We are silk people. That’s what I tell the dipshits at my new high school, but they call me
Spider-Girl. They yell, Hey, Spider-Girl! Tarantula-Breath! Arachne! Because in Tarpon Springs, everyone’s Greek. A tourist might think it’s a sweet nickname, but the rest of us know that before becoming a spider, Arachne hung herself, which is exactly what I’d do if it wouldn’t give them all globs of satisfaction. They’re sponge people, the legacy of this stupid town, and my father always says, Never trust a sponge diver. Bottom feeders.
At home, I get lost in cleaning silk, plucking debris before twirling the gossamer strands until they’re strong enough to wind around spools. But at school, I help Mrs. Papadakis organize the art room and fantasize about letting loose a Rose-haired Chilean in Alexa Ballas’ backpack. We had a good life in Soufli, my family’s silk museum in the center of town, but people stopped caring about 75-year-old looms. So now we’re here, and nothing makes Alexa smile like making me feel like crap.
Alexa’s dad is King Sponge, half the harbor’s his, and maybe that’s why the adults around here can’t see her right. She could be chewing glass, spitting blood, and they’d let out long awwwws, maybe toss her a twenty.
She only hit me in the face once, my cheek split like an overripe fig. When my yia-yia saw me, she thumbed a wad of cobweb into the wound. I know, I know. But it worked.
In the art room, I drag my finger along the smooth edge of a bowl that’ll be someone’s ashtray because that’s how the world works. And there’s something about this perfect hunk of clay, the way it’s a fraud, that’s got me shaking when Mrs. Papadakis comes in.
When she asks what’s wrong, I want to spill my soggy guts but can’t. She looks like she cares—eyebrows pinched and pointed—and hell, maybe she does, but telling her that I’m wrung out from hating, that the town’s darling has something rotten at her center, would only bring trouble.
I’m fine, I say, and look out the window, sure that if I make eye contact I’ll cry. There’s Alexa on the steps, smoking a cigarette she thinks no one sees. She lifts her foot and brings it down, grinding something into the concrete. I assume she’s stomping out her smoke, but when she takes another drag, I know sure as anything that she’s just killed a bug, something she thinks small and beneath her. I imagine running down there, my body changing with every step of the molt, this human skin a papery shell as I emerge, bigger, longer, my hairy legs bending now at all seven joints, the hooks at the ends of them gripping the sidewalk, my pace increasing, steady, steady, and then, a foot or so away, Alexa, the princess of Tarpon Springs, screams as I rear back, ready to strike, my arachnid legs looped like fiddleheads.
Printed with permission from Lisa Nikolidakis, copyrighted by Lisa Nikolidakis @ 2014. This piece, winner of the Fall 2014 Orlando Prize for Flash Fiction and selected by Finalist Judge Kristen Wolf, originally appeared in Issue No. 17 of the Los Angeles Review.