Victoria Griffin

Leslie walks softly over the bare floor, the hardwood stripped away. Her daddy told her not to walk on it without shoes—she is going to get a splinter in her naked toes—but her dad is sleeping in the room below, and she knows every footstep sounds like a fallen tree against the thin floor.

This was once the living room, with a worn couch and ice-cream stains on the rug. Now it is a hole, barren, everything warm and good lapped out of it.

Her groan echoes through the empty room. She sticks her knuckle between her teeth and bites down to quiet herself. The pain comes in waves, now—like the worst period cramps she ever had. A sharp ache floods her stomach and makes her crouch down, silent tears slipping from her eyes and staining the light particleboard.

She can still feel the sharp metal inside her (was it a knitting needle?), reaching into her womb to burst the fluid-filled sac. She can still feel the man’s rough hands between her legs, the same ones that had snatched the money from her fingers and pushed her flat onto the rickety table.

Leslie looks down to see blood staining her pyjama shorts and the particleboard. She grabs a paper towel from the roll in the kitchen and tries to wipe it up, pressing her free hand against her stomach. A red stain is smudged along the wood grain.

She drops onto the floor, not caring if she wakes her dad, and cries. She will have to tell him, now, about her uncle. About when her mum went out for groceries. About what she has done.
Her daddy’s footsteps on the stairs are heavy. He sees her form by the pale glow of the wall plug-in and flips on the overhead light, exposing her bloody thighs and the red, wadded paper towel beside her. His back is sore from sheet rocking, but he picks her up like she’s five, instead of sixteen, and carries her to the car. He puts on the flashers, drives ninety, and calls Leslie’s mother from the ER.

She is staying with her brother during the divorce.

Leslie pulls her foot onto her lap in the hospital room. There is a splinter in her toe.