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The Marks of Freedom

I’ve enjoyed writing for many years. I'm dedicating more time to the craft in my retirement days.

The Marks of Freedom

She has scars on her back. Four of them. I felt them the first night we were together.

Eventually, I asked her if I could see them. She said I could. She pulled off her shirt, turned around.

Knotty, shiny, smooth, irregular; nearly, but not quite, perfect circles each one.

“What are these?” I asked as, one by one, I ran my fingers over each of them, tracing the circle of each individual wound. She would not answer.

Over time, I learned this was all she was ever going to say about it. The scars—two of them centrally located on each of her clavicles, two of them just below her rib cage—became off-limits physically and every way otherwise.

And the less we acknowledged them, the more I wanted to understand. The more I wanted to know.

After a too frantic, too panicked search, I found her late one evening sitting cross-legged, perched precariously on the rooftop ledge of our apartment tower. I sat down beside her, facing inward, my back toward the city and what I deemed an imminent fall. I looked at her eyes wishing they'd return my gaze.

“I was worried about you,” I said, leaning in, touching her on the shoulder.

“I want my freedom,” she said.

“What?” I jerked my hand away from a hot stove top. My stomach twirled and my heart stopped, started again, picked up its pace and power so I could feel it thwump-thwump-thwumping against my ribcage.

She turned slowly and patted me on the leg, smiled weakly. “Not from you, silly. It was the last thing I said to my mother. I told her I wanted my freedom, and this—these scars—this is what she did to me.”

“I thought you told me your parents died in a car accident.”

“Oh, they’re out there.” She looked away, upward, swept her arm across the sky before again placing both hands in her lap. “It’s the classic ‘not under my roof’ story, you know. I won’t bore you with the details.”

“But I want the details. I want to understand. I really do.”

She looked at me, placed her hand on my thigh. “Before she cut me, she said, ‘Here’s your freedom, dear daughter. Now you’re absolutely free to do absolutely whatever you want. You just won’t be doing it up here.’”

She pulled her hand away, lifted her feet and knees together, spun ‘round quickly on her bottom, and stood up. She then reached out and offered her palms-down hands to me.

“Let’s dance, shall we? I really don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

I reached up and grabbed her fingers, let her help me to stand. We swayed quietly long into the night, my hands gently rubbing the spots on her shoulder blades as we sang together to music only the two of us could hear.

Mother Freedom

© 2021 greg cain

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