Her hands are bony and cold, and they’re larger than mine. My palm fits in hers like a single copper penny. Shiny rings from the grocery store vending machine line my fingers. Ruby red and the unknown expense of a regal purple shine from a mile away. These aren’t like Mom’s rings. “The best gifts are the ones you save for,” she reminds me when I spend only a fourth of my allowance on something cheap.
“Mom, can we go to the county fair?”
I want to see the fat women again. Their bodies are warm with stale sunshine and thick flesh folded into smiles. They stand at the far end of the field draped in sequined shawls with fringes dancing around their knees. When they talk, their voices are cracked and hard, but when they laugh they sound like birds. For a dollar, they’ll kiss anyone on the lips.
“How old are you?” They asked last year.
“Six and a half,” I said. They bent down, their arms stretching over my shoulders and back and pulled me close. Cigarette smoke and the sweetness of funnel cake wafted in my direction. Two kisses. One on each cheek. A simple smile in the sun.
“I want to see the kissing ladies again.” I squeeze Mom’s fingers, but she doesn’t squeeze back. Instead she slips her hand into the front pocket of her purse and pulls out a vitamin water. “Those are the kind of kisses that are bought, not earned.”
My ruby red ring glitters in the sun, tossing light like beauty in all different directions. From this angle I can see smudges on plastic.
Rebecca Lee currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work has been published in Existere Journal, Noctua Review, The Rusty Nail, The Siren, Linden Ave. Literary Journal, and Skirt Collective. www.awordofsubstance.com