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A pussy-ass princess 

Friends to the rescue

I don't feel like getting naked in front of Grant, especially if it's just for the sake of garnering some sympathy. "I swear, I'm covered in bruises," I tell him. "Just trust me."

"Like hell, you pussy-ass bitch," he bitches at me. He's still mad at me for making him worry last week when I fell 20 feet off a ladder and landed on my face. "Need I remind you," he continues, "your ceiling is not 20 feet high. Last time I measured my ceiling, it was just under 16 feet."

"My ceiling is not your ceiling," I shriek, or try to, anyway, as my face still hurts on account of all the falling I did on it. Funny, but it's hard to frown when half your face is covered in scabs. It's like having a layer of dried magma over your features, and you don't want to get too expressive for fear of cracking the crust and unleashing what's roiling underneath. "Your face is not covered in scabs," Grant says, "just your chin. And your ceiling is my ceiling. I have the exact same ceiling only two doors down."

I still say it's not the same. Maybe when you are on the bottom looking up, it doesn't look very high, but when you are on the top looking down, especially when you are falling down, it's a damn chasm. "You try falling off your fucking ceiling and see how high it seems," I laugh, and I surprise myself because all of a sudden I feel like crying. I didn't even cry when I had the accident, but now I just want to sit down and jibber, and not because my face hurts. I can handle pain, I think.

I can handle anything, I think, which might be my problem. Last week, I agreed to read my girl "Rumpelstilskin," that miserable fairy tale in which the miller's daughter is imprisoned by some ass-tard and forced to spin straw into gold "if she valued her life." But I read it only on the condition Mae study the postscript I always include at the end of these awful yarns. "If you're ever trapped in a castle, are you gonna sit there and cry?" I implored. "No. You're not. You're gonna keep your wits and find a way out, right?" I pointed to one of the illustrations. "Look, here, see the creepy little Rumpelstilskin walking through the door? The door is open, and what is she doing? She's just sitting there. What are you gonna do? You're gonna kick the creepy little man in the crotch and run past him, right? You're gonna escape, right? And what's the worst mistake she made? She married the king, the same selfish pig who put her in the dungeon in the first place. Don't ever, ever do that!"

Jesus God. And I won't even go into Rapunzel. What a useless pussy-ass idiot she is, sitting at the top of a turret looking forlornly into the horizon for someone to save her. "You're gonna cut off your own damn hair and climb your own damn self down, right?" I tell my girl. Her response, usually, is to roll her eyes like they're loose in her skull.

She's right, I can be high up there with my indignation over the prince-coming-to-get-me concept, then something happens like today, when Mae decided she wanted to open a lemonade stand. Her sign itself was awesomely flawed. "LEMOade," it read in raspberry candy stripe, with crude little lemon-slice finials dancing in the borders. She hung it across our door and opened up shop, with an upended laundry basket serving as the counter space for her wares. She had arrayed a few stools out front as well, in a nice welcoming pattern, fully expecting to be flocked with customers, which was optimistic considering we live on the first floor of an old factory with meager walk-by traffic. Regardless, Mae's face was bursting with such eagerness and joy, it practically paralyzed me with anxiety.

Because you do not know the meaning of angst until your child is on the verge of facing certain disappointment, when the openness with which she welcomes the world is in danger of being slapped away like naughty fingers off a cake plate. You would do anything, I tell you, to stave that off, to create a pocket of air so her trust can survive a little longer in a world normally polluted with snarkiness and guile. "Keiger, help," I whispered into my cell phone. "Mae opened a lemonade stand in our hallway. Can you please come and be her customer?"

He was there in exactly five minutes, just in time to banish any molecule of uncertainty that might have crept into my daughter's eyes. "Boy, I sure am thirsty," he bellowed as he came down the hall. At that Mae perked up like a kitten at the sound of a can opener. A flurry of other customers came as well, neighbors and other people prompted by Keiger. They took a seat, asked for refills and commended her product. I was so relieved. I know the day will come when the world doesn't answer my daughter the way she hopes, and like any parent, I live in dread of the powerlessness I'm bound to feel before her disappointment. But not today. Today my friends rescued me from that. Today my daughter's pride in herself is so pure and beautiful, it's enough to make me sit here and cry like a pussy-ass princess trapped in a castle.

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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