Growing up means you can nurse a wound however you want.

Lindsay thought this, hobbled on top of the sink like a contortionist, one foot in the air under the warm breeze of the hand dryer. The air, musty with germs, felt nice on her blistered foot. She had just popped the blister with the safety pin that attached her bra to the folds of her dress. This was probably unsanitary; she had no idea how many princesses had worn this costume before she did. Probably a lot. The thing most likely hadn’t been washed since the 90’s. But the blister was so sore, and when she walked around the park it was more of a hobble than a gait, and Snow White should always walk prettily. So she had to pop it. It was so satisfying when she jammed the rusting needle into the gyrating mass of skin and the clear liquid oozed out, running down her foot.

Her phone pinged with a text message from Kurt. “You cuming?” it read. There was a winky face spelled with a semicolon and a closing parenthesis after the message.

“Give me a minute,” she replied.

“There’s only 30 minutes left of lunch break.” Sad face. Regular colon, closing parenthesis.

Kurt played Peter Pan at HappyLand. He wore a purple leotard and musty yellow tights with a yellow hat. The costume had originally been green back when the park opened, but they dyed it a few years back; they were worried about getting a lawsuit from Disney. For the same reasons, Lindsey’s Snow White dress was pink and red, instead of primary colors like that of the animated heroine.

When she originally applied for the job, just for the summer before she started applying to colleges, she had wanted to be Cinderella. The Cinderella gig was the sweetest one because you got to ride around in a gold carriage protected from the sun. The other princess jobs were shitty, having to walk around the park in kitten heels in the sweltering heat.

However, on her first day, they told her that she had to play Snow White. “It’s only because you have brown hair,” Dave, the manager of Pennsylvania’s HappyLand, had said.

When she went home that night, she bemoaned how “if Snow White could wear a pink and red dress, Cinderella could definitely have brown hair.” Her mother patted her on the head and said, “Sweetie, you have too round a face to play Cinderella,” and that was the end of that.

Five years later, she had never gone to college and worked at HappyLand all year round.

Lindsay unwound herself and jammed the shoe back on her foot. The girl in the mirror looking back at her had a gigantic pimple on her forehead. She would have to come back and pop that one later.

Afterward, she would go to the break room, eat a single bite of jelly doughnut on the complimentary snacks table (that was their signal), and then disappear into the mostly unused costume closet. The costume closet held all the pieces that were no longer in circulation at HappyLand. In other words, it consisted of one costume: a giant animal suit of a talking mouse. Marvin the Mouse had been HappyLand’s original mascot, but he was removed due to a lawsuit from Disney. Their new mascot was Devin the Dalmatian, who was uglier than Marvin the Mouse had been, because white costumes stain easily.

The costume closet’s real purpose was this: the one place where Lindsay and Kurt could have sex during the workday. The sex, mostly oral (always him receiving, never her), was pretty mediocre. She didn’t have much to compare it to. She had only slept with four guys since living at home with her mother didn’t really give her many opportunities to date.

Most women probably wouldn’t have sex with Kurt because he was so skinny and effeminate-looking. These flaws were only heightened by the Peter Pan costume. The world’s general consensus on tights is that they aren’t particularly sexy on men, and Kurt definitely was not the rare outlier who could pull them off. But still, he was warm flesh, and she liked the way his finger sometimes grazed the mole above her left nipple.

Perhaps she liked him because of these feminine features. When Lindsay was a kid, she used to strip her Barbies naked and graze her fingers over their smooth crotches. Now, at 23, Lindsay sometimes quickly flicked her tongue up and down on her index finger, just to see if presented with the opportunity, she could successfully eat a woman out.

Perhaps she would have experimented with her sexuality if she had gone to college. But she didn’t and this area of Pennsylvania had more Confederate flags than gay bars, so she never ended up trying.

Once in the closet, her waist awkwardly jutted against Marvin the Mouse’s matted fur as Kurt rocked inside of her with his tights pooled around his ankles. There, she contemplated many things. The weather (if it rained tomorrow she would get to sit under a tent instead of walking around the park), her potential dinner tonight (a Big Mac from the drive-thru), and the meaning of life (nothing to speak of yet). She hardly even noticed when Kurt came, him exerting a great noise with his mouth to let her know he was through.

Lindsay bit back the urge to congratulate him on his two minute runtime, because if she did, he would probably take it with a serious reverence and try to high-five her. Kurt always liked to high-five after sex.

He was always interacting with others with such cheer, it was impossible to look at. She would see him prance around the park, fist-bumping kids and genuinely asking them how their day was. To Kurt, this job was not a punishment, but a reward. “I just love to see the smiles on their faces,” he had told her once, in a rare moment when they weren’t having sex.

Lindsay did not treat HappyLand with the same positive attitude that Kurt did. Sure, she smiled for the photos and begrudgingly talked to the children, but never with vigor. Her mind was always on the little slot of paper she would shove into the machine at 7PM each night, clocking out for the day.

***

“Let’s walk over to the Daring Dog,” Sarah said, hoisting her camera bag over her shoulder.

The Daring Dog was the biggest roller-coaster at HappyLand, but it wasn’t much to speak of. It was one of those premade ones that companies could come in and build for you. Lindsay had rode a similar one at the boardwalk when on a vacation to the Jersey shore. The Daring Dog used to be called the Magic Mouse, but was changed over at the end of the great Marvin-to-Devin saga. Sarah always suggested going to the Daring Dog when the princess business was slow. It was the end of August, so theme park goers were dwindling, and the repeat residents had already filled their quota of taking overpriced pictures with young women in Halloween costumes for the year.

Sarah had majored in photography at Bryn Mawr, and this was definitely a holdover job until she could make it freelancing doing wedding photography, and was usually pretty good at wrangling a few more guests. The Daring Dog was a great place to stand as it got the most foot traffic in the park, so any child that was coming off the coaster would see her and potentially want to take a $20 photo. It was a great marketing scheme, and Sarah liked to implement it often. She got two percent of profits off of any photo she took along with the minimum wage that Lindsay was making.

The photos weren’t the worst part of the job. In retrospect, Lindsay actually quite liked taking them. Especially the ones with the single dads. The single dads loved to be in photos. This was either for the reason that they wanted to show their ex-wives that they were doing fun things, like taking their daughter to HappyLand, or so they could show their friends the hot princesses over a beer later that night. Lindsay assumed that, usually, it was both.

What she liked about the dads is the way that they would look at her, size her up. Appreciatively. Lindsay had always liked the way her body looked, and could stare at herself naked in the mirror for hours. She liked the way her hips swerved out in an hourglass shape and the way her breasts fell. D-cups, but not the kind of D-cups that would increase her waistband size. She liked the way her hair fell just below her shoulders, and she liked the fact that she didn’t need to watch what she ate or work out regularly. She just looked like this. She also liked the way that her costume accentuated her body, and the way that the men would stare, but could not touch. She was a perfect picture of youth in her princess dress. Virginal, talking to kids, but the costume was low-cut enough that she could also be in an intro to a Pornhub video. The modest dress the damsel would wear before she got ravished. What Lindsay did not like was the way her face looked. She felt that she was one of those women who was made to suffer with “bag over her head” type comments. She did not like the way her eyes were the same shade of brown as her hair, or the constant greasiness of her skin. She hated the way that when she jutted her chin backwards, there was a little fold of flesh, something her mother less-than-lovingly referred to as her “jowl.” But still, Lindsay assumed that no woman felt entirely sated with herself, and relished in the pieces of herself that she deemed worthy.

Outside the Dog, Sarah chatted with guests while Lindsay rolled the ball of her foot back and forth, trying to get the pressure off of the blister. “Do you want to take a picture with Snow White?” Sarah asked a mother with three crying kids. The mother replied with a shake of her head and shoved the rest of her half-eaten churro into her mouth. In her other palm, she held one of those portable mini-fans with the attached water squirters. As the mother walked away, Lindsay wished so desperately that she would turn the fan towards her face, allowing her to feel the sweet curated breeze. She was in the process of realizing that she had left her underwear on the floor of the costume closet, so her nether regions were getting sweaty as well.

That’s when he came.

She noticed his daughter first. She couldn’t have been more than six and was wearing a Disney-brand Rapunzel costume that Lindsay assumed had been bought from the outlet store off of the Turnpike. When she saw Lindsay, she broke into that big smile that only girls who still believed in the tooth fairy could pull off. “Hello!” the girl shrieked, toddling up to her. That’s when her eyes met his. He was a portly guy, khaki shorts and polo shirt, with a ginger beard. She wondered if the carpet matched the drapes. Her eyes flicked down to his crotch, which was being blocked by a sizable fanny pack. Single dad. He must have had to carry all the snacks on his own. Poor dude.

“Why, hello little princess! How are you?” she cooed to the girl. During this exchange, Sarah performed her ask for the upteenth time that day. “Do you want to take a picture with Snow White?”

The girl responded in the affirmative with some excited babbling about Snow White’s dress, shoes, or eyes, but Lindsay did not take her eyes off of the father. He was standing about a foot away, waffling with the decision of “to photo or not to photo,” only glancing at his daughter occasionally. His gaze, instead, was fixed on Lindsay. They were in a sort of a stand-off. An “if you want to fuck me, you should pay Sarah for a photo” stand-off. She had these sorts of battles quite often. She usually won.

This time, the answer was in the affirmative (of course it was). After forking over $20, the little girl was positioned in front of the princess skirt and the father was standing on Lindsay’s left side.

“Okie-dokie. one…two…three…say ‘cheese!’”

In the brief moment between one and two, the father managed to snake his hand away from grazing her waist and pull the material of her pink skirt upwards. The cheap polyester fabric rolled up easily and little bits of static popped against Lindsay’s calf. In the briefer moment between two and three, he placed his hand directly on her underwearless ass, pawing at her crotch when he realized there was a lack of fabric there.

“Cheese!”

***

Her mouth had made a perfect “O” shape when he placed his hand on her. The shape was so shocked, so different from the usual plastered-on smile she wore in pictures. Sarah immediately noticed something was up and reported it to Dave.

Dave’s office was hotter than the outside and smelled like tuna fish sandwiches. Lindsay sat in one of his rolling chairs, focusing intently on her shoe where inside her blister was undulating. Dave kept repeating that he did not want to get the police involved; HappyLand would not survive a headline in the Inquirer that read “Local Princess Molested on the Job.”

But without the police involved, Lindsay couldn’t help but wonder about the purpose of this meeting. The father was sitting across from her; his feet, packed in Nike sneakers, were crossed almost like a bashful schoolchild. This experience reminded her of being sent to the principal’s office as a little girl. However, this time, she knew she was in the right. But for some strange reason, it felt like both her and the dad were being punished.

“Heard what happened. You Okay?” Kurt texted. She didn’t respond.

The father groaned at the text alert sound. “See! She’s on her phone! She doesn’t care!”

This made David roll his eyes in her direction. “Lindsay, you reported the incident; you should be present in this meeting.”

“I didn’t report the incident! Sarah did!” She motioned towards the door, which led to the hallway where Sarah was currently sitting with the man’s daughter. To be completely honest, Lindsay wasn’t sure if she would have reported it if Sarah had not. She knew, on a moral and legal level, that what had happened was wrong, and she felt every molecule of her body twitching with a newfound fear of touch. But it wasn’t that big of a deal, right? Rape was rape, and this was something else. She reveled at all the other dads’ looks and leers on a day to day basis. Did she have the right to be repulsed by their touches?

She would probably have to go to therapy for this. The thought made her want to vomit.

She imagined the office of the therapist her mother had made her go to in grade school, where she played board games while the woman pried her for details on her parents’ divorce. She pictured herself there, a grown woman crammed onto a tiny plastic chair, playing a game of Operation. Except on the operating table there was a cartoon version of her. She kept missing the little plastic heart with the tweezer. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. She was trying to explain to the therapist that it was sort of nice, even if just for a moment, to be wanted by someone away from this place. A man, who had probably been attractive in his youth, rather than a permanently pimply 28-year-old in mustard yellow tights. That his touch was so disgusting, but she was probably a lesbian, so it would have felt that way with any man, even if it were consensual. She kept hitting the metal barrier with her tweezers, making her clown nose light up. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. The blister at the bottom of her foot kept throbbing. Pulsing.

She wasn’t exactly sure what Dave was trying to gain from this interaction. He was using business jargon, speaking circles around what he was calling “the incident” and “the altercation.” His long speech winded down to a grand finale: the father and his family would be permanently banned from HappyLand and all HappyLand-related enterprises.

“You think we’re ever coming back to this dumbass theme park again?” the man asked. “She wanted it! She wasn’t even wearing underwear!”

“You weren’t wearing underwear?” Dave asked.

Lindsay shrugged, wanting it all to be over with, and texted Kurt, “I’m good. It’s bullshit.” She needed to be out of this tuna fish-smelling room. She was going to gag.

Her wish was granted. The man collected his things, shoving them into his fanny pack, and left the office.

“See you around, Princess Butterface.”