by Robin Littell
Mina’s biological parents left her on the porch of an Ohio farmhouse in the middle of a thunderstorm. No note. Just Mina in a car seat with an empty diaper bag. The farmer’s wife called the police, and Mina was taken to a foster family that lived next door to me who eventually adopted her and chose her name, a name that means ‘love’ in German. Her foster parents said that everyone who met her fell under her spell.
Mina was my best friend. We were the same age, but her t-shirts stretched over her chest, fooling those who watched her into thinking she was older. I stuffed my bra, abandoned my tight ponytails to let my long hair fall loosely down my back, and wore thick black eyeliner to try to replicate her.
The boys in the neighborhood rarely took notice of me, but they stumbled over each other around Mina, wrestled and raced trying to impress her. She would look away, taking my hand and leading me into her house until they gave up and went home.
We were feral on those long summer days. We let musk melon juice drip down our chins without catching it. We ran around the neighborhood, secretly watching the shirtless boys that played basketball and rode trick bicycles. We were covered in sweat and sugar, our hands sticky from afternoon popsicles that melted fast in the hazy sun. We rode in the back of my uncle’s truck, the wind whipping our hair around our faces with such ferocity I closed my eyes and laid my head against her shoulder. We watched horror movies at the drive-in that made us pull the blanket up over our heads, our lips almost touching. I imagined that her mouth tasted like a cherry slush, sweet and cold. Late at night, when the adults had succumbed to too much beer, Mina crawled up the old television antennae to my bedroom window. We pulled the covers over our heads again and whispered about our dreams. We’d discovered something magical. A cypher only we had the answer to.
When summer ended, we saw less of each other. Mina’s parents enrolled her in the private Catholic school across town, and eventually they moved to be closer to it. She had a new group of friends, friends whose age was indeterminate because of their rapidly developing bodies. Outside the movie theatre, she sat in between the legs of a boy I didn’t know, drawing circles on his thigh with her fingertip. I heard that her parents sent her away to boarding school.
I grew up. I married. I had three kids. I see Mina now and then because our kids go to the same school. Summers are filled with playdates and practices, overcrowded pools, and fast food dinners.
Mina still shatters every space she enters. Men stop talking to look at her. Women nudge each other, and the air fills with murmurs. The atmosphere around her magnetizes, and we are drawn to her, wanting to cling. She is unaffected by the attention, and I have to look away.
Sometimes I catch glimpses of her standing alone, looking toward the fields that hide katydids and locusts, the sounds of our childhood. She rubs the scar on her arm, the one I traced with my finger on the porch steps while we were waiting for a thunderstorm to pass. She turns to us, and the crowd parts to let her back into the fold.
Robin Littell holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University. She is the author of Flight, the 2018 Vella Chapbook Winner for fiction at Paper Nautilus Press. Her work has appeared in New Flash Fiction Review, Fiction Southeast, Tin House, Two Hawks Quarterly, Adanna Literary Journal, and many others. You can read her stories at robinlittell.com.