High above my head, through the open window, I can hear a kitchen conversation. The kind ladies have when children are sent outside to play. The kind children are not meant to hear. Two voices, so much alike, I don’t know which one is Mama and which one is Aunt. It seems like they are talking about me. Two voices say:
“Mmm-hmmm, Pinny’s beautiful!”
“Yes, so pink and perfect.”
I am standing beneath the kitchen window, on the side of our house where a concrete walk passes from the front to the backyard. A day or two ago, along this sidewalk where we scribble hopscotch trails, bushes of plain green leaves crowded against the whiteness of the house. Now, out of nowhere, flowers the color of strawberry ice cream have appeared as magically as fairy skirts, making the green leaves beautiful. The sudden conjuring has puzzled me.
In their kitchen voices, my mama and her sister explain what made the flowers appear. They give the flowers a name – my name – Penny. Clearly, the beautifulness is meant for me.
Around the corner, in the hot, sunny backyard, my teenager cousins push my twin sister on our swing. Its creaking metal sing-songs, and someone yells, “I dunno, Pammy, are you sure you want to go hiiii-gher? Hiiiii-gher?” I am alone, next to the flowers. Their petals are alive, like feathers or fur, and they can feel my fingers touch them. Even in the hot sun, they are cool and soft, like the water in the sink when I helped to wash cherries for dessert.
“Pinny! What are you doing!? Leave the Pinny’s alone!” My mama’s face hides behind the grey shadow of the screen, but through the criss cross metal I can see her red lipstick, and the two white teardrops she always wears to frame her eyes.
“But you said… you said…they’re Pinny’s, they’re mine! They’re mine!” I defend my beautiful territory with tears and indignation. “You said!” Mama turns her white shoulder, her black hair, to the mesh of the screen. Mama is saying something to Aunt. For a second the window is quiet. Then I hear laughing, and next, the springs of the backdoor. Mama is coming to take us inside for hot dogs. Aunt is in the window now. “Huh-ney, its Pee-oh-neez, not Pinny’s.” Her voice is gentle, creamy, but I am still crying. I want them. Want them so much. Want to be pee-oh-neez.