Her skin knows. It knows the things she doesn’t want to admit, not even to herself.
Imagine a girl. Imagine you meet her. And you share a meal, and you make her laugh.
Imagine her laugh warms your heart and you reach out and touch her cheek with the back of your hand. Her eyes flutter softly closed.
The next time you meet, if you reach your hand to her, her skin will prickle lightly and she will not pull away. Her body’s largest organ knows what your hand is for, anticipates it, calms her. If you touch her again, the memory will strengthen. If you step in to her, so close to her body that the waves of warmth off your skin dance out to mingle with hers in thermosynthesis, if you graze the pads of your fingers up the side of her arm until gooseflesh raises, then with no fear she will step closer to you and tuck her head into the safety of your neck. You stroke her jawline and press your lips to the top of her hair. Her skin sends out a thousand notes of symphony, telegraphs a million tiny messages: this is good, this is right, stay here.
“Do you love me?” you whisper.
“I don’t know,” she answers. “Do I?” Blood swims to the surface of her cheeks. You reach down to cup her face and she leans into it, hot happiness against the palm of your hands. When you go to touch her arm, the goosebumps are already there.
Her skin knows.
Now imagine someone else.
When she stands alone he comes up behind her and yanks her head back by the ponytail. She asks him to stop, but he laughs and pulls harder. “You like it,” he says. “And anyway, I’m only teasing.” He lets go and she laughs. They both laugh. Later, she gets in his way in the kitchen and he twists her nipple ’til she cries out in anger. He laughs again, then hugs her.
“Please don’t do that anymore.”
“That’s not how the game works. You’re mine.” He laughs, like it’s a shared joke, smiles at her with affection.
Her friends ask her about him and she smiles. “He’s a good man; he really loves me.” She crosses her arms over her chest.
Another day, he walks by her to get something out of the fridge. She quickly ducks out of the way.
He laughs. “You flinched. That’s funny.”
Her skin knows.