"I just received the latest load of bilge you sent me."
Ginger's eyes widened, but she didn't say anything.
Marion swallowed hard, then continued. "Sandra only missed one beat, then stood right over me. 'You're not writing,' she said too quietly." Marion lowered her head. "I had to say 'bilge'," she whispered. "She hissed it in my ear. 'You will write every single word I say. Because you have to leave behind that cretin. You're mine now. Aren't you!?'"
Marion and Ginger both jumped. Marion stopped again. Ginger nudged the plate of lasagna toward her. She pushed her fork through it a few more times and began speaking very quickly.
"When she shouted 'Aren't you!?' and I felt my shoulders scramble into my ears I knew I had to write the letter. And, just what she was dictating. Even if she wanted me to call Laura's love letters 'bilge'. She didn't need to add, 'So write, or I'll split open those damn trumpet-tooting lips of yours.' In that too quiet voice that makes my teeth tense."
After another pause, Ginger spoke up. "And did Laura answer?"
Marion shook her head. "Not a word, Mom."
"When did you write it?"
Ginger gasped and stared into Marion's sunken, shadowed eyes. "And you haven't practiced since the Christmas break, have you?"
Marion held her breath. "Sandra hates the trumpet."
Ginger blew hers out, slowly.
"Is it too late to withdraw?"
"They give us the first week back from spring break to decide."
Ginger leaned forward and ran a hand through Marion's straight brown hair.
"You're not going back there. Tomorrow we'll start finding someplace for you to transfer to." She waited a moment, then added, "Why don't you go rest?"
"OK, mom," Marion answered after a hesitation, and went to her room.
Marion went fetal on her small bed. I'm in trouble. I'm in such big trouble. Sandra's going to be furious. She told me not to tell. She'll know I've given her away. She'll beat me as soon as she gets a hold of me. Her breath came faster and drier. Oh, why did I tell? Why did I give Sandra away? How could I do that to her? She began rocking to the rhythm of her darting thoughts. Sandra isn't a danger. Telling was the danger. Sandra's strong. Sandra's good to me. She told me herself. She knows what's good for me. She said so. She knows. She'll know. The echo came into her head.
"You're mine now. Aren't you!?"
"Yes, yes, all yours, you know that," Marion squeaked out. She silently, rapidly tiptoed across the hall to the bathroom to throw up her lasagna.
First published: February, 2011
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