She holds the light blue bra in her hands, her translucent eyelids trembling. “Please honey,” she says. “Try it on.” My bald scalp itches, but I refuse to scratch it. We both know my barely puffy nipples will drown in the underwire, but we don’t care.
So I do. I let the thick, plush curtain fall behind me in the dressing room, muffling my mother’s anxious heartbeats. I peel off my tee shirt, carefully easing it over the burning rash on the back of my neck that crawls up my scalp and down between my skinny shoulder blades.
Six months, he said, that shadow in a white coat, that furrowed brow, that bearer of bad news. Maybe seven. My mother had bitten her lip so hard that I could see the blood beading under her sharp, white canine teeth. My father’s spine caving forward with the affirmation of something we knew already. I am dying, we know I am dying, everyone knows I am dying. There is nothing this baldness or nausea will do to stop it.
I stare at myself in the big mirror, dark nipples pure on this torso severed with scars. The bras line up against the rail of this dressing room, their fabric pale and cotton, triple A cups. I quickly avoid blue and green, too reminiscent of the antiseptic smell radiating from the scrubs of the faceless nurses.
I stare at the red one, the one I snuck into the dressing room, the one with the padding and the lace. In it, the woman of alluring perfumes and goodnight kisses and swinging hips who I will one day never be.
So I put it on, the red satin straps sliding painlessly over my irritated narrow shoulders. It settles around my tender, growing nipples and miraculously, astonishingly, it fits. My small, small, small breasts are cupped in its soft, soft, soft fabric. I edge myself out of the light purple cotton panties my mother buys from the grocery store, the kind that come in a package of three. I imagine her short, bleeding nails selecting the underwear, rubbing mass-produced fabric between thumb and forefinger after she illegally opens the plastic package.
But I take them off, these comfortable cotton panties with little clouds on them that could be sheep if you squint. I surreptitiously pull the red panties, the match to the bra, over my straw legs.
I, the girl in the red bra and red panties, I, me, myself. I am dying. I will die in six months, maybe seven, and no one will have ever kissed these small growing breasts or pulled this lacy scrap of fabric off my eager body. My growing breasts, anticipating kisses and gentle fingers, have not been told that their efforts are futile.
“Honey, how’s it going in there?” my mother’s anxious voice catches in the thick curtain, entangling with knotted fibers and other people’s breath.
“Great, mom!” I say, forcing myself to sound cheerful. We both know it’s fake and we are both willing to let it slide.
One last look. I take one last look at this alluring woman, these scars adorned in red satin and red lace.
I pull the panties down my legs covered in transparent skin, the veins coursing poison through my body vibrantly blue, ridging sheep trails across my body. I pull the satin straps down from my shoulders because I do not know how to unclasp a bra yet. It slide down scars and sharp hip bones to the floor, no curves on my body to stop its descent.
I grab a bra at random, a pink one, without underwire, with little flowers on the straps. She needs this, her little girl bra shopping for the first time, her growing girl. I will never be a woman. I will never wear a red satin bra, and the passionate fingers of a faceless lover will never tug my puffy dark nipples. But we can both pretend this bra is the first one, the one preparing for bras with underwires and lace and bright colors and padding to push my small breasts up invitingly. In six, maybe seven months, I will die.
About the Author: Amelia Jane Nierenberg is a Junior at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York. She is a Fiction Reader for the Adroit Journal, and spends much of her free time painting and writing. Her work either appears, or is forthcoming in Amazing Kids! Magazine, Tap Magazine Issue 25: Bare, Prick of the Spindle, the Blue Pencil Online, the Doctor T. J. Eckelburg Review, the Emerge Literary Journal and the Blue Lake Review.