**trigger warning: domestic violence, miscarriage**
The sun is bleeding into the horizon, sending angry bullets of light out towards the clouds as if to rebel against its demise. I want to believe that it will rise again, but I’ve seen it set too many times to have faith in its rise.
It is a spring evening, and I am walking with my daughter, who is seven turning on twenty. She is too young to be asking me why I am leaving her father. She is too young to be asking me why I am wandering around an empty park when I have a home. She is too young to be wondering where the bruises come from.
Yes, yes, darling, it is cold out. Here, take my sweater, no, I am not cold. But don’t stomp like that, darling, you will wear out your shoes, and those little wellies look so cute on your feet.
She stomps her little pink wellies on the pavement, even as I scold her for doing it. I know she is just being silly, and I pat her head softly, feeling the softness of her blond hair under my palm. She giggles and grabs my hand, trailing the pads of her fingers over my hand as if she were a palm-reader. She reminds me that I need gloves, that is too cold out, even though she is not wearing gloves herself.
Darling, gloves are expensive.
No! I have money, money saved up from… from… from- watch where you are stepping!
The fact is that I don’t have money. I’ve been trying to save up money but between the hospital visits, the gas money, and my husband’s insatiable lust for beer, I barely have seven cents to spare. I can sell my engagement ring, right?
Yes, darling, now I remember. I did throw my engagement over the bridge last week, so I suppose I can just sell my clothes. Can I sell my hair? I used to sell my plasma in college, that was good cash. I needed cash then. I was pregnant with you, darling girl.
Anyways, your father got laid off last week, so I really should be there to support him until he gets a job. He always looks after me when I am hurt. Even if he is the one to hurt me. He always gets me those little chocolates I like with the money we don’t have. Oh, but it’s the thought that counts, darling! You will understand when you marry someone.
Because marriage is like that, right? There’s a bit of uphill, but the downhill is, well, down. The way I see it, it’s like riding a bike. Sure, you can go uphill, but it’s quite a bit of fair work. Downhill is easier. Until you are at the bottom and don’t remember getting there.
Darling, don’t touch that, or we will have to go wash our hands. Why? Because someone’s doggy used the bathroom and forgot to clean up after itself!
She’s so curious. She reminds me of myself when I was younger, feeling the golden pavement with her hands if only to lap up its warmth, observing caterpillars and leaves with a kind of reckless enjoyment that worried the ones around us.
It feels like an us. It’s us against the world, I would say to her, feeling my swollen stomach and imagining that I was stroking her back. It’s us against the world, I would whisper to her, collecting beer bottle fragments from the floor after a long night. It’s us against him, I now tell her, grasping her small hand like it’s the only thing that matters.
It’s twilight now, and she draws closer to me, away from the demons that lurk in the shadows. It’s hard to see her face now, and her touch feels lighter on my hand. Darling, don’t be scared.
It’s easy not to be scared when you have to be brave for someone else. When he was drunk with rage and stale beer, when he left bruises that I couldn’t hide with makeup or clothing, when the man I fell in love with dripped away, I told myself that I had to be brave for her. For us.
I have to be brave now. I walk faster now that the shadows stretch out, wiggling their fingers ominously at us. Darling, we are almost there. We are walking in the park, playing game after game. She wants to go home. I want to keep playing this game, this game where I pretend that I will leave him, this game where I pretend like we have a different home, this game where I pretend that there is something for us.
It was a spring evening, and I was cleaning our apartment while scavenging for a dollar bill or coin that must have missed my attention. I was three months behind on my mortgage payment, and it felt easier to pretend like I was missing something that was never there in the first place. He was at work, and it was his work night out, so I could relax a bit more. I decided to put on some music while I was cleaning/searching, when I heard the front door open.
He had been fired, darling. He was so angry, I’ve never seen him like that. There were nights where he would soothe my tears seconds after causing them. This was not one of these nights. He was drunk and just so angry. He began smashing picture frames and wine glasses and the few belongings we had, and I knew better to dissuade him. I would’ve. Before you, darling. But I knew I had a little life in me, so I ran to our bedroom and locked the door. He was angry at first, pounding on the door with his fists, threatening my life. I heard more smashing.
Then, he started crying, saying that we were in this together. And I just wanted you to have a father, and he sounded sorry, so I let him in. And he went on his knees and hugged me, and we cried together like that for a long time. It felt right, so I told him I was pregnant. Darling, oh darling, I am so glad you could not have felt it. We were just seven weeks, and a baby does not begin feeling pain until it is 8 weeks old in the womb.
You would have been seven today.
It is darker now. I try to hold your hand, but you are slipping. No, don’t go yet, darling, hold on. It’s us against the world, remember?
You would have been seven today.
The light drains from the sky, and I cannot see where the darkness ends and the shadows begin. I cannot feel your hand anymore, so I close my eyes and will myself to believe that you are still here.
It’s us against the world, right?