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American Girl

When I get to the top of the stairs and see Cecil’s childhood bedroom for the first time, it’s like stepping into a dream I forgot I had. Skylights set in the roof, porthole windows in the walls, homemade red curtains wafting like eyelashes. It’s like someone dissected my childhood brain, decorated a room with everything they found, then gave it all to another kid. Beanbag chairs, Beanie Babies, a Build-A-Bear. A walk-in closet with a reading nook. In a normal house, this would be the attic. Here, it’s the entire top floor.

“Jesus… you had everything.” I take off my scarf and drape it across a line of trophies.

“Yeah, I know,” Cecil says. “I’m sorry, probably should’ve warned you. It’s really nice here.”

Now I’m thinking about dogs. How they feel safer in smaller crates. There’s too much sunlight up here. Too much air. Exposed beams and an art museum gift shop mobile twirl silently above a freshly sheeted queen-sized bed. Who buys their kid a queen-sized bed?

“I just can’t believe this was your room.”

“Yeah, we were really lucky. Just stupid lucky.”

“Dude, this is… more than luck. Isn’t your dad just, like, a regular engineer?”

Cecil turns and glares like what’s that supposed to mean? and I want to suck it back in. I’m her guest, and guests aren’t supposed to be dicks. Guests don’t interrogate their hosts’ intergenerational wealth. I’d be alone on campus watching the 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family right now if it weren’t for her, slurping a sharing-sized bag of candy canes for dinner. I want to rip the entire room away from her and paste it over my own life. Don’t hate me, don’t hate me, don’t hate me, I think.

“Hey,” I say, “Did you ever read the American Girl books? Remember Samantha? The book where she teaches Nellie how to read? In the room at the top of her house? With the windows on all four sides? Isn’t this a little like that? Right?”

In the American Girl series, Samantha is the rich, Victorian orphan; Nellie is her shoeless friend who works in a thread factory. On the page, there’s an illustration of a small yellow room that looks like the top of a lighthouse. I used to spend a lot of time pretending I lived there.

“Yeah… sure, I can see it. Were you big into American Girl?”

“Oh my god, of course. How have we never talked about this? The books—and the catalogs. Do you remember those?”

Cecil doesn’t say. She sets my coat on top of an old candy-colored iMac and I overcompensate some more, telling her about how I used to memorize the pages of accessories, about my complicated color-coding system. Then she kneels in front of a steamer trunk, and when she undoes the clasps, I shut up and gasp—actually gasp—because inside are two American Girl dolls. A Samantha and a Molly nested together. Two.

I freak out, of course. I’ve never held one. Cecil hands me the Molly, the World War II era doll, who is heavier than I thought, and I’m babbling in full-on baby speak while cradling her: you cost eighty-nine dollars plus shipping and handling in 1994, didn’t you? Molly’s hair is thick and shiny, full as any human child’s, and still immaculately styled, as if Cecil never undid the original factory braids. If this Molly were mine, I would’ve undone her hair immediately. I would’ve brushed it out and spent the rest of my childhood trying to redo it. My Molly would’ve lost her beret and little silver spectacles and one if not both of her saddle shoes. She would’ve suffered scuffs and scratches and every manner of abuse until she fell apart because that was how I played when I was a kid. I destroyed every single thing I ever loved.

“Did you play with them a lot?”

“Not really, my mom was more into me having them than I was. I played with Molly a little. My mom got excited and bought a Samantha for my friends. Like, for during sleepovers.”

“Samantha was a… guest doll?”

“Yeah, that was her plan. Except when I had friends over, we usually just watched TV and stayed up sex chatting creepy guys in AOL chatrooms.”

She kisses me and I kiss her back. I want to know every weird, horny thing she ever did. I let her put her hands down my pants because duh, that’s a thing I can actually give her, but we’re just supposed to be dropping our suitcases and coats, we need to be good. We head back downstairs and make our footsteps extra loud. I want to shout Look at us! Look how good we are! See! No one is having sex in the penthouse shrine to your only child! I wonder if her mother thought about that when she was tucking those clean sheets into the corners of Cecil’s bed. Did she dust the bed? I didn’t see any dust. I wonder if she told herself that this would be just like one of Cecil’s little girl sleepovers.

Cecil pauses on the landing, just in front of her and her parents’ separate bathrooms.

“Hey, Vee, please don’t say anything else about the house while we’re here. Okay? Like, not to them. They’ll think it’s weird. Just be cool.”

“I would never do that!” I hiss.

“Great, cool.”

It’s not like I didn’t completely expect this. We’ve been together for something like eight months, so on some level, I knew. I’ve watched Cecil buy a seven-dollar café smoothie every single day of our lives. She lives in the good dorm, where all the rooms have fireplaces, where you only get to live if your family pays full tuition. Full tuition is some insane, made-up number, like thirty-four thousand dollars a year. And I’ve watched her buy full-price textbooks from the campus bookstore, too, in one massive sweep like a vindicated Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I don’t even think she knows about or Interlibrary Loan. Why would she?

But we walk down a hallway so long and so wide, you could ford it with a Barbie Jeep. We move past our snow boots chilling in the foyer and Cecil points out a living room, a dining room, a piano room, and a library. On both sides of every door are real pine wreaths, and there are actual sprigs of mistletoe tied with red bows in all the doorways, which is a thing I thought only existed in Lifetime Original Christmas movies. She leads me into a second living room she calls a sitting room, where a Christmas tree hovers over a leather sectional. I guess sitting and living are separate activities in their house. The top of the tree kisses the ceiling.

“I can’t believe your parents do a real tree.” My reflection wobbles in the baubles. “Is one of them Christian or something?”

“Nope, they just like to get one every year. It’s—"

“Wait, are you guys secretly Jews for Jesus?”

“Oh my God, Verity,” Cecil laughs. “Can you imagine? Can you imagine me keeping that secret and then luring you here like, ‘Surprise! We’re in a cult! Wanna join?’”

“I mean, that’s pretty persuasive. The tree really sells it.”

Cecil leads me through glass double doors, and we find her father, Charlie, sitting in the kitchen. He’s gazing into a laptop, buried under headphones. Cecil and her dad look like twins, probably more than he likes. His hair is longer; I wonder if they ever fought about that. They have the same mouth, the same pink apple cheeks.

“Your mother is sewing in her studio!” He shouts over the music in his ears. Cecil leaves me with him, disappearing into a pantry the size of Costco. He ignores me, and I feel a little lightheaded. What do people say to dads? How am I supposed to act around this man? My girlfriend’s dad. That sounds so weird. Does he want me there? When Cecil asked if she could bring me home with her, did he say no at first? Did she have to convince him? When he picked us up at the airport, I didn’t know what to do; I shook his hand like a frat boy prom date guy. The back of the kitchen behind him looks like a greenhouse. Beautiful vines cling to a curved glass wall, demanding more space, more light, more sun.

“Do you want a snack?” Cecil asks from behind the door of the fridge. “I can make us grilled cheese.”

“You cook?”

“I’m an excellent cook! I can make grilled cheese, eggs... any cake as long as it comes out of a box.”

“Wow, what a repertoire. I had no idea you had it in you.”

“Do you want cheddar, Swiss, or Charlie?”

“What’s Charlie?”

She pulls out a block of white cheddar with two circles of orange cheddar printed in the middle for eyes, an orange triangle for a nose, and an orange smile. Cheese with a face. On the label: Charlie Cheese, $15.49/lb.

“That’s funny,” I say. “I’ll have the regular cheddar.”

“Okay. Seven-grain bread or Ezekiel?


“You never had Ezekiel bread?”

“No.” I’ve never had Ezekiel bread. I’ve never eaten in a kitchen with a glass wall or been in a house with three living rooms. I’ve never had a ninety-dollar doll, or two ninety-dollar dolls, or a piano, or a mom who—

“I’d love a sandwich, if you’re making,” Charlie pipes, to no one in particular.


We go back up to Cecil’s room with our snacks and I ask who all the presents are for.

“Cousins, friends, coworkers, housekeeper. The mailman. A few for me and you—"

“Your parents got me a present?”

“Yeah, of course. It’s Hanukkah. And Christmas.”

“Right, right. Cool. Very cool.”

“Come on, don’t do that.”

“What? I’m being cool!”

“Calm down, I just told them you needed new gloves and a water bottle.”

“Should I have gotten them gifts?”

“No, I took care of it. You got them wind chimes and some peanut butter buckeyes. They love dessert.”

She shuffles on her knees past me and grabs a big shoebox from off of a bookshelf.

“Here, I forgot to show you these earlier.”

Inside is a fortune of doll clothes—a set of handsewn, homemade dresses, plus the entire American Girl back catalog. Molly’s party pinafore, Samantha’s school outfit. Hats, ribbons, wool stockings with minuscule stitched feet. I want to rub my face in the material.

“Cee Cee? Verity?” A soprano note ferrets up the stairs. Then the voice sing-songs Cecil’s old name, and we both wince, listening to the steps.

“Hi girlies,” her mother says, popping up like a meerkat. “I hope I’m not interrupting.”

“We’re just playing with dolls, Mrs. H.” Everyone laughs.

“Oh sweetie, call me Merri.” She points to the menorah brooch on her cardigan. It’s got a red Santa hat where the Shamash should be. “Like Merry Christmas, but with an ‘I’.”

Her voice reminds me of Cecil’s, though Cecil’s is warmer and rounder, a teaspoon of brown sugar with hot oatmeal. Mrs. Halpern is chipper. Her mood sounds thinner, like the stem of a wine glass. She scans the room, eyes like high beams. Did Cecil’s-old-name show me the doll outfits they used to sew together?

“She did! They’re gorgeous.”

Mrs. Halpern nods, smiling and squinting. I know she can’t quite figure out how we got here, how her beautiful, ponytailed, darling grew into this shorn, softball utility. How I ended up in the picture at all. She says Cecil’s-old-name should bring our plates down when we’re done eating, then offers to take the chips for us now.

“No, thank you!” We say together.

“You girls are a picture! Don’t you think you look like sisters?”

I’m eight inches taller and sixty pounds heavier, and Cecil sleeps with her hands between my legs.

“I can see it,” I tell her.


“Do you think your mother hates me?” I whisper when she leaves.

“No, you just met. She said like two words.”

"But do you think she thinks I’m, like, gross?”

“No? I told you, they’re okay. Don’t freak out. It’s fine.”

“I don’t know. She just looked—"

“She’s figuring it out. She’s trying. I promise. She’s excited for us.”


“Vee, I swear. Turn off the Eeyore. You’re funny, you’re smart, you’re a superstar, you love her doll clothes. Why wouldn’t she like you? You’re a hot little bean.”

“I’m not little and I have no—"

“Don’t even start that, you know you’re—"

“I don’t even know why you’re—”

“Nope! No! Not doing this. No more poor Verity schtick, I forbid it.” Cecil pulls the Molly doll and her shoebox of outfits back out. For a second, her eyes go big, like a Muppet’s. Then she grabs a handful of chips.

“By the way, have you met my cute girlfriend?”

‘Have You Met My Cute Girlfriend’ is Cecil’s favorite game. She gets off on imagining multiple girlfriends who all pretend to sneak around behind each other’s backs. She’d never do it in real life—she’s too pure—but she could, which is part of the appeal. Cecil is the horniest person I have ever met.

And everyone has a crush on her. I’m dating her and I still have a crush on her. I think people like her because she seems so secure. She’s one of the kids who came out in high school, whose parents helped her start a GSA at her school. She’s cool with herself in this way that makes you like yourself a little more; it’s like her confidence is contagious. And her eyes are grey. With amber rings around the center. When she looks at me, like really stares at me, I picture a tiger stretching out in a sunbeam. Like, she could tear me to pieces if she wanted to. But she chose me instead.

My job in ‘Have You Met My Cute Girlfriend’ is to pretend I’m hot and have no morals. This is both harder and easier than it seems.

“You’re very cute,” Cecil says, “almost as cute as my girlfriend. You might be cuter.”

“I am?”

“Oh, yeah, definitely. You should meet her. It’s weird, you’re never in the same room at the same time! And it’s so cute how you love dolls. My girlfriend loves dolls, too. Her favorite doll is Molly. Do you like dolls? Do you want to be Molly? I have one if you want.”

She winks. Did Mrs. Halpern wink? I crawl into Cecil’s lap, which ends up making me feel worse, like a moose trying to climb onboard a housecat.

“What if we did something else?” I ask. “Can we play a different game?”

“Oh. Do you want me to be Molly?”

“No, it’s okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it’s fine.” Might as well give her what she’s looking for. I switch gears. “You’re definitely Samantha.” My voice lowers. I push the chips away with my foot. “Mmm, hi, Samantha. You spoiled little orphan girl who inherited all her parents’ money.” I trace the cartilage around her ear. “Must be hard being this rich.” I lick the side of her face, the straight, sandy fuzz at the base of her neck. I snake one leg around Cecil’s back and then the other, crossing them where her new, secret tattoo is, and squeeze. “All alone at the top of your house. You want to teach me how to read?”

Her voice breaks. “I don’t want to play that.”

I pull back. “Why not? You’re like Samantha—you have literally everything.”

“Ver, don’t be weird.”

“Hey, I’m not the one who has two dolls.”

“Are you jealous?”

“No, I just—I didn’t mean it in a bad way.”

I kiss the side of Cecil’s face. There’s a spot she can barely handle being touched on, right under her ear. I press my mouth there until I can feel her rolling through the ache of it. “Samantha Parkington is just such a gracious friend to all guttersnipes.”

“Hey…that’s not…I don’t think you’re a guttersnipe.”

“Mmm, but I bet your grandma does,” I say, fussing with her pants. I kiss her stomach, going lower until I’m prostrating myself. Cecil lets me unbutton her, and I trace the hair under her belly button with the tip of my nose. Is this what her father’s mustache feels like? His father’s and his father’s and his father’s, every single Bethesda Halpern all the way back to the Mayflower, or whatever mythical boat the early rich Jews came over on? Were they all as horny as she is? I reach inside her jeans, and grab a handful of the very last of their line.

Cecil covers her mouth with a pastel stuffed bear, moans, and then takes it away for a second. “Did Samantha even have a grandmother?”

“Sorry,” I say, “Too much canon.”

I hand her a pillow. She wiggles out of her pants and sticks the cushion under her butt.

One of our Psych-major friends once said we made no sense together. You’re, like, a combat boot and she’s a flower. A daisy. But it’s the opposite. It’s so obvious, it’s embarrassing. When she lays back across the rug, her eyes flutter shut like a doll’s.


Right before Cecil comes—without making a sound, the bear pressed to the open hole of her mouth—I think I hear a squeak on the stairs. I’m not sure; if Mrs. Halpern hadn’t announced herself earlier, I wouldn’t have heard her at all. There’s no door to Cecil’s bedroom, just the open steps. No one should have sex in a room like that, without a door, especially not in the middle of the afternoon when their parents are at home, even if they’re cool. Trust me. But Cecil either doesn’t hear or doesn’t care. I’m not surprised; she’s too deep in herself. I don’t say anything.

I am surprised that she ejaculates. That’s never happened before. Maybe it’s exciting that she’s got me up here with her family downstairs, or it’s an angle thing with the pillow. It might be the doll stuff, I don’t know. As they say in Prince of Egypt, when the gods give you a blessing, don’t ask why it was sent. The fluid is thick and slippery and everywhere. I pull her closer—see how grateful I am—and bury my face until I’m coated in it, neck to eyebrows. It’s slick, like syrup, warm like a shower, and kind of herbal, like the woods behind our dorm where I fingered her when we first got together.

Right before finals last year she stood in front of my library study carrel and asked in a not-inside, not-library voice if I ever wanted to go picnicking sometime. I barely knew her, and she just showed up out of nowhere, but I knew what that meant. And I thought: hell yeah. I packed two bottles of Boone’s Farm, a granola bar, and a blanket. She was the one who started it. She kissed me, she put my fingers inside her, two, then three, then four, more and more and more. I barely knew what I was doing, and she was moaning I’m so big for you. You’re so good. I’m so big. So big. She made it so easy.

Now she realizes what’s happening and freezes, pantsless on her floor. She cries.

“It’s okay!” I brush the chips back in the bag and wipe my face on a paper towel. “Shh!”

“I’m so sorry! Oh my God, I’m so embarrassed.” She crumples forward, balls up, and swipes Molly out of the dark spot on the carpet. She looks around for something to wipe with, and I hand her my paper towel.

“No, I loved it.”

“I should’ve peed before, I just wanted to—you got me so relaxed, I’m—”

“It wasn’t pee—”

“Of course it was.”

“Shh! No, it wasn’t.”

I promise ten times: it wasn’t pee and it definitely wasn’t pee and I love how much you want it and it felt so good giving it to you and No, I don’t want you to pee on me. Cecil just keeps saying she wants to shower, she needs to shower, and we both smell like a mixture of the airport and the bottom of the ocean, so we creep back downstairs.

Guess who’s standing at the bottom step, waiting.

“Get your coats, girls.” Mrs. Halpern says, smiling through her teeth. “We’re going out. Now.”


Cecil flushes crimson and I crash into her. She stares at the floor. Her fly is still undone. What’s happening? Where are we going? Am I being kicked out? Where would I go? Is my suitcase still upstairs? They can’t kick me out without my suitcase, right?

Mrs. Halpern grabs her purse and sing-shouts, “Get your coat if you want ice cream, C-Man!” I don’t know what to do but Cecil follows her into the front hall, so I follow Cecil. Charlie yells something back and suddenly we’re all out the door and I’m watching Mrs. Halpern turn her key in the lock. We’re all buckling up in a Prius; Mrs. Halpern says Cecil should switch places with Charlie because Cecil, who doesn’t have a car on campus, ‘doesn’t want to forget how to drive, right’ so her dad tosses her the keys and climbs in the back next to me. Cecil gets in the driver’s seat and starts the car. She pulls us out through the curved stone driveway and taps the brake at the edge of the road.

“Sarah’s or Cold Stone?” she whispers.

“Let’s do Sarah’s,” Charlie says.

“Perfect! I’m starving,” says Mrs. Halpern. “Verity, Sarah’s is a Bethesda institution.”

Ice cream? What? In December? Really? What? What the fuck is happening?

The suburbs start rolling by, garbage cans and recycling cans and newspaper bins and compost buckets and hopeless Kerry/Edwards signs. A thin layer of Cecil’s pussy slime air dries into flakes on my face. Cecil is probably sitting in a puddle; she didn’t even change her underwear. Is Mrs. Halpern actually hungry? Is this some kind of elaborate prank? What is going on? Did we leave the house because she heard us and she’s afraid that if we stay in, we’ll start having sex again? Is this a rich people thing? Are they just trying to be nice? What is going on? Why are we in a car?

“I’m just gonna crack the window,” I say.

“Are you comfortable, Verity?”

“Yes, Mrs. Halpern. I’m fine.”

“Oh, call me Merri, Sweetie.”

A current of air whistles through the gap. I look at the back of Cecil’s head. She looks like a driver’s ed manual, rigid, hands textbook, eyes vacant, looking nowhere but forward. We ride in silence for a few minutes, until Mrs. Halpern fiddles with the radio knob until finds a station playing Christmas tunes. It’s *NSYNC, singing about wonderful feelings. Apparently, at this time of year, you can feel the love in the room “from the floor to the ceiling.” Mrs. Halpern shimmies against her seatbelt, and makes a pointed effort to move to the beat. She’s wearing a single jingle bell on a chain that makes tinny tinkles with every shift.

“Did I ever tell you about Missy, my college roommate?” she asks Cecil. Charlie is wearing his headphones, buried in his own music. What is he thinking about? What do dads think about? Vanilla soft serve? The Velvet Underground?

I can barely hear over the boy band. Mrs. Halpern goes on a deep dive about a college roommate who got her into “a bunch of shenanigans” back in the day. I hear the words “miniskirt” and ‘marijuana cigarettes’ and something about boys sneaking in through a window at night.

“Oh my God, Mom, really?!”

We drive past houses like miniature castles. Who lives in them? Do they have everything too? Do they buy Jewish Christmas presents for their landscapers? Their housekeepers? Is there love in their rooms from the floor to the ceiling? Are the people who live in them fighting? Do they like their kids? How long is their hair? Are they cool? Are they happy?

On the highway, her mother says something I don’t hear, and they both laugh. Slowly, Cecil takes a hand off the wheel and lets it drop. When we roll into an area of stopped traffic, she turns back with her whole sweet face and looks at me like see, this is cool, no one’s in trouble, we’re just going out for ice cream, I told you, they love us, they’re cool, just be cool, relax. She says something back to her mother and I hear my name but can’t make out the gist. Is she telling her about our first non-woods date, when I tried to cook a chicken in our dorm’s toaster oven and after an hour it was still bloody and raw and I said it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t know you can’t cook chicken in a toaster oven, no one ever taught me, and we had to go out to eat even though I didn’t have any money and nothing was open and we walked two miles down a county road so Cecil could buy us both Pizza Hut?

Mrs. Halpern purrs and rubs Cecil’s shoulder. “Love you, baby girl.”

“You too, Mom.”

Mrs. Halpern leans her head against Cecil’s shoulder. Her bell necklace sways, ringing close to her daughter. Charlie stares out his window, bopping to his music. I take my hands out of my pockets. They’re swollen and sweaty and the right one stinks.

Mrs. Halpern’s voice rises above the radio.

“Sweetie, what do your parents do?”

“Um, I think my dad’s still working for King Kullen.”

“Oh! What’s that?”

“It’s a chain of grocery stores.”

“And your mother?”

“I don’t… really know what she’s doing right now. I don’t talk that much to my parents anymore.”

Mrs. Halpern pauses. It’s only quiet for a couple of extra seconds, which I bet I’ll give her credit for one day, but right now I’m not feeling generous, I feel like burrowing under the hood of the car. Maybe if I don’t say anything else, she’ll stop trying to talk to me.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” she says. “I’m sure they’re very proud of you. Cee Cee tells me you’re triple majoring?”

She calls Cecil by her old name again. It pops, like a cracked rib. Mrs. Halpern majored in education and now she sews but what she really wanted to study was finance. Cecil’s-old-name shouldn’t make that mistake; Cecil’s-old-name should study whatever she wants. Cecil’s-old-name should follow her heart! We’re so lucky that girls can do that now!

We pull into a parking lot, right in front of a shop called Sarah’s Handmade Ice Cream and Cecil parks the car. So, we’re really just going out for ice cream? There’s no catch?

“This is our spot,” Cecil says, sounding a little far away again. It feels like shit, I bet, hearing her old name so many times in a row. When Cecil asked if I wanted to come home with her for break, right after she got back from Thanksgiving, and I said yes, she made me promise—no Cecil in Bethesda, only Ceese or Cee-Cee while we were here.

“I want to tell them, but I’m going to do it in person when I’m alone with them, and not during a major holiday. They’ll be fine, I just don’t want to put you through that. I want them to have time and space to process, and I really don’t want them to associate Hanukkah or Christmas for the rest of their lives with me doing another coming out, you know?”

“I know,” I said. I didn’t think about it; how it would feel. I didn’t really think about anything. I just said sure, I’ll come.

The car stops. Someone automatically rolls my window up. The radio cuts out, the engine turns off. I jump out of the car, needing air.

“Honey, you know,” Mrs. Halpern says, following me out, “if I could just—I know you this is a tough time, but I just feel like I need to say it, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a mom if I didn’t, it’s just—please don’t wait to fix things with your parents. We get old so fast. Don’t wait until it’s too late. I don’t want you to have regrets like that. You never know how long you’ve got.”


“What do you think about giving her a call while you’re here? I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.”

And I realize—we’re not being punished. This is not a punishment, at least Mrs. Halpern doesn’t think it is. She’s looking at me with nothing but pity. She wants to be nice. She’s trying to imagine her daughter not talking to her and it’s so painful—it physically hurts her, probably in the hollow of her throat where mine hurts all the time. Maybe she heard us fucking, maybe she didn’t. It doesn’t matter. Doesn’t make a difference. She loves her kid, and nothing will change that. She puts her arm around Cecil, her only baby, her grandmother’s namesake, the tender wooden bean at the center of their family’s nesting doll.

“You only get one mom,” she says. She squeezes Cecil’s shoulder like she needs to prove to herself that yes, good, her daughter is still there.

Cecil nods. “I… kind of agree? And I really want to meet your mom, Vee Vee.”

She hugs her mom back. Their arms are stiff in their peacoats but the gesture is magnetic. They radiate in each other’s orbit. Mrs. Halpern kisses Cecil’s salty cheek and keeps talking, did I know that Cecil’s-old-name’s grandmother—

“Actually, did you know she’s going by Cecil now? That’s her name. That’s what everybody calls her. Even professors. She’s thinking of changing it. Like, legally. C-E-C-I-L. She wanted to tell you but didn’t know how.”


Cecil looks at me. Her mother looks at her. We stand there, frozen in the parking lot. The clouds are heavy and bloated with snow. Charlie, alone in the car, finally realizes we’ve arrived. He turns off his music, takes off his headphones and steps out, apologizing. He adjusts his ponytail and looks around at the three of us. Then he turns to me and asks if I know what I want.


MARNE LITFIN is a Helen Zell fellow in fiction at the University of Michigan. You can find their stories and comics at Electric Lit, The Rumpus, Gulf Coast, Passages North, on The Moth Radio Hour podcast and elsewhere. Say hi on Twitter @JetpackMarne.


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