name is Heather. Her name was a warm liquid caress across the tongue. The name was music that lingered and echoed in the ear
like the middle tone of a harp. It was a name to create images of grace, tranquility, and beauty, or conjure the soft zephyr
of a warm summer evening. Lura.
My name is Lura. I used to love the rub, tickle, and giggle games my grandfather played
with me. I loved being tossed into the air and caught by his strong warm hands. I even liked it when he gently rubbed his
whiskery face on my naked tummy. I loved it when he would whirl me around and around, my dress floating away from my body,
and if the spinning was feet first, my skirt would sometimes fly up and cover my face. You could hear my squeals of delight
all over the house. But I was uncomfortable when Granddad's warm hand held me at the center of my being, where my legs joined
my body. Still, I felt loved.
and her family lived one house away from ours for three years, until her family moved to the other side of the river. Those
were the years when small girls who had few neighbors would normally begin to form lifetime bonds, the time from seven to
ten. Nonetheless, I never knew Lura well. Although we caught the same school bus, occasionally shared the same seat, disembarked
at the same stop each day, and frequently walked to our respective homes together, we were two silent children with nothing
By the time my parents, my sister, and I moved into my grandfather's house, when I was
seven years old, I knew that I was not a pretty child. With up to eleven of us living in that small two-bedroom house, there
wasn't a lot of attention to spare for one small scruffy girl. There was a little neighbor girl who lived just one house away
from granddad's. I always thought of her, unkindly, as 'the princess.' Her name was Heather. Heather was my age but slightly
smaller than I was. Oh, how I envied Heather. She had glossy, dishwater blond,
bouncy Shirley Temple ringlets; her dresses were always carefully starched and ironed, not limp and bedraggled hand-me-downs
like mine. Heather had a small pert ski jump nose with a light dusting of freckles, instead of a plain old pug nose like mine
that was stuck on a blotchy looking freckle covered face. Her white and brown saddle shoes were always polished and her snow
white anklets were neatly folded down. My shoes were always scuffed and dirty; my anklets were grayish, shapeless things that
were always down around my ankles and pulled inside the heels of my shoes, revealing the dirt encrusted there. In the wintertime,
Heather wore heavy, outdoor leggings that matched her royal blue coat, while I wore hand knitted saggy, baggy brown wool 'tights.'
They kept my legs warm but they were so ugly twisted around my skinny legs. I guess those tights fit the rest of me. Heather's
eyes were blue, but unlike my pale, pale blue eyes, hers were a deep sparkling, midnight blue with a thick fringe of long
curling eyelashes. I think that Heather would have made friends if I had been the least bit receptive, but I had too much
Andersen was the least attractive little girl I ever saw. I felt sorry for her. She resembled a scruffy, beat up, ill cared
for and hard used alley kitten. Lura's freckle covered face appeared perpetually dirty. Her wide, thick, sulky lips were always
chapped and cracked as though her small pink, pointed tongue constantly licked them. Lura's hair was a hacked off, stiff,
dirty, dull, carrot red. Her young body was chunky and ungraceful. Between her short, nearly colorless eyelashes, Lura's eyes
were blue. I think that Luras clothes were hand-me-downs from her older sister; they were faded and of nondescript colors.
The skirts fell in limp wrinkled folds.
By the time my family moved into my grandfather's house, playing games with him was no
longer a simple joyful pleasure. Our play had become a dark, secret, painful experience, something to be endured. I did not
want to live there. I did not want to be so easily within my grandfather's reach. I did not want to go for walks in the orchard
with him. I knew that once there he would take my panties down and open his pants and the pain would begin. I knew that it
was all my fault. I knew that this happened to me because I was ugly and the pain was all that someone so ugly deserved.
have often wondered whether it was possible that the eyes that bracketed Lura's flat freckled pug nose were pretty instead
of the washed out lackluster blue that my memory sees. I keep thinking that, surely, there must have been one or more favorable
features in that little girl's face. I confess, I cannot remember anything redeeming in her appearance. I have tried to remember
young Lura's personality. I recall a sullen child. Either her face was cast down and she would not meet your eyes, or she
gave you a seemingly blank, empty, bovine stare out of those pale blue eyes. Her conversation consisted of mumbles.
Shortly after we moved into granddad's overflowing small house, my uncle (my father's brother,
who also lived there), started playing kissing, hugging games with me. I knew what was going to happen. I knew what I was
doing was wrong, but I wasn't quite sure why. Even before my grandfather and uncle told me that this was, our little secret,
I knew I couldn't tell anyone. I dreaded it whenever I was left alone in the house with one of them, and I could not find
reasonable excuses to refuse the treat of going for rides with them. Caught in what would one day be called a "catch 22,"
I was not allowed to remain a child, yet I was forced to act the child.
Andersen family was referred to as 'Arkies.' I overheard my parents say that they were a shiftless and lazy lot. They were
thought to be a bit dirty; they did not seem to bathe often enough. Their manners and speech, with its alien southern nasal
twang, were rough, loud, and crude. Nevertheless, these are not the reasons why I never knew Lura well. Her personality seemed
curiously flat, as though she did not invite and would not welcome friendship. Maybe she was only shy. I too was shy, too
shy to insist on making friends. I know now that Lura desperately needed a friend.
My daddy started playing rub and stroke and poke games with me. When daddy's other brother
came to visit us he took me for rides in his car. It seemed as though no matter where I turned someone had their hands or
parts inside of my panties and inside of me. I came to think that I gave off some kind of scent or wore a sign, visible only
to those who knew where to look, that said, Take me. I can be used.
a small town, everyone is known either by sight or by name. When Lura was thirteen, she made headlines on the front page of
the local newspaper for the second time in her young life. The first time was on Halloween night in her ninth year. As she
was helping two younger cousins cross a downtown street, a speeding car struck her. The impact threw Lura under the car and
dragged her for several feet. Thankfully, other than relatively minor scratches and bruises, Lura was unhurt. The towns unkind
opinion was, "She's so ugly, what are a few scrapes and bruises to her." Did anyone ever think to praise her quick heroic
action in pushing her young cousins out of the path of the speeding car? The driver of the car, a pretty and popular teen
who had been drinking, got off with a light warning. Not very fair, but I do not think that Lura ever expected the world would
be fair to her.
I remember the winter dark street on the Halloween night, when I was nine years old, and
the fear I felt when I saw the lights of a car rushing towards us. I don't know how I thought fast enough to push my small
cousins, Mike and Danny, out of the way. Being hit by the car didn't hurt as much as I thought it would, maybe my heavy winter
coat absorbed some of the impact. Being dragged a few feet hurt more, but it was quickly over. I think that dying that night
would have been a better, a cleaner end.
second and last time that Lura was on the front pages of the local newspaper was when, alone in the house on a warm quiet
summer afternoon, she took her father's shotgun and shot herself in her pregnant stomach. The local newspaper reported that
her grandfather had had an incestuous relationship with her and she was pregnant with his child. Later, the story circulated
through the community that in addition to her grandfather she had endured being raped by her father and two of her uncles.
This might have been just common gossip; does it really matter if it was four rapists or only one? Could life have robbed
young Lura of anything more? She was downright ugly and she never seemed very bright, but who ever sought to find out what
was behind her unattractive, sad, sullen face and chunky body?
am sure that Lura had the same hopes, dreams, and yearnings as other little girls. Like most little girls, Lura probably had
Cinderella dreams of a prince charming, or a valiant knight on a white charger who would come and make her life perfect. But,
I think that Lura's yearnings for that nebulous someone to come and rescue her from her nightmare life must have been much,
I remember lying in bed with my short colorless eyelashes squeezed tightly closed, scrunching
up my freckle covered face. I held my stubby awkward body rigidly tense. I clenched my hands in white knuckled earnestness
as I prayed with all of my might and all of my soul for someone to - "Come. Save me. Make this awful life stop." It didn't
stop . . . I gradually realized it would never stop. Slowly, my hope withered and died. There was no place to run, no place
Lura made her awful life stop the only way she could think of with both barrels of
a shotgun blasting into her thirteen-year-old pregnant belly. Her fame or infamy was brief, over and forgotten by all but
a handful in a day or two; the day or two that it took for her young life to drain away. Nobody seemed to care. It is a sad
fact that no one was ever punished for the crimes against Lura. The judgment of the town was predictably harsh, "How could
anyone, no matter how desperate, have had sex with HER?"
It is amazing what one understands as soon as they have
opened the door and passed from the darkness into the light. For instance, I know that I did nothing wrong. Being ugly or
pretty had nothing to do with it. I believe that if my life had been filled with light, laughter, love, safety, security,
and freedom that I, too, could have been attractive, if not pretty. I know now, that Heather for all of my envy of her, had
a desperate need for a friend too. I know that even if we had known of our mutual need, we would not have had the words to
share our common dilemma. She was lucky and never became an unwed pregnant teen, but I have watched her struggle throughout
her life. She has never been able to trust; those who she was taught to love and trust betrayed her. Perhaps I was the lucky
name was a warm liquid caress across the tongue. The name was music that lingered and echoed in the ear like the middle tone
of a harp. It was a name to create images of grace, tranquility, and beauty, or conjure the soft zephyr of a warm summer evening.