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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


greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 11, 2021:

Bill, thank you on both accounts, my friend. I'm still working on tweaking this one a bit, but I am mostly satisfied it went where I wanted it to.

Also, it was an honor and privilege to serve for three decades...I'd love to do it all over again, honestly. Support from folks like you always made it so very worthwhile. Good weekend, partner.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 11, 2021:

Rinita - we find as we get older that the real world isn't always the nicest place. Fiction can and should sometimes acknowledge (and comment) on that. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the thoughtful comments. Much appreciated.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 11, 2021:

Thanks, Brenda. I think it's possible there'll be more to follow, but we shall see. The to-do list is pretty long this week...again, thanks for the great prompt, and thanks for the encouragement, as always.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 11, 2021:

Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it. I had tears in my eyes with this one. Before I forget, thank you for serving your country. You are appreciated by little old me.

Rinita Sen on September 11, 2021:

It tells a gut wrenching story of the not so ideal family life. Yes, parents can also be mean. This is something people don't want to talk about. No wonder she withheld the information for so long. I think it's great that your story has an open ending. To the readers imagination it further grows.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 10, 2021:

I hope your muse writes a part 2...it's intriguing.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 10, 2021:

Thanks so much, Umesh. I appreciate you reading and providing comments on my work, my friend. Hope you have a wonderful week.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 10, 2021:

Thanks, John! Much appreciated, brother. And I completely agree with your sentiments. Congrats to you, as well, on your well-deserved recognition as best poet! Nicely done. Keep up the great work, John.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 10, 2021:

Beautifully well crafted story. I enjoyed reading it.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 10, 2021:

What a wonderful but heart-wrenching story, Greg. Some people..parents..organizations..partners just don’t want to allow freedom to those they have under their control. If they do allow it, it often comes at a price, like in your story. Amazing job on this prompt.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 10, 2021:

Sha Sha - yes, there's a lot going on here. She gave up so, so much just to be free. It's kind of a microcosm of the overall concept of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So many don't really understand that their ability to be free means someone, somewhere had to do the hard work to get us there. And keep us there. As a fellow brat, you definitely get that.

Thanks for your support, Sha Sha. Both in my writing and otherwise. For my part, it was and shall remain forever worth all of it. Indeed, I'd do it all over again just exactly the same way if I could. I got that line from my dad, who said the very same thing in a letter to one of his brothers.

Bless you, friend, and thanks again for reading my work.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 10, 2021:

Box, what a chilling, sad story! I had to re-read the part about how she got her scars. What her mother did to her is unconscionable!

Many of us wanted and obtained freedom from our parents, but didn't have physical scars to deal with. Emotional scars, yes, but they healed and relationships resumed. At least in my case.

Freedom should be something that doesn't result in scars. But, now that I think about it, our military (yeah, you, Bud), who fight for people they may never lay eyes on, acquire scars the rest of us can't fathom.

This is a very poignant story that led me to think of freedom beyond a personal scope.

Very deep, my dear friend. Very deep.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 10, 2021:

Brenda - as always, thanks x 2: for the kind, encouraging words and for posting on your article. Times three, I guess, for providing the prompt, too. I am not often happy with completed works, but I am pretty close to happy with this one. I'm going to keep looking at it every now and then, might change a couple words here and there, but I am satisfied it tells the story I wanted to tell...so far.

I don't know if she'll tell him more or not. This was, as you said, a good first step, and more than he'd had before. Time will tell, I suppose, if she intends to be more forthcoming about her previous life.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 10, 2021:

Hi Pamela - thank you, my friend. I'd conceived of this general idea quite some time ago and it didn't go much past this point. I like your idea, though, and think there might be more to offer from these characters, and also from the characters not seen but alluded to...

Thanks for reading, Pamela...and congrats on your prestigious Hubbie Award! So well deserved and so very well done!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 10, 2021:


Your story, "The Marks of Freedom" had me drawn into every part.

This is such a great short story.

So intense.

It left me wanting to know more.

What a way to get freedom.

Will she eventually tell him everything?

I love that she's reaching out to him & beginning to tell her story.

I will post a link innthe word prompt article.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 10, 2021:

This very good story about freedom definitely meets Brenda's prompt. I think another chapter might be in order. I enjoyed reading this well-crafted response, Greg.

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