Molly teaches you to keep a secret. She says you do that for people you love. And because nobody likes a snitch.
So you don’t tell when Molly leans out the window of the bedroom you share, the lit end of an American Spirit bobbing in the dark like a lightening bug. Instead, you think about the fireflies you caught once, and how they escaped because the holes in the lid were too big.
You don’t tell when Molly goes one step further, out of the window and onto the porch roof. She presses a finger to her lips, the nail lacquered to match the lipstick lifted from Mom’s Avon case. You hope Mom doesn’t notice the doll-size sample is gone. If you get blamed again, you can’t defend yourself — unless you tell on Molly.
And so, you lay there, wishing you could sleep, listening to the azalea bush rustle as Molly shimmies down the gutter, listening to Mom giggle in her bedroom with Todd. Or is it Tom?
Because you’re not a snitch, you don’t tell when Mrs. Johnson says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. You don’t know what that means and it’s not said to you, but it is whispered, and you’re pretty sure that makes it a secret.
You don’t tell about the photographer Molly meets walking home from school, the one who says he can make her famous. You keep quiet even though she isn’t home by dinner like she promised, and Mom asks three times if you know where she is, her hand quivering like she wants to slap an answer out of you.
You don’t tell when the police come, when they say they have security footage, and they know about the long-haired guy in the SUV.
You don’t say anything because Molly swore you could live with her when she became a model. You even packed your suitcase, the one with the goldfish on it. At bedtime, you put it between the sheets and hug it, pretending its angles are Molly’s curves.
You don’t tell because you aren’t a snitch and because you love Molly and you want her to take you away from Mom.
And her boyfriends. Especially the one who says, “Sh. This is just between us.”
Georgene Smith Goodin’s work has appeared in numerous publications, and has won the Mash Stories flash fiction competition. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the cartoonist Robert Goodin. When not writing, she is restoring a 1909 Craftsman bungalow with obsessive attention to historic detail. Visit her blog, (http://georgenesmithgoodin.blogspot.com/) or follow her on Twitter, @gsmithgoodin.