The night your mother got home from the hospital,

we ordered Chinese take away and ate dinner

inside my rust coloured truck.

I fumbled awkwardly with my chopsticks

while she laughed at my skill-less fingers.

I tried ignoring the fresh scars on her wrists.

The night your mother got home from the hospital,

I parked outside of the local little-league baseball field,

grabbed a navy blue plaid blanket,

and laid it under the stars for us.

She curled into me,

and my one arm automatically wrapped around her frail shoulders.

My large hand circled hers,

holding her open palm against my beating heart.

It was the best night of my life.

The night your mother got home from the hospital,

she kissed me so hard that it ripped our clothes and

intertwined our limbs so hard that we practically became one.

It was strange,

holding her like I loved her and actually meaning it.

There was no heartache behind it.

There was no hunger,

no need,

no ache to become whole.

It was like our completed forms melded together

to make something better,

more alive than we were when we were alone.

The night your mother got home from the hospital,

our hands folded together,

our scars lining up perfectly on two separate wrists.

It was the most I had felt complete in a long time.

The night your mother got home from the hospital,

my head rested against her belly,

the way it would each night for the next nine months to come.

.

The night I left the psyche ward,

I never expected your father to be there,

but there he was,

smiling like the sun.

I ran into his strong arms and

swore to myself that I would never leave them again.

The night I left the psyche ward,

I held onto his hand all evening,

never daring to leave his fingers alone.

He ended up having to use chopsticks with his

left hand because of my stubbornness,

but he didn't seem to mind.

It seemed like he enjoyed it as much as I did.

The night I left the psyche ward,

we lay on a warm blanket while

the mid summer breeze swam around us,

filling the air with freshly cut grass and dandelion seeds.

I kissed him,

and for once,

I didn't try to lose myself in him.

I tried to live alongside him,

loving him as much as he loved me.

Neither of us seemed surprised when

the soft rain kissed our bare skin,

dampening everything but our evening together.

The night I left the psyche ward,

my scars didn't itch.

I was not plagued with thoughts of death,

even when I looked down and saw how

our suicide attempts lined up perfectly on our skin.

I felt complete.

The night I left the psyche ward,

your father's head rested on my stomach,

his one arm tossed around my hips.

It was the first night we slept together as a family.

.

The night I found your mother in the bathroom

huddled over the toilet,

puking her organs out inside the porcelain throne,

I thought that I lost her again.

After her first suicide attempt since we started dating again,

a new paranoia was left inside the cracks of my being;

the fear of her leaving me again.

The night I found your mother in the bathroom,

holding onto our only upstairs toilet with all of her strength,

a part of me snapped.

I ran to her,

knelt next to her,

and tilted her face towards me.

I held her head in both of my hands,

I lifted her eyelids,

looking to see if any of her arteries burst.

I tried and failed to check her pulse.

She shook her head away from me and pushed me away.

The night I found your mother in the bathroom,

she furiously asked me what I was doing.

I somehow stuttered out that I was

checking to see if she was okay.

She knew that I meant that I was looking for

signs that she was trying to overdose.

She stood and shoved my shoulders,

crying out that she wasn't that fucking stupid.

She asked me if I really thought that she'd try to take her life again.

I couldn't respond.

The night I found your mother in the bathroom,

I followed her into our bedroom.

She was sitting on the floor,

fumbling through her purse,

mumbling about something I couldn't hear.

I approached her,

sat down,

and just as I was about to reach for her,

she shoved a positive pregnancy test in my face.

She told me that this was why she was puking her guts out,

not that she was trying to take her life again.

The night that I found your mother in the bathroom,

I cried tears of joy.

I scooped her into my lap and buried my face into her frail shoulder,

laughing uncontrollably.

She asked what was wrong with me,

and I didn't know what to say,

so I kissed her.

She pulled away,

looked into my soul with her soft hazel eyes,

and kissed me back.

We spent the whole evening talking about baby names.

.

The night your father followed me into the bathroom,

a new horror arose within me.

I knew I wasn't ready to be a parent yet,

and the looming aspect of ruining a child's life

turned my blood to lead.

The night your father followed me into the bathroom,

his rushed footfalls sounded like the dull thudding of my heart.

I didn't even know he was there until his

soft fingers were at my throat,

checking to see if my heart was failing yet.

My hoarse voice erupted from behind my trembling lips,

and before I knew what was going on,

I found myself in our bedroom,

tears threatening to cascade down my flushed cheeks.

The night your father followed me into the bathroom,

I ended up digging through my deteriorating bag,

looking for the pregnancy test I took in the

teachers lavatory at the middle school where I worked.

When I found it,

I couldn't think of how to tell him that

we were having a child together.

So,

instead of outright saying that I was pregnant,

I threw the pregnancy test in his face,

telling him that this was why I was

puking my guts out all of the time.

The night that your father followed me into the bathroom,

he cried tears of joy.

At first I thought he was angry at me,

at himself,

at the child that was growing between my hips.

When he started laughing,

his gargantuan smile lighting up his damp face,

my eyes started to waterfall.

He pulled me into his lap,

hugging me as close to him as I could possibly get.

The night your father followed me into the bathroom,

I asked him what was wrong with him.

Instead of responding,

he kissed me with the light of one thousand suns.

I had to pull away from him,

to figure out whether or not I was dreaming.

When I looked into his dark blue eyes,

leaking onto his tanned cheeks,

I saw that he was happy enough for the two of us.

So,

I kissed him back.

The night your father followed me into the bathroom,

we spent the whole night talking about baby names

while I died inside,

because I couldn't tell him that

I wanted the growth of cells inside of me

ripped out before I thought of it as human.

.

The night your mother cried herself to sleep,

she told me that she was afraid.

She was two and a half months pregnant,

and already she was convincing herself

that she was unfit to be a parent.

As much as I tried to assure her that she would be a wonderful mother,

I knew that she would never believe me.

So I stopped trying.

The night your mother cried herself to sleep,

she sat pretzel legged on our bed,

her back facing me.

I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her onto my lap,

hoping that my embrace would help soothe her aching heart.

I lay my head against her shoulder,

holding her closer to me when her words lessened into sobs.

The night your mother cried herself to sleep,

she beat her tiny fists against against my arms,

begging me to leave her.

She bawled until there were no more tears left to fall,

and she somehow managed to keep on bawling still.

Through the sobbing and the gasping and the begging,

I continued to hold her,

making sure that my grip never faltered.

The night your mother cried herself to sleep,

she succumbed to the sandman's song

while she was still in my arms.

I waited until she was pulled under by her own exhaustion

to tuck her under the covers.

When I crawled in behind her,

just before I lay down myself,

I noticed that her hand rested over her navel,

right where our kid was.

I tried to ignore the sense of hope that

blossomed inside my heart as my arms

re-wrapped around her and my hand rested on top of hers.

.

The night your father held me all night long

was one of the worst moments of my life.

I awoke in the morning to my shadow lover,

my depression,

chaining me to the head of our bed with

thoughts tears and triggers.

He told me that I could never be a good parent.

He told me that my child and my future husband

were both better off without me.

The night your father held me all night long

was filled with broken sobs and hoarse gasps.

My lungs were trying to collapse on themselves,

and by God I had wanted them to.

Your father's arms around me was the only thing

keeping me grounded enough not to

look for the knives in the kitchen

or the pills above the sink.

The night your father held me all night long

was stuck in a place between reality and a nightmare.

His chest against my back,

his arms around my waist,

his head against the back of my neck…

he did everything he could to placate me

without using words I would not listen to.

The night your father held me all night long,

I begged him to leave me.

I told him that he was better off without me,

that he could make a life of his own,

that he could finally be a peace without me in his life.

He listened to me as my words turned hateful and

my hands tried to rip his arms off of me.

Still,

he did not go.

The night your father held me all night long

ended in a blur.

I don't know when my consciousness left me,

but I distinctly remember waking up the next morning

under the covers with his arms circling me,

and his hand resting over where our child hid beneath my skin.

.

The night your mother snapped,

she packed a bag and left.

She took enough clothes for a week;

a single plate,

dish,

spoon,

fork,

and butterknife;

her favourite mug,

and the stuffed rabbit I got for her last Christmas.

She didn't leave a note,

and I wasn't expecting to hear back from her for at least a month.

The night your mother snapped,

I didn't expect her to leave.

I knew that her depression had worsened

since she found out that she was pregnant,

but I didn't realize how bad it had gotten.

I didn't realize that she had needed an escape route.

The night your mother snapped,

she had ordered in Chinese,

which should have been a warning sign.

She'd ordered Chinese the night she left me the first time,

and the night of her last suicide attempt.

I should have seen it coming.

The night your mother snapped,

I fell asleep with her in my arms.

When I woke up in the morning,

I was left with a cold bed and and a

feeling of guilt so intense that I almost slit my wrists.

Again.

.

The night I left your father

was the night I made one of the

worst decisions of my entire life.

It started off with ordering in Chinese

because I knew it was secretly your father's favorites.

It ended with leaving the only person that truly loved me.

The night I left your father

I woke up with gasping breaths

forcing in and out of my deflating lungs.

I checked to see if my nightmare was real,

if I had really slit my wrists

with my child in my arms.

It was terrifying to think that

in less than a year

my nightmare could become a reality.

The night I left your father

was full of sneaking around.

When he had started to stir,

I told him that I was going to the bathroom.

It wasn't even a lie at first.

I had planned to sit on the toilet for a few hours,

pretending that I had a reason to be as

far away from him as I could possibly get

without thinking of suicide.

Even I was surprised when I called my sister and

asked her if I could stay with her for a few weeks.

The night I left your father

was filled with regrets.

I regretted making it look like

I never even left while

making it look like I had been

planning my escape for a while.

I regretted writing a note,

even though I never left it for him.

I regretted not telling him where I was going.

I regretted not telling him that I loved him before I left.

I regretted not saying goodbye.

.

I'd like to say that

the first night without your mother

was the worst night of them all,

but then I'd be lying.

The first night without your mother

was the first night since her suicide attempt

that I didn't sleep a wink.

I spent the whole night staring at the white ceiling above my head,

wondering what colour ceiling your mother was looking at.

I wondered if she was sleeping better than she did when she slept next to me.

I wondered if she was sleeping in someone else's arms.

I was thankful that we didn't have a ceiling fan in our- no. My room.

The first night without your mother

my eyes burned with tears that

I refused to let flood over and

drown me in a mess of salt water.

I lay with my hands under my head so

I wouldn't have to stare at their trembling.

I made sure not to pace,

not to bawl,

not to sit up and

shake my leg so hard that

the whole house would shake along with my anxiety.

The first night without your mother

ended with a rainy morning.

She loved the rain.

At least the Gods were making her happy.

That was all that mattered-

that she was happy,

even if I was living in a world of misery.

.

The first night without your father was not the worst night of them all.

The first night without your father

sounded like a bomb went off behind

each of my eardrums.

The ringing in my ears never went away,

even after the endless hours of

attempting to cry myself to sleep.

If I'd only cry myself to sleep,

then I could finally succumb into the darkness.

The first night without your father

I stared at the ivory ceiling above my head,

wondering if he was doing the same thing in our-

his room.

My restless mind wandered aimlessly

through my depressing thoughts,

looking for the fastest way to leave the world.

I could do so many different things…

just not right now.

I need to wait until the growth of cells inside me

evacuates from the burning building that is my body.

The first night without your father

left me with bloody scratches on my arms from

where I tried to rip my skin off unsuccessfully.

It left me with an exhausted,

empty shell that used to be my body.

It left me with a sister questioning in the morning about

how the sheets ended up so bloody.

I told her that the demon inside of me had tried to escape,

and failed once again.

She almost believed me.

.

The first week without your mother

I did not go to work.

I called in sick day after day,

praying that the next morning I would stare at the ceiling in our-

my room,

and finally realize that I needed to move on,

or at least appear that way.

I needed to look like I was doing fine without her,

even though all I wanted to do was

wallow in endless misery until

my body finally surrendered to the reaper.

The first week without your mother

I did not eat.

I did not sleep.

I rarely even left the room to go to the toilet.

I never showered.

I never brushed my teeth.

I never changed my clothes.

I layed in a pile of dirty blankets in dirtier clothes,

wondering when I would gather up the strength to do

something with the pitiful life I was meant to continue living.

It never happened.

The first week without your mother

I allowed myself to act as lame as I felt inside.

The second week without your mother

I stepped outside of our-

my house for the first time

since she left me for the second time.

If only I had gone back inside.

.

The first week without your father

was not as bad as I thought it would be.

I expected to stay in in bed each day,

waiting for a reason to move,

to breathe,

to do anything but wish that I could reverse what I had done.

Instead,

I pretended to wake up,

I made breakfast for my sister,

and I dressed for work.

I took the bus to the middle school where I worked,

I acted as if I wasn't wishing for death's sweet kiss to

take me away every moment that I was alive.

I acted as if I were alive.

The first week without your father

I was grading my seventh grade english classes' papers

when the fact that I could never return to your father

hit me like a ton of bricks.

I had two seconds to move away from my desk before

the tears started to fall from my burning eyes.

The first week without your father

I hid under my desk during my lunch break,

crying,

until I had duty in the english corridor,

where I wiped my eyes so dry that I thought tears would never fall again.

The first week without your father

this pattern continued every lunch break,

every night,

every moment when I was alone.

I had never felt more alone,

even with a new person growing inside.

The first week without your father

I prayed for death each night before

I pretended to fall asleep for my sister's sake.

She would check to see if I was sleeping,

and every time my door opened a crack,

I would close my eyes and breathe so slow

that my head would spin.

She never asked in the mornings why my eyes were red with tears.

The first week without your father was horrible.

The second week without him was worse.

.

The first nightmare I had since your mother left

was roughly two weeks after the horrid event.

My eyes had closed against my will,

and I ended up in a pitch black room with

a dull light at the "end" of it.

Instinctively,

I started to run.

The first nightmare I had since your mother left

I ran so hard that I lost my breath,

and ran faster still.

I had to see what was at the end of this room of darkness.

I had to see what was making the light.

I had to see.

The first nightmare I had since your mother left

I started to slow when I saw a figure within the light.

But something was wrong.

There was a crimson tinge to the bottom half of the form

where a gash was pouring out scarlet.

The first nightmare I had since your mother left

I saw her face look up at me.

She was grinning manically,

the corner of her mouth dripping red.

Her eyes were darker than the black hole behind me,

and she cradled something in her arms close to her breast.

The gash continued to pour out blood,

too much blood.

The first nightmare I had since your mother left

I saw the dead eyes of my child staring up at me

from where they lay in my future wife's arms.

Their eyes were just as black as your mother's.

There was still too much blood.

The first nightmare I had since your mother left

had me forcing myself awake with

the horrified screams that erupted from my lungs

after I heard my first child beg me,

"Help me, Daddy."

.

The first time I fell asleep since I left your father

was during one of the tests I was giving my students.

I was grading papers about the novel they had just finished reading,

and my eyes closed for just a second too long.

The first time I fell asleep since I left your father

I dreamt of his eyes.

I was drowning in the depths of blue,

and I didn't even mind.

I was not only closer to death,

but I was closer to your father as well.

As long as I was drowning I was okay.

I was fine.

But even my best dreams end in tragedy.

The first time I fell asleep since I left your father

I ended up not only drowning in his eyes,

but falling into the blackest holes where

his demons his beneath the surface.

My skin started to itch the way his would

whenever he had anxiety attacks.

My gasping breath st-st-stut-t-tered in and

out of my failing lungs the way his would.

My eyes burned,

and eventually,

scarlet tears started to fall from my eyes.

The first time I fell asleep since I left your father

I was falling,

wind rushing past me at speeds that I'm pretty sure are impossible.

The wind that rushed past me sounded like

millions of speeding bullets passing me all at once.

The first time I fell asleep since I left your father

I fell into his strong,

cold arms.

When I looked up into his blue face,

I didn't expect to see the slowly forming decay where his skin used to be.

His eyes didn't blink.

The first time I fell asleep since I left your father

I woke with a start so intense that

I fell out of my wheely chair.

If my students hadn't started laughing,

I would have cried until there were no tears left to fall.

.

The night I decided to end it all

I went to the liquor store and bought two liters of Jack Daniels and

told the man at the counter that I was throwing a going away party.

He didn't get the joke.

The night I decided to end it all

I somehow made it to our-

my house without getting pulled over for drunk driving.

I stumbled into our-

my house and collapsed on our-

my bed…

Goddamnit,

I was sick and tired of pretending that

her presence still didn't dominate the house,

making it hers even when she was God knows where.

The night I decided to end it all

I found a brand new,

unopened bottle of ibuprofen and downed the whole thing.

I got halfway through the first liter of liquid courage before

I staggered towards the bathroom and emptied all of my organs into the toilet.

The night I decided to end it all

my broken voice erupted from behind chapped lips so hard that

the tatters of my throat ripped open and started to bleed.

My angry fists violently met the sides of my head,

ripping at the hair there and pulling out clumps of brown fluff.

My eyes waterfalled until my tears turned bloody,

and through the agony I still managed to cry more.

The night I decided to end it all

I prayed for death,

even though it never came,

at least not when I wanted it to.

.

The night I called your father

I knew that something was wrong.

Whether it was a gut feeling,

or the fact that I could always tell when he was doing something stupid…

I don't know.

But all I remember is the sudden rush of panic that

hit me after I got home from work roughly

three weeks after I left your father for the second time.

The night I called your father

he didn't answer his phone the first time I called.

He didn't answer the second,

third,

fifth,

tenth times I called.

I was about to give up when he finally answered.

The night I called your father

I heard him sob into my ear that

he didn't know where I was and that it

was literally killing him.

He begged me,

who he thought was my sister,

to tell him where I was.

He told me he didn't know what to do without me.

He told me that he would rather die than live without me.

The night I called your father

I hung up the phone without speaking a word.

With tears streaming down my face

I called the local hospital and

begged the nurse who answered to

send an ambulance to the house I used to share with him.

I hung up before I got my reply.

The night I called your father

I prayed to the God that I hadn't spoken to in years to

save the man I loved with all of my heart,

my soul,

my mind.

I pleaded to Him to save my number one reason for living.

I begged Him to save the reason why I hadn't

permanently removed the growth of cells living inside of me.

The night I called your father

I saw an ambulance rush past my sister's house with sirens blaring,

and for the first time in my life I hoped that it would arrive on time.

.

The morning I woke up in the hospital

I didn't know where I was.

The blinding light was streaming in full force though

windows that were left wide open.

The stark white ceiling above my head

bore down into my soul,

and I wondered why I wasn't rotting in the

Underworld for the sins I had committed.

The morning I woke up in the hospital

I cursed the Goddess for keeping me on Earth.

I grumbled,

"Goddamnit,"

and looked around the cream coloured room,

wondering how the hell the ambulance

who must have taken me here

even knew I was trying to kill myself.

Again.

The morning I woke up in the hospital

I thought of the pure irony that my situation held.

I was the one who sent your mother

here against her will in her dying moments,

and now I was in the same place.

Alone.

Still dying inside,

but no longer physically taking myself out.

The morning I woke up in the hospital

I wondered if your mother could have known,

could have figured it out,

could have guessed that I was in danger and

acted on her impulse.

I wondered if she still cared enough to try and save me.

I wondered if she had tried to save me the way I had tried to save her.

The morning I woke up in the hospital

I tried to ignore the hole in my aching heart that was

telling me that she didn't care anymore.

I tried to pretend that she still cared.

I tried to pretend that I still mattered to her.

The morning I woke up in the hospital

I broke down crying and

didn't even care when the nurses

sent me back to oblivion with

what had I wished was a lethal injection.

.

The afternoon I went to the local hospital to see if your father was there

I asked the nurses at the front desk if

your father had brought in the night before.

They asked why I wanted to know and

I told them I was his wife.

It didn't seem like a lie.

The afternoon I went to the local hospital to see if your father was there

the nurses took me to his room where

he lay unconscious,

his breathing shallow.

I somehow managed to wait until

the nurses left for the tears in my burning eyes to fall.

I didn't expect him to get this bad.

The afternoon I went to the local hospital to see if your father was there

I sat on the edge of his bed and

ran my fingers through his hair,

taking notice of the random bits that were missing.

I watched as his eyes moved behind his eyelids,

wondering what he was dreaming about.

I hoped that it was something good.

The afternoon I went to the local hospital to see if your father was there

he woke up slowly,

gently,

almost as if he was trying to stay in oblivion's loving grip.

When he finally opened his eyes,

he didn't expect to see me there.

The afternoon I went to the local hospital to see if your father was there

the hole I made in my own heart filled up with

so much joy that I threw my arms around him

and buried my face in his chest.

I didn't expect for his arms to wrap around me.

.

The afternoon I woke up and saw your mother sitting there

I thought that I was dreaming,

or dead,

or hallucinating,

or maybe something else entirely.

I didn't know which of the three to believe.

The afternoon I woke up and saw your mother sitting there

I could have sworn that my heart stopped.

I couldn't breathe,

think…

I couldn't do anything,

really.

I couldn't figure out why she was here.

I couldn't imagine how she knew that

I would be in the hospital,

and I didn't want to know either.

I just wanted to revel in the fact that I had

the opportunity to look up into her face and pretend that

she came here because she had actually wanted to see me.

The afternoon I woke up and saw your mother sitting there

I threw my arms around her small body and

held her close to my heart.

I practically pulled her into my lap,

and she laughed when I buried my face in her frail shoulder.

The afternoon I woke up and saw your mother sitting there

she asked my why I was such a fucking idiot.

I told her that I had finally admitted to myself that

she was the only reason why I hadn't offed myself before.

She started to cry.

The afternoon I woke up and saw your mother sitting there

I pulled away from her and wiped the tears

cascading down her flushed cheeks.

I stared into her soft brown eyes and

let my own tears start to fall.

Her hands reached up to cradle my face,

and I laughed when she called me an idiot all over again.

The afternoon that I woke up and saw your mother sitting there

I leaned my forehead against hers and

let all of the anger,

and moroseness,

and emptiness I felt inside melt away.

I held your mother in my arms because

I didn't know how much time I had left with her before

she left me all over again.

.

The night I asked the nurse if I could spend the night with your father

I almost expected him to say no.

I thought that after all of the pain that I had put him through

that he wouldn't want me to stay so close.

I thought that after he had attempted suicide because of me

that he wouldn't want me to anywhere near him.

I thought that I had finally done too much damage,

broken him too much,

had finally ruined things for good.

The night I asked the nurse if I could spend the night with your father

he reached out for my hands and intertwined his fingers with mine.

His one arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me closer to his side.

I looked over to see him staring at me.

I didn't know what to do.

The night I asked the nurse if I could spend the night with your father

she looked over to your father to ask him if he minded if

I were to stay with him the whole night.

He only said one word.

"Please?"

The night I asked the nurse if I could spend the night with your father

his strong arms held me while

our breathing slowed and

our heartbeats thudded in harmony.

It was the best night of my life.

.

The night I held your mother all night long

I asked her why she was here.

I asked her if I was hallucinating everything.

I asked her if I had made it up to heaven.

I asked her if I was insane.

I couldn't ask her why she had left.

If I knew…

I don't know what would have happened.

The night I held your mother all night long

my arm was wrapped around her waist,

my hand resting gently on her back.

I wanted her to know that she could leave anytime she wanted to.

I didn't want to force her to stay.

That would be so many different levels of wrong.

The night I held your mother all night long

her soft hazel eyes looked up into mine,

and I couldn't help but let a tiny sprout of hope

blossom in my chest.

I wanted her to stay.

I needed her to stay,

but only if she wanted to.

The night I held your mother all night long

she told me that she was really here.

She told me about how she knew something was wrong.

She told me how she had called the hospital and told them that

I was trying to kill myself.

She admitted to everything…

except why she had decided to leave me.

The night I held your mother all night long

her open palm rested against my beating heart,

and I felt more at home than I had in

what had felt like a lifetime.

I was finally holding my reason for living in my arms,

and I couldn't have been happier.

The night I held your mother all night long

she rested her head against my chest,

her palm still resting over my rapidly thudding heart.

She didn't seem to mind that I was wracked with anxiety.

Maybe she didn't care.

Maybe she didn't notice.

Either way,

she never let on to knowing about how

her presence made my heart want to

rip itself out of my ribcage and

force it's way into her hand where

she could hold onto it for decades to come.

I didn't need it anymore.

The night I held your mother all night long

I told her that I still loved. her.

She called me an idiot.

.

The morning I woke up in your father's arms

I didn't realize that he was still asleep.

My eyes opened to face the cream coloured walls

and a bright window overlooking a courtyard.

I wondered when your father would be allowed out there,

allowed to wander around aimlessly while waiting for a dismissal date.

The morning I woke up in your father's arms

his hand rested on my waist,

his other arm looping around me below my breast.

My hand held his arm closer to me,

almost as if it didn't him to leave us alone.

The morning I woke up in your father's arms

he nuzzled the back of my head with his nose.

I quietly laughed,

shaking my head at him.

I tried to let the happiness I felt sink in,

the light keeping my shadows at bay.

I didn't want my shadow lover to come and

see me in your father's arms.

He wouldn't be happy about that.

The morning I woke up in your father's arms

he pulled me closer to him as he gently began to awaken.

I looked behind me to see his brilliant blue eyes looking past me.

I softly spoke his name.

The morning I woke up in your father's arms

his eyes darted to me when he saw that I was awake.

He plastered on a fake smile and

said good morning to me.

He unwrapped his arms from around me,

and in that moment

I had never felt so cold.

.

The moment your mother left

I pulled in a fresh breath of dusty air so deep that

I felt the new coldness reach my feet.

I couldn't believe that she slept in my arms.

How stupid was I?

The moment your mother left

I collapsed against the rest of the couch in the visiting room and

didn't bother pulling my face off of the kind of sticky surface.

The smell of old coffee and cigarette smoke was unbearable.

How did she survive a month in here the last time she tried killing herself?

The moment your mother left

I pretended that I was happy that she was gone.

I forced grins on whenever nurses passed by.

I pretended that I was interested in what other patients were saying at me.

I pretended that I didn't miss your mother with every cell of my being.

The moment your mother left

I wrote down a list of every reason why I shouldn't follow her.

I listed reasons why I shouldn't let her back into my heart with open arms.

I listed every reason why she's better off without me.

I listed every reason why I'm better off without her.

When we were allowed outside for a cigarette break

I stole someone's lighter and set my lists on fire.

I wasn't allowed outside again until the day that I left.

.

As soon as I walked inside my sister's house

she asked me where the hell I had been.

She told me that she had called the cops,

even though I know she never would have done it.

After the last incident she had with a cop

she swore that she would never speak to one ever again.

As soon as I walked inside my sister's house

she stormed over to me and threw her arms around me.

It was strange.

I was so used to how your father's arms were around me that

as soon as someone else tried to hug me it just felt wrong.

I figured that it'd be a bad idea to tell her that,

so I returned the gesture unwillingly.

As soon as I walked inside my sister's house

I told her what had happened.

She told me that I was a fucking idiot for going to see him.

I didn't disagree.

As soon as I walked inside my sister's house

she pulled me into the kitchen to make tea.

As I put the kettle on the stove

she asked how it was like seeing your father again after

almost a month of ignoring him.

I admitted that it was strange.

I didn't tell her how good it felt to see him again after so long.

As soon as I walked inside my sister's house

I told her that I wanted to go back to him,

that I wanted to beg for forgiveness,

that I would do anything to gain his trust back.

She asked me what kind of meds

they drugged me with at the looney bin

to make me think like that.

As soon as I walked inside my sister's house

I walked back out and took the bus back to your father's house.

.

The first night in the hospital

was not the worst one.

I somehow managed to make a friend,

a small girl from California with

waist long ringlets and

heavy bags under her eyes.

She told me she had tried to overdose.

I acted like I was surprised.

The first night in the hospital

I had to sleep with a nurse in the room with me.

I was on suicide watch in a place where

it was physically impossible to kill myself.

I would have laughed at the thought if

I could have still consider things to be funny.

The first night in the hospital

I stared at the ceiling for six hours before

I gave up and started a conversation with my keeper about

why he had decided to work in a psyche ward.

He told me that his older sister was in and out of the hospital for

ten years before she finally,

successfully,

killed herself.

I told him I was sorry.

The first night in the hospital

we talked about your mother.

I told him about her smile,

and the way that she left me,

and the way that she visited me here unexpectedly.

He told me that although she seemed bad for me,

that I should make my own decisions when it came to my own life.

The first night in the hospital

I did not fall asleep.

I did not dream of your mother.

I did not dream of our future kid.

I did not dream of death.

I didn't dream at all.

The first night in the hospital

I didn't expect your mother to be waiting there in the morning,

and I pretended that I was not disappointed when she wasn't there.

.

The morning I woke up in your father's bed

I completely forgot where I was.

I didn't know what day it was,

where I was,

or where your father was.

In my groggy state,

I stared out of the window overfacing the dark backyard where

your father had set up a kiddie slide and swing set.

I ignored the tears in my eyes.

The morning I woke up in your father's bed

I remembered the ultrasound appointment

I had scheduled for that afternoon.

I remembered wanting to ask your father if he could come with me.

That wasn't an option anymore.

The morning I woke up in your father's bed

I rolled onto my back and stretched my arms over my head,

wishing that your father was there to wrap his arms around my waist

and and pull me close to him.

My heart ached at the thought of him sitting in the cafeteria in the psyche ward,

his eyes boring holes into a plain bagel that I knew he wouldn't eat.

The morning I woke up in your father's bed

I procrastinated for as long as I possibly could before I had to get up,

take a shower,

and prepare myself for the day.

When I finally made it to my appointment,

I asked if I should give the growth of cells up for adoption.

The nurse never responded.

The morning I woke up in your father's bed

I made a list of possible candidates for adoptive parents for the growth of cells.

I didn't start to cry when the only person on the list was your father.

.

The second time your mother visited me in the hospital

she brought a yellow folder in with her.

I didn't ask what was inside,

and she didn't tell me either.

Honestly,

it took me a few minutes to even be able to talk to her.

Part of it was the excitement coursing through my veins.

The rest of it was disbelief,

was paranoia,

was the fear that she was here to tell me that she was sorry that she saved me all over again.

The second time your mother visited me in the hospital

she was forcing a grin onto her face.

Her eyes were swimming with pain,

but she plastered on a smile anyway.

I asked her what was wrong.

The second time your mother visited me in the hospital

her face fell as soon as I let on that I knew that she was faking her happiness.

She bit her lip and hunched down in her seat,

trying to make herself even smaller.

The second time your mother visited me in the hospital

she put the pastel yellow folder on the small table in front of us and slid it over to me.

I didn't know what to think.

Did we lose the house?

Did someone die?

Did she write a letter to me telling me that she was finally done with me-

for good?

I didn't know what to think.

The second time your mother visited me in the hospital

I lifted the folder into my trembling hands.

When I dropped the folder,

she took it back and opened it herself.

I didn't expect her to show me an ultrasound picture.

The second time your mother visited me in the hospital

she told me that if I didn't want to be with her anymore that

I should at least take full custody of our kid.

I almost said okay.

.

The second night I slept in your father's bed

I decided to write him a letter.

I never knew what to say to him anymore,

and I just needed to put my thoughts down on paper.

I never meant to send it to him.

The second night I slept in your father's bed

I grabbed a stack of loose leaf paper and

a black pen from my work bag before

I plopped down on his bed.

I sat cross legged in the middle of the bed,

pen in hand,

waiting for something to bubble up and spill onto paper.

The second night I slept in your father's bed

it took three hours of staring at the blank pages in front of me

before I fell asleep.

When I woke up,

the papers were scattered all over the bed and

my hand rested over my navel.

I collected the papers and set them on the vanity instead of

admitting that I was beginning to care for the growth of cells inside me.

The second night I slept in your father's bed

I grabbed the pocket knife I kept underneath the bed before

storming into the bathroom in a rage.

My shaking hands gripped the knife as I slid the metal over my ribs,

slicing through thin skin deep enough that

a consistent stream of blood began to flow down my body.

The scarlet stain began to coat me in a sticky blanket of regret,

but I still couldn't make myself care enough to stop.

The second night I slept in your father's bed

I left a giant crimson stain on the pale blue sheets.

I never bothered to throw it out.

.

The day my clination told me that I could go home in a week

I almost punched a brick wall.

I had finally gotten used to the strange routine

that went on in this off white hell,

and the thought of going back into a world that hated me

made me want to strangle myself.

The day my clination told me that I could go home in a week

I asked if I should go to any programs after I left.

She told me there was none that I could attend unless I paid out of pocket.

When I told her that I couldn't afford therapy

she told me that my wife had already told her that.

I nodded as if I agreed.

The day my clination told me that I could go home in a week

I asked about if she had talked to my "wife"

about what would happen when I "returned home."

She told me that your mother would keep

all knives and medications hidden and that

I would have my new meds administered to me.

I pretended as if I was okay with that.

The day my clination told me that I could go home in a week

I left her office with anger burning in my veins so hot that

my brain had started to cook.

I leaned against the brick wall behind me and

tugged at the hair on my head.

The day my clination told me that I could go home in a week

a nurse came over to see if I was okay.

I lied and said that I was fine.

She actually believed me.

The day my clination told me that I could go home in a week

I called your mother during the cigarette break and

told her that I didn't have to be babied when I finally left.

I told her that I didn't do that to her.

I told her that she was being a fucking hypocrite.

The day my clination told me that I could go home in a week

she told me that she wanted to see me okay after I left.

I almost believed her.

.

The night before your father was let out of the psyche ward

I made sure to hide all of the knives in the house,

except for the one I kept under the bed we would hopefully share.

I locked up the medications in the kitchen cupboard and

made the bed to perfection.

I slept on the couch that night.

The night before your father was let out of the psyche ward

I made sure to stock up the fridge so

we wouldn't have to go food shopping.

I did the laundry for both of us before

folding it and putting it away in the drawers in

the room we would hopefully share.

The night before your father was let out of the psyche ward

I lay down on the couch and stared at

the growth of cells hiding beneath my skin.

I ignored the fresh cuts on my ribs,

my eyes focusing on the swell that hid

the child your father had,

at one point,

wanted so badly that it hurt my soul.

The night before your father was let out of the psyche ward

a drop of blood made its way down my body and

onto the tannish-green couch below me.

I didn't bother cleaning it up.

The night before your father was let out of the psyche ward

I swore to myself that I would not try to keep your father on a leash.

I swore that I would let him make his own decisions.

I swore that I would do everything I possibly could not to make him uncomfortable.

If only I kept my promise.

.

The afternoon I left the hospital

I didn't expect your mother to be standing there

with a smile on her face so bright that

she shone brighter than the sun.

I also didn't expect me to run into her arms,

pick her up,

and spin her around.

Her laughter was so contagious that

I felt giggles escape from behind my lips

for the first time in over a month.

It was a truly glorious day.

The afternoon I left the hospital

we had lunch at a Chinese take-away place and

caught up on the month we shared apart.

I didn't tell her about why I tried killing myself,

and she didn't ask me either.

The afternoon I left the hospital

I wrapped my arm around her frail shoulders and

pulled her against my side as we walked to the bus stop to

wait for the big blue twinkie to take us home.

An elderly lady told us that we made a great couple.

I didn't feel the need to correct her.

The afternoon I left the hospital

we fell asleep on the bus and

was woken up at our stop by a

group of teenagers running off the bus.

I held my hand out to your mother and

she took it with a smile.

I tried to ignore the butterflies,

tried to digest them,

tried to turn them into mothballs.

They never went away.

The afternoon I left the hospital

we walked all around our small town,

pointing out different houses and

how it would be possible to get onto the roof to

look up at the stars.

We spent hours looking around at families who

were dozens of times more capable at functioning than us,

and we pitied them together.

The afternoon I left the hospital

I took your mother into our house and let her take the bed.

I spent the night on the couch downstairs,

staring at a single drop of blood until the sun started to rise.

.

The afternoon your father left the psyche ward

I waited outside of the hospital for two hours,

sitting on the same bench where he must have waited for me

when I was in his place.

When he finally came out of the prison we have both known,

he ran over to me and twirled me around like we were teenagers all over again.

It was a truly beautiful feeling.

The afternoon your father left the psyche ward

I tried to keep myself from touching him,

wanting him to make his own decisions.

When his arm looped around my shoulders as we walked

I felt a blossom of hope bloom in my chest.

Throughout the whole day,

it was impossible to ignore.

The afternoon your father left the psyche ward

I fell asleep on his shoulder on the bus home

after we spent two hours at a Chinese take-away place.

When I woke up,

he was gently shaking me awake,

telling me that we had to get off of the bus.

When I told him to screw off

he threatened to pick me up and

carry me off the bus bridal style.

Instead, I took his offered hand and let him lead me off of the bus.

The afternoon your father left the psyche ward

we walked around town with his

arm around my shoulders and my arm around his waist.

We pointed out which houses we would buy if we could afford it.

We looked at the best roofs for stargazing,

and when I looked up into his sparkling blue eyes,

I could feel myself falling deeper and deeper in love with him all over again.

The afternoon your father left the psyche ward

I told him that if he wanted me to go that I could go.

Somehow,

he convinced me to sleep on the bed while he slept on the couch.

I spent all night staring at the ceiling above my head,

wanting to go downstairs and be enveloped by his strong arms.

Instead, I waited until six in the morning before

I went downstairs to check on him.

When I found him peacefully pretending to sleep,

I went to the kitchen to wait until he felt comfortable enough to pretend to wake up.

.

The first night I slept in your mother's bed

was roughly a week after I got out of the hospital.

After about a week of sleeping on the couch

your mother told me that she was willing to leave if

I didn't want to share a bed with her.

Instead of telling her that I never wanted her to leave again,

I offered to share the bed with her.

I didn't expect her to blush and hide her smile at the suggestion.

The first night I slept in your mother's bed

was extremely awkward,

to be honest.

I tried to keep to the far side of the bed,

and your mother's spine was pressed up against the wall behind her.

Her hazel eyes bored into mine,

and I couldn't seem to look away,

even though I wanted to.

My eyes flickered all over her face,

trying to re-memorize it for later.

I'm not sure why,

but I felt the need to.

The first night I slept in your mother's bed

she told me that I could come closer.

I didn't.

The first night I slept in your mother's bed

your mother fell asleep around eleven thirty.

Her subconscious mind led her closer and

closer to me as the hours passed,

and around two in the morning

I finally succumbed into the darkness of sleep.

The first night I slept in your mother's bed

my arms somehow ended up around her small body,

holding her close to my heart.

When I woke up,

her open palm rested against my beating heart.

.

The first morning I woke up in your father's arms

was by accident.

I had fallen asleep to his blue eyes suffocating me,

and in what felt like no time at all,

my eyes opened to find your father's neck right in front of me.

His pale skin stood out in contrast against the black tee shirt he wore.

I had wanted to curl into him even more.

The first morning I woke up in your father's arms

I woke up before him.

Instead of waking him up,

I pressed myself closer to him,

resting my head over his heart.

His strong heart thudded dully in my ear,

I could swear that I had never heard a song more beautiful.

The first morning I woke up in your father's arms

my arms were looped around his waist,

holding him close to me as he slumbered on.

It was so easy to pretend that he had wanted to be there with me,

that he wanted to be close to me,

that he had wanted me.

The first morning I woke up in your father's arms

I fell back asleep,

and when I woke up the second time,

he had pulled away from me just enough to make me burst into tears.

.

The morning I woke up with your mother in my arms

I didn't realize where I was.

The dark room looked unfamiliar,

and the warmth against my chest was weirdly foreign.

When I looked down and saw your mother curled against my body,

her head resting over my heart,

my chest swelled with a joy I never thought I could ever feel again.

I ignored the bloom of fear in my gut.

The morning I woke up with your mother in my arms

I couldn't figure out why she was so close.

I couldn't imagine why she would curl up against my form

like a child curling into their mother's chest;

like she was being protected.

The idea that she trusted me that much was so odd that

I couldn't help but instinctively pull away from her.

The morning I woke up with your mother in my arms

she gently stirred,

her soft hazel eyes blinking tiredly before

she looked up at me with a glossy wonder in her eyes.

I didn't expect her perfect eyes to water.

The morning I woke up with your mother in my arms

tears cascaded down her soft cheeks,

dampening my arm,

which was still situated below her head.

As much as I forced myself not to care,

as much as I tried to be indifferent…

my heart won.

The morning I woke up with your mother in my arms

I pulled her against me,

wrapping my arms around her frail body.

Her arms looped around me,

pulling her flush against my front.

I rested my head against her messy curls,

kissing her forehead when she looked up at me with

a confused expression decorating her face.

I didn't expect me to lean down and kiss her,

and I sure as hell didn't expect her to kiss me in return.

.

The morning your father kissed me

I didn't expect him to show me such a strong affection.

I didn't know what I expected,

but it sure as hell wasn't that.

The morning your father kissed me

his strong arms held me unwaveringly as

my hands reached up to tangle in his soft hair.

Our mouths slotted against one another's,

fitting together perfectly.

I felt whole with our broken forms crushed against each other.

I never thought I could be happy again,

and here I was…

feeling truly content.

The morning your father kissed me

I told him that I loved him between breathy kisses,

and he suddenly stilled.

I pulled away to look at his confused face,

and in a fluid moment,

he was off the bed,

untangled from the sheets,

and running out of our room.

The morning your father kissed me

I followed him out of our room,

down the stairs,

and into the kitchen.

I found him pacing restlessly,

his breath st-st-stut-t-tering in and out of his lungs.

His fearful eyes found mine,

and he started to back up against the countertops.

The morning your father kissed me

I told him that he couldn't leave me,

that I couldn't live without him,

that I wouldn't live without him.

His face distorted,

grimacing at the honesty in my voice.

I knew he didn't want to believe me.

The morning your father kissed me

I took his hand and lead him back upstairs to the room

I swore he wouldn't leave again.

.

The night your mother kept me in her room

I waited until she fell asleep against my chest to make my first move.

I gently pushed her off of me,

placing a pillow in my place as I tip-toed out of her room.

I stealthed down the hall,

taking my first step downstairs.

I got about a quarter of the way down the stairs before

a horrifically loud creak burst through the silent night.

The night your mother kept me in her room

I waited about twenty seconds before

daring to take another step down.

Another creak,

louder than the first one,

struck out.

Then I heard her footfalls.

The night your mother kept me in her room

I ran towards the front door,

not expecting to get tackled just before I reached the doorknob.

My head slammed against the hardwood floor,

probably leaving a dent behind me.

When I stood back up,

my blurred vision lead me back into the house,

stumbling towards the kitchen.

I fell to my knees when I saw her standing before me with a knife to her throat.

The night your mother kept me in her room

I begged her not to do anything stupid.

I begged her not to kill herself.

I told her I would do anything to keep her alive.

I ignored the rush of regret that took me over after those words left my lips.

The night your mother kept me in her room

she told me that I couldn't leave her ever again.

She told me that if I ever tried to leave again

then she would kill our kid first.

Then she'd slit her wrists,

and just before she went under,

she would take me with her.

The night your mother kept me in her room

she nicked the side of her neck before rushing at me,

digging the tip of her knife into my chest just enough to make me bleed.

It was only then that I believed her.

.

The night I lead your father back upstairs

I asked him if I needed to tie him to the bed.

He told me that I didn't need to tonight,

but maybe later.

I made a mental note to buy fishing line and rope the next day

just in case.

The night I lead your father back upstairs

I stripped him down before laying him down.

When he hit the cushions,

he told me that I didn't need to do this,

that it wasn't necessary, that he already belonged to me.

I still felt the need to mark him.

The night I lead your father back upstairs

I straddled him,

taking him in before

reaching for the knife on the nightstand.

Even though he begged me not to,

pleaded,

even started crying,

I still gently pushed the tip of the knife into his chest,

dragging the tip across his heart three times.

It wasn't until I connected the parallel lines with a staff that he started to scream.

I collapsed against his bloody chest,

my hand tracing the "E"

I carved into him

before I fell asleep all over again.

.

The morning your mother called my work to tell my boss that,

"I had decided to quit,"

she held the tip of her knife to her navel to

keep me rooted in place while

I told my boss to send my stuff to my house.

He agreed with a questioning tone,

almost like he expected me to tell him it all was a joke.

The morning your mother called my work to tell my boss that,

"I had decided to quit,"

she hung up the phone before

she threw her arms around my neck,

pulling herself into my lap.

Her mouth crashed into mine,

all open lips and forceful tongue.

I had to roll with it,

I had to pretend that I enjoyed it,

I had to act like I still wanted to her.

I focused on the dull ache over my heart.

The morning your mother called my work to tell my boss that,

"I had decided to quit,"

she told me that I could mark her if I had wanted to.

She told me that I could make her bleed,

that she'd enjoy it.

She told me that I could carve into her breast,

so our child could breastfeed and see that she belonged to me.

I almost agreed,

just so I could have the opportunity to

stab her where her heart should have been.

.

The first time I let your father out of my sight

I went to work after tying his left wrist to the headboard of our bed.

I remembered to take my pocket knife with me

when I left in the morning,

but I left the cleaver I used to cut off his pinky finger

the day before under the bed.

I figured he never could have reached it.

The first time I let your father out of my sight

I thought that tied the fishing line tight enough.

I thought that I tied the rope tight enough.

I thought that he wouldn't dare try to escape after

I threatened his life,

our kid's life,

my life.

I was wrong.

The first time I let your father out of my sight

I didn't feel like anything was wrong until

I left to go home and was

hit in the gut by a wave of anxiety.

My hands had started to shake,

and I couldn't control my breathing.

It took ten minutes to

calm down enough to drive his car home.

The first time I let your father out of my sight

I struggled to unlock the front door

when I got home until I finally got it open.

I rushed up the stairs in record time,

and screamed when I saw the bloody mess on the bed.

When I searched the room,

I found your father's missing hand

under the bed where

it must have fallen after he cut it off.

.

The afternoon I cut my hand off

I hacked at my wrist until

I finally snapped the bones

connecting my hand and my forearm.

I didn't expect to get it off

before your mother got home from work.

The afternoon I cut my hand off

I let my appendage thunk onto the floor

before I assessed the damage done.

I totally didn't puke when I saw my bones sticking out,

but even if I did,

I at least managed to not to vomit onto my wound.

The afternoon I cut my hand off,

after I let the dizziness fade,

I found a black tee shirt on the floor,

which I wrapped around my profusely bleeding wrist.

After tying a makeshift tourniquet with one of my ties,

I stumbled awkwardly down the stairs

before rushing towards the back door.

The forest behind our house was sure to hide any blood trail,

or so I thought.

The afternoon I cut my hand off

I tripped my way forward until

I reached the backyard of another house

God knows how far away from

your mother's domain.

I trampled up the back stairs,

banging my right elbow against the glass door,

praying for someone to be home.

I didn't expect one of my students to open the door.

.

The night your father went missing

I picked up his hand with a black tee shirt from the laundry hamper,

wrapped it up,

and put it in the refrigerator.

I figured that freezing it could give it frostbite,

and if your father wanted his hand back,

he wouldn't be able to re-attach it if it was part frozen.

The night your father went missing

I checked the local news to see if anyone called in about

finding a deranged man with a single hand and a bleeding nub.

Nothing of import was on.

The night your father went missing

I contemplated going to the police

only to come to the conclusion that

he would tell them the truth,

and I would go to jail if the cops believed him.

If they believed me,

which was a long shot,

then your father would have been put away in an insane asylum,

and I wouldn't be able to see him again,

which I couldn't allow to happen.

So I didn't say anything.

The night your father went missing

I sat in the bathtub upstairs,

praying that he passed out in the woods somewhere,

that he never made it to another person's house,

that he was curled up on the forest floor,

clutching his bleeding nub to his chest,

dying.

I prayed that he was in as much pain as I was.

I prayed for his corpse to be found in the morning.

The night your father went missing

I took the knife I brought to school with me up to my chest,

hovering it over my heart before carving an "L" into my breast.

.

The night my student called the cops

I told them everything,

from when I found out that your mother was pregnant,

to her running away,

to the kiss,

to her threatening me with our child's life,

all the way up to how she forced herself upon me,

tied me to the bed,

and how I somehow managed to reach the cleaver under the bed and

chopped my hand off.

It was a miracle that they managed to believe my insane story.

The night my student called the cops

they fixed my makeshift tourniquet,

tying it tight enough that

the blood flow stopped completely.

I still,

to this day,

don't know how they managed to tie the knot tight enough.

The night my student called the cops

it took a good twenty minutes for them to

convince me to go to call the cops on my so called wife.

When it came down to it,

I pleaded for them to make the call themselves.

I couldn't bear to call the cops on my first and only love.

For God knows what reason, they agreed.

The night my student called the cops

the thunderous knock-knock-knock on the front door

stilled my racing heart.

This was it.

It was going to be over.

Or so I thought.

.

The morning I woke up to thunderous pounding on the front door

I uncurled myself from around your father's pillow,

stood up on shaking knees,

and made my slow way towards the front door.

I flicked open the pocket knife in my hand,

holding it behind my back as I hesitantly opened the front door.

I should have known that the local police would show up.

The morning I woke up to thunderous pounding on the front door

I contorted my face into a mask of confusion,

asking the cops why they were here.

Didn't they know what time it was?

Did they get that it was inconsiderate to knock on random people's front doors

at two in the morning?

The morning I woke up to thunderous pounding on the front door

the tall,

skinny,

female cop gave me an incredulous look before

asking if she could come inside.

Instead of replying,

I stuck my knife into her breast.

The morning I woke up to thunderous pounding on the front door

I bolted for the back door,

completely forgetting the evidence I clearly left

protruding out of the chest of the

cop I just stabbed.

What was wrong with me?

The morning I woke up to thunderous pounding on the front door

I rushed through the brush in the damp woods,

tripping through fog until I had to stop to breathe.

I had to breathe.

I needed to breathe.

The morning I woke up to thunderous pounding on the front door

I curled around the growth of cells in my womb,

praying that no one would think to find a city girl in the woods.

.

The morning I woke up in the hospital,

but not the psyche ward,

I didn't expect there to be a fresh bandage over

the stump left behind from where my hand used to be.

As much as I wanted to see the nub,

to see if my bone was still exposed,

to see if they had managed to stretch my skin shut,

to see how grotesque the stitches would be,

I figured it would be a bad idea.

So, I waited.

For what?

I didn't know.

The morning I woke up in the hospital,

but not the psyche ward,

I listened to the quiet of the hospital,

the soft padding of nurses checking their patients,

the click-clack of a nurse typing onto a computer.

I almost felt at peace.

Almost.

The morning I woke up in the hospital,

but not the psyche ward,

I didn't expect my students to enter my room with a

panicked expression decorating their white face.

I didn't expect the normally chill student to be fidgeting,

nervous,

anything but calm.

I had to ask what was wrong.

The morning I woke up in the hospital,

but not the psyche ward,

my student didn't answer my question;

instead,

they avoided it,

asking if I remembered anything from the night before.

When I shook my head,

they told me everything,

from me passing out from blood loss while explaining what happened to the cops,

to me getting rushed to the hospital where the docs there worked their magic on my arm.

That explains why I woke up here.

The morning I woke up in the hospital,

but not the psyche ward,

I asked them all over again what was wrong.

It was the nurse who came in to check on me told me that the

cop we spoke to was rushed in last night with a knife in the chest.

.

The day I woke up on the forest floor

I didn't know where I was at first.

It took a while before I remembered the occurrences of the night before…

when I stabbed a cop in the chest.

Oh, God.

The day I woke up on the forest floor

I sat up and scrambled backwards until my

back hit the cool bark of a tree.

Looking up,

the midday sun shone through the autumn leaves.

If I wasn't so panicked,

I would have thought it was beautiful.

The day I woke up on the forest floor

I waited for my heartbeat to slow before

standing up on wobbly knees and staggering forward into the woods,

looking for a place I could go.

During my walk,

I tried to think of what story I should give to whomever finds me.

Should I say that I was chased out of my house by a robber?

Should I be homeless?

Should I tell the truth-

No.

No one could know.

I had to stay anonymous.

No one could know that I was connected to your father in any way,

shape,

or form.

So,

I told myself I would stick to the first one.

The day I woke up on the forest floor

I wrapped my arms around myself,

hugging my care arms closer to my chest,

aching for warmth.

Maybe this was my punishment-

freezing to death for keeping your father to myself.

I didn't know,

but either way,

I felt as if I deserved it.

The day I woke up on the forest floor

I kept on walking forward until I reached

the backyard of a house where I found a teenage boy

and his father aiming a compound bow towards a fake deer ahead of me.

For some reason,

I hoped that the arrow would pierce my heart,

taking me away before the cops found me.

.

The afternoon I heard that your mother was found

I tried to ignore the rush of panic coursing through my veins.

I tried to ignore the racing beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor,

the pounding footfalls running towards my room,

the hands checking my pulse to see if the monitor was malfunctioning or not.

The afternoon I heard that your mother was found

I ended up passing out from the lack of oxygen my brain was receiving.

They ended up putting the tubey-things in my nose to make sure

I was getting enough O2 to my brain.

It sure as hell didn't feel like it.

The afternoon I heard that your mother was found

my ears awoke before the rest of me,

listening to the hushed fighting,

trying to figure out who was there.

The second I heard your mother's sister's voice,

I forced my eyes open,

pushing myself up so I could see who she was arguing with.

She was fighting with the nurse

who came to check on me when

my heart started working overdrive.

The afternoon I heard that your mother was found

I had to start shouting back at them to finally get their attention.

I didn't expect your aunt to be crying,

her cheeks red and wet.

The afternoon I heard that your mother was found

she asked me why I was lying.

She asked why I had to do this.

She asked why I was ruining your mother's life.

She asked if it was because I was done,

because I couldn't take it anymore,

because I couldn't put up with your mother anymore.

The afternoon I heard that your mother was found

I told her that your mother had threatened our my life,

her life, our kid's life.

I told her about her tying me to the bed,

making me quit my job,

forcing herself upon me.

I told her that I wasn't even planning on leaving,

yet she still managed to convince herself that she needed to do what she had done.

It was only then that she started to believe me.

.

The night I woke up in the hospital

I had no idea how I ended up there.

I only wished that I hadn't woken up in the first place.

The night I woke up in the hospital

a dull throbbing in my chest began to itch,

and when I lifted my hand to scratch at my breastbone,

I couldn't lift it more than a few centimeters off of the bed.

I wriggled my hand around in the dark before

I finally realized what the metal band around my wrist was.

The night I woke up in the hospital

I yanked,

twisted,

contorted,

did everything I could to remove myself from the

handcuff locking me onto the bed.

When I started to hyperventilate,

a nurse and a cop came to check in on me.

When my anxiety spiked,

causing me to beg to be let go,

screaming that I didn't do anything wrong,

a new needle was shoved into my arm below the IV,

sending me back into oblivion.

.

The night I asked to see your mother

the cop who was outside of my door asked me

what the hell was wrong with me.

The nurse I was speaking to ignored him.

The night I asked to see your mother

I tried to explain how

I wouldn't be able to sleep until I saw that she was unconscious,

until I saw that she was handcuffed to her bed,

until I saw that she was okay.

I made sure to leave out the last part.

The night I asked to see your mother

the nurse asked the cop to escort me back to the emergency room

after she helped me stand up on dizzy feet and

handed me my IV pole.

I somehow managed to give the nurse a thankful smile,

squeezing her hand softly with my own.

I was surprised when she smiled back.

The night I asked to see your mother

the small female cop,

similar to the one I spoke to before I passed out,

asked if I needed something to lean on besides the IV pole.

When I offered her my elbow,

she took it and said it was okay if

I needed to lean on her for support.

I almost took her offer.

The night I asked to see your mother

we walked to what seemed like the

opposite side of the hospital before

we finally made it to the surprisingly quiet emergency room.

When the cop took me down a separate hallway,

I finally noticed the smell of cheap coffee emanating from the

five officers standing outside of her private room.

The night I asked to see your mother

I felt like a pansy when

I breathlessly asked the cop if

she could escort me back to my room.

.

The night I woke up after being put under

it took me a while to remember

not to make a single sound.

I didn't need to have another episode where

a cop would come in and ask the nurses to put me back to sleep.

The night I woke up after being put under

I looked around for something to use for…

I didn't know what.

To escape?

To kill myself?

To hurt someone else if they tried to force me under all over again?

I wasn't sure.

The night I woke up after being put under

I waited until a nurse came into check in on me before

I asked where your father was.

It wasn't until after the words escaped from behind my lips that

I realized that that was a stupid thing to ask.

The night I woke up after being put under

the nurse who was checking up on me started deep into my eyes,

telling me that your father was transferred to a different hospital-

one that I could never get to while being trapped in this one.

As much as I wanted to beg to be sent after him,

to plead to see him,

to cry until they felt the need to send me after him,

I didn't.

The night I woke up after being put under

I asked if there was any way for me to see him after I was done healing.

Instead of answering me,

she turned on her heel and left the room.

.

The morning I almost pretended to wake up

I turned my head to face the door when a morning staff

walked in to see if I was finally sleeping.

I wasn't.

The morning I almost pretended to wake up

the nurse gave me a sympathetic smile before

asking if I wanted breakfast.

As much as I wanted to say no,

I complied,

asking what they had.

The nurse wasn't sure,

but he said he could probably make sure that I got pancakes.

I was shocked when I genuinely grinned at him.

The morning I almost pretended to wake up

I turned onto my side so I could face the

door instead of the too-bright window.

It was strange that I was actually looking forward to getting food

I'm not going to eat from a person I'll likely never see again.

For the first time, I was experiencing a good kind of weird.

The morning I almost pretended to wake up

I flushed when the nurse came back with

two waffles with cool whip on top.

I laughed when he apologized for not having pancakes.

When I told him that waffles were my favourite,

his face lit up so much that I flushed.

Before he left,

I made sure to ask for his name.

For what reason,

I didn't know,

but I was sure to find out later.

.

The morning I was questioned by a cop

I sat pretzel legged in bed,

my one wrist still handcuffed to the metal frame.

As much as I wanted to lie,

to hide,

to do everything in my power to make them believe that I was innocent,

I couldn't.

So, I shut my mouth completely.

The morning I was questioned by a cop

I bit my tongue for over an hour,

waiting for them to finally leave me alone.

Even when the questioner left,

another man in uniform was left to,

"keep me company,"

while I,

"adjusted to my new surroundings."

The morning I was questioned by a cop

I scraped the edge of the metal cuff around my wrist while

the cop talked to his mistress on the phone,

waiting until I would eventually start to bleed.

It took what felt like hours,

but when rubies started to drip onto the floor,

I pressed my thin wrist into the pillow I had,

hiding the sight from the people who wanted to keep me here.

The morning I was questioned by a cop

I kept on waiting for them to leave to go to the toilet before

I curled towards my cuffed wrist and

started to tear at the white flesh with my teeth,

hoping to nick a vein.

.

The night I spoke to your mother's keeper

they sounded rushed and worried,

like something horrific was occurring,

something they had caused,

something they could have prevented if they had actually tried.

They were pacing outside with a smoke in their hand,

ignoring the drizzle coating them in a heavy quilt of water.

When I tried asking them what was wrong,

they ignored me.

The night I spoke to your mother's keeper

they kept on muttering about how they fucked up,

about how they were going to get fired,

about how they never should have left her alone,

even if it was just to go to the restroom.

As much as I struggled to make sense of what they were mumbling,

I just couldn't make the facts click together.

The night I spoke to your mother's keeper

I watched from under a large,

black umbrella,

aching to ask them if they wanted to join me in the small space of dryness.

I didn't have the balls to ask.

The night I spoke to your mother's keeper

we stayed out in the mist until

the nurse who gave me waffles came outside to

tell us that she was still alive,

but safely tucked up in the psyche ward,

where she couldn't try to harm herself anymore.

.

The afternoon I woke up in the psyche ward all over again

I cursed my weak stomach for causing me to pass out

before I could reach below my muscle tissue.

My mouth still tasted like blood and flesh,

and I wished that I had something in my stomach to puke up.

The afternoon I woke up in the psyche ward all over again

I was expecting a plethora of nurses

and cops

and doctors

and people I just didn't want to see.

I was surprised to find myself in an empty,

white room.

At least the walls weren't padded.

The afternoon I woke up in the psyche ward all over again

it took a few minutes before

I gathered up the courage to take a look at

the wrist I had tried to eat through.

When I finally glanced over,

the only thing I noticed was how many

bandages must have been wrapped around the skinny bone.

I wondered if I should try taking them off.

The only reason why I didn't was because

I didn't want to be knocked out all over again.

The afternoon I woke up in the psyche ward all over again

I waited for God knows how long before

a nurse finally came in with some pills and

a tray with toaster waffles on it.

I surprised myself when I took both pills and

passed out before the nurse tried to ask me how I was doing.

.

The night I vented to the nurse who gave me waffles

I didn't expect it to happen.

I had spent the whole day pretending that I wasn't worried about her,

pretending that I didn't care about her,

pretending that didn't want to make sure that she was okay.

I managed to hide everything away for almost twenty-four hours,

but as soon as he asked me how I was doing,

I finally broke down.

The night I vented to the nurse who gave me waffles

I felt the sting of regret burning behind my eyes as

words projectile-vomited out like a spew of verbal diarrhea.

I told him how I wished that I didn't care,

how I wanted to stop wondering how she was doing,

how I somehow still felt the need to know how she was,

if she was okay, if she was alive.

The night I vented to the nurse who gave me waffles

he sat down next to me on my hospital bed and

wrapped his warm arm around my shoulders,

pulling me into his side.

I don't know how long it took for me to finally start to cry.

The night I vented to the nurse who gave me waffles

I started to sob out,

"I'm sorry,

I'm sorry,

I'm sorry,"

with spurts of gasping between apologies.

I wiped my nose on my shaky hand before

he reached over and grabbed me a handful of tissues.

The night I vented to the nurse who gave me waffles

he waited a good twenty minutes after

I finally shut up for him to kiss the side of my head and

tell me that it wasn't my fault.

I think it was then that I began to fall for him.

.

The day I finally asked the nurses how long I had been in the hospital

they had looked startled out of their shoes.

It had felt like weeks since the last time I had spoken,

and my voice was weirdly scratchy because of it.

The day I finally asked the nurses how long I had been in the hospital

they had stammered out some bullcrap about

having to find out the date from someone else before

they had bolted out of the white room like their life had depended on it.

It felt like days passed before they had come back.

The day I finally asked the nurses how long I had been in the hospital

they told me that I had been in the psyche ward for two weeks.

They asked me if I was finally willing to speak to one of the psychiatrists.

I only said yes because I felt like I had to.

The day I finally asked the nurses how long I had been in the hospital

they let me out of the white room and

lead me down a white hallway into

a white room with a desk and

someone who just gave off the air of a pretentious dick.

The day I finally asked the nurses how long had been in the hospital

the doc turned around in his large black hair to face me.

He leaned down on his elbows before raising an eyebrow and smirking,

"Tell me everything."

.

The week after I left the hospital

I found myself obsessing over the moment

I last saw the nurse who gave me waffles.

It was the morning before I was to be driven home by my student,

and I was counting down the hours before

I would be back in the house that she still seemed to own in my mind.

I didn't expect him to be the next nurse to check in on me.

The week after I left the hospital

he came into my room with a coffee in hand

with something scribbled on the side of the styrofoam cup

in a bright blue sharpie chicken scratch.

When he handed me the coffee,

I looked up at him with confused eyes and

asked him how he knew I was thinking about coffee.

He grinned so wide that I thought I would fall into his smile.

The week after I left the hospital

he told me that he felt like I needed some caffeine

to calm me down before heading back into the real world.

He had no idea how right he was.

The week after I left the hospital

he told me that when I was no longer under his care

if I would like to go out for coffee sometime after work.

I couldn't st-stut-tt-ter out a yes fast enough.

The week after I left the hospital

I watched him as he left to check in on his other patients,

and I couldn't help but wonder

what the hell he saw in my broken heart and tired mind.

.

The day I was scheduled for an ultrasound

I asked the docs there if it was really necessary.

I didn't need the growth of cells to remind me

of the man I was losing every second that

I was trapped in this white etherly prison.

I didn't need a reminder of the man

I pushed away while trying to

keep him closer to my heart.

I didn't need a reminder of your father.

They said I needed one anyway.

The day I was scheduled for an ultrasound

I ignored the press of fetal limbs against my organs

as I lie on the doctor's table,

waiting for them to start with the procedure.

The cool jelly chilled my skin,

but nothing sent a shiver down my spine

like the picture of the small child growing inside of me.

It no longer looked like a peanut,

or any kind of early developing creature,

but it began to look like an actual human.

It was freaky as hell.

The day I was scheduled for an ultrasound

I somehow managed to ask, with overflowing eyes,

if I could send your father a picture of the child

he would end up taking custody of.

It was only because of my now outward showing emotions

that they actually said yes.

The day I was scheduled for an ultrasound

I was sent back to the white corridor that

would take me back to the white room that

would send be back to the white bed

where I would stay,

lying awake, until the next morning.

.

The afternoon I met the waffle nurse for coffee

was one of the best days I had had in a very long time.

Although I was painfully anxious to

see him outside of the emergency room,

I had a good feeling about what was going to occur.

The afternoon I met the waffle nurse for coffee

I didn't expect to find him

already seated at a table at the local mom-and-pop shop in town,

twenty minutes before we were supposed to meet up.

At first I was surprised by how early he showed up,

but when I stepped over towards him,

he stood up in shock,

obviously surprised that I was showing up this early as well.

The afternoon I met the waffle nurse for coffee

we made awkward conversation until

I spilled lukewarm hot chocolate down my front.

After a good half an hour of hysterical laughing,

we both,

at least outwardly,

seemed to feel more comfortable speaking to each other.

He was the first person I had felt this comfortable talking

to since before your mother had snapped.

The afternoon I met the waffle nurse for coffee

I accidentally blurted out that

I felt weirdly comfortable around him before

I flushed a grotesque shade of humiliation and

tried to hide my awkwardness behind a coughing fit.

When he asked me if it was a good kind of weird,

I grinned so wide I didn't think I could possibly try to hide it.

The afternoon I met the waffle nurse for coffee

we left after about two hours of continuous laughter.

When he kissed me goodbye on the cheek,

I flushed so bright that

I could have been mistaken as a stop sign.

When he grinned at me,

I didn't think he seemed to mind.

.

The afternoon I felt my heart stop

was one of the most confusing times I had in the hospital.

Everything was borderline fine until

when I assumed was in the afternoon.

For what what was probably a minute,

my heart had stopped beating.

The afternoon I felt my heart stop

I fell from my bed in the white room,

collapsing onto the floor face side down.

My one hand reached up to clutch at my heart

white my other arm circled around my middle,

trying to hold my breaking form together.

Nothing I did could help.

The afternoon I felt my heart stop

my hearing faded,

and time seemed to slow.

Thunderously loud footfalls crashed into the room,

and I felt the nurses send off bombs in my chest.

The bombs were supposed to make my heart start beating again.

They were supposed to make my heart want to live again.

They were supposed to save me from destroying myself.

I didn't want to wake up.

The afternoon I felt my heart stop

the explosions eventually faded when

my heart began to work on its own.

God,

I cursed the infernal organ until

my veins began to flow with ichor instead of blood.

The afternoon I felt my heart stop

I asked the nurses why they tried to save me.

I asked them why they didn't just let me die.

I asked them why they couldn't have

let me escape from the misery that is life.

After the silent one left,

the one remaining told me it was because of

the growth of cells that they even bothered to try.

.

The night I received the letter from your mother

begging me to take full custody of our child I wasn't sure how to react.

I had just opened the letter on the couch in the house I was trying to sell,

sitting next to the waffle nurse,

who I had just asked the week before to become my official boyfriend.

His warm arm was wrapped around my shoulders,

holding me on Earth while my mind had started to wander.

The night I received the letter from your mother

begging me to take full custody of our child

I couldn't think of anything to say.

My mouth had turned drier than the Sahara desert,

and my hands hand started to shake.

Instead of taking the letter from my hands,

he had let it fall to the carpeted floor.

He wasn't trying to butt in on my life,

and if I could have thanked him for it,

I would have.

The night I received the letter from your mother

begging me to take full custody of our child

I let my face fall into my hands,

showing the only sign of weakness I could allow myself to.

His arm pulled me into his chest,

his taller body wrapping around me like a protective cocoon.

He didn't ask me what was wrong.

He didn't ask me if I was okay.

He didn't ask me if I wanted to be alone,

or if she should leave.

He just sat with me,

waiting for me to come up with words of my own.

The night I received the letter from your mother

begging me to take full custody of our child

I ended up pulling away from him after roughly

an hour of letting myself be comforted by him.

I couldn't look him in the eye when I told him that

this was something I needed to do,

that I couldn't live with myself if I let my only child be taken away from me.

I was shocked when he told me he agreed with me.

.

The morning I was allowed to eat breakfast with

the rest of the women in the psyche ward

was… indescribable.

It had began with awkward stares and muttered gossiping behind hands,

but ended with something better than imagined.

The morning I was allowed to eat breakfast with

the rest of the women in the psyche ward

I sat at the farthest seat from the door,

picking pancakes apart until nothing was left but crumbs.

Some sickly thin bottle blonde tried asking what my name was.

I ended up glaring a hole into the hide of their head.

The morning I was allowed to eat breakfast with

the rest of the women in the psyche ward

was sat in silence until

a heavyset butch gal swaggered over to me and

plopped into the seat next to me.

She tried asking what I did to get locked in here,

if it was horrible,

if it was downright naughty.

Only the nurses barricading the doors seemed surprised when

I stabbed her in the hand with my plastic spork.

The morning I was allowed to eat breakfast with

the rest of the women in the psyche ward

I grinned maniacally when the spork was

shoved so far into her hand that it

stayed there as she flailed.

As soon as the nurses were sent over to me

my hands were locked together behind my back as

I was lead out of the cafeteria.

It would be another week in isolation before I was allowed out again.

.

The night after I spoke to the lawyer

I met up with the waffle nurse at the local pizzeria.

It would be months before

I would even be able to think about Chinese food

without breaking down.

The night after I spoke to the lawyer

we sat hand in hand,

talking about how our days had went.

He was a part of a team trying to

save a girl who had overdosed on pain medication.

I spent the day trying to convince myself

not to take a bottle of pain medication.

The night after I spoke to the lawyer

I asked him if he minded the

awkwardly healing nub where my left hand used to be.

He told me that he couldn't judge my

newfound disability based on the stories of how it was before.

If I wasn't feeling so depressed,

I could have kissed him right then and there.

The night after I spoke to the lawyer

he asked me if I wanted to come over to his apartment after dinner.

Although I could have said no,

I didn't.

Although I could have spent the night alone in her house,

trying to forget the horrors we lived there,

I didn't.

I told him that I thought I needed the distraction,

even though I turned nauseous at the meaning he could have taken from my words.

The night after I spoke to the lawyer

we walked two blocks to his apartment complex,

on the opposite side of town from where her house remained.

When we reached his apartment,

I expected him to push me against the wall,

kiss me with tongue and teeth,

take me into his room where only Fortuna would know what would happen.

Instead of that,

he lead me towards his couch where he

played a movie until we fell asleep in each other's arms.

.

The morning I asked when I could go home

my clination looked at me like I had four heads.

The sheer amount of confusion on their face

would have been hilarious if I wasn't as depressed as I was.

The morning I asked when I could go home

my clination told me that,

"although my character had grown,"

yeah right,

and,

"I was doing much better,"

as if,

"I should stay here until it was certain that

I could go back into society without my,

'sociopathic tendencies,' showing."

I always knew I was going to die in a psyche ward,

but I didn't think it would take this Goddamn long.

The morning I asked when I could go home

I was lead down a white hall into an

ivory room which I shared with a quiet,

mousy creature who had strangled her two-year-old

because God had told her to.

And people think I'm insane.

The morning I asked when I could go home

I plopped down onto my white bed,

laying back and staring up at

the white ceiling instead of attempting to

converse with the trembling mouse on the other bed.

Poor thing.

The morning I asked when I could go home

I ended up falling asleep before I was woken up for

a dinner I wouldn't eat and sent back to the room I wouldn't fall asleep in.

.

The morning I was informed that your mother was dying

I drove to the hospital so fast that

I was surprised that I wasn't pulled over for speeding.

It took twenty minutes to find her,

and when I did,

I wished that I hadn't seen her.

Her organs were exposed from the C-section the doctors were performing,

and she looked like Death was pulling her under.

I didn't expect tears to begin to fall.

The morning I was informed that your mother was dying

I turned to the closest person to me and

asked why I wasn't called when things got bad.

I asked how it was possible for everything to go downhill so fast.

I asked if she was going to die.

No one gave me an answer.

The morning I was informed that your mother was dying

I let the blurring of my vision worsen as

I fell back against one of the walls and slid down to the tile floor.

With my elbows on my knees,

I put my face in my hands as I tried to hold onto something real.

Nothing felt real anymore.

Nothing was real anymore.

The morning I was informed that your mother was dying

I was taken into her room God knows how much later,

placed in a chair,

and waited until one of the nurses came back in with a tiny pink bundle in her arms.

.

The night my boyfriend came to visit me in the maternity ward

I had been standing on wobbly knees,

staring into the weird plastic-

or was it glass?-

box that held the tiny,

pink baby that was the last thing that I had left of your mother.

There were tiny tubes going up her nose,

helping her breathe,

even though it looked like she was doing fine on her own.

I realized that she still didn't have a name.

The night that my boyfriend came to visit me in the maternity ward

I didn't realize that he was standing behind me until

I heard him say in his soft,

deep voice,

"She's so tiny."

A broken sound escaped from me before I agreed. "I know."

The night my boyfriend came to visit me in the maternity ward

his strong arm wrapped around my slumped shoulders,

pulling me against his side before he kissed me on the temple.

I shut my eyes for a second,

enjoying the comfort he was trying to give me before

I went back to staring at the sleeping baby in front of me.

The night my boyfriend came to visit me in the maternity ward

I told him that I wanted to name her something meaningful,

something positive,

something that would always remind her that she means the world to me.

He told me that that was a great idea before kissing my hair again.

The night my boyfriend came to visit me in the maternity ward

one of the nurses came into our room with

a book of baby names and told me to have fun looking for the perfect name.

We ended up deciding on Amara-

Amara Hope Devlin.

.

The morning your mother's sister called me to

start getting ready for your mother's funeral

I had just left the maternity ward after sleeping in the lobby

every night for the past three days.

My clothes were wrinkled,

I smelled like death warmed over,

and my eyes were still damp enough to look like I had never stopped crying.

It felt like I would never stop crying.

The morning your mother's sister called me to

start getting ready for your mother's funeral

my boyfriend came to find me and asked if

I had wanted him to come to the funeral with me.

I said no.

The morning your mother's sister called me to

start getting ready for your mother's funeral

I drove to the house your mother would never walk in again and

called my real estate agent.

I told them that I had changed my mind.

I couldn't attempt to sell her house anymore.

The morning your mother's sister called me to

start getting ready for your mother's funeral

I scrounged through my closet for half an hour before

I found my black button down,

my black slacks,

and a grey tie dark enough where

it could almost blend in with my shirt.

The morning your mother's sister called me to

start getting ready for your mother's funeral

I walked to the local cemetery in just enough time to

get bitched at by your aunt before the service started.

We were the only people there besides the

pastor and a twelve year old girl dressed in all black.

The morning your mother's sister called me to

start getting ready for your mother's funeral

I thought that I was supposed to speak.

When I tried to,

my voice broke so much that I wasn't comprehensible.

Even so,

the pastor thanked me for speaking.

The morning your mother's sister called me to

start getting ready for your mother's funeral

the young girl waited until your mother's urn was placed in the ground before

walking over to me and asking me if I knew where Lucas Devlin was.

When I told her that I was him,

she told me that she was my daughter.

.

The afternoon I was finally allowed to take my daughter home

I gently buckled her into her new car seat before

driving off towards your mother's house.

When she began to stir,

I started to hum a melody that I wrote back when I was in high school.

The words echoed through my mind as I turned into the driveway.

It wasn't until I unbuckled my daughter and

started walking towards the front door in the light snow that

I noticed the child that was at the funeral on my front step.

The afternoon I was finally allowed to take my daughter home

I asked the girl what she was doing here.

I told her that it wasn't okay to play such cruel jokes on grieving people.

I begged her to leave me alone.

She didn't listen to me.

The afternoon I was finally allowed to take my daughter home

the girl followed me into your mother's house.

I kept the front door open incase I needed to bolt.

The afternoon I was finally allowed to take my daughter home

I held my daughter close to my chest,

bouncing on my toes as the girl pulled a manila folder out of her backpack.

I read through the legal info before reading over her birth certificate which read,

"Name: Clara Faith Devlin.

Mother: Erin Marie Simmons.

Father: Lucas Bresal Devlin."

The afternoon I was finally allowed to take my daughter home

I asked her how this was possible.

Your mother hadn't been pregnant when she was fifteen.

I would have known-

I was dating her at the time.

We may have been three states away from each other,

but I talked to her every day for two years

while she was away at her program.

I would have known if she was pregnant.

I would have known.

The afternoon I was finally allowed to take my daughter home

the girl explained how her foster mother had

given her the letter addressed to her the day she turned thirteen.

The letter explained how your mother and I had

lost our virginities to each other the week before she was hospitalized.

It wasn't until she was gone that she realized that she was pregnant.

She was then placed into a group home where she stayed,

gave birth,

and watched her daughter be put into the fostering system before her eyes.

Apparently,

there was nothing she could have done.

I tried to believe her.

The afternoon I was finally allowed to take my daughter home

I drove my other daughter to her foster parent's house.

When I asked them if everything was true,

they agreed.

They told me about how their foster daughter was

in the hospital with your mother,

about how they agreed to take care of our first born until

we could take care of her ourselves.

It wasn't until they showed me a picture of

your mother holding our first born in a random hospital that

I finally began to believe.

.

The afternoon I invited my boyfriend and eldest daughter

to come over and meet one another

I spent the whole morning buying baby formula and diapers.

Who knew that using a newborn as an excuse would

work so well as an excuse to procrastinate?

The afternoon I invited my boyfriend and eldest daughter

to come over and meet one another

I made up enough bottles for the next few days before

even contemplating what to do for food.

Instead of delving into a world of anxiety with a baby shawl-

wrap?-

thing tying her to my front,

I ended up ordering pizza.

The afternoon I invited my boyfriend and eldest daughter

to come over and meet one another

my boyfriend showed up first,

his warm smile distracting me from the worries about

whether or not she would like him,

whether or not her foster parents would approve of me dating another man,

whether or not I could make it through the day without completely breaking down.

The afternoon I invited my boyfriend and eldest daughter

to come over and meet one another

we waited about ten minutes before

we heard a few soft knocks coming from the front door.

When I headed over to the front door,

I was greeted by my daughter in full out panic mode,

a gash on her forehead profusely bleeding.

The afternoon I invited my boyfriend and eldest daughter

to come over and meet one another

she managed to stammer out to me that a few blocks away,

on one of the back roads,

her foster parents had crashed into a tree after

swerving away as to not hit one of the local stray dogs.

She told me that her foster father,

who had been driving,

looked as if he were already dead.

She said that she didn't know what to do,

so she ran the whole way here.

The afternoon I invited my boyfriend and eldest daughter

to come over and meet one another

I lead her into my house,

unwrapped my newborn daughter from my chest,

and trusted my worried boyfriend with their lives while

I bolted out to find her dead foster parents.

.

The night I tucked you and your sister in in your father's room

I got a call from the local police station from your father,

apologizing for leaving me alone with his children.

He rambled about how it wasn't fair to me,

about how they weren't my responsibility,

about how I could leave and he would understand completely.

When I finally got a word in, I told him that it was okay.

The night I tucked you and your sister in in your father's room

the phone disconnected after he began to ask me…

something?

I couldn't hear him before the dull beeping took over.

The night I tucked you and your sister in in your father's room

I started pacing in the hallway,

at least attempting to hide my anxiety from boyfriends daughters.

God,

that was such an odd thought-

that your father even had children.

I still always thought of him as the man in the hospital,

waiting for his psychotically obsessive girlfriend to give birth.

It would take months before

I began to fully accept that my love actually had children.

The night I tucked you and your sister in in your father's room

your father knocked on his own front door

about two hours after the phone disconnected.

When I asked how he got here,

he told me that he had walked.

When I called him an idiot,

he attempted at hiding his grimace behind a smile.

The night I tucked you and your sister in in your father's room

I lead your father to his couch,

laying him down.

When I plopped onto the floor next to the sofa,

your father started running his fingers through my hair,

calming me down when I couldn't myself.

Somehow,

I ended up falling asleep to his soft melody humming in tune

with the strokes of his fingers against my scalp.

.

The morning I woke up on my couch to

my eldest daughter making pancakes in the kitchen

I had no idea where I was.

The smell of pancakes was taking me back to

the last time your mother and I had a good morning together,

and the crick in my neck was reminding me of

the night I slept tied up to my bed.

The conflicting emotions swarmed around my brain until

my daughter came up to me with a plate overflowing with slightly doughy flapjacks.

Somehow through the fogginess of my mind,

I remembered to say,

"Thank you."

The morning I woke up on my couch to

my eldest daughter making pancakes in the kitchen

my boyfriend came over to my with

my youngest daughter tied to his front with the wrappy-thingy.

The blinding grin on his face was the only thing keeping me from

ripping my daughter off of his chest.

The morning I woke up on my couch to

my eldest daughter making pancakes in the kitchen

I politely asked him if I could have my daughter.

His grin faltered a bit as he nodded,

his one hand going to hold her closer to him as

he untied the shawl-like thing from around him.

When I finally had my child back in my arms,

I began to feel complete again.

The morning I woke up on my couch to

my eldest daughter making pancakes in the kitchen

we all sat around the family room table,

eating our pancakes while my youngest daughter suckled on a bottle.

For a few hours,

everything almost felt normal.

.

The night I went back to work

my mind kept on going back to the way

my boyfriend's daughter's face fell when

he told her that he foster parents were dead.

He didn't even get to tell her that

he was going to fight for custody of her because of how

she bolted from the room,

sprinting out to the backyard where she broke.

I had to restrain him from going after her.

The night I went back to work

I kept on thinking about the heartbreaking sobs that

erupted from the tiny girl,

shaking her body with each stut-t-ttering breath.

Her wails were so loud that

one of the neighbors even came over to see if everything was alright.

It was painful having to hear my boyfriend explain to

the sweet elderly lady how her foster parents had died.

I had to keep myself from crying along with her.

The night I went back to work

I tried to focus on my tasks at hand.

My focus was completely lost when

I walked past a wife and son

sobbing over the dead body of who I assumed to be the boy's father.

After passing that scene,

I had to take a mental break to go to one of the restrooms and

gather my marbles back up and put them back in my mind.

The night I went back to work

I ended up calling your father at two in the morning.

I was eternally thankful that

I called him while he was feeding his daughter.

When I told him how I sympathized with that boy,

with that wife,

with his daughter,

he told me how he understood as well.

Apparently we had both lost parents in our youth.

The night I went back to work

I told him that I couldn't wait to see him after my next shifts.

He told me that we could all go out for breakfast when I came home.

It was then that I finally began to feel like a part of his life.

.

The morning we buried my daughter's foster parents

I took her,

my boyfriend,

and my youngest daughter out for breakfast at her favourite restaurant.

My boyfriend chuckled when I ordered waffles,

and we ended up tell her about how we met for the first time.

For the first time since I told her about her foster parents,

she smiled,

even if it was a tiny quirk of the lips.

The morning we buried my daughter's foster parents

she told us funny stories about some of their times there.

She told us about when her foster father had

spilled hot sauce on his white shirt before church and about

how her foster mother had planned a funeral for the shirt.

She even went as far as to invite the local kids to the service.

The morning we buried my daughter's foster parents

she laughed when my boyfriend spilled ketchup on his shirt.

When I asked her if we should throw a funeral for his button down,

she told me that we should have it tomorrow.

She had been to one too many funerals for that day.

.

The night your father and I finished making up the nursery

was the same week he got custody of your sister.

We celebrated by going out to her favourite restaurant before

showing taking her home and showing her your room.

She was even more shocked when we presented her with a room of her own.

The night your father and I finished making up the nursery

we tucked his children into bed before

sneaking downstairs in a swarm of tangled limbs and hushed laughter.

Your father's soft smile pressed into my shoulder,

his warmth seeping down into my skin.

I could have lived in this moment forever.

The night your father and I finished making up the nursery

we flopped onto the couch,

my arms holding him close as he rested his head over my heart.

I couldn't even imagine how fast the

thrumming of mine must have sounded to him.

The night your father and I finished making up the nursery

I told him that I loved being apart of his family,

that I loved watching him and his daughters interact,

that I loved being able to be there for all of them whenever I could.

I kept on babbling,

waiting for me to stop talking,

even though I wouldn't,

couldn't.

Eventually,

I stopped spewing words when he told me that he loved having me around as well.

The night your father and I finished making up the nursery

we ended up falling asleep around two in the morning after

a good couple of hours of enjoying the silence between us.

.

The afternoon I drove my daughters to the hospital

after school to see my boyfriend while he was on break

I turned on the local rock station which your sister requested.

Three Days Grace started plinking acoustically through the speakers,

and we laughed when you began to babble at the new voices in the car.

The afternoon I drove my daughters to the hospital

after school to see my boyfriend while he was on break

your sister began humming the melody as

I turned onto the back road towards the hospital.

I turned the wipers on faster as the drizzle turned into rain and

the rain turned into fat,

heavy teardrops that trickled down the glass of my car.

The afternoon I drove my daughters to the hospital

after school to see my boyfriend while he was on break

you began to fuss when the tire plopped in and out of a pothole.

I reached back to stroke your head when a flash of colour crossed the road.

I tried aiming away from the electric wire pole as I swerved,

trying not to hit the deer.

I didn't expect to hit a tree on the side of the lightly flooding roa-

.

The afternoon my coworker called me down to the ER

I thought that they needed extra hands for…

I didn't know.

Something?

I was expecting there to be hustle and

bustle and

some stranger who would need help with something.

I wasn't expecting my boyfriend and his two kids to be

rolled into a panicking floor filled with people from all sides of the hospital.

The afternoon my coworker called me down to the ER

my eyes tried to follow all three of the people

I had come to love being taken in separate directions.

I heard someone asking about head trauma.

A high pitched voice called out for saltwater and other stitching supplies.

My best friend from college asked where the hell they thought they were taking the baby-

I automatically asked if I could take her.

The afternoon my coworker called me down to the ER

I shushed a frantic infant with fat tears rolling down my cheeks as

my best friend from college asked me about my boyfriend's medical information.

He was expertly taking pieces of glass out of his eldest daughter's cheek,

gently dabbing the slight cuts with salt water.

I could hardly stammer out that I didn't know.

The afternoon my coworker called me down to the ER

a small female nurse came into the room we were in to

tell my boyfriend's daughter the exact time her father had died.

.

The afternoon I went to the hospital's chapel with you in my arms

I collapsed into one of the pews in the back.

I had never been much of a fan of religion until I met your father,

so it seemed fitting that I would begin to plan his funeral inside of

the one place of the hospital that I had never been to before.

The afternoon I went to the hospital's chapel with you in my arms

I cradled you close to my chest,

wiping my tears away before they could hit your semi-fuzzy head.

I tried to hold in my sobs for your sake.

I didn't want to traumatize you at such a young age.

You were too young to witness such misery.

The afternoon I went to the hospital's chapel with you in my arms

I asked the God I wasn't sure whether to believe in or not

why He had taken your father away.

He had already taken away your mother.

He didn't need your father too.

I needed him down here more than

He would ever need him where

He sent people to after they finally kicked the bucket.

The afternoon I went to the hospital's chapel with you in my arms

I heard the creak from the rarely used door sing out in the silence.

When I turned to look at who was there,

I found your elder sister sneaking into the brightly lit room.

When I asked her why she was here,

she told me that she had needed to come to get away.

She had needed to get away from the worried nurses,

the cops who had needed her as a witness to her father's death.

She had witnessed too much death at such a young age.

The afternoon I went to the hospital's chapel with you in my arms

I watched your sister as

she ghosted towards the crucifix at the front of the room.

When she kneeled before the fake Jesus on the cross,

she told him that she couldn't go back into the system.

She had finally gotten out,

and she refused to end up back where she was before.

She swore that she would do anything not to end up there all over again.

The afternoon I went to the hospital's chapel with you in my arms

I watched in horror as she lifted up a black pistol-

which looked weirdly like a cop's gun-

held it up to the side of her head,

and pulled the trigger.

When she pulled the gun away from her head to take the safety off,

I ran towards the front of the room,

begging her not to-

She had the gun back at her hairline before I reached her,

and the trigger had already been pulled before I fell to my knees beside her.

.

The night I was questioned by the cops about

my now dead boyfriend's daughter's suicide

I didn't think anything could possibly get worse.

I had lost my boyfriend and his eldest daughter in less than six hours,

and I felt like I was going to lose the last bit of him that I had left of him-

you.

As I clutched you to my chest,

I swore to whatever lay ahead after death that I would never let you go,

even if it meant that I would have to go through Hell and back.

The night I was questioned by the cops about

my now dead boyfriend's daughter's suicide

I waited until my next break before I snuck outside to get a breath of fresh air.

My eyes turned towards the starry sky,

and it felt like I was looking into your father's eyes for the last time.

I wished that I had only had the chance to say goodbye.

The night I was questioned by the cops about

my now dead boyfriend's daughter's suicide

I figured out how I could at least say goodbye to the last piece of him that I had left.

I started making plans for it in my head as I walked out to my car.

I started figuring out the details as I strapped you in your car seat,

started up my car,

and started to drive towards your father's favourite place to relax.

The lake.

The night I was questioned by the cops about

my now dead boyfriend's daughter's suicide

I hummed the melody he wrote to his children as

I drove a good half hour to the last place he took us to as a family before he…

before he left.

The night I was questioned by the cops about

my now dead boyfriend's daughter's suicide

I drove through the park leading up to the lake to get closer to the edge.

I had to get closer to the edge.

I drove over the edge as I began to floor the car into the water.

The night I was questioned by the cops about

my now dead boyfriend's daughter's suicide

I was so thankful that you were asleep as

I felt the water begin to slip into our shared metal coffin,

both freezing and drowning us at-