My daddy's having an affair, Amanda tells me when she opens the door. The way she tilts her head makes her double chin triple. Her mom's on the couch crying into the phone. Freckles's ears drag on the floor and he slimes my ankles with his hot, stale garbage stink.
OK, I say, but I know it's a lie since my mom said only people on soap operas have affairs and steal each other's infants. It's summer so Amanda and her mom and older sister Kat who's anorexic watch Days of Our Lives every afternoon at 1:00. Mom won't let me come over until two.
Amanda grabs the Swiss Cake Rolls and we sit. Their kitchen has a walk-in pantry and an island and a trash compactor and a bay window where the sun always warms the table top. I can see Kat laying by the pool in her red bikini with a curled up paperback covering her face. Amanda peels off the chocolate, slides her finger through the split, drops the white cream into a bowl. She whips all three parts with a fork until it's the color of dog nose and eats it with a spoon. Freckles lays on my feet but I don't kick him off, then feel the thousand pins when I stand up.
I help Amanda pull the refrigerator box of Barbies from the attic and turn on the mixed tape. Amanda says Tracy, Elaine, and Derek are having a love triangle. She turns up the volume on the first song, pushes Tracy's hard boobs against Derek's chest on I'll be your friend, then replaces Tracy with Elaine on I'll be your lover. We used to fight over Derek. He looks just like Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys. Now I'm always Western Barbie because she has a horse and a blue eyelid that winks if you push the square button on her back. I'd rather go swimming but don't say anything.
Later, laying in my bed with the moon shining jail cell bars through slits in the blinds, I turn the words over and over on my tongue, love triangle, love triangle, thinking about my dad and the red head.
Then her dad brings home McDonald's and they eat in front of TVs in separate rooms. Kat slams the bathroom door. I stay a little while, just because. Amanda has this thing about ketchup. She keeps a bonus size bottle in her room and squirts it on everything.
Beth Keefauver has taught creative writing at Warren Wilson College, Western Carolina University, and University of Tennessee, where she earned her PhD in English and Creative Writing. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Pisgah Review, Blue Lotus Review, Press 53 Blog, ISLE, and Grist, where she is a former fiction editor. Beth lives and writes near Asheville, NC with her husband, toddler, and cat.