As She Grows

Free As She Grows by Lesley Anne Cowan

Book: As She Grows by Lesley Anne Cowan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lesley Anne Cowan
armpit, I smell perfume and sweat. And part of me wants to stop, but part of me just wants to keep holding onto her like that. I tell her how I had to get away from Elsie and how I punched the wall and how I saw myself cutting my arm and how I don’t know where that thought came from because I wasn’t even thinking about hurting myself and how I think I’m going crazy, the way Elsie is crazy, and what if I’m becoming nuts like her? I don’t tell her about my thighs, about the real cuts. And I don’t tell her about Mitch. Instead, I tell her I just need to calm my head and make things quiet for a while. When my breath returns, Aunt Sharon passes me a Kleenex and gets a glass of water from the kitchen. Even though I’m not thirsty, I take it and suddenly I’m embarrassed, wishing I could lose my face in the bottom of that glass.
    “You’re not crazy,” Aunt Sharon finally says, watching me drink. “And neither is Elsie.” I lower my glass and dart a look at her. I’m surprised she’s sticking up for her.
    “I hate her,” I say.
    She smiles. “Hate’s a strong word. She’s not nuts. Well, maybe a little bit. But anyways, you’re not going to be crazy. It’s not in your blood.”
    “I feel bad for you.”
    “Why’s that?”
    “To have a mother like Elsie.”
    We sit quietly for a moment. And I feel bad for saying that, because it’s not like Aunt Sharon had a choice in the matter. And besides, she is so different, with an apartment and a car and a cat.
    I take a deep breath. “You never talk about my mom.”
    Aunt Sharon’s face remains blank, but then she smiles slightly. “I didn’t know you wanted me to.”
    “Did you get along?” I ask, nestling my body into the couch.
    “Sort of. When we were young, just kids. We’d play, right? We’d dress up our dog Scratchy—”
    “The black one?”
    “Yep. In our clothes and things like that. We were different, though. You know, I was neat, your mom was messy. I hated reading, she did well at school. She got along with our dad, I didn’t. When I became a teenager, we grew apart. I moved out when I was eighteen. So I didn’t see her much after that. I didn’t see anyone, really.”
    “Did she get along with Elsie?”
    “Nobody gets along with Elsie.” Aunt Sharon pulls a purring Winky onto her lap and starts firmly patting her head.
    “So all of us left her.” I reach out to stroke Winky’s curling tail but it slides through my fingers.
    “I guess so.”
    I think of all the things I want to ask Aunt Sharon about when she was a kid, but before I can she tosses Winky from her lap, springs from the couch, and claps her hands together, announcing, “I’m starved! Want some KD à la Sharon?”
    “Mmmm.” I smile widely, pretending I’m not bothered by the sudden change in subject. Aunt Sharon makes the best gourmet Kraft Dinner. It’s what she always brought to family gatherings. Always something different. Indian curry KD, or spicy sausage KD. She’s considered writing a cookbook, but someone told her that had already been done.
    Without another word, Aunt Sharon places the TV converter in my hand and then disappears down the hallway and into the kitchen, leaving me sitting on the couch, all awkward and unfinished. Aunt Sharon is like Elsie that way, never around long enough to talk.

    “Ta-dah!”Aunt Sharon returns to the living room with two plates heaped full of curried Kraft Dinner à la India. She motions for me to lay out a newspaper on top of the books piled on top of the coffee table. We watch her favourite show, “Judge Judy.” She slaps her thighs and bobs her shoulders up and down, thoroughly entertained by Judy’s insults unleashed at the man who trashed his fiancée’s car. “This woman’s brilliant!” she says. “Watch—she’ll just pulverize the guy.” She shoves another mouthful of curried macaroni into her mouth.
    At the commercial, she takes her napkin and wipes the sweat from her forehead. “So where will

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