I'm the Girl excerpt (cont'd)
continued from part one
I cough, choking my way to consciousness, my lips against gravel, the taste of metal in my mouth. I press my hands into the dirt, gasping as my left arm gives out under my weight. There’s something wrong with it. The agony of that discovery washes over me before I try again, letting my right take on the burden, forcing myself to my feet.
Once I’m standing, I clench my jaw, steeling myself against the involuntary sway of my body. My bike is gone, my bag road-killed at the shoulder, four thousand dollars’ worth of photographs of me crumpled inside. There are faint impressions of footsteps where I lay, circling me. Blood on me where skin and road connected. I try to get a hold of myself, breathing slowly in through my nose and out my mouth, clutching my left arm to my chest, my head pounding. I limp my way forward. Aspera is far, but it’s closer now than home, but even if I was hurt bad enough I should turn myself around—I wouldn’t.
This is the closest I’ve ever come.
Aspera. A 12,000 acre members-only resort hidden away in the mountains. What God couldn’t put a price on—all that wild beauty ever-reaching for the limitless blue sky—its owners, Matthew and Cleo Hayes surely would. There are always whispers about the latest rich-and-famous hiding there to escape themselves, and when my mother worked housekeeping, everyone would ask me for her dirt. I’d beg any little detail, but she wouldn’t talk about the place—at least not in any way I wanted to hear. They call it the heart of Ketchum, but she always said it was its diamond and it’s not shining for you.
Before she died, she tried to make sure of it.
Today, I’ll find out if the promise it made me is greater than the one she broke.
I put one unsteady foot in front of the other, and for the longest time it’s only this until a flash of pink catches my eye. It has to, it’s such an aberration. Not the kind of pink you find in nature. I squint to be sure, and once I am, I move brokenly to it, heading down the ditch, shoes sinking into the soggy earth, wet grass tickling my ankles. I wince at how difficult it’s become to do this simple thing. The sunlight overhead is fading fast, devoured by the trees, making it even more impressive, or impossible, that I saw it at all. I press further on to claim my prize, and the glimpse of color blooms larger the closer I get, slowly taking form.
A girl pressed against the ground.
At first I wonder if we both got hit by the same car.
Her white skin is mottled red, her right leg turned inward, its knobby knee pointing toward the left. Her right arm lies rigidly beside her, the crook of her elbow stained purple, hand palm-up as though awaiting someone to place something inside it. Her left hand is rested against her chest, her stiff fingers reaching toward her throat. Her bright pink shirt is smeared with dirt and her frayed denim shorts are unbuttoned and splayed open, revealing no underwear, revealing the most intimate part of her, a bruise.
Her eyes are open, cloudy.
“Hey, kid,” I whisper. “You all right?”
Her fine blond hair fans over the ground, a strand of it crossing her porcelain face, finding its way into her open mouth. Her lips are pale and chapped.
A fly traces the outline of their delicate pout.
This excerpt of I’m the Girl will continue in Courtney Summers’s April 1st newsletter.