In the Shadows

Oh, look at her!  She’s so beautiful, so perfect! Her eyes…yes, she does look like me as a girl!

My prayer is, if she remembers me at all today, she will forgive me, and that somehow she will know, I never stopped loving her.

When they took her from my arms that day, I screamed and raged and howled with pain and anger. After the syringe discharged its vile contents, I felt nothing, and longed to remain numb.  Dead.

I wonder if that is what they told her when she was old enough to understand.  In a way it was true. I was dead.

Warden Belling showed no compassion.  “You should have thought of that before you stuck up the liquor store.  What was a pregnant girl doing in the liquor store, anyway? Now that old man is dead, and you’re locked up for forty years.”

Labor was long and hard, and when she was finally born, the nurse felt sorry for me. Against regulations, she let me hold her for a minute.  Alice, I named her. For my mother.

“Do you have anybody who can take her?  Your family?  Her father?”

No, no and no, I told them. Nobody would want me now.  Twenty minutes later, the nurse came back with two big, manly women wearing gray.  Parental rights were immediately terminated.  End of story.

My veil is not because of my faith, as it might appear. It does grieve me that passersby suppose I am Muslim.  I am not. My Savior has kept me sane these nineteen years, and I love Him so. But I cannot be recognized here, and as there are other veiled women, I remain undetected.

I served twenty years “flat,” as my sentence required, and as I had no scrapes with the law while on the inside, I made parole. 

If only.  Story of my life.  If only I hadn’t taken that first hit off the pipe.  If only H hadn’t called my name until I had to have more.  If only the liquor store fire hadn’t given that old man a heart attack.  If only I’d been able to get out before the fire destroyed half of my face. If only…

And yet, here I am.  My Savior is with me, and I can see my beautiful baby girl as she marries her handsome soldier. She’ll never have to see me this way. Be happy, Baby.  Your mama will love you forever.

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