SPOTLIGHT: Won’t Be By Your Side by Allison Renner

Electric Inside

There’s a faint whiff of laundry soap in the air as Leslie settles on the closet floor. The wood is hard beneath my knees, creaking as I kneel beside her. Clearly, it’s been decided that I’ll be on top, because I’m always the “boy” and she’s the pretty princess or stunning starlet while I bumble around, too nervous to ask what role I’m supposed to play. Even now I don’t know how I fit with her.

It’s dark except for a thin shaft of light from beneath the door. Dust mites float like stardust and I focus on them since I can’t see her face. Not that her eyes would tell me what to do; she always stares at me like I’m an imbecile. Even though I’m older than her, she makes me feel less than with a cutting glance.

“2 Become 1” plays on the CD player in her bedroom. It’s muffled through the door but I can hear the smooth voices of the Spice Girls, or maybe it’s just that I have the lyrics memorized. Once Leslie said it was her favorite song, I paid close attention to the sappy ballad. I don’t know if the song lyrics made her agree to do this with me, or my willingness to take on her interests as my own. We’re neighbors more than friends so there’s a risk of her telling the others, but I’m so electric inside, so desperate to feel close to someone, that I can’t think straight.

The hems of the hanging dresses ruffle my hair and I can see Leslie wearing them every Sunday morning. I watch her from down the street, shielded by the neighbor’s bushes. She’s flowery and pure, climbing into the backseat of the family station wagon. I ride my bike in circles around the neighborhood, calves burning, until she’s back, until she has lunch with her family, until her father says she can go outside, if he says she can go outside.

Her father, so strict, sitting in his recliner just feet away from where we are now. I hold my breath as I straddle Leslie, careful to keep my weight off of her. I want to put my hands against her flat stomach to feel everything I’m not, but the idea of revealing the depth of my desire seems dangerous.

My eyes have adjusted to the dusky space and I can see her beneath me, looking up at me with an expression I’ve never seen on her face, on anyone’s since. This time I am not playing second fiddle to the pretty princess or stunning starlet. This time I am in control.


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