Clinton’s Kill, New York
Minnie Graves is a bridesmaid.
She hates it.
Her bangs are crispy with Aqua Net. Her ponytail is so tight her forehead aches. Her feet throb in shoes that are a size too small, Mary Janes dyed special to match the totally rancid dress Minnie’s big sister, Jennifer, picked out just for her. There’s a thing called a crinoline and she has to remember to always cross her legs and it’s a total pain in her twelve-year-old ass. And it’s pink. “It’s not pink, it’s cranberry wine,” Jennifer said, but Minnie, whose big brother, Mike, tells her about all the horror movies he watches, thinks she looks like someone dumped a bucket of pig’s blood on her.
Minnie’s mother told her that, when the wedding started, Minnie would forget the crinoline itched and just be happy to see her big sister get married to Theodore. But Minnie’s mother lied: Minnie spends the entire ceremony glaring laser-beam eyes at Theodore’s stupid stomach, thinking it’s really appropriate that he’s named after the fat chipmunk. The priest talks forever, and then, because she is part of the poofy-dress brigade, Minnie can’t go with the rest of her cousins for cheese and crackers and little hotdogs wrapped in bacon—she actually has to stay and take pictures with these morons, and act like she’s happy and everything is totally awesome, and pretend she doesn’t know what she knows about her big sister. What she saw in the mirror this morning. She smiles so hard her cheeks hurt as bad as her smashed toes.
The photographer wants to take pictures of the bride and groom by themselves. Minnie is free; she doesn’t wait for her parents or her brother, she just walks away. She thinks that if she stays a second longer she is going to throw up or haul off and punch someone, because she feels hot and itchy and awful and she doesn’t know how to talk about it. She stomps across the hotel lobby, away from the ballroom where she can hear the rest of her family gobbling those bacon hotdogs and blabbering—probably about how beautiful Jennifer looked, and wasn’t Theo handsome.
They are all so stupid. Minnie feels like crying, they’re so stupid.
At the elevators, she pushes the triangle pointing up. It turns yellow under her thumb. She doesn’t really care where she goes, she just wants to get away, so she steps in and pushes the first button she sees. Seven. It’s cracked. When it lights up the cracks glow like little bolts of lightning and Minnie wonders how many times you have to push a plastic elevator button to crack it. She steps on the heel of one shoe, then the other, and nudges them off her feet.
The car is small, with mirrors on all sides.
When Minnie blinks she sees Jennifer this morning. Standing with her back to the bathroom mirror, looking over her shoulder at a low bruise the size of a cantaloupe, the right spot for a kidney punch.
“Since when don’t you knock?” Jennifer says. “Beat it, Bug.”
“Did I do that?” Minnie asks, because they shared a bed last night, and Minnie has been known to run hurdles in her sleep.
Jennifer’s reflection tilts its head and her eyes are sad when she says, “No, honey.” And Minnie notices the bruise is yellowish on the edges. Bruises don’t turn that color until a few days after you fall, or run into a table, or wipe out on your skates.
Minnie doesn’t know why but her stomach aches. This feels—important. Important, and scary, and Jennifer—who has never told her little sister a single private grown-up thing—says she can’t tell anyone about it, okay? It doesn’t matter. Theo loves her. She knows Theo loves her. He promised her he’ll never do it again, and she believes him.
Excerpted from Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia. Copyright © 2014 by Kate Racculia. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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