You never touched her, you told me.
You said that if you did, it was an accident.
You said that she asked you to play the "monkey and snake" game that she learned at school.
And you said that you never touched her.
"I know she's lying," your mother said. "She wants attention. She told me once that she was going to get taken away from her mom and dad and taken to Hutton to live with the other girls. She's lied about that, why wouldn't she lie about this?"
"I SWEAR TO GOD THAT I NEVER TOUCHED HER," you screamed on a cool spring evening, face down on the bed. "I DIDN'T! I WOULD NEVER LIE ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE THAT."
And then it was July.
The day before, we sat in the front yard on lawn chairs and ate Jamaican jerk chicken that I'd had marinading all day. Potato salad. Iced tea. The sun set behind us and we looked out at the back forty...the Yugo, my Reliant K., your mother's green Escort. I could almost see Lorraine's roses from where we sat that night together.
It was the last night I would spend alone with you.
You watched television in the attic. I read in bed.
I prayed, not for a not guilty verdict, but to learn the truth.
The next morning, the phone rang.
Your mother hired the best.
She made me stay in hell for another two years to help pay him off.
"They reached a verdict," you say, taking a bite out of a soggy grilled cheese sandwich. "We have to go to court."
I look down at my left arm.
I see "AMANDA IS A LIAR" carved into the soft skin under my arm. I see it ugly, angry and red. It stares back at me, challenging. I can almost hear her. "What if I'm not the liar, Aunt Corrie?" she says in my head. "What if I'm not?"
And the three of us left the house.
Only two of us came back that afternoon.
"It should be fine," she chattered from behind the wheel. "You didn't do anything wrong, it'll come out, she's a liar, she's a liar, we know you didn't do it, we'll go to Old Country Buffet to celebrate tonight."
Because an all-you-can-eat buffet will heal eighteen months worth of open wounds.
On the third floor, the Greek chorus sounds.
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
I hold you and kiss you goodbye.
Tears soak your blue polyester polo shirt.
I am an empty vessel.
I sleep alone.
Your cat meows at every noise outside, convinced you've returned.
She circles me warily.
Friends support me, hold me up.
For a month, I believe you.
After a month of waiting in county jail reception, the truth comes out through a glass wall on the chi-mo floor.
"She asked me to. Don't hate me. I love you."
She asked me to. She asked me to. She asked me to.
It rings in my ears.
Finally the truth has come out.
No one left to blame but you.