Medusa Gets a Girlfriend

Nancy Hightower

            She smells of olives and honey every time she passes me in the temple, her long fingers lightly grazing mine. Like crushing on the cool girl, I’m not allowed to speak to her or even look her in the eye. She calls me servant in public but once, by the river, mouthed lover when she saw me—a virgin acolyte serving a virgin goddess. You play by house rules. Seventh-grade rules, which change depending on who has the best Instagram. When the sea god tells me to hold still and runs his hand through my hair, I obey. His other hand parts my knees and slowly spiderwalks up the length of bare leg until I whisper her name, like a curse, and run. He knows, like they all do, how to pursue without the chase. She begins to hear rumors. They call me slut and whore before I become monster, before serpents, not her kisses, grace the nape of my neck. It is years before she discovers the truth, years of my talking to stone menageries about her scent, her eyes, when finally her body presses up behind mine, one hand circling my waist while another sweeps away writhing tendrils. Her lips brush my ear with no apology or begging for forgiveness. Let him win, she croons, and we both know she’s no longer referring to the bully but the warrior who wants my head. Because this is seventh-grade immortality. She cups my breast, working away the fabric until she finds my nipple, teases it with a squeeze, then slides further down. The deepest cut…she grunts. Oh gods, I know. I know.

Nancy Hightower has published short fiction and poetry in journals such as Word Riot, Gargoyle, storySouth, Bop Dead City, Gone Lawn, and Prick of the Spindle. Her novel, Elementarí Rising, came out from Pink Narcissus Press in September 2013 and her first collection of poetry, The Acolyte, was published in 2015. She currently reviews science fiction and poetry for The Washington Post and teaches at Hunter College.