Fiction — May 3, 2011 13:57 — 3 Comments

Speculative – DeMisty Dawn Bellinger

“Sabrina ain’t here right now, but I know where she is.  We can go get her.  Want to come in for a minute, while I get ready?  Throw my face on?”  Sara stepped aside and held the door open.  She smiled at Jackson, her mother’s latest boyfriend.  Jackson peeked into the house from the porch.  He should have said no, should have said he’d call later, but he considered that Sara was old enough to know better, to know if she should or shouldn’t let people in their home.  He stepped inside the back door, which opened into the kitchen.

Sara closed the door and excused herself.  “I’ll be right back,” she said, and sort of half  skipped and half jogged away.  Not knowing where to place himself, Jackson stood near the door and looked around at the small, clean kitchen.  There was a coffee cup with a thick ring of lipstick on the rim.  He thought that Sabrina would be home from work.  He should have gone straight to her job to pick her up.

Sara came back into the room wearing cut-off shorts and a boy’s sleeveless t-shirt.  She carried a battery-powered vanity mirror and what looked like a feminine tackle box.  She put the mirror on the kitchen table and flicked the lights of the mirror on.  She set the box beside it and opened it up.  Like a tackle box– or a tool box– it accordioned out and revealed compartments for tubes of lipstick, eye shadows, and liner pencils.  “Sabrina and I do our makeup in here,” the girl said, “because the lighting is so great from outside.  Especially days like this.”  Sara sat down in front of her mirror and dug through her box, picking up tubes of lipstick, checking the colors, and throwing them back inside.  She finally found a color she wanted and took off the cap.

Jackson cleared his throat, again unsure if he should have come inside.  He asked her, “You said we can go get her?”

“Sabrina?  She’s probably at the park.  She goes there.  We can wait til later this afternoon to pick her up; it’ll be fine.  We can find her easier then, too. I’m talking about right before Adley gets home.  He gets out at 3:15, I think, and if his bus is there – well, he’s the last to get off.  I’m thinking, maybe, around 2:30 or 3:00.  It’s about twelve now.  Three at the latest, and traffic should be okay.”  Sara stopped talking and applied lipstick, watching her reflection closely in the vanity mirror.  Her hand steadily went over each lip twice.  She pressed her lips together, then blotted them quickly with a tissue.  She stuck out her mouth, blotted again and, dissatisfied, applied more lipstick.

Jackson watched her.  He hooked his thumbs in his jeans’ belt loops.  He let his fingers hang outside of his pockets so that he could quickly and inconspicuously check the size of the bulge in his crotch.  The fingers of his right hand ran a quick glissando near the zipper.  “How come you ain’t in school?”

“Finals.  I ain’t had none today.  But Sabrina should be out at the park.  Walking or whatever she does.”

“Why you call your mama Sabrina?”  He kept close to the door that led outside, led to the driveway where he had parked his truck.  He wanted a cigarette, but instead scratched his ear.

“Her name, in’t it?  She don’t like me to call her mama or nothing, anyway.  You think you going to catch her or something?”  She smiled and glanced quickly up at Jackson’s reflection in her mirror.

“Catch her what, Sara?”  His boots felt uncomfortable and he felt very big, looming over the girl as she did her makeup.  Jackson didn’t want to make her uncomfortable, though, by sitting down.

“You know.”  She dug through her box again and pulled out an eyeliner pencil.  “With someone else?  No, Sabrina’s not like that.  Although she’s had many a man in her life, she don’t mess around.  Do you?”

Without his thinking about it, one of Jackson’s hands left his belt loop and went to the pocket of his plaid flannel shirt, almost instinctively, but found it empty; he stopped smoking nearly a week ago.  “You know where to find your mom in the park, Sara?”

She turned to him quickly, then looked back into her mirror.  She was lining her large, cat-like eyes in electric blue and grinning a worldly grin of a woman at least twice her age.  “I do, Jackson.  I said I did.  Sometimes, I go there with her.  Do I have to repeat myself with you?  It’s near that pond they put in that used to have fish.  But they had to take the fish out because of the raccoons.  It’s a little further north than that area, towards the fountain.”

“And what about Adley?  What if he gets home and ain’t nobody here?”

“He’ll be okay.  We’ll be back by then, anyways.  Sabrina will see the two of us and would want to rush back for her baby.  She’ll want to make sure somebody’s here for him.”

“Wouldn’t she rush for you?”

Sara capped her eyeliner pencil and gave Jackson an exasperated look.  She returned the pencil and pulled out a bottle of mascara.  She looked at him again, slightly smiling, as she shook the mascara bottle.  Jackson couldn’t believe how young she looked, her face still shiny in spite of the makeup she smeared on, her eyes somehow still naïve.

Not happy with the black gunk already on the brush, Sara jabbed it back into the bottle a couple of times.  She wasn’t beautiful, just young.  Her skin wasn’t flawless, just resilient.  Her hair was not perfect, but it was thick hair.  And noticing her hair and how it waved almost expertly from the crown of her head, Jackson wanted to touch it.  He wanted to stroke it continuously as if she was his own.  From his thoughts, Sabrina faintly faded away.

“No one gets loved like Adley,” Sara said, winking her left eye at herself in the mirror, then winking the right one separately.  She inspected her face, then blotted the skin beneath her eye where her lashes left black marks.  She had faint freckles there.

“You and him got the same father?”  A dumb question.  But somehow, before he asked it, he felt that if they had different fathers, being closer to Sara would be okay, that it would be less like incest or enticement if she was not Adley’s full sister.  He knew that if things ever got really serious with Sabrina, he’d have to become a father to the boy.  Because of her young age, he never considered having to raise Sara. She seemed just another adult or someone who would soon be out of the house.  Sara was already raised.

“I don’t know,” she said.  She put her mascara back and closed the box.  She turned to him.  “I never really thought about it.  Funny, in’t it?  I don’t know who my daddy is or was and I don’t care too much to find out.  He didn’t want me so why should I want him?  I vaguely remember some man early on, moving about in our house and calling himself daddy, but he could have just belonged to only Adley or something.”  She stopped talking and turned back to her mirror.  She looked her face over again.  “Or was that before Adley?” she asked herself.

Jackson never considered himself to be the type of man that lusted after teenaged girls, but there was admittedly something intriguing about Sara that made him curious.  At that point, he would not go so far as to say that he wanted to take her to Sabrina’s bed or, worse, to Sara’s bed, which was probably decorated in teen-girl posh, making the imagined act that much more taboo, or even coveted, but he wasn’t too far from that desire.  “How old are you, anyway, Sara,” he asked as nonchalantly as he could.

“I’ll be eighteen soon, next month.  You know, after that early character left–I think his name was Joe or something like that (hm, Daddy Joe),” she laughed quietly and quickly, “there were so many guys paraded through there at the old place and then here that I lost track.  I can only imagine what my little brother thinks of it all.  No offense, Jackson.”

“Ain’t none taken.”  If he stroked her hair, he reasoned, it wouldn’t be so bad; she’s merely a month away from legality.  If he stroked her hair, it would not hurt anyone; parents did it all the time.  And he could be considered parental.

“Is it imperative that we go get Sabrina now?” Sara asked, and Jackson was delighted that she used such a word that he wanted to take her to one of those bedrooms, preferably her own now, and play with her affected sophistication.  How that word slipped out of her mouth.  Imperative.  It made him want to believe that she really did have finals, although it was only April and two months away from any high school final exam.  It made him want to admire an intelligence she did not have.  Jackson avoided the question, along with its provocative word, and reached for his shirt pocket.  He shivered when he found it empty again.  He took a couple of steps towards her, which led him just behind her chair, close to her hair, scented as her skin, with a berry fragrance bought from the mall.

Imperative was now her word.

He raised his hand, worn from years of working longer than the girl was old.  It was strong from the years spent building. It was strong, too, from the many years he used his hands to demolish.  His large, knobbly right hand—some of the knuckles forever scarred from fights, accidents and other incidents that bored him away from remembering them—landed lightly on her head.  He drew his palm down her careful curls as if she was thoroughbred.  Award-winning.  Not turning from the mirror, Sara looked up at Jackson, her eyes made bigger from the stare she gave him, her mouth opened a little revealing a few of her teeth on the top row.

When he reached the bottom of the curls, he brought his hand up and, again, let it run down her hair.  Harder this time.  Strands snared in his dry, peeling skin, his gnarled nails, calloused palms.  Her hair was so soft, never coarsened by growing gray like the women he was used to, and easily tangled and trapped in his skin.

Sara closed her mouth.  Jackson had the feeling that this wasn’t anything new to her.  He imagined a thirteen-year-old Sara when “just call me Papa Joe” came into their lives and, subsequently, into her frilly room.  He could see Sabrina’s boyfriends come on to Sara and, if she found them at all interesting, she’d comply in some way.  Most of them wanted to be in her bedroom, which was probably kept juvenile for her mother and her mother’s suitors.

She may have been waiting for Jackson to make his move.  Expecting him to gush at her, to tell her how pretty—how beautiful, really—she was, expecting the cries of guilt but the confession of not being able to hide his love or contain his desire anymore.

She asked him, “What now?” He knew he had some stereotypical ruggedness that made him somehow sexy.  When Sabrina first got dropped off home from a date with him, he’d overheard her say the to Sara in the kitchen window: “He could be in an action movie or something!”

Sara looked more than a little taken aback when he took his hand from her head.  Jackson slowly and expertly removed the stray hairs snagged in his marred hands and jagged nails with his ragged left hand.  “Some traveling music,” he said.  He turned away from her  and walked back towards the door leading to his truck.  “Adley will be okay?”

Sara sat at her mirror, eyes wide from Jackson’s removal.  From where he stood, turning to look at her, Jackson could see that her eyes were a little wet.  She cleared her throat, opened then closed her mouth.  She looked at him from her mirror, looked at his reflection near the front door. He stared back.  She took a small breath.  “What?” she asked.

“Will Adley be okay?  Will he come home to a locked house?”

“No,” she said.  “We’ll beat him back.  It’ll be fine.”  She got up and turned the light off on her mirror.

Behind her, Jackson turned to his girlfriend’s daughter and asked, “Are you okay?” carefully.  She nodded quickly.  She seemed smaller now.  She grabbed the mirror and left the kitchen.

After about five minutes of waiting, Jackson called to Sara, “Look, if you don’t want to come with me, just tell me where she’ll be at.  Then, I won’t have to speed or nothing to get us all back here for the boy.”  He’d reasoned that it was a small park anyway.  “I should be able to find her,” he said as a follow-up.  When she didn’t answer, he called for her.  He followed her path back towards the bedrooms.  He picked Sara’s room out immediately.  The closed door was decorated with a whiteboard on which Sara had drawn a picture of a dragon in blue marker with red marker flames flying from its mouth.  “Keep out, Addie” was written in large, black, block letters.

Jackson knocked.

“What?” she yelled.

What he saw was, in his mind’s eye, Sara naked.  Nude on her bed.  Or wearing a pink teddy with every innuendo of the word.  Or yellow panties with red hearts silk-screened across the fabric.  Her shoulders would be freckled.  Her knees scraped.

What he saw was Sara doing this again and again, to her mother’s boyfriends.  He tried to close his eyes on this, but he couldn’t ignore it.  Sara had told him about the many men her mother had dated before, so why couldn’t he make that speculation?  It disturbed him to think how many of Sabrina’s partners were cajoled into Sara’s bedroom.  It frightened him that he could be another man the mother and daughter had shared.  But to have these thoughts were really all part of the assumptions that he had made: Was she seducing him?  There in the kitchen in that mirror?  Was she making herself up for him.  “Did I hurt you, Sara?”

“What?” she asked, her voice only slightly muffled by the thin walls.

“Hurt you.  Did I?”  He waited on the other side.  The dragon’s flames were jagged lines, similar, framing each other, shaping fire imagined.  He knew that it was empty, but he let his hand go to his shirt pocket.  He allowed the fingers to reach inside and just rest there on the hem of the pocket.  “I am going to go alone,” he said.  She could not have heard him— he spoke too low.  “My hand,” he said, not trying to be heard.  Her hair, he thought.  He backed away from the door with its dragon keeper, too childishly drawn to be frightening, and turned away.  If she came out, he thought, something would have to happen.  They would go to the park, or they would not go.  He would touch her or she would touch him.  She might cry, he might comfort her.  But Jackson didn’t want any of that.

He left Sabrina’s house thinking that he might have misread everything, that the incident between Sara and him could have only been incidental.  Sara could be in her room, trying to find something to wear, or calling a friend before leaving with her mother’s latest to retrieve her mother.  She could have never been touched by her mother’s previous lovers, as he had imagined.  She could have never been touched at all.  When he started his truck and checked his mirrors, he imagined himself at home later, jerking-off to the memory of Sara’s hair.  He saw Sara telling Sabrina that he had stopped by.  “We were going to get you, but he left.”


DeMisty D. Bellinger, a Wisconsin native, lives with her husband and twin daughters. She has an MFA from Southampton College and is working on a PhD in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her fiction can be found in Diverse Voices Quarterly, LITSNACK, Wilderness House Literary Review and is forthcoming in Touch: The Journal of Healing and SpringGun.


  1. Kem Royale aka Karen Murphy-Smith says:

    Dee you are gifted. I’ve read several of your pieces (master-pieces). Outstanding. It’s an honor to be in your spaces. I particularly liked… Buoyancy… I can relate to it. And of course the pieces that reference Milwaukee, Whitefish Bay, the other side of the tracks, etc. Lovely visuals… lovely feels… lovely metaphor about the lone female goose. Locate me on facebook? There you will find my e-mail address. I have to discuss motion picture arts with you.

    Sister Love… Kem Royale

  2. Kem Royale says:


    Please visit my URL Would you please consider doing a guest blog?

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney