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Coming of Age Sad Fiction

Trigger Warning: Alcohol, Suicide

I will always remember the first time I held my daughter. She is so tiny, eighteen inches and seven pounds. This little baby in my arms seems so fragile, so easily hurt, and she has become my entire world. From this moment, I promise myself and her that I will do whatever it takes to keep her safe. My nose is not six inches from her tiny, wrinkly pink face when she opens her striking green eyes, already fringed with thick, dark lashes, and blinks up at me. She opens her little mouth, red and toothless, and lets out a surprisingly loud cry. I freeze. I have been holding my daughter for not five minutes, and already she is crying for something I can’t provide. A mother’s milk.

I sit on the corner of the hospital bed as she nurses, my arm around my wife’s shoulders, the three of us the image of a happy, complete family.

“What a terrible thing to do. And with her daughter still so young.” I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to block out the muttering. It doesn’t work. Can’t they see that they, too, have failed her? I feel a small hand in mine, tugging, and look down at my daughter. I tried (and failed) to braid her hair this morning, and she stands next to me in a green, Victorian-looking dress. Her eyes seem to take over her entire face, and I can feel the word before it leaves her mouth: “why?”

“Daddy, you smell bad. And we are going to be late.” She is right, of course, on both accounts. She takes the glass from my hand and dumps it in the sink, before shoving my shoes and coat into my hands. I am distantly aware of how backwards this is. I am supposed to be taking care of this seven-year-old beyond her years, not the other way around.

“I am sorry, my little bird, do you have your wings?” She has dressed in all blue for the second-grade play at school. I know that she is supposed to be a blue jay, but at the moment she just looks like a small, angry blueberry.

When the red velvet curtain opens and the birds dance across the stage, I notice that I am the only parent who didn’t give my daughter a coat of red lipstick. She stands there, bare-faced, searching the crowd to make sure I didn’t leave.

I lose one job after another, and we are forced to sell our house and move into an old apartment with an unreliable heating system. My daughter doesn’t complain, but she locks herself in her new bedroom with headphones in place and doesn’t come out for hours. I sit on the kitchen floor, trying to ignore the stained grout and chipped tiles. I watch our frozen lasagna cook in the microwave, a bottle on one side of me and a glass on the other. Tomorrow, I tell myself, tomorrow I will get my life together. The thing about tomorrows is, you can always wait until the next one.

I sit in the main office of my daughter’s school, and feel as though I am twelve years old again, being scolded for something I have done. My little girl, no longer so little, sits next to me, slumping in her seat, hair falling over her eyes.

“Sir,” says the middle school principal. Her hair is pulled into a painfully tight bun and she is leaning over the desk. Her breath smells like peppermints. “Do you know why I called you here today?” I shake my head. She sighs. “Your child has missed four days of school this week, and we haven’t received a message from you to excuse these absences.” I turn to look at my daughter, and she sinks further into her chair. “We understand that sometimes things can come up that might make a child need a break from school. However, this isn’t the first time it is happening, and we are beginning to worry that there is something else going on. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are in need of resources.”

We do not talk for the entirety of the ride home. She has headphones in, arms folded across her chest, ignoring every attempt I make at conversation.

“This is your fault, you know,” she says as she slams the car door shut. And oh God, do I know.

“Dad!” I shake the thoughts from my mind and meet a pair of intense, and impatient, green eyes. “Where’d you go? Can you zip me?”

She is standing in front of me and it startles me how tall she has gotten; the top of her head reaches all the way to my chin. “Right,” I say, “sorry”. I fumble with the zipper, catching it multiple times in the shimmering green fabric before I manage to close the dress completely. She turns around and lets the untamable locks of waving, near-black hair fall down her back. Another thing I was never able to help her with.

“How do I look?” she asks, and she looks so much like her mother with her wild hair and her eyes that have seen too much, I can’t help but wipe a tear from my own. But she is her own woman now, I see it in the fierce set of her shoulders, the steely humor in the quirk of her lips.


The doorbell rings and she rushes to open it. I have seen this boy before, I think. What was his name? Jack. He nods at me as he pulls my daughter in for a hug, and some ancient paternal thing stirs inside of me. All I say is, “keep her safe.”

“I promise,” he says, and I smile sadly at a memory from all those years ago. I know that in so many ways, I didn’t keep my own promise, and now she has learned to protect herself.

October 31, 2021 22:08

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1 comment

Emma Louise
22:13 Oct 31, 2021

Hi everyone! I know I haven't written in like, a long time. I have been really busy with school, and then I had a surgery on my hand that made it hard to type for a while. Anyway, thank you so much for reading. As always, critiques are welcome, or just stop by the comments to say hi!


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