Her parents are sorting it out, again. One needle-thin column of light escapes through the heavy drapes closed against the heat. She’d like to get up and dance in it. Her mother croaks we are not a family like that. She lights a cigarette and laughs, sputtering smoke and flicking ash; we are exactly like that, she thinks.
Who we are, who we are not. Her father makes a stab at respectability while the thin white scar over her mother’s lip turns white with the effort of indignation, a story all its own. Angie’s husband alters the space in the room. Splayed on the couch, he reaches an arm behind Angie, curling a lank of her thick, black hair around his long, thin fingers. He gives a tug, then a pull. He smiles, leans in stage whispering be my dirty girl. Her father slams a balled fist on the gleaming glass of the coffee table. Angie’s mother jumps, then smoothes her hand over the shiny surface.
Her father slaps his thighs, barrel chest puffed. He shakes a finger at his son-in-law, cocks his head like a warning. Angie’s mother watches, her mouth a lopsided gash, as they leave through the front door. The single slant of light fades as though they are walking off stage.
Later, Angie dances in her dirty bare feet. She grips the carpet with her toes. She twists and twirls, hair flying, cigarette in her hand. The sun has gone down, the room cooler by degrees. The last thing Angie remembers seeing before her husband’s fist made contact with her good eye was the teddy bear, propped against the pillows on the bed, the button in his ear, a malignant innocence. Afterward, the radio spewed and she tapped her foot to the beat. The ceiling fan whirred in the dark. The flick of a beer can being opened was a strange and predictable comfort.
For all the good it would do, she’d call her parents in the morning. Or maybe she wouldn’t.