by Rebecca Tompkins

In the sixth grade I let a girl named Rose dig her finger nails into my arm until they broke the skin and I bled. I did this to prove that I never cried. A pack of lip glossed girls watched the whole trial.

Even though none of them liked me, I always played their games at recess. They surrounded me and Rose began, softly and tentatively at first, then more forcefully, to press her polished claws into my fleshy arm. Right before she broke the skin she looked up at me, she knew she was close. At first I thought that she would stop, that she couldn’t do what the others all hoped she could. Then she tightened her grip on my wrist, licked some of the sweet shine from her top lip, and pushed through the skin. It wasn’t painful enough to cry for, more of a slow burn, but I cried anyway. The pack saw what they had come for and began to drift away in twos and threes toward the foursquare courts and the jungle gym. Rose kept her grip on my wrist and stared down at the holes in my arm.

“Why did you take it?” she asked in a whisper.

I smiled at her and rolled the sleeve of my blouse down over the marks.

“It’s okay, it doesn’t really hurt.” She let go of my wrist, still looking hard at my arm. I gazed in the direction of the foursquare courts. “Do you think they’ll let me play?” She was already moving toward the others and didn’t answer. I lifted my arm and saw a dark moon pushing through the fabric.