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April 7, 2022

Half Sestina

Lindz McLeod

I skip the first page to get to the good stuff. The anatomy of the human face—skull, jaw, arteries—are picked out in strange colours; red and blue veins wound together like tightly-tied shoelaces. I trace the lines with my finger and picture Emilio from English class, whether his full lips puckered in a kiss would move this muscle or that one. Behind this lies yellow bone, a foundational structure, the building blocks of the body. The biology book is clear about one thing: either everything works together or a body starts to break down, turns traitor.

This particular book belongs to me, not to the school. I skipped a grade two years ago and now I'm allowed to read whatever I want, as long as its educational. Mom says she never worries about me falling behind, only that I'll get too ahead of myself, whatever that means. I touch my own jaw, trace the line of bone back until it disappears under my skull. When Emilio kissed that blonde girl behind the chem lab, their tongues mashing sloppily against each other, I swear my heart stopped beating. I’d have pulled a fire alarm if one had been within reach, would have ground the world into a fine, red powder if I’d had the chance.

Mom says I'm a spring, so red isn't my colour. The blonde girl looks great in red, though; she dresses like she knows it, from her red fur-lined coat to her red-covered books, pressed against Emilio's chest. The kiss went on for ages—I should have stopped watching but I couldn't look away. I should have skipped ahead. Should have unfrozen my legs, thawed out my heart, got my blood pulsing good and loud in my ears, screamed until the whole building echoed with my pain. I should have skipped over the scene like I do with the first chapters of the book, skipped until I got to the good stuff, calm blue stuff, like the hearts that he draws on my arm in invisible ink where nobody can see and says its our little secret, honey, isn't that right? except now there's no blue, only a free-falling realisation that there are other drawn hearts, other bare arms, other mouths he'd rather kiss.

Behind my jaw, small muscles work in tandem to let secrets spill out. A kiss between teacher and pupil is a red mark against both. When I accidentally leave my book on the headmaster's desk, he won't need to skip to the good stuff; it'll be written on the first page.