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DANDELION SUMMER
by Lisa Wingate

Genre: General Mainstream Fiction, Mainstream

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Despite the torn shirt and the bruises, Epiphany drew back, offended. “You don’t know DeRon. He scored more points in basketball than any high school basketball player in Dallas, last year. Every girl in school wants to be DeRon’s girlfriend.”

I suddenly wondered how I’d allowed myself to be drawn into such a ludicrous conversation. An old man knows nothing of high school romance. “In my day, there were standards. A boy was expected to behave properly. A young woman who thought anything of herself insisted on it.”

“Whatever.” Epiphany reached for the hat, wincing when her skin touched the fabric of the over shirt. “That’s not how it is anymore. You go acting like you’re some kind of princess, you can sit home by yourself on Saturday night.”

“Would that be the worst thing? To be home on Saturday night?"

Her thumb caressed the feathers on the hatband. “It would be in my house. I hate it there.” The words ended in a sigh.  “DeRon’s just…I just want someone to…want me around, you know?” Her chin trembled and she swallowed hard, then fluttered a glance my way.

I remembered something an elder colleague once told me when I was considering a position that would send me overseas, away from my young children for months at a time. “We all make trade-offs to get what we want. But no matter what you stand to gain, Epiphany, when the thing you’re asked to trade is yourself, the price is too high.”

Placing the hat and gloves into the box, she gave the contents a narrow look. “You don’t live where I live.”

“Admittedly, I don’t. But some principles are universal to the human condition.”

She frowned at me. “Who told you my name was Epiphany, anyway? It’s Epie. That’s what people call me now.”

“Why?” I turned to put the box back on the shelf, but then just stood holding it, instead.

“Because I like it. Because Epiphany’s a stupid name.”

“It’s a charming name.”

“Yeah, like somebody in charm school.” She pushed her hands onto her hips and smirked at me. “It doesn’t fit, you know?”

“I think it fits nicely. It’s the sort of name that sets expectation.”

She blew a puff of air, her eyes casting toward the ceiling in the way of an exasperated teenager.

“Do you even know what it means?” I asked. “The origin of your name…Epiphany?”

A shadow crossed her face, as if I’d hit upon a dark subject. “My mama just picked it out of a hat, I guess. It don’t… doesn’t mean anything.”

I continued on, despite her look of disinterest. I’d worked in Greece and Italy at different times. The name wasn’t so uncommon there. “It’s from the Greek, Epiphaneia, meaning ‘appearance’ or ‘manifestation.’ It hails back to the feast of the Epiphany in January. It was an important holy day, a special day. It’s a name to be proud of.”

Tilting her head to one side, Epiphany considered her reflection in the mirror, as if she were seeing something new. “Huh,” she murmured. “It means all that? My mama probably hasn’t got a clue.”

I stood behind her, watching her watch herself. “The point is that now you know.”