The trek to the man’s store was less about the candy for her, and more about the limited freedom it afforded. A sheltered, smothered little girl, she felt like fine China that never came off the shelf. While her parents tried to protect her from bullying and the less savory aspects life, the result of their loving efforts was a much too shiny innocence that attracted the attention of the most insecure brats, both on the block and in the halls at school. She often felt helpless and brittle, caged and uncertain of herself. The walk into the little town was practice for the walk she longed to take into a world she could own and dominate, away from the rules and control of her over-bearing parents.
Past the bank, past the bakery, the phone company and the library, past the church where her parents took her for exposure, they walked. No one questioned a gaggle of children in those days, in the small little towns, making their way down the center of everything. They stopped here and there for sidewalk treasures: rocks that fit their youthful hands, uniquely bent nails, bugs and frogs. Rounded stones and undamaged bottle caps clicked against each other in their pockets. Broken glass they weren’t supposed to touch was defiantly scooped up and tossed into trash cans, proving to each other they weren’t concerned with the dangers.
In time, as the only girl along for the trip, she became one of the boys. She spit and cussed along with the others in a show of solidarity, and because it made her feel empowered. In time, the brittleness shattered from her core, and what she found there was an angry but strong, confused but determined individual. She didn’t want to wear dresses or jewelry like the other girls because it reminded her of that frail little China doll that she wasn’t allowed to play with, for fear of breaking it. She didn’t care what kind of candy stick the man sold her, as long as it wasn’t green apple.
The candy store, with all it’s choices, was the world in vivid splashes of truth and facades, twists of choices and obligations. She wasn’t yet ready to map out her future, but she knew she could not let anyone draw that landscape for her.
In high school, years later, Al put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. It had nothing to do with her. Anyway, that’s what she told herself. He had proposed to her the year before, much to his brother’s dismay. She had been kind but firm, but suddenly, it was as if the last six years disappeared and they were right back at that bus stop. She was a “dyke,” and much worse, he’d said, and he would let everyone know. The bully of her childhood had fallen in love, and then betrayed that sentiment when she declined another prison of protection and sheltering. With his putrid words of anger and a faulty, broken heart – he’d voiced her worst fear.
She’d hugged Benny when the news of Al’s suicide made the rounds. She remembered his gift of courage on the school bus, and would later cherish his brother’s gift of self-discovery.
I cannot get this story “just so.” I can’t figure out how to tie all the ends. As is, it gets out the points fine – but I cannot help but think there must be a better, more lyrical way to transmit the story. Please – I would great appreciate any feedback fellow writers or avid readers provide.