Because her clarinet is damaged, she’s doing homework in the back of the shadowed auditorium instead of finishing “Sugartime” when three boys surround her. Without speaking, they lift her skirt. As if she is a specimen, they stare, then vanish through an exit. On stage, the junior high band packs their instruments. Like them, she waits for the bell, but before she rises, she decides to never again play that clarinet.
Because she’s close to the door, she can turn her back to the stage and leave without talking to anyone in the band. She’s first into the lobby’s light. She hurries to her bus in that skirt, books pressed against her chest and sits beside a girl who chatters about the spring semi-formal. Pre-prom, she calls it, eighth grade an exit to where dreams turn real.
At home, she stands near her bedroom mirror, turns, then turns again, to examine that skirt for its invitation, how what she sewed, the summer before, has included touch me or welcome within its gemstone aquamarine. How it has been raised like an experiment to see her thighs and her pale blue cotton underwear. How she has been assessed.
She is unable to read anything, even when she slides the skirt off and runs her fingers over and under its surface where boys have handled it like a flag. By now, she knows she will never tell her mother. Because the clarinet is a rental, her father will be glad to save one more expense when she quits the band.
She hangs the skirt in her closet, moving it to the far left where the clothes she’s outgrown wait for the annual good-will bagging, the skirt passed to a girl who will admire herself after she’s had time to adjust to the price of hand-me-down. She will twirl that skirt up and out, as if she had once sewn it herself, her smooth, pale legs bared to the waist.