(c) 2017, Ashley Lynne
Ally opens the door quickly. Three, maybe four knocks, and I am staring at her face. She isn’t smiling, but there’s excitement between her nose and mouth. I wonder if her eyebrows are as high as they can go. They are not, I learn, when she speaks and her brows touch her bangs. “I have an idea,” she says, in a way that gives the illusion of pause for my reaction. I turn my head to the side, maintaining our eye contact. “I think we should do a photoshoot,” she says. I look around her bedroom, which is the guest room in her grandparents’ house. Her real room is in my neighborhood, painted black and purple, but we’re not allowed to go there anymore. She’s not allowed to live there, anymore. My parents read my diary, where I wrote about her mom giving us cigarettes. It’s funny, because Ally always said no. I’m the one who said yes. I always say yes.
“What kind of photoshoot?” I ask. The walls are green, and there’s a reproduction of The Birth of Venus above her bed. Ally is the type of girl who romanticizes renaissance paintings because the women in them look chubby. If they thought girls like us were beautiful then, she figures, it’s bound to come back around. This doesn’t make sense, because Ally has always been the type of girl that boys love.
“I don’t know, let’s just get dressed up and we’ll figure it out!” she gestures toward the walk-in closet bursting with clothes she stole from one department store or another. She’s only ever been caught once, and she had to go to boot camp at 7am every Saturday and Sunday for a month. Even that seemed glamorous, because it was there that she met a tattooed boy with his ear lobes stretched to the size of quarters. He came around a few times, brought a friend for me. I never know how to entertain the friends of the boys who are obsessed with Ally. I can’t compete with her, but also, I don’t want to. I don’t care if the boys like me.
Tonight, Ally’s attention is all mine. Too much so, really. She pulls out a garter belt and a corset and a dress that’s see-through in the middle. I’m not embarrassed by my belly button, but I’m also not sure that it deserves to be a point of focus. The garter belt is too big, the corset too small. We’ve always been the same weight, but we carry it so different, like opposites. I think that’s why the boys always look at her first. She takes the underwear back into her closet and returns with a nightgown. It looks like something a girl in a magazine would wear, and I don’t belong in a magazine. I don’t say this to put myself down, it’s really just a fact. I put it on anyway, and Ally smiles. I decide that this is enough, and I relax under the silk. “Which camera are you going to use?” I ask. she looks at her bookcase, which is lined on two shelves by all types of cameras. Some are old and take film that she can’t find, but some are digital. She grabs one the shape of a loaf of bread. It has a slit on the side for a floppy disc, and she finds one in her desk drawer.
“What will you wear?” I ask. “I think I’ll just take pictures of you. Is that alright?” I am quiet. It’s alright, but it’s not normal. Photoshoots like this usually end with me holding the camera over Ally, who is bending her body in some strange way. That’s what I’m used to, so I never try too hard with my faces and poses. The photos that end up in the editing software are almost always of her, almost never of me. “Ok. Where should I sit?” I point at the chair by her vanity, then at the bright pink rug she got for Christmas. An attempt to make the room feel like hers, I think, without her grandparents having to paint or buy new furniture. Ally grabs my arm and aims it toward the queen-sized bed. I jerk back without meaning to. Sometimes when she touches me, I feel this kind of pain. Not that it’s bad, just that it’s too much, and always unexpected. “Ok,” I say. I sit.
Ally aims the camera at me, and I hear a click. How I look right now might never be a secret again. I smile broadly because I think that’s what she wants me to do. I am wrong. “Keep your face sad-like, like someone you love is leaving you sitting here on this bed, and he’s just going out the door. Like you want him to come back and kiss you or something, but he’s already half-way to the street. Can you do that?” I think of all the times I’ve watched a boy grab Ally’s elbow and lead her away from me. “I think so,” I say. Click. I turn my face. Click.
“You look really good, but let me fix your hair,” she leans over me and tucks some hair behind my right ear. She tucks some more hair behind my left ear. There is no hair touching my face, now, only her fingers. The feeling is familiar. I wonder if it’s because I’ve dreamt of this moment. The touch has lingered a little too long, and I can’t keep looking at her.
The eye contact ends when our lips touch. The moment is soft, then it’s over. “I’m sorry,” Ally says. This feels like both a gift and a thievery, and she leaves the room. I blink and she is half-way to the street.
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Ashley Lynne is a queer writer from Orlando, Florida. They have ranked top 40 in national poetry competitions and currently live in Indiana.
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