My sister’s name is Heimfreyja, but everyone calls her Freyja. “That woman,” she sometimes says, referring to our mother, “how could she stick me with a name like that?”
Mother once said that she named her after a saint, but she couldn’t remember which one. I like to think that she named her after the goddess Freyja, who rode into battle and claimed half the men killed.
Unlike me, my sister has green staring eyes, and an accent, a Marlene Dietrich voice, Unlike me, she is courageous.
When we lived in Germany, waiting for identity papers, kids chased her home from catechism, chanting, “Heim, Heimfreyja, Heim.” When she fell, they kicked her and spit at her. But she never let them see her cry.
At home, Mother looked at the bruises on her legs, the scabs on her knees and called her clumsy, messy-looking, and then, Mother gave her a slap on the back of her head. Freyja was always brave though.
Except that time in the bathroom when her underwear was coiled around her ankles, blood spots dripping down her legs, shaking her head back and forth. Mother gave her a wet towel. “Get cleaned up,” she said, telling her not to worry. “It happens to every girl. The change,” she called it. “Understand?”
At school, the teachers called her mischievous, careless, a hick, “Eine Bauer Deutscherin,” smacking the palms of her hands with a ruler.
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