Whatev, fiction by Misty Skaggs

On prom morn­ing, she was awak­ened by the croaky sound of Daddy’s decrepit old roost­er, over the hill at the barn. Day­break. Rose had always liked the sound of that word. And the con­no­ta­tions she imag­ined along with it. She thought about the night sky shat­ter­ing, about sharp, black shards falling and impal­ing some unsus­pect­ing, old woman shuf­fling down the street in Chi­na or some oth­er some­where on the oppo­site side of the world. ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ her Nan­na would say. 

“What­ev,” Rose mum­bled, feel­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly grown up in her silky, pink penoir as she stood alone in the kitchen and watched a pot of cof­fee slow­ly percolate. 

That’s what her boyfriend would say. What­ev­er. Brax­ton, her boyfriend, was hot and fun­ny and smart and what­ev­er. He was the cap­tain of the bas­ket­ball team in a town that was too poor and too hilly for foot­ball. He had sandy blonde hair that fell across his fore­head just right and he had a full ride schol­ar­ship to UK, where he would study equine sci­ences. Some­day, when he grew up, they would live hap­pi­ly ever after on a horse farm in the rolling blue­grass out­side Louisville. Close to the city, where there are avenues and boule­vards filled with strangers instead of ridges and hollers pop­u­lat­ed by the same old peo­ple who could nev­er under­stand an excit­ing, illic­it love like the one that had bloomed inside Rose for Braxton. 

After think­ing it over long and hard, Rose had decid­ed to do her own hair for the big night. And as she itched at the aqua­ma­rine, plas­tic rollers she’d slept on, she wished that her Moth­er could see her today, help her pile up her curls just right. Those girls at the beau­ty shop were jeal­ous and mean, so she stayed home. Alone. With part of her inher­i­tance, she had rent­ed a limo and a hotel room with a hot tub. She knew that Mom­my and Dad­dy would approve, so long as she was hap­py. She’d also dropped quite a chunk of her parent’s hard-earned, life sav­ings on a boob job the sum­mer before she start­ed teach­ing eighth grade, the sum­mer after she lost sev­en­ty-five pounds. You’d think those old bid­dies down at Deb’s ‘Dos would have been proud of her, final­ly pay­ing a lit­tle bit of atten­tion to her looks. It had tak­en her thir­ty some odd years to blos­som. She sipped sug­ary sweet cof­fee and remind­ed her­self that Brax­ton said they’re just haters and that he sends her a dozen ros­es from a secret admir­er to school every Valentine’s Day. He doesn’t know the truth, couldn’t guess that she hadn’t loved him at all at first. Her feel­ings for him came along lat­er. Rose smiled out the win­dow at the birds singing and imag­ined her­self with a tacky car­na­tion pinned crooked­ly to her brand new chest and let those feel­ings and her secrets float free and fill up the kitchen around her. 

Brax­ton was too sweet and young and beau­ti­ful to ever sus­pect that she had made him love her, that she had been in the back­ground watch­ing his whole life unfold. If she had her way, he would nev­er know that their loved bloomed out of her plot­ting. She wait­ed for his hor­mones to devel­op, watched his eyes widen and a book fly down to his lap when she’d lean over his desk to show off the good doctor’s good work. He would nev­er believe that she had test­ed the lim­its of his devo­tion over and over, trained him like a horny, pup­py dog. To Rose his moody green eyes and lithe young body didn’t real­ly mat­ter. What had mat­tered to her, at first, was that Brax­ton came by those pierc­ing eyes as a birth right, passed down from his Mom­my. All that mat­tered was that his moth­er loved him best. And through that cocky boy who saun­tered into her junior high school Eng­lish class, Rose could find a way to bust anoth­er woman’s heart into pieces. 

She shud­dered as the ancient roost­er mus­tered the ener­gy and crowed into the sun­rise one more time, a bro­ken sound to match the bro­ken sky. She remem­bered those eyes pin­ning her down twen­ty years ago as she fum­bled through her teenage years. How those eyes peered into her lumpy, awk­ward body and how those sen­su­al, sen­sa­tion­al, x‑ray eyes lit up when they found the most vul­ner­a­ble, painful spot to strike. She had been help­less against the beau­ty and cru­el­ty back then, but she had vowed to make things right. Rose was qui­et and patient. It took years to slow­ly and spite­ful­ly ingra­ti­ate her­self into the small-town social world she used to envy. And she knew, even as she had gig­gled and gos­siped through the baby show­er thrown to cel­e­brate his arrival, Rose knew that Brax­ton would be her revenge. The town would be scan­dal­ized. His moth­er would just die. Maybe she’d even make the nation­al news. And besides, Brax­ton would be a real babe in his rent­ed tux.

skaggsMisty Skag­gs, 33, rarely ever leaves the holler anymore.



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