On the night before she started high school, Katelyn set the book on the grill. A scrape. A flash of orange. A whiff of sulfur. The corner caught, and the edges of the pages glowed. Aunt Ninny had given her the diary for her thirteenth birthday, saying with a wink, “A girl needs a place for her secrets.”
She wrote in it like it was a homework assignment for the first few months, listing what she’d had for lunch, what the popular girls wore to school, what boys she liked, and how many times her dad didn’t come home for dinner. The writing tapered off to only once every week or so and then maybe once a month until May of eighth grade. She’d wanted to remember everything about those last three weeks of school, her script tightly packed into the spaces between blue lines, thick with details.
How the boy in the red baseball cap who sat in the back of the bus smiled at her. How his eyes started landing on her and sticking. How he started sitting behind her. How he went three blocks out of his way to walk her home. How it started as kissing.
It ended with Dad coming home early, or maybe late, on a Wednesday afternoon and finding her on her knees with handfuls of the boy’s jeans in each fist. Her mouth and eyes were salty as the boy ran out the back door and Dad moved like his own shadow to the hallway, away from her. They never talked about it. Not like the boy who returned to the back seat of the bus and told the other boys things that made their lips twist and their eyes hooded and knowing. They watched her cheeks burn for those last days until summer.
The pages of the diary curled in on themselves and turned to a black square that shrank and flaked chunks of ash. Sparks flew up, and she wondered if she’d set the trees on fire. For more than a moment, she wanted to burn everything to the ground, but she just scraped the last sheets of blackened paper until they disintegrated.
Later, her father didn’t tell her goodnight when she passed him on the stairs. She washed her hands, scrubbing at the soot that wouldn’t come off and avoiding her eyes in the mirror over the sink. The pages were gone, but she was still the girl who’d done those things with a boy because she’d wanted him to hold her hand.
Andrea Rinard is a Florida native, HS English teacher, graduate student in creative writing at USF and alumnus of the Yale Writer’s Workshop. Her most recent publications are in The Jellyfish Review and Spelk. You can read more of Andrea’s work at writerinard.com and follow her on Twitter @aprinard.