DISCLAIMER: These words are rough, unedited, and vomited out of my brain unchecked. They in no way represent a finished piece, so don't treat 'em like that. In other words, be gentle. Pretty please . . . ?
I blink and there is a knife in my hand. A knife, and a potato. I shrink from the blade, shining past slivers of brown — potato peelings, some still-sentient piece of my brain says — and I drop both. The potato falls faster, slamming into the linoleum floor with a dull thud. The knife follows with a clatter, all bouncing black handle and crisp edges.
A cry. I blink again. I feel as if I am coming up from a swim in deep, deep water. I am not alone in the room. The room is a kitchen, it seems, and three girls and one middle aged woman with chapped lips and a thin gaze stare back at me.
The woman steps close, and I shrink into myself, the stool I am somehow perched on hard beneath my bottom.
“Are you all right?” asks the woman, peering at me as if at a specimen.
No words come. Am I all right? There seems no way to know.
“Why’d you drop your knife, Louisa?” says one of the girls, all three young and yet not young. Somehow I know I’m young and not young, too. “Why did Louisa drop her knife?” She’s turned to her two companions. Their hands are all covered in brown shreds of potato skin.
The woman bends, retrieves my knife and potato with a grunt. She straightens and frowns at me. “Well?” she says. “Why did you drop these?” Her hands extend, offering the knife and potato. I do not take them.
“Same old Louisa,” says another of the girls. “Brain dead, I say.”
“Yeah,” echoes the third, voice weaker than old water.
“I don’t know why she’s even here. Wrong place for a vegetable like her, if you ask me,” the second girl says.
“Nobody is asking you,” returns the first girl, cheeks pink.
The second girl snorts, arches brown eyebrows beneath a curling mop of red. “I’m just saying, she either sits there and doesn’t do a thing, or she does little jobs like peeling potatoes as she’s a friggin’ robot."
“Language,” barks the woman, tossing the word into the air. Her breath is hot and stale against my face.
“Shut up,” growls the pink-cheeked girl.
“Why should I? Just because you’re stuck with her as a roommate—”
The woman bends even closer. It’s amazing that her nose hasn’t kissed mine yet. The thought makes me shiver, a jagged tremble that takes each muscle for its own.
“Louisa?” the woman says, looking at me as if searching for something hidden behind my eyes.
“Lou,” says a fifth voice, a new voice. The woman and I blink in unison surprise.
“Lou”, she repeats, tone gentler now. I look around the room for the owner of the new voice and see no one. “Is that what you like to be called, Lou?"
I wait for the reply, and then suddenly realize that it was my own lips that parted, my dry tongue that formed the single word.
Is that who I am? I wonder.
And then, nearly in the same moment of joining synapses and electrified understanding, I am Lou My name is Lou, because it’s better than Louisa.
I say it aloud. The woman’s brows arch up like mountains. The red haired girl bleats an embarrassed giggle, then the room falls too-silent.
I cannot remember anything more.
Happy Thursday! What are you working on today?
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