As I continue my journey through The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, I continue to be amazed by how a simple writing prompt can suddenly open a new world of characters, events and emotions. After just a few minutes of writing, I get to meet people I never knew existed and learn their stories, listen to what they have to say. This week, I responded to a prompt encouraging me to write a story revolving around an article of clothing. So, readers, in honor of awkward adolescents everywhere, let us celebrate the sacred first bra.
Ashley had wanted a bra since spring, but she didn’t know how to bring it up to her mother. They didn’t talk about woman stuff. Whenever Ashley tried to linger by the Intimates at Wal-Mart, her mother would quicken the pace. She didn’t know if her mother denied or simply hadn’t noticed that her daughter was growing up. “Stop picking at that,” she’d say when Ashley scraped her thumbnail over a zit, but that was pretty much it. She had to take her hairy legs into her own hands with her dad’s razor. And periods! She lived in daily horror of the bleed-through, like what happened to Emma in fifth grade band before the nurse had given the puberty talk.
But Ashley was reminded of her bra needs daily. The start of seventh grade was broiling hot, and there was no hiding herself in tank tops and T-shirts. “Gonna launch those torpedoes?” Chase snorted in the hallway. She stared longingly at the girls who got their straps snapped daily by the boys. They leaned back in their desks, strap outlines pressing through their shirts. When the teacher turned around, the boys would pull, the room filling with the sound of cracking whips. “Ow! Do-on’t!” the girls would yell, and they’d adjust their shoulders and sigh as if wearing a bra were the biggest burden in the world. But the last straw was when the social studies teacher, Mr. Marz, pacing the aisles in an impassioned speech about Plessy v. Ferguson, suddenly spread his arms and whacked one of Ashley’s loose boobs, which seemed to dangle in eerie silence for an eternity. Of course, he said nothing. But they both knew. It was time.
The next morning, Ashley snuck into her mom’s room and dug around for the smallest bra she could find. She slipped it over her shoulders and tried to reach back to attach it. No luck. She had remembered seeing her mom do some upside down twist and spin, but whatever she attempted resulted in a convoluted mess. Finally, she got at least one hook done. The cups sagged, but at least they would provide a barrier between her and the rest of the world.
In algebra the next morning, she leaned back in her seat. She had made sure to wear a pale yellow tank that accentuated the straps. “What have we here?” said Chase behind her. She pretended not to hear but shifted in her seat in preparation for her elastic entrance into adult society. Finally, his thick fingers landed on her back. She felt the strain and closed her eyes…but when he let go, no snap. The one hook came undone, and the straps dropped to her armpits. Chase cleared his throat.