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The right leg kicks the football. The heart beats. The lungs breathe. The mouth opens. These actions belong to a body that used to belong to a girl. This body is made of parts, slightly used joints and hinges, aged eleven years old, which twitch and excite without the girl’s permission. Above the veins that snake from skull to anklebone she resides, hovering like a thin filament of soul-steam.
The girl levitates with a secret, scanning the scenery below, and admires the scab on the neck that used to belong to her. It’s imperative she remain at a flying altitude above the skin now—all sky, no bone. Now, all elbows and earlobes—formerly her elbow, her earlobe—belong to someone else. They have belonged to someone else, Uncle, since last Tuesday, to be exact, when he moved into the girl’s house and started smoking his cigarettes on the clean couch her mother still hasn’t paid off (and then started doing other bad things, too).
A whistle blows. It’s halftime. The girl’s team is up by five points. She worries the match won’t be over soon. She must get home or Uncle will tell her mom how full of germs she is, he threatened. A headache forms in the head that used to belong to her. Even though she’s up above, she can still feel its sting—a curious thing. Her uncle will be mad if the girl doesn’t bring the parts home by five. He likes the mouth the most. Her mom will still be at work then, you see. She will never know. The fish and chip shop with the greasiest chips in all of Sunderland is where she’ll be. Then, she’ll come home and make something healthy for the girl—like steamed parsnips and stuff. But somewhere inside the ocean that the mother calls her gut doesn’t she know what’s happening to her girl? Perhaps she does, but she needs her brother’s rent money more. Her husband is back in prison again. He lacks impulse control. So she justifies what’s happening to the girl, maybe; and besides, she thinks, she does other healthy things for her daughter instead, like cooking parsnips. The mother believes that someday this will make up for all the bad things. It won’t.
The sun begins to set. Bright oranges and purples deepen the horizon. For the last time today, the girl kicks the ball with the right and then the left foot. A goal is scored and her team wins the match. After this, the girl feels like she can actually win at things and looks at her coach. The coach is a kind woman with a smile that belongs to her own face. This makes the girl feel safe. So the girl opens a mouth that used to belong to her and directs it towards the coach. This is the moment to say something. This is the moment to make it stop, the girl knows. So say something, say it, she pleads with the mouth. The mouth listens. A sharp pain enters the throat, a splitting, a seam undoing itself, and then the girl’s mouth speaks.
Laura Ashworth lives in Richmond, Virginia. In 2012, she received her MFA in Fiction from Arizona State University. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Dragnet, and Anamesa.