I. At St. Bede's, bad perms and gold chains were the closest we ever came to God. I was thirteen, caught off-guard by a body already overblown, and my new thighs that strained against the tight pleats of my regulation skirt, which rode up unashamedly whenever I sat down. Every morning the nuns vetted for too-transparent blouses, parrot-bright jewelry, or overly conspicuous socks. Any signs of incipient slutdom were punished by a public thwack on the face. My father said this was nothing. When he was eight, a nun threw him through a partition over a smart mouth and a ripped cuff. II. My first crush was suspended that year, for repeatedly unbuttoning his shirt in class and flaunting his adolescent chest like a thin southern Rambo. All the girls cooed over his defiantly lank hair, the way his finger flicked across our backs during morning prayers. Occasionally he dragged me behind a wall at lunch, his breaking voice breathing obscenities into my ear. I lived for those first swift pinnings, though more for the mad dashes into the schoolyard afterwards, cross swinging freely from my neck as I ran. Plaid-swathed girls, greedy for every detail, pigeoned tight around me. My lips opened again, flushed still with the bump and rush of his face against mine, hard and angular as the school rules we all knew.
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