Because Mom doesn’t like Cara.
Because Cara wouldn’t let me on the Jellystone trip without “sufficient guardianship.”
Because at first, I was fine with quitting.
Because there was this girl in Cadettes, Noelle. She smelled like Origins makeup. She had a blue yarn hair wrap. She laughed at my vest, because it was store-bought.
Because Mom wouldn’t sew me one like the other parents.
Because Cara has one eyebrow missing, from a “beautification accident.”
Because Mom “didn’t want us around women who had beauticians.”
Because I told cookie buyers I was a state ward.
Because Mom wanted to go to a concert instead of Jellystone.
Because Cara told her she had a priority complex.
Because Cara didn’t say Mom had a priority complex, just raised her remaining eyebrow.
Because my hair was too nappy for a yarn wrap.
Because Mom didn’t know that after my lies about the ward, and the pity from mothers in “Life is Good” shirts, I was the troop’s highest-selling member.
Because Noelle threatened to tell someone about my sales tactics.
Because Mom debated slapping Cara for weeks.
Because she hated the kinds of women “who fought in public places.”
Because I threatened to scratch off her earth-toned foundation and leave a scar the size of a Tagalong on her neck.
Because Mom said she never got to do things with her friends anymore.
Because Troop meetings were during the times when girls in my neighborhood, with real makeup, would play in the park, past where I was allowed to travel.
Because all the Scouts came back from Jellystone with lice and an extra sense of duty.
Because Noelle finally told Cara.
Because Mom kept asking me how I thought real state wards would feel, because she kept saying the problem was I never thought.
Because I didn’t actually know how to leave a scar on someone.
Because Mom didn’t believe Cara at first and made good on that temptation to slap her.
Because the girls in the park had beads on their braids instead of yarn wraps.
Because I got a bike instead.
Because I wanted, just once, to have the experience of riding down somewhere I didn’t know, somewhere I could get a new name, somewhere my mother wouldn’t follow me.
Gabriella Lott is a recent graduate of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities, and currently attends the University of Pennsylvania, where she plans to major in something impractical. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Litmus literary journal and Fiction Southeast.