“What do you like better, skinny girls or curvy girls?” she asked him, one morning, her nonchalance strung out like a banner, waving in his face. They sat together in a coffee shop. Toes touching. Mugs touching. “Not that it really matters to me,” she added. “I am who I am and I won’t change regardless.”

Her eyes caught the light—or the light caught her eyes—and he knew, then, that it did matter.

“I like skinny girls,” he said, which was the honest truth. He loved her boniness, her chopstick legs. The way she teetered when she walked. It wasn’t something he would say to her, or anyone else, but he loved her breakability. Curvy girls seemed so pliable. They could land softly. But her: she bruised easily. Everything inside swimming up to the surface—every blush or point of pain—the white influx of fear.

“Oh?” She gripped her coffee mug, knuckles hard. Took a long luxurious sip.

“Of course I’d love you regardless,” he added, reaching across the table and squeezing her wrist. “Darling.”

Her eyes caught the light—or the light caught her eyes—and she smiled with the sad triumph of knowing he’d lied. Smiled, also, because she’d got what she wanted: he’d let her land softly. Or, as softly as he could.

 


 

Allegra Hyde recently earned her MFA from Arizona State University, where she also served as prose editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Missouri Review, New England Review, Chattahoochee Review, and many other journals. She is the recipient of the Benjamin B. Wainright Prize in Fiction, the Glendon & Kathryn Swarthout Prize in Fiction, and a Pushcart Prize. Starting this fall, she will begin living in Bulgaria on a Fulbright grant. For more see: www.allegrahyde.com.

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