The ice water dribbled down Amelia’s palm, over her wrist and snaked down the inside of her forearm. She wiped her arm on her side, eyeing the point of the safety pin in Karissa’s hand.
“Amelia, relax,” said Julie. “You’re going to faint.”
“I’m fine,” Amelia said. She blinked, smiled, she swallowed dry. She reached for another ice cube in the bowl. Dripping as she set it to her ear. Another glance at the safety pin, looking not so safe but eager to stab, puncture, wound. And her ear, it was not numb.
She was supposed to be numb.
This is in response to Charli Mills’ Challenge at Carrot Ranch
February 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice. It can be an event on ice, a game on ice or a drink on ice. Go where the prompt leads you.
Respond by February 20, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 21). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Karissa waited patiently. Amelia wouldn’t have guessed Karissa to be so nice. Amelia had been hesitant to sleepover when Julie said Karissa would be there too, and she had not told her father about it. And up until now she hadn’t thought much about it. They’d started with a walk around the block, then it was pizza on the couch, movies on Netflix while texting nonsense to boys and laughing at their responses. After that Julie wanted to go upstairs and play truth and dare.
Now Amelia was supposed to pierce her ear.
Practically thirteen, Amelia might have been the only girl at Stephen’s Academy without pierced ears. She wore no makeup, didn’t have a clue about it. She had no phone and her father didn’t allow her to be on the computer after ten. The school uniforms were one thing, but even Amelia’s personal clothes were as drab as a wet November. Last month, Amelia had gone bra shopping with her great aunt—a new low.
It wasn’t that her father was protective, he was absurd. And only getting worse.
Amelia had no curfew because she never went anywhere alone. The sleepover took weeks of begging to pull off and he’d already called three times. Her father was always at Stephen’s Academy. Dropping off. Picking up. He even went to the basketball games, sitting atop the bleachers like a sketcher.
Karissa sat back and laughed. “Amelia, I’ve done this like, six times,” she said.
Her ears held the hardware back up the claim. With deep breaths, Amelia tried once again to relax. She glanced at the bowl of shrinking ice cubes floating in the water.
“I need more ice,” she said.
“I think it’s fine,” Julie quipped. Amelia looked at her best friend, wondering how long it would take until she was completely replaced by Karissa. Julie watched Karissa with stars in her eyes. Karissa wore black hoodies and ripped jeans. Eye shadow. She had silver rings and studs in her ears. She painted her nails dark colors and listened to scary music. Amelia guessed that Karissa did not go bra shopping with her great aunt.
The water snaked its way to the crook of her elbow.
Maybe if her mother hadn’t died. Or if she had a sister, a brother…maybe even if her father could sit on the edge of her bed without talking and just catch all these feelings she needed to throw out instead of lingering at the door asking if everything was okay, ready to take off running at the first sign of “girl trouble.”
Another cube, more wet than cold now. Amelia closed her eyes and nodded. Karissa scooted forward and Amelia opened her eyes just in time to see the point about to rip tear through her earlobe. She thought about blood, infection. She heard her father’s voice. She felt her ear going warm, turning red, then blue, then black before it wormed its way to her brain. She thought about her father shaking his head. Everything was not okay.
“Hold still, “Karissa said, scooting closer. Julie took Amelia’s other hand. The ice in Amelia’s ear hand was gone, wet, a streak of moisture and sweat. Again she looked at the bowl, the small cubes hardly afloat in the water.
“Hang on,” Amelia said, heaving, panicking, trying not to scream.
Karissa sat back. Julie rolled her eyes and sighed. “It’s a dare, Amelia. You can take it out before you go home tomorrow.”
Julie sounded embarrassed. She and Amelia used to be inseparable. Do everything together. But it was happening, Amelia knew she was weird, and losing her place at the friend podium.
If she could only stop thinking about it. How this should’ve been her mom, at the mall, holding her hand, smiling, telling her a story of how she’d gotten her ears pierced when she was nine. A quick prick then a manicure. Amelia would finally tell her all about Silas from school. His cute dimples. How he made these corny jokes and they were funny if for no reason other than because he’d wanted to share them with her. She wouldn’t have to come up with something to say when he asked if he could text her, because she’d have a freaking phone. Her mother would understand.
But her mother couldn’t understand. Because her mother was buried in the ground, and Amelia’s memory of her was melting away…
It drove hers crazy at times. If only her mother had overslept that one day like she sometimes did. If she’d gone in early, left one minute either way or a thousand random things had happened to change the minute she backed out of the driveway. If that man driving the truck that crushed her car had spent another few seconds scraping his windshield, or gotten one more or less traffic light…if…
Julie waved a hand in Amelia’s face. “Amelia, come on.”
Her ears were hot and pulsing as Karissa moved slowly, mouth slightly open, pin in hand and ready to pierce. Despite her best efforts Amelia’s lip quivered and the tears hit her eyes.
Karissa’s eyes widened. The pin came down. Amelia sobbed, silently, even as Karissa raised her eyebrows and looked at Julie, who dropped Amelia’s hand and looked away, annoyed, because Amelia was just such a little baby.
But then Karissa, the girl with six silver rings in her ears, clicked the safety pin and picked up Amelia’s wet hand. She said Amelia’s name in a way Amelia didn’t think possible.
“You don’t have to do this, you know.”
Amelia was already crying. She had nothing to lose. “Okay.”
Julie lowered her head. “Is it your dad?”
“Yes. No. It’s…”
Amelia nodded. “I just, I’m sorry…”
She saw Julie glance at Karissa—this ultra-tough girl who was probably about to cut her down to shreds. But Karissa laughed. She brushed back one of her spiky bangs. “Hey, don’t sweat it. I miss my parents sometimes, too. And they’re both still alive.”
So Julie had told her. Amelia wiped her eyes. “Really?”
“Yeah, all they do is fight. I don’t even think they know I exist.”
Julie brightened. “Yeah, don’t worry about the dare.”
Amelia looked at her best friend, then to Karissa, who flicked the lighter she’d been using to sterilize the pin. “It’s funny, because I was just thinking how I didn’t want to pierce your ears.”
Amelia shot her a look. “What?”
“Yeah, it’s like, you’ve got this natural thing going.” Karissa shrugged. “I don’t know it seems to be working for you.”
Amelia wiped her eyes, shook head and sniffled. Karissa sat back and smiled. “I’m serious. I’m like, holding this safety pin, thinking about how I’m going to butcher this pretty girl, it’s like taking a nail to a Barbie Doll.”
Amelia laughed. “Okay, I am not a Barbie.”
Karissa was laughing too. “Private School Barbie. Head band included.”
Amelia gave it back. “Punk Rock Barbie, Safety Pin required.”
Julie sat up on her knees, her lip jutting out the way it did when she and Amelia were little. “Okay, no piercing, but that means you have to do a truth.”
Karissa laughed. “I think we just did that.”
I was mesmerized, reading the story, felling the impending pain of the piercing build as the emotional pain did. I like how the friends figured out each other in the end. Love the Barbie humor, too! Great story, Pete!
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You’ve captured pre-teen social politics perfectly! But you added a dash of honesty and genuine care that’s so hard to see amongst friends at that age. Just like Charli, I couldn’t stop reading until the end!
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