David is our neighbor. A renter from across the street, tucked in a garage apartment. A man of averages: middle height, beer belly, balding, thick glasses. A common place face. Always telling me what a pretty little girl I am. Pretty little girl. His left eye winks behind greasy lenses.
He stares at me when I’m playing outside in my yard. I see him in his window, behind the setting sun, casting long shadows across my driveway. He puts his hand on the window glass and points to me, finger tapping. Following my every move. Kickball. Sidewalk chalk. Barbie dolls. His mechanic uniform shirt open, with black oiled fingers around a beer bottle. Even when he’s not at his window, I feel him watching, with eyes I cannot see, in places I cannot hide. When he is near me, his presence surrounds me. Close and too close.
Today, he is in our house, visiting my mom. Just stopped by to say hi. I hear him in the kitchen talking to her. I sink low on the couch under the noise of Tom and Jerry. If I don’t move, he won’t see me. I close my eyes, maybe he will leave. Where’s that pretty little girl at? I say nothing. When he is near, I can feel he wants something…wants something from me…wants me…in some way I don’t understand.
While she is finishing the dishes, his footsteps draw near. Close, then closer. Steps in time to the thump-thump in my chest as my palms release sweat. Mama’s back is to us. Her hands with dish towel rotate over each plate twice, front and back. Clockwise and counterclockwise. Sounds of clinking cups as she puts them away. The jingle of silverware. Water running and her humming along to the kitchen radio.
His shadow passes over me and I hold my breath. He picks me up and puts me on his lap as I look away. My eyes remain on the TV, mouth closed, arms folded. Jerry has stepped on a garden rake, smashing his contorted face with a frozen imprint of the impact. Tom catches him and smiles with a mouth full of fangs.
Prettiest little girl I ever saw. Give me a hug. David’s skin smells of salt, beer and a sting of body odor. His nose near my hair, warm tufts of air against my scalp. He strokes my thigh on the outside—back and forth. Back and forth. Tight, then tighter. Breath on my neck. Whiskers graze my ear. Fingers stroking my back, up and down. Up and down. Thumb resting on the edge of my jeans, under my shirt, at the edge of my panties.
Gonna grow up to be very pretty girl.
He meets my eyes with a drowsy look. Do you wanna be my friend? I break free, jumping to floor and run to my mom at the sink. I grip tightly onto her leg and bury my face in her side. His scent still in my nose, his handprints still on my body, my face contorted in a frozen imprint of the impact.
Chelsea Schott is a teacher and writer living in Texas. She holds a bachelor’s in American Literature and a Master’s of Liberal Studies from Rice University where she is President of the MLS Writer’s Group. You can find her works in upcoming issues of Under the Gum Tree and Winter Tangerine Review and of course, Germ.