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You’ve never felt more like your mother.
In your peripheral, a silver blur; Harrison’s ring. You’re prepared for the fast approaching
flesh. And the numb feeling that will soon wash over your face. This is not new. The
complacency has become more painful than the blow.

You met Harrison on your nineteenth birthday. At a club in the city. You never liked the
city, or clubbing, but your friends wanted it so bad and you hated to disappoint. You loved to
dance, but the music was never right. Real dancing, not the repetitive jumping that typically
accompanied screaming teenagers and rap lyrics. You did one round of shots together before
your girlfriends migrated closer to the DJ.

You sat at a high top, crowded with abandoned drinks,
alone for the longest three hours. Nineteen and stupid, you drank all that the tables predecessors
left behind. Several men approached, eager for their slimy tongues to enter sweet scented
innocence. Deflecting them was easy, even fun. They were all nineteen or twenty, and dumb.
Harrison took a different approach.

He flirted shamelessly but did not brag. You found it
admirable that he did not sit immediately. That he waited for you to give him the okay. You
welcomed his company, it relieved you of the wandering strangers that kept interrupting your
thoughts. He listened and complimented, personality not appearance, and inched closer until
your knees brushed. The brush grew firmer, knees became thighs. You made a mental note to
thank your girlfriend for lending you the too short, tight black dress. You never saw her again.
The leather made you invincible and the length powerful. Simply uncrossing your legs would,
expose your yellow panties.

They were more your style. You were very aware of the power your
body held and how it intimidated boys. But not Harrison. You liked the challenge.
At nineteen, you found personality inconsequential if the boy was over twenty-five or six
foot. Harrison was both. Ill matched or not, he knew how to charm, and you felt hot. And finally

You remember sitting in silence for nearly ten minutes while Harrison watched you
finish the drink he bought. Unwavering eye contact. It made you feel insecure. And flustered.
You were always aware of your beauty, even confident, but the weight of his eyes on your face
made you feel like a child. But less safe. And that was exhilarating.

You didn’t bother to find your friends before leaving- what ever became of them?
Harrison’s car was not classy, but you were tipsy enough not to care. Nineteen and
stupid. Harrison’s apartment was clean. He had a big flat screen and organic fruit in a bowl and
surround sound speakers and lived in the city. Things typical of most adults, but you were too
young to realize he was not special.

You woke up early; only four hours of sleep. Probably because of the warm, steady throb
pressed against your low back. You shimmied up closer to the headboard, eyes shut as though
still asleep, your ass now resting lightly on his hipbones, caressing the hard swell in between.
You let yourself to drift back to sleep, fully intent on dressing and leaving when the sun came up.
Never seeing him again; never calling him Harry.

The time came and you got up, moving lightly. But the bed was empty. On his pillow, a
yellow post-it: “Good morning, explore as you wish... XO.” The sharpie bled through on the XO
and the sticky note was lined but the words were still slanted. You planned on leaving after a cup
of coffee. He had an espresso machine. It took forever to turn on, so you played some music. It
echoed throughout the house.

He had half a dozen Fleetwood Mac records and the shiniest
turntable. He was the first boy who had the same taste in music as you. You finished making the
coffee, then migrated to the sectional. Eyes closed, time melting. Around noon, a firm grapefruit
stared you down from the kitchen. You remember briefly wondering if Harrison would notice its
absence. Your stomach outweighed your etiquette and one grapefruit mushroomed into a
grapefruit and a banana.

You threw the pit and peel out the window for the squirrels and birds.
You had never been so increasingly self-aware; full of pure, unapologetic bliss.
Something you had rarely experienced in childhood, or adulthood. Adulthood, at that point,
having been the one teenage year you experienced since technically becoming legal.
You decided to stay.

There’s this story your grandmother used to tell you. Probably a disguised stab at your
mother. For not fulfilling her potential; in life and as a parent. For choosing fear over pleasure. It
was a story about elephants.

A man went on a walk and passed a field of elephants. He noticed that they were standing
in line despite a lack of fences and chains. All that confined them was a frail rope tied around
their ankles, attaching each enormous creature to the one before him. The man, baffled, sought
out answers. He came across a cottage belonging to the keeper of the elephants.

When questioned, the owner explained that, as young elephants, the thin rope effectively confined
them. Thus, they stopped attempting to break free out of belief that they were still restrained by
the tether.

Stared in the face by complete freedom, yet utterly naïve.
You never used to feel as though the story applied to you. Because you were aware of
that which restrained you. But then years of unhappiness and abuse slipped by and you were still
with your captor. And now you have a kid and he is too old for you to leave without having to
explain. If you left, the kid would remember his father. And miss him. For the rest of his life he
would wonder what happened to Harrison and wonder if it were his fault.

Harrison came back before six. He seemed pleased that you waited. He grabbed you by
the hips and picked you up. Your legs, usually unproportionate and lanky, felt small and not at
all too long as you wrapped them around his narrow torso. You’d always liked bony men. Dull
green eyes too. You squeezed in kisses between laughs.

Moments later, your back was to the hardwood floor, eyes glued to the ceiling fan, with
its quiet hum, mouth breathless and smiling. Out of the corner of your eye, you could see the
orange sky beyond the window, clouds tinted pink.
It was then, on the very first morning after meeting Harrison, that you decided to love
him. You were nineteen and stupid, unknowing that love was not a decision. You never tried to
simply understand him. And many years passed before you realized the love you thought you
once felt was only lust.

After five weeks together, you got pregnant. Harrison was a gentleman, so naturally he
proposed. Then came the honeymoon, quick and cramped, in the backseat of his old matte black
Honda. Fucking was made awkward by your stomach; a physical dam, draining the scene of
passion. You too could be selfish. You wished for the baby to come so you could feel loved and
supported again. To come and fix what was mangled and irreparable.

From the start, you liked the way Harrison said your name. As if it were two words: Molly.
Taking a slight pause in the middle to smile. A wicked, striking smile. When you were
pregnant and when you had the baby and when postpartum depression hit you the hardest, he still
said your name like Mol-ly. It was only after the kid turned two that Harrison got greedy, that his
voice became poison. When you said you didn’t want a second child, he would hiss your name
so sharp, so nasty. And that’s when you lost him. Or rather, you lost the lust.

But the image was never lost. You had made friends, couples with young kids too. You
were Harry’s Molly. Even greater, you had no passions. What would you do for work? You
never went to college and your only job experience was as a barista for a year in high school.
You’d lose stability if you left. But not separating meant Harrison constantly drunk and horny
and trigger happy; fists, feet, sometimes vases or spoons, toy trucks. You would be a terrible
mother if you valued your own wellbeing above that of your child.
You decided to stay.

Harrison’s balled hand makes contact. The curve of his wedding band imprints your
cheek. You collapse, back to the cold hardwood floor, eyes following the nauseating movement
of the fan, mouth breathless and bloody. Swollen. Outside, the clouds pour. You are not beautiful
You are your mother’s daughter.

Hello all! My name is Maya Mills and I am an English Literature major at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO. I am originally from a small town in Florida called Jupiter. My favorite book at the moment is Atonement by Ian McEwan, but it's always changing! I am so thrilled to be sharing my short story with the public and would love to hear feedback. 

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