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The Playhouse

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The playhouse was Molly’s. Our father built it for her when her mother died. He added the little wooden porch and swing set when he married my mom. If I was Molly, I would have hated it. If I was Molly, I would have spat in our father’s face and cried and complained for life to be how it once was. But I was not Molly, and Molly was certainly not me. And so she loved it.

I always admired that playhouse in the same way that I admired Molly. She was older than me, smarter, and she could tie her shoe laces while I was stuck in Velcro until I was seven. And even at a young, confused age I could always tell that Molly was better than me. She held her head with a certain grace, not low enough to be self-conscious and not high enough to be proud. Her eyes gleamed with something beyond my reach. Even when she was punished, she refused to kick and scream as was my fashion for receiving time-outs, instead waiting patiently until she could go back to her playhouse.

Because I admired it, I was scared of it. I was scared to break off the shiny metal door knob. I was scared to stain the white-washed walls with my filthy hands. I never set foot in that playhouse. Not even when Molly left for college. I was twelve at the time, and our father believed that both of us had outgrown the wooden masterpiece. Molly could see the truth though, and she knew that I would forever be entranced by it. She had no reservations in letting me know that it was mine now.

“You can go in there, you know,” She had said softly as she hugged me goodbye. I nodded, but I had no intention of entering a five foot radius my half-sister’s monument. I think she knew that, too.

It was never mine.

And then, the call came. Molly, good and god-like Molly, was dead. It happened right on campus when she was only feet from her dorm. One of the girls in her building had been drinking and was focused only on the guy in her passenger seat, not our Molly bent over to pick up a dropped letter.
Our father, her mother, and I had all been writing Molly since the day she left for college. The silly, romantic girl insisted on snail-mail, despite my attempts at texting her daily. We don’t know whose letter it was. I think we all blame each other. I think we all know that it was ours.
Now, I look down at the playhouse. It is neglected. Years have passed since I have stood in this yard. I walked out the day I turned eighteen and I never looked back. I skipped college and entered strait into a loveless marriage, which produced the reason I stand here now. Ten years, a birth, and a divorce later, my baby girl has insisted that the playhouse belongs to her. I’m too much of a coward to deny her, yet too cowardly to give her what she wants.
Hell if I don’t try, though, I think as I raise the sponge and cleaner to the wood. Dirt and dilapidation plague the playhouse, and it’s my job to set it right. With every swipe of the rag I see Molly having a tea party or playing house. I see Molly in the crisp, innocent white that I fight to uncover.
And yet no matter how hard I push against the playhouse, it pushes back at me. The dirt seems to get thicker and thicker as I scrub, and Molly is fading away from me again. My daughter encourages me, pleads for me to finish, and imagines out loud what fun lies in store in the playhouse. But I’m doomed to fail her.
I move faster and faster: desperate to restore Molly to the world. But she slips away like sand through a time glass. The playhouse will never be clean again.





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