The Used World

The Used World by Haven Kimmel Read Free Book Online

Book: The Used World by Haven Kimmel Read Free Book Online
Authors: Haven Kimmel
pronounced cheekbones, gray eyes, dusky skin. What Rebekah really felt was that when Claudia stood up, it wasn’t Claudia who was revealed as too tall; rather, the rest of them were obviously too short. Red and Slim, for instance, the Main Cronies, sat all day on the cracked Naugahyde sofas at the front of the store smoking cigarettes, yammering away about nothing, both of them weak-backed and heading for emphysema, while Claudia lifted heavy furniture with one hand, opened the back door with the other.
    Rebekah herself—the china doll of the Prophetic Mission Church, of the church school; the backyard, twilit games—was treasured for being smaller than other girls, more frail. Famous among her friends and cousins for her tipply laugh, a laugh so quick and impossible to repress, Rebekah was the embodiment of Girl. Her mother said she had Bird Bones, her uncles called her No Bigger’n a Minute. She had felt pride when other girls became coltish and awkward and she was still so neat and childish. Even after she’d reached a normal height, had grown unexpectedly so curvy that her father wouldn’t look at her, she continued to think of herself as that princess child, the one girl small enough to sit on Jesus’ knee as He Suffered the Children to Come Unto Him, while the others, the tall angry girls and the pimply boys, sat at His feet.
    “Bekah, you coming?” Claudia stood next to the heavy front doors, her hand at the keypad for the alarm system.
    Someone should have pointed out to Rebekah that it’s the summit of foolishness to feel pride for what you lack. Someone might have mentioned that there comes a day, and not long into life, when you’ll need all the strength you can get; when the woman who makes it across the prairie and saves her children turns out to be taller than Jesus by a foot and a half.
    “Do you want me to follow you, make sure you get home all right?”
    Rebekah smiled, shook her head, accepted her coat from Claudia. “That’s okay. Thank you, though—I have an errand to run.”

    The snow wasn’t falling yet. Rebekah steered the old Buick Electra, wide and heavy as a ship, down the streets of the east side of Jonah, out to the bypass that would take her to Peter’s rural road. She was thinking it had been a Friday that she’d met Peter, a Friday because that used to be Claudia’s day off and she was nowhere in the memory. It was Friday now. An anniversary of sorts, but how many weeks? More than seven months of weeks; she was too tired to count.
    Before her twenty-third birthday, when she left the church and took up with Hazel, Rebekah had never worn pants or cut her hair, not even into bangs, although lots of girls got by with that one. Rebecca’s hair had hung to the middle of her thighs, dark red at the roots and gradually lightening at the ends, until the last three inches were blond, fine as silk. Her baby hair. Her crowning glory. Vernon wouldn’t allow her mother to braid the blond hair, or put a rubber band around it. Once a week she had to use a VO5 Hot Oil Hair Treatment to protect it. Every year that passed was like the ring in a tree: blond as a baby; here you can see it starting to darken. Light, then strawberry, then more like a cherry, then like aged cherrywood—her life, her father’s life. By the time she cut it, that baby hair was a raggedy mess, most of it broken off and split in two; she pulled a comb through it hatefully, and her head hurt all the time from the weight of it on her scalp.
    Until that day five years ago when Rebekah left the church, she’d never seen a movie or watched television or danced or been in the same room with alcohol. She’d never gone swimming or even taken a long bath, as it was considered immoral for girls to do so. She’d never been on a boat, an airplane, a train. She had been on a bus, in cars, trucks, tractors, and hay wagons. Garlic had been exotic to her, as were any spices beyond those in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: sage,

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