The first time she was touched was in the dark. At a school assembly, the lights in the auditorium off so that they could see the video about drunk driving play on the projector screen above the stage. A hand was on her thigh and then between her legs. She tensed but didn’t dare look at the boy the hand belonged to. She concentrated on the girl crying in the video, mascara running down her face, saying she wished she could take it back. Make it better again.
She’d only spoken to the boy in class. They had English and Bio together. Now, his hand crept up her thigh so slowly it was barely moving. She didn’t flinch. His fingers followed the inside seam of her jeans. His knuckles pressed hard.
There, in squeaky seats, she chewed her lip until it stung, the hurt of it. She wanted him to press harder, harder. They didn’t look at each other. A mother cried on screen, asked why, why, why. Mascara ran down her puffy face. His thumb dug in and she sucked in air. She could hear the whole school breathing, in and out. Something unfamiliar stirred in her. Someone whispered and a teacher shushed them.
Erika Nichols-Frazer has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She won Noir Nation’s 2020 Golden Fedora Fiction Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her stories, essays, and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Red Tree Review, HuffPost, Lunate, Literary Orphans, Noir Nation, OC87 Recovery Diaries, and elsewhere. You can find her work and blog at nicholsfrazer.com.