clumsily in the bed. There were many after Joseph. Her father started taking his coffee black and he stopped laughing altogether. A conversation with him was ‘How was school?’, ‘It was alright,’ and a nod of the head. On Halloween Paige and Fran stole the yield sign down the street from Paige’s house. She leaned it against her bedpost, but her loss of innocence still picked up momentum. Paige’s father built her a bed of mahogany when she was 12 years old. He planned for it to become a family heirloom of sorts, so he cut the wood two inches too thick and durable enough to withstand monsoons. It had a handsome brevity, but he did not build it durable enough to withstand the weight of years, the weight of becoming.
JACKIE BRAJE received her BA in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Tampa in May 2015 and recently moved to New York to pursue a career in the publishing industry. In the past, she's worked as the Arts & Entertainment Editor for The Minaret, the Assistant Editor for the University of Tampa’s literary journal Neon, and a freelance music journalist for various publications. She currently works as an Editorial Intern for BlackBook Magazine. You can read her most recently published piece, ‘Warm Blooded,’ in the new issue of Dark River Review.