That was why! Yes. She’d stepped in because she was sick of pretending she couldn’t hear, and that Priestly didn’t know he was being heard. That was really the worst insult of all, the pretense of impunity, insularity, whatever you wanted to call it. It was easy to ignore bullshit like “I told you not to talk to him” or “Where were you last night?” or “Look at me when I’m talking to you” when it was at school and there was a ten minute passing period, but this was retail: At least talking out of your ass
occasionally had consequences here.

It came out of Nyssa’s mouth in a way that seemed totally unbidden. The words hadn’t originated in her head, but somewhere around her stomach, and they came out deep and sharp. Like her brother, Nyssa could bark, too.

“Hey. Asshole.”

Nyssa is the hardest character for me to write.

A good friend in an MFA program has said we absolutely can write about things we haven’t experienced, which is fortunate, since I have not experienced all that much in my life. No examination of… the things I’m examining in this book… can work without a look at how authority falls on females, and Nyssa is the third character who rounds out the perspective of the main group.

I started putting more energy into making Nyssa’s story a central element, and really more energy into writing the story itself, after I wrote this newspaper article. The money quote there comes from an administrator at the local university who told me that her daughter, a teacher, insisted on teaching middle school because she said that’s the time when young women check out.

“‘Mom, I know that’s when I’m supposed to go stupid,” she said, meaning all girls. “We’re not supposed to be smart.”

Nyssa isn’t supposed to be smart. She isn’t supposed to be a loner. She’s supposed to be pretty, sexualized (but without having sex), demure, deferential. Spoiler alert: She will not behave as she is supposed to.


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