Carla falls into my arms. Her pale face is scratched up and whiter than usual. Her dress is ripped at the bottom. When I hold her, she feels like a stranger.
Remembering how Daddy helped me the night I ran home from Frank’s house, I steer her to the kitchen, plunk her on a chair, and hand her a wet rag. She won’t stop crying.
“You going to tell me?” I say.
“Oh, oh, Emma. It was … was just awful …. He.. he…”
Carla blows her nose and looks at me like she remembers us being good friends. “He pinned me down. Said I wanted it. Said I’d been asking for it a long time. But I wasn’t, Emmy. I never asked for that! Never!”
She blows her nose again. Her tears are real, like when we were little girls and Stevie told her she looked like a possum.
“When did this happen?”
“Right after school.” She squeezes my arm. “Sometimes? I feel so lonely without you that I think kissing a boy would take my mind off not being around you and Scooter.”
She’s blaming me for acting like a tart?
“We used to have so much fun. But my parents made me stay away from you.”
I’ll ask her about that later. Right now, I think about jelly-mixing. “What did he do to you? He didn’t, you know …”
She shakes her head and cries again. I count to three. “Then what?” I say.
“He almost did. He pulled up my dress. He, he saw my panties, Emmy, my panties! He would have done more but, but we heard Rachael yelling out for me. She didn’t know I’d gone with him behind the schoolhouse. Anyway, he clamped a hand over my mouth, told me to shut up.” She’s stopped crying, but now she’s shaking like a tornado through a house.
Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket