The Skate Key

by Solla Carrock

I said, "Please don't tell."

"I have to tell." Renee answered. She walked faster. It was really getting dark now. The streetlights were on. I was the one who kept us late, first roller-skating a little longer, then not remembering where I left the skate key.

"You don't have to tell. We can get another skate key. Mama doesn't have to find out."

"How can we get another skate key without buying another pair of skates?"

I said, "Maybe they sell them separate. People must lose them all the time."

 "You lose them," Renee said.

"We just won't go skating again until we get one. She won't find out. We'll go to the school ground tomorrow and look again. Probably we'll find it right away when it's light."

"It was light when we started looking."

Renee always felt bad keeping secrets. Like that time in Yakima when we slid out on the ice on the canal--my idea--and I broke through the ice. Mama wasn't there when we got home. We could have hidden everything from her. But Renee told. I got spanked because I was older, but I didn't really blame her then. It wasn't so bad, only a yardstick.

Only, it was different now. Couldn't Renee understand that it was different now?

Ever since Amy was born Mama got angry so easily. Especially at me. I could never do anything fast enough or well enough for her.

"Please, don't tell," I asked again.

"She'll find out." Then I wanted to say, then tell her you lost it, because it wouldn't be bad if Renee lost it. Then it would be a small thing. Mama might be a little angry, but she wouldn't look at Renee the way she would look at me. But I didn't ask that. I only said, "Please don't tell," again.

Renee didn't say anything. She pressed her lips together.

"Please don't tell her." She didn't say again that she had to tell. 

We climbed up the stairs of the new apartment in Norfolk and opened the door to the bright kitchen with the yellow linoleum. Mama sat at the kitchen table, her hand on the handle of her coffee cup, her cigarette resting on the ashtray. She said, "It's after dark. What are you doing home so late?"

I said, "We left when it got dark." Maybe she'd let it go.

But Renee didn't even wait for Mama to respond. "We were looking for the skate key. Annie lost it."

Mama looked at me the way I knew she would look at me, the way she wouldn't look at Renee if it were Renee who lost the skate key, the way she only looked at me. "It wasn't enough you lost your own skate key, you had to lose hers too."

I tried to make that look go away. "I laid it down where we put on the skates. We probably just missed it in the dark. I could look for it tomorrow."

"You're not going anywhere tomorrow. Now get in your bedroom and get ready for bed."

Renee came after me down the hallway and I moved as far as I could to the right so I didn't touch her. Got my pajamas out from under my pillow and put them on without looking at her. Got in my bed and pulled the covers up over my head, without looking at her.

*  *  *  *  *

The next night Leroy arrived home late from his weekend duty on the base. Soon after, he came into our room. Renee was doing something on her bed and that's where Leroy sat at the foot, turned towards her. I sat on my own bed reading.

"Renee," Leroy said, so Renee faced him and paid attention. Quickly, Leroy glanced over my way, then back to Renee, so I knew I was supposed to hear, but I kept my eyes on my book the best I could.

Leroy said, "I just wanted to know what present you'd like for being such a good girl this week." Another little glance at me.

Renee's eyes turned away from him, first at the bed, then a quick look at me too, her body all stiff and miserable. I hated her.

Finally, she mumbled, "I don't know."

Leroy's voice stayed bright, "Well, I guess it'll just have to be a surprise then. But you let me know if you think of something. We want you to know how much we appreciate having a good girl like you."

He waited for her to say something more, but the good girl didn't. The good girl stared at her bed and held her little good girl hands in her lap, until Leroy put his arm around the good girl's shoulders for a moment, then left our room.

The good girl looked over at me, but I stared at my book. After a long time, she went back to what she was doing before, and I reread the sentence I'd been on when Leroy came until it had some meaning again.

BIO: Solla Carrock has lived in Washington, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, and Louisiana , but has spent most of her adult life in Portland, Oregon where she came to attend Reed College at age 17. Currently she works as a computer programmer, but has held a wide variety of positions including working with homeless teenage girls, interviewing prison inmates in a drug treatment program, and being a member of Teach For America, teaching art, English, and world geography in a high school in Louisiana. Her daughter, Erin, teaches middle school language arts in Portland. Solla has had poetry published in the Portland Review, To Topos and in the anthology Naming: Poems by Eight Women. She edited and contributed to Mothers and Fathers: Being Parents, Remembering Parents. One of her short stories has been accepted by 34th Parallel for publication in October.