It’s Okay to Want by Ashley Jeffalone

She might have snuck the boy back out her window. She could have hidden the evidence of her sins and thought more carefully about how she’d lie. But Olivia was fourteen and scared and stupid, so she gave into the pounding at her locked bedroom door, right away, and opened it with no underwear on.

Her father hastened inside to yank back her bedcovers, examine the looseness of her window, shout into silence. Beside the bed, he found the pants of a boy concealed in her closet—Leo, who was hidden behind Olivia’s crisp white communion dress and her band tees. Of the pants, she said I don’t know how those got there, and in the pocket of the pants, her father fished out a cell phone with a dying battery. Of the lock screen with her face on it, Olivia said I don’t know whose phone that is. But when he grabbed her by the front of her shirt (which she’d at least had the sense to put on)—baring the skin below, giving her up—she gave up. She raised a wobbly hand and pointed to the closet and said fine. There. Look there. And Leo inched out with his hands between his thighs, his black hair in his eyes, and Olivia grabbed the bottom of her shirt and pulled it down to hide herself too. Her father rocked back and forth on his feet to stifle the animal in him, slackened the tautness in his fists. The three of them stood there in their lopsided triangle, taking their measured breaths, all naked in one way or another.

Her father told Leo to get dressed, then took him out in his car. They drove mostly in silence, the boy whispering directions to the father—left. Right at the light. Sorry, one more right. When the two parked in Leo’s driveway, Olivia’s father looked at him, saw him. He told the boy about the time he was fourteen too, how he’d sat outside his sweetheart’s house at midnight, longing to rap on her window and come in, but hadn’t. It’s okay to want, he said to the boy who was not his child. It’s okay to want.

Miles away, Olivia sat in her bedroom, rigid under her blankets, still only half-dressed. She waited hours for her father to come home, waited months for the forgiveness she wouldn’t get. Because, to her, he’d never tell that story. To her, he’d never say a thing.


Ashley Jeffalone is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She received her Master’s degree in Literary and Cultural Studies with a creative writing focus from the University of Oklahoma. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Third Point Press and Wordrunner Echapbooks. She works in interactive narrative.

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