My cousin Susie was tough in a way I’d never be. She punched Tommy Myers square in the face that time he called her a cream puff before homeroom. I didn’t even know what a cream puff was, and once Susie described them, my stomach started to growl and I wished I could have one.
Eatin’ ‘em ain’t the same as being ‘em, Susie said. Which made sense, but still, I love cream-filled things, and didn’t understand why it made Susie so mad.
He thinks I’m weak and I ain’t.
There wasn’t anything weak about Susie, and Tommy sure learned that the hard way.
When Susie was nine and I was six we used to do plays in our grandma’s backyard. Susie’d map out the story and tell me where to stand and what to say, and I’d do the best I could, watching her eyes to see if it was okay. If I did it wrong she’d yell Cut and throw her hands in the air. One time we went ten whole minutes on a scene where Susie was the boy and I was the girl and she said we could be happy, like on TV. We held hands and she led me behind the shed, told me to close my eyes. I was a little bit scared, but I always did what Susie said, and as her soft lips brushed my cheek, I kept hearing Tommy’s voice, teasing: cream-puff, cream-puff, cream-puff.
MARY LYNN REED’s fiction has appeared in Mississippi Review, Colorado Review, The MacGuffin, Jellyfish Review, and Smokelong Quarterly, among other places. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland.