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Velma is the First to Leave

by Emily Capettini

A full-ride scholarship several states away is her escape hatch. We loved your personal essay, a professor had said when she turned up for a college visit, the metaphor of a monster chase was very creative.

Daphne threw Velma a going-away party, decorated with orange streamers, and turned on every light in the house. People came, some to wish her luck, more to see off the woman who had put their father or uncle in jail, who had given police reason to seize their homes or savings, who watched her walk the school hallways, eyes like portraits. She was the problem, Velma knew–not rich or pretty enough, too smart, too independent, too dangerous.

“It’s no surprise,’ Daphne told her, “you’re the smartest of us, after all.’

Is it intelligence, Velma wondered, or certainty this town will drain us all? Will we too become middle-aged and cruel, let our traumas and anger fester, until it is our human faces that are the masks?

“What about you?’ Velma asked. “There’s still time.’

Daphne shrugged.  

Come with me, Velma wanted to say. Let this place die.

Instead, she holds a glass of orange punch, thinks about the pile of clothes she will give away when she leaves, about the day not far in the distance when she will leave this town with its fake walls and trap doors, where you can never be sure of your footing.