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What You Leave

By , Superior, MT
Soft clouds floated above her, she stared up at them trying to make out images. The sun kissed her face with warmth and she smiled up at it in gratitude. She lay in a warm grassy field just outside of the bustling city. The only sound around her now was the gentle breeze passing through the trees, making the leaves sway and the shadows of the beautiful oaks dance. It was times like these that she would reflect on her life. Where had she gone so wrong? She wasn’t one to wallow in her own self-pity; she forced herself to be stronger than that. She knew she wasn’t living the charmed life but she wasn’t about to go and make things worse for herself by being miserable. So she had kept her head held high all these years, through all the pain and the torment as if to hold up a middle finger to her troubles. But it was all a façade. In reality, she had no strength, no fire in her…just the will to carry on. And as she finally let herself seep into a darker place, and the tears streamed down her face on this beautiful day, she thought of her mother.
Margaret Harrison was a beautiful woman, “inside and out,” they would say. She had ocean blue eyes that always were so vibrant and held so much enthusiasm. Her face was angelic, sweet and round with pouty pink lips. She was blessed with auburn hair that always held a lovely natural curl and a slim body, with subtle womanly curves. So many great things were expected for her, as if her beauty was bound to make her rule the world someday.
She never spent too much time worrying about her future; Margaret Harrison was by definition a dreamer. She grew up in a very small town in Indiana where she only found solace in romance novels like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. She was desperate to be in a romance story of her own, desperate to find The One. In high school she was a fickle girl, and found herself being courted by almost anyone who paid her any mind.
Her junior year of high school she met a man named Charlie who charmed her beyond any anyone else. He was 27 years old, mature and worldly, he had moved to the small town from New York City. He spoke with such elocution and vivacity about where he had come from, and was so different from everything that she had grown up around. Her interest in him escalated quickly and she found herself passionately in love. It was the romance she had always been looking for! However, life was never like the books. As time went on he treated her poorly, questioning her intelligence and talking down to her. It didn’t bother her though, she imagined herself Elizabeth Bennett and this was her Mr. Darcy.
The first time Charlie had hit her she was in a state of shock and denial. As she held her hand up to her burning cheek and water filled her eyes she stared at him blankly.
“I don’t mean to do that, you know I don’t,” he told her, “you just drive me so crazy sometimes, it’s like you can’t understand the simplest things!”
She nodded, and the next the few times he hit her wouldn’t be as surprising. It’s an amazing thing, the compromises you will make.
When she was 19 she got pregnant, Charlie was overjoyed and asked her to marry him. She felt thrilled, as if she had finally done something right! Now she was going to build a family with the man she loved. Things would get better once the baby was here, she convinced herself. She gave birth to Sarah Elizabeth on October 15, 1990 and the couple moved their family to New Jersey to start anew.
Years passed, and her baby girl grew in her image. Sweet and adorable little Sarah, she loved more than life. Unfortunately her love for life was disintegrating. She was a stay at home mom, and Charlie worked at a bank. Every day was a battle with Charlie, and usually ended in bruises she would have to explain away to her daughter who at the age of 5 was growing more and more curious. She would silently cry herself to sleep every night and pray for the strength to get up in the morning, however sometimes little Sarah would have to pull her out of bed to get her going.
It was August 25th, Sarah’s first day of kindergarten. Sarah woke up to sounds coming from the kitchen, and snuck out of her bed to see what was going on. She peeked around the corner to find her mom wearing an apron and making pancakes.
“Pancakes?!” Sarah exclaimed.
“It’s your first day of school, we have to make it special,” her mother said sweetly, “now I laid out your clothes in your room, so go put them on and I will have pancakes ready soon!”
Sarah bounced off to her room excitedly. Her mother hadn’t made anything for breakfast other than cereal for quite some time and she couldn’t even remember the last time she saw her smile. Sarah was frightened of her first day of school, but if it made her mother act this way then she was excited.
After breakfast Margaret put Sarah in the car and took her to her first day of school. They walked in and though she could tell Sarah was nervous, she seemed almost eager. After meeting the teacher and getting Sarah settled in she hugged her hard.
“Have a great day today, school is so important, don’t forget that! I love you so much, okay?”
“I love you too,” Sarah said, but her face looked at her skeptically. She hugged her once more, kissed her on the nose and then left.

When Margaret got home she wrote a letter and put it in an envelope on the counter and wrote Sarah’s name on it. She went to her husband’s sock drawer and pulled out a pistol. She placed the cool metal against her temple and for one last time prayed for strength. This time, God gave it to her.



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