The train ride was long. And the four of us sat just like mom had told us, with our legs parallel and touching, squeezing our thighs tight enough to hold a nickel under knee-length skirts. There were bad men on some of these cars, mama always said. There were men who wanted to take advantage of us and we had to keep our distance. More than anyone, it was those shorter girls who got into trouble: the thirteen year-olds who dressed like loose women and wore metal belts, hanging low-cut shirts—the kind of girls who like to show their bare legs, who sit in the back of church.
The youngest, Lorietta, picked at the ribbons in her hair. Reaching over to her seat, I slapped her knee fast and hard. Grandma was sick, I said, and mom wanted us to show her what good, young women we’ve grown into.