a near miss or a close call

she comes to my register and she is all soft curves and freckled shoulders, a cascade of strawberry curls spilling to her back. and i think that she is beautiful- the most beautiful girl i've ever seen- even under these buzzing fluorescent lights that carve hard shadows and skeletal masks out of every face beneath them. and at first i can't tell that her stomach is swollen under her faded grey tank top, straining the thinning fabric as she lines up her purchases on the conveyer belt with shaking hands. and i'm so mesmerized by her long eyelashes that i think for a moment they cast blue-black shadows across her cheekbones. but those are bruises on her face. and bruises around her wrists. and bruises across her throat. then her items come tumbling through my scanner, three little bottles with a silent story. i ring up aspirin, covergirl liquid foundation, equate personal lubricant. she does not look at me, does not even speak, and pays with crumpled dollar bills. and i am trying desperately to find my voice- i have these words on the edge of my mouth- but the next customer is pushing a rotisserie chicken onto my scanner and she is walking away with an awkward, pained gait that collapses my heart completely.