Happy, Free, Alive

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March 16, 2011 by The Citron Review

by Lacy Marschalk


It wasn’t true, what they said, about your life flashing before your eyes as you died. She could see nothing at the bottom of the lake, could feel nothing but the stinging cold of the freezing water, the razor-sharp burn in her lungs as she struggled not to exhale, hot consonants boiling in her throat, begging to be released in a stream of bubbles.

She had stood on the edge of Heritage Bridge just seconds ago, her back pressed against the railing, the Lake Michigan wind numbing her fingers until she could hold on no longer, and she had let go, had let herself fall into the black water below.

She had reached the bridge by taking the cross-town bus at rush hour, but by the time it reached Sixth and Dekker she was the only passenger left, and she’d retrieved a Sharpie from her purse and graffitied a plastic seat with their initials, hers and Sara’s, interlocked in a star.

She had caught the bus right outside the courthouse, where she had sat alone in the courtroom, icy fingers gripping her heart as the verdict was read, as she watched the boys whoop with joy, watched them clap their lawyer on the back, hug their sobbing parents, pump their fists at the friends who’d come to support them.

They were wearing ski masks that night last December—one year ago last week—but she knew it was them, knew that it was Michael Scipio who had held her down in the snow while his friends Jason and Kieran beat Sara. It was Michael who grabbed her jaw and twisted her face toward Sara, daring her to watch, his hot tongue sliding down her neck, his other hand crushing her breast between his thick, sweaty fingers. He had rolled the mask up to his nose and she could see his lips, the lips of the boy she had once kissed during a game of Truth or Dare at a sixth-grade birthday party. She tried to keep her eyes closed, but every time Sara screamed she had to look, had to know what they were doing to her, each time wishing she’d kept them shut. When the beams of two flashlights bobbed through the woods, the boys took off, giving her one final kick in the ribs as they ran away. She had tried to crawl to Sara, but the flashlights got there first; she saw how the snow had turned the color of a cherry snow cone, how Sara’s blue shirt had darkened to black, and she had covered her face with the hem of her own sweater and wept.

But these memories were nearly forgotten as she sank deeper into Lake Michigan, dragged downward by the weight of her winter boots and coat. All she remembered now was how soft and cool Sara’s tongue had been the first time they kissed; how her mouth had tasted of strawberry popsicle; how her dark eyes had flashed mischievously, her lashes wet from their midnight swim at Wapella Beach; how the water glittered on her chocolate skin in the moonlight; how their intertwined fingers had resembled a stack of the Oreo cookies Sara was always eating; and how they had laughed together, for the first time in their lives feeling happy, free, alive.


Lacy Marschalk is a PhD candidate in English at Auburn University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blue Crow Magazine, Thoughtsmith, andThe Prose-Poem Project. She can be found online at lacymarschalk.blogspot.com.


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