The Pretty Grown-Together Children
Let me tell it, I said.
No, you’re a liar and a drunk, I said. Or she said.
Our voices could be like one. I could feel hers in my bones, especially when she sang—a strong quicksilver soprano.
One of us has to tell it, I said, and it’s going to be me.
An agent had come to see us. Or that’s what he said he was. A talent scout. I couldn’t remember his name. He wore a blue sports coat with heavy gold buttons, jeans, loafers. His hair shone with tonic, and he knew how to shake hands. My bones ached from his grip.
Look, I said to Violet. I’m a better storyteller than you. You sing, I tell stories.
Violet didn’t answer. She had vanished, the way the great Harry Houdini had taught us to do in the RKO cafeteria. When you’re tired of each other, he had said, imagine retreating into an imaginary shell. A giant conch. Harry was short and bowlegged. Parted down the middle, his curly hair splayed across his forehead into a heart shape. Separate mentally, he had said.
What about when Billie is indiscreet? With men? Violet had asked. What do I do then?
Same thing you’ve done in the past, I had said. Look away.
Violet was like that. Made her voice rise when she wanted to play innocent. She pretended to be shy. But I could feel her blood get warm when she spoke to men she admired. I could feel her pulse quicken.
Back in the RKO cafeteria days we had floor-length raccoon coats, matching luggage, tortoise-shell combs and soft lipstick. We had money in the bank. We took cabs in the city. We traveled, kissed famous men. We had been on film. The ’30s, ’40s, even the ’50s. Those had been our decades. We had thrived.
In the RKO days, people thought our bodies were the work of God.
But now we were two old show girls bagging groceries at the Sack and Save in Aberdeen. There were no more husbands, no boyfriends. Just fat women and their dirty-nosed children pointing fingers in the grocery line.
Can y’all help us get these bags out to the car, they’d ask.
I’d never met so many mean-hearted women in my life. Violet and I were still able-bodied, but we were old. Our knuckles hurt from loading bags. Our knees swelled from all the standing. But we’d do it to keep our boss happy, hauling paper bags to station wagons in the parking lot.
I ’jes want to see it walk, the kids would whisper.
We lived in a singlewide trailer with a double bed and a hot plate the grocer had let us have behind his house. Mice ran through the walls, ate holes through our cereal boxes.
Look, the agent said. I’m going to come back tomorrow and we’re going to talk about some projects I have in mind.
Come after supper, I said.
Houdini had told us: never appear eager to be famous.
The agent came closer. His cologne was fresh. He made Violet nervous, but not me. He reached for each of our hands and kissed our knuckles.
Until then, he said, and disappeared through the screen door. The distinctive sound of the summer night rushed inside. Cicadas, dry leaves rattling in the woods, a single car on the dirt road.
Some nights Violet and I sat on the cinderblock steps outside, rubbing our bare toes in the cool dirt, painting our nails. Like most twins, we didn’t have to talk. We were somewhere between singular and plural.
After the agent left, Violet and I sat on an old velour couch, turning slightly away from each other as our bodies mandated. I forgot how long we’d been sitting there. There were framed pictures of people we didn’t know on the walls. The kitchen table had three legs. One had been chewed and hovered over the linoleum like a bum foot. The curtains smelled like tobacco. The radio was tuned to a stock car race.
Rex White takes second consecutive pole.
Violet was still, hands on her knees. She was probably thinking about an old boyfriend she had once. Ed. Violet had really loved Ed. He was a boxer with a mangled face and strange ears that I didn’t care for. He wasn’t fit for a star, I told her. When she went into her shell I figured that’s who she went there with.
I was hot and dizzy. Our trailer had no air conditioning.
Post-menopausal, I figured. I needed water.
I stood up.
Violet came out of her imaginary shell.
We have to get some money, she said, as we moved toward the sink. We have to get out of here. I have paper cuts from the grocery bags. My ankles are swollen. How come you never want to sit down?
I’m working on it, I said. Besides, we’re professionals. We’ve got something left to offer the world.
I let the faucet sputter until the water ran clear.
One of us could die, I said. And they’d have to cut the other loose.
So that’s what it takes, Violet said, and disappeared into herself again.
I was told our mother was disgusted when she tried to breastfeed us.
Just a limp tangle of arms and legs. Too many heads to keep happy, Miss Hadley said. Lips everywhere. Strange cries.
Miss Hadley, our mother’s midwife, was our first guardian. We lived with her in a ramshackle house that was part yellow, part white—the eyesore house on the nice side of town. The magnolia trees were overgrown and scratched the windows. The screened in porch was packed with magazines, rusted bikes, broken lamps, boxes of old clothes and library books.
Weren’t for me you’d be dead, Miss Hadley said. I found a wet nurse. I saved you.
Like stacks of coupons, bread cartons, magazines—we were one of the things Miss Hadley collected, lined her nest with.
Once, when you was toddlers, you got out the door nekkid and upset the neighborhood, she said. She liked to remind us, or maybe herself, of her generosity. Her ability to tolerate.
Carolina-born, Miss Hadley looked like she was a hundred years old. Her cheeks sank downward. She had a fleshy chin and a mouthful of bad teeth.
Billie, she’d say, I’m fixin to get after you.
And she would. She once threw a raw potato at my forehead when she found me rummaging in the pantry after dinner. Miss Hadley slapped my knees and arms with the flyswatter when I talked back. Sometimes she’d get Violet by accident.
She ain’t do nothing to you, I’d say. Leave her be.
Don’t sass me, she’d say. You’ve got the awfullest mouth for a girl your age.
When we were young, Violet and I had the thickest bangs you’d ever seen, enormous bows in our hair. There were velvet ribbons around our waist, lace dresses, music lessons. We were almost pretty.
We learned how to smile graciously, how to bask in the charity of the Christian women in the neighborhood. We learned to use the toilet at the same time. We helped each other with homework and chores.
Miss Hadley kept a dirty house, scummy dishes in the sink. There was hair on the floor, toilets that didn’t work, litters of rescued dogs that commanded the couch. Her stained glass windows were cracked. The front door was drafty. Entire rooms were filled with magazines. Her husband was dead (if she’d ever really had one) and she had no children except for us. And looking back, we weren’t her children at all. We were a business venture.
We fired the shotgun at Beaufort’s Terrapin Races, presented first place ribbons at hog and collard festivals. We crowned Wilson’s Tobacco Queens, opened for the Bluegrass Boys at various music halls. We knew high-stepping cloggers, competitive eaters, the local strong men. We knew showmanship.
I remember my line from the Terrapin Races: And now, ladies and gentlemen, the tortoise race. Years later, when I woke up in the middle of the night in a hot flash, that line would come to me.
We didn’t know to be unhappy. Violet and I—we didn’t know we were getting robbed blind. We didn’t know about all the money we’d made for Miss Hadley.
I don’t charge you rent, she said at the dinner table. But I should charge for those hungry mouths.
We believed ourselves to be in her debt. We were grateful, even.
Miss Hadley’s yard was overgrown with ivy, honeysuckle and scuppernong vines. When we hated what she’d made for dinner—she was a terrible cook—we’d go out hunting scuppernongs, eat them fresh off the vine. I liked them best when they looked like small potatoes, soft, golden, and dusty. I had to tug Violet out the front door to eat them. If we came in smelling of fruit, Miss Hadley would come after us with the switches.
Ya’ll been eating scuppanons again, she’d say, catching the back of our legs. Scuppydines is for poor kids.
We lived in what had been the maid’s room, behind the kitchen. We shared a double bed, slept back-to-back. There was a poster of President Hoover tacked to the wall. Violet papered our drawers with sheet music and hid licorice in her underwear. Miss Hadley had lined the room in carpet samples. I kept a cracker tin full of movie stubs and magazines.
Violet and I lay in bed at night talking about the latest sheet music, or a boy who had come with his parents to see us play at the music hall. We talked about lace socks, travelling to Spain, how we’d one day hear ourselves on the radio, learn to dance beautifully with a partner on each side.
I want to waltz, Violet said.
I want a new dress first, I said. Or to sing “April in Paris” on the radio.
Teaching you to walk was some ugly business, Miss Hadley often said. Dancing—I can only imagine. You girls need to work at sitting still, staying pretty. That’s why you’ve learned to read music.
Violet and I—we had thick skin.
We slept with an army of rescued greyhounds, lithe and flea-bitten, in our bed at night. We fed them dinner rolls, put our fingers on their dull teeth, let them keep us warm.
There were no secrets. Imagine: you could say nothing, do nothing, eat nothing, touch nothing, love nothing without the other knowing.
Like King Tut’s death mask, we were exhibited.
The calling card, as I remember it: “If we have interested you, kindly tell your friends to come visit us.” The Pretty Grown-Together Children.
There were stacks of these in Miss Hadley’s basement, smeared across the kitchen table. Stacks in every grocery store and Laundromat in town.
Hear the twins sing “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Hear the twins recite Lord Byron’s “Fare Thee Well.”
Miss Hadley sat us on a piano bench or leather trunk to play our instruments. We crossed our legs at the ankles. She set out a blue glass vase which she instructed visitors to deposit money into.
I took these girls in out of the goodness of my heart, she’d say, and I’d appreciate you donating from the goodness of yours so that they can continue their music lessons.
Bless your hearts, the ladies would say, coming up close to inspect us.
Children would ask: Does it hurt? Do you fight? You think about cutting that skin yourself?
It did not hurt to be joined—we knew no difference. As for fighting, yes, but we were masters of compromise: I’ll read books now if you’ll go walking later. You pick the movie this week and I’ll pick next. We can get in bed but I’m going to keep the lamp on so I can read. We can sleep in but you owe me a dollar.
At night, our legs intertwined. This was not like touching someone else’s leg. It wasn’t like touching my own, either. It was comforting, warm. We were, despite our minds’ best efforts, one body.
You kick, Violet told me. You dream violent dreams.
Your arms twitch, I said, though it wasn’t true.
After Miss Hadley’s death, when the movers began emptying her house, our fliers were used to protect the dishes. We were wadded up and stuffed into teacups. Our advertisements scattered across her dry yard. Scuppernongs lay bird-picked and smashed on the lawn. The greyhounds were leashed to the front porch. I remember you could see the sun shining through the translucent skin on their heels. I remember thinking—what now?
When Miss Hadley got the fever we were willed to her cousin Samson like a house. I’m afraid to tell you about the kind of man he was, how our skin got thicker. I’ll tell you this. His house was dark, unpainted, and smelled of pipe smoke. Samson did not shower or shave. He didn’t parade us in public or charge to hear us play music. In fact, the music lessons stopped. He kept us inside. He had other interests. I won’t say more.
C’mere sweetmeats, he used to say, patting his lap.
Ya’lls never been loved properly, he’d say.
There were months when we did not leave the house other than for school and church. It occurred to us to be depressed about our situation, scared. This was the first time we had been truly unhappy.
We were sixteen. One night we packed a bag of our best clothes, my saxophone, her clarinet. We waited until Samson was good and drunk, then left out the back door and caught a bus to New York. We’d never moved so fast together, never been so in sync.
The bag is heavy, Violet said. And my feet hurt in these pumps.
It’s worth every blister, I said. Trust me.
Each step I thought of his breath. Each step I thought of his fingers. The pain went away.
We made it to the station, sweating in our high heels with turned ankles and empty stomachs.
Violet and I swore, in the back seat of that bus to New York, that we’d never mention Samson again. We’d pretend the things he’d done had never happened. The bruises on our thighs would heal and the patches of our hair would grow back. Until then we’d wear hats. We’d practice music on our own. We’d get back into the business.
When we couldn’t pay the bus driver, he dropped us off at the police station. We were freezing. We’d never had a jacket made to fit us.
Put on your lipstick, I said to Violet.
I still like to think of that dimestore lipstick. It was soft and crimson and made me feel beautiful.
Excuse me, I said to a man smoking a cigarette on the cement steps.
He looked up at us in disbelief. He wore a three piece suit and a tweed cap. His lips were full and it hurt me to watch him sink his front teeth into his bottom lip.
I could see my breath in the air. The sound of New York was different than the sound of Miss Hadley’s back yard. The street looked wet; there were bricks everywhere, lights lining the sidewalks. We were petrified. I could feel Violet’s blood pressure rising.
I never seen something so pretty and so strange, he said.
And that’s how we got hooked up with Martin Lambert.
The agent will be back tomorrow, I said to Violet.
I can’t read this if you’re going to keep pacing that way, she said, trying to get through an old copy of Reader’s Digest while I bustled about the bedroom.
Our bed in the grocer’s trailer had one set of threadbare sheets and a pale pink quilt. I picked at the frayed edges when I couldn’t sleep.
Are you eating another cookie? I asked.
Old stock, Violet said, crumbs on her mouth. Someone has to eat them. Grocer was going to throw them out.
Our cupboard was stocked with dented soup cans and out-of-date beans. The grocer let us take a bag of old food home at the end of each week.
I noticed the lines around Violet’s eyes. I guessed they were around mine too. Our skin was getting thinner, our bones fragile. Our fingers bled at work.
Help me get this suitcase on the bed, I said.
Violet used one hand to help.
Between us we had one brown leather suitcase full of custom clothes. There were dresses, bathing suits, pants, and nightgowns. Those we’d had for decades were moth-eaten and thin.
We’ve gotta mend these, I said. And not get fat.
No one’s looking, she said, her mouth full of stale oatmeal cookie.
The agent is looking, I said.
This wasn’t the first time Violet had tried to sabotage our success. Once, she’d dyed her hair blonde. Then she tried to get fat. Every time I turned around in the ’40s she was eating red velvet cupcakes.
Your teeth are gonna go blood red from all that food coloring, I had warned.
We had enough strikes against us in the looks department. One of Violet’s eyes sloped downward, as if it might slide off her face. I hated that eye. I felt like we could have been more without it. Like Virginia Mayo or Eve Arden or someone with a good wardrobe and a contract or two.
Give me the cookies, I said.
No one’s looking, she said. I told you.
The agent is looking, I said again. We can’t show up naked. We can’t show up in grocery aprons.
Violet held the cookie box in her right arm. I could let her have it, tackle her, or run in a circle. I was too tired for the game. We’d played it enough as kids.
Fine, I said. Eat your damn cookies.
We each had talents. Violet could disappear inside her imaginary shell. I could go without food for days.
Martin Lambert had intended to take us to his sister’s house that first night in New York.
I can’t have you home with me, he said. We’ll figure something out.
He flagged down a cab.
I can’t feel my feet, Violet whispered.
I wasn’t sure we’d ever been up so late before. The lights of the Brooklyn Bridge pooled in the East River. The people on the sidewalks wore beautiful jackets. Soldiers were home with girls on their arms, cigarettes on their lips. Restaurants kept their lights on past midnight.
I hoped Violet wouldn’t tell him it was our first cab ride. The stale smell of tobacco oozed from the upholstery. Martin lit another cigarette and rubbed his palms on his pants. He kept looking at us out of the corner of his eye. Staring without staring. Disbelief. Curiosity.
I wanted to be close to him. I wanted to smell his aftershave, touch the hair under his cap.
We sing, I said. We can swim and roller skate. Violet plays clarinet, I play saxophone.
Well I’ll be, he said. Showbiz twins. Working gals.
Martin shook his head and chewed his lip. One thing I’d learned—people saw different things when they looked at us. Some saw freaks, some saw love. Some saw opportunity.
Violet was quiet.
We want to be in the movies, I said.
How old are you? he asked.
Eighteen, I said.
I pulled the hem of my dress above my knees.
Violet jabbed me in the ribs.
Honest, I said.
Violet placed a hand over her mouth and giggled.
Cabbie, Martin said. Stop at McHale’s. Looks like we’re going to grab ourselves a few drinks.
Our hats were out of style and out of season, but we were used to standing out in a crowd.
Martin rushed over to a stocky man standing by the bar.
Ed, he said. I want you to meet Billie and Violet.
Ed nodded but didn’t speak. The two men turned to lean over their beers and speak quietly.
I felt a hundred eyes burning my back.
Look at the bodies, not the faces, I told myself.
Miss Hadley had said: Learn to love the attention. You don’t have a choice.
There is no one in the world like you, I said to myself.
The imaginary spotlight is on, Violet said.
There is no one in the world like you.
We should find a hotel, Violet said. Then go south tomorrow. If we leave early, we could get to Richmond. Even Atlanta. Somewhere nice.
With what money? I asked her.
One gin and tonic later I pulled Violet onto the stage. The band was warming up. We could be seen and gawked at, or we could be appreciated, marveled over. I knew which I preferred.
The first night Martin and I slept together, Violet said the Lord’s Prayer eighteen times.
…hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Just keep going, I said.
Are you sure? Martin asked.
Violet had one hand over her eyes, a half-hearted attempt not to watch. She kept her clothes on, even her shoes.
Yes, I told him.
The room was dark but Martin kept his eyes closed. He never kissed me on my mouth. Not then, not ever.
During the day, Violet and I worked the industrial mixer at a bakery. We shaped baguettes in the afternoons. Nights, we sang at McHale’s. I began drinking. Ed and Martin sipped scotch at a corner table, escorted us back to our efficiency in the thin morning light.
We primped for our performances like starlets. In the shower, we rotated in and out of the water. Lather, turn, rinse, repeat.
Let’s go for a natural look tonight, Violet said, sitting down at the second-hand bureau we’d turned into our vanity table.
I was thinking Jezebel, I said. Red lipstick and eyes like Elizabeth Taylor.
It looks better when we coordinate, Violet said.
I painted a thick, black line across my eyelid.
Let me do yours, I said, turning to her.
Some nights I felt like a woman—the warm stage lights on my face, the right kind of lipstick on, the sound of my voice filling the room, Violet singing harmony. Some nights I felt like two women. Some nights I felt like a two-headed monster. That’s what some drunk had shouted as Violet and I took the stage. Ed had come out from behind his table swinging.
We were the kind of women that started fights. Not the kind of women that launched ships.
It took one year and a bottle of Johnnie Walker for Ed to confess his love to Violet.
Can you, um, read a newspaper or look away? he asked me.
I folded the newspaper to the crossword puzzle and chewed a pencil.
I been thinking, Ed said. You are a kind woman. A good woman.
Violet touched his cheek.
Does anyone know a four letter word for Great Lake? I asked.
I watch you sing every night, and every night I decide that one day I’m going to kiss you, he said.
Violet cupped the back of his neck with her hands.
Erie, I said. The word is Erie.
An hour later and they had moved to the bed. I watched the clock on the wall, recited Byron in my head.
Ed cried afterwards, laid his mangled face on Violet’s chest.
I cried too.
When the agent comes, I said to Violet, let me do the talking.
We were taking a sponge bath in front of the kitchen sink, naked as blue jays. It was too hard getting in and out of a shower these days.
A cicada hummed somewhere in the windowsill.
Do you need more soap? Violet asked.
This is my plan to get out of here, I said. We’ll offer him the rights to our life story. We can get by on a few thousand.
I dipped my washcloth into the cool water and held it between my breasts.
Violet touched the skin between us.
We’ll be okay, she said. I don’t want you to worry.
Martin had never stayed the night. He had a wife. I wondered what she was like, what she’d think of the things we did.
Normal people don’t do the things you do in bed, Violet said.
Since when are we normal? I asked.
You could keep your eyes closed more, I said.
And my ears, Violet said, blushing.
Martin is a man’s man, I told her. He knew what he wanted.
He was rough, sometimes clutching my neck or grabbing my hair. Afterwards he’d talk about the movies we’d get into, how he’d be our agent.
The Philadelphia Story, he said, but instead of Hepburn, there’s Billie and Violet.
Then he’d wash his hands, rinse his mouth, wet his hair down, and leave.
One month my period was late.
Jesusfuckingchrist is all Martin would say.
In bed at night I asked myself what I would do with a baby. What Violet and I would do. I convinced myself we could handle it. We had many hands.
Ed slept over those days. I watched Violet stroke his hair, trace the shape of his strange ears with her fingertip. She slept soundly on his chest.
One night Martin dragged us to an empty apartment around the corner from McHale’s.
Stay here, he said, backing out of the door.
A man came in—my body aches when I think of it. He opened a bag of surgical instruments, spread a mat onto the floor.
Lie down, he said. Put your legs up like this.
I wanted to do right by Violet, keep Martin happy.
There was blood. Violet fainted. I no longer felt human. I felt as if I could climb out of my body.
We’re done here, the man said. You shouldn’t have this problem again.
We didn’t leave our bed for weeks.
He found the straight and narrow, Ed said. That operation of yours cost him two months’ salary. He’s somewhere in Cleveland now.
Ed brought us soup and old bread from the bakery while I recovered.
He continued to drink at the corner table nights when Violet and I sang. He was anxious, protective.
One night, after we’d performed “Tennessee Waltz,” the bartender waved me over.
We’ve got leftover birthday cake, Billie-girl, he said, pouring me a gin and tonic.
I ate half a sheet cake between songs.
Billie, Violet said. That’s disgusting.
I pushed my empty glass forward for a refill.
The great Houdini told us to retreat to an imaginary shell when we got tired of the other one, I said to the bartender, rolling my eyes at Violet.
We never met Houdini, Violet said.
Next thing I knew, Violet was wrestling my finger out of my mouth in the bathroom stall.
Stop it! she said.
You drink too much and you never eat, she said. What did you have yesterday? Half a peanut-butter sandwich? An apple?
We sank back against the wall of the bathroom stall. I still remembered the pattern of the tile. Mint colored rectangles with black squares. Ice cream, I thought. Tiles like ice cream.
And the lying, Billie, she said. The lying.
I watched ankles and shoes walk by the bathroom stall. Some women had beautiful ankles. Some women moved on two feet instead of four.
I still had icing on my fingers.
I need to stay here for a while, I said.
Violet held her hand underneath the stall door and asked a pair of ankles for a glass of water.
She had chutzpah when I least expected it.
Two weeks later, she surprised us all by dropping her panties into the church time capsule.
Did I ever tell you about our big break? I asked the agent.
I pulled out a stock photo Violet and I had autographed.
It felt strange to offer an autograph now. Autographs were from important people. Violet and I might be broke and we might be strange but we were not ordinary.
Why do you have that old thing out? Violet asked. What are we—seven or eight?
She was eating Saltines out of a dented tin box.
Can’t whistle now, she said, smiling.
I pinched her bottom.
The agent is here, I whispered.
I’d once seen Violet cover my half of the photo with her hand to see what she looked like alone. We’d both wondered.
Here’s how we ended up in Carolina. I’d been in talks with a man who said he needed us for some public relations work.
It’s like this, he had said. You show up at the theater and do an introduction for my movie.
We have to take the risk, I’d said to Violet.
But we don’t, she’d said. We’re old. We’re retired.
We can’t live on what we have, I’d said. Not for long, and I plan on living a long time.
We fronted him money for travel arrangements. He promised a hefty return. But what he did was leave us stranded at the bus station. We had no money, no car, only our suitcase.
I’m tired of trusting, Violet had said.
We’d cried that night, propped up against the brick station. A minister had taken us in, fed us hot dogs, said he knew of a local grocery that needed and extra pair of hands.
We have those, I said.
One night Violet shook me awake. Get up, she said, switching on the bedside lamp. Get up.
Your eye, I said.
Violet had a red handprint across her face.
Ed was in the bathroom with the door closed.
We stumbled to the dark kitchen.
He’s drunk, she said.
Doesn’t matter, I said.
I picked up the silver pot we used to boil noodles in one hand, grabbed a paring knife in the other.
Ed came into the kitchen crying.
Get out, I said.
I shielded Violet with my body, backed her up to the sink.
I flipped on the kitchen light. We all winced.
Leave, I said.
You’re crazy, he said, sinking to his knees. Violet?
He’d said something else. What was it that he said?
I slung the silver pot into his crooked nose.
I can’t picture what the agent looks like, I said to Violet.
Violet was reading the jokes in Reader’s Digest and eating outdated yogurt.
There was the one in Texas, I said. And then the one in the city. The one with the Buick.
We’re in Carolina now, she said. Why don’t you rest?
When the agent comes back, we should do a number, I said.
There hasn’t been an agent here, Violet said. You have a fever.
Or I said. One of us was always saying things.
The one in the blue sport coat, I said. With gold buttons.
Do we have health insurance? she asked, the cool back of her hand against my forehead.
When the agent comes back, I said, let’s do “April in Paris.”
Let me get you a cool washcloth, she said, lifting me gently from the couch.
Let the water run clear, I said. Tomorrow …
Trust God on this one, Violet said. Rest.
In our early days, people had trusted God’s intent. We were the way we were because He made it so.
I remembered what Ed had said that night I crushed his face. His mangled, fighter’s face.
You are not made in His image, he’d said. You can’t be.
And now, ladies and gentleman, the tortoise race.
My eyes watered. I felt as though I could no longer stand.
I jes want to see it walk.
I’m sorry, I said to Violet, before I pulled her to the ground.
If we have interested you, kindly tell your friends to come visit us.
There was something about the body, our seam …
I touched the skin between us.
One day soon, I said, you’ll walk out of here alone.
Hush, Violet said. Hush.
Get a new dress, I said. Eat all the goddamn cookies you want.