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  • I sat there that day knees to chin, alone, on the bathroom floor, nestled in a cocoon of fear and nausea. And hope. Sweet, sweet hope. While fear and nausea beat a pounding staccato rhythm on my rib cage, hope fluttered in my belly, crooning and humming a gentle tune. There, in the dimly lit bathroom, I studied the rips on the scuffed up linoleum floor, the flaking paint of the baseboard, the spit spots on the mirror, the mold along the edges of the tub, the urine-encrusted bolts at the base of the toilet, and the haphazardly torn cellophane wrappers sitting atop the heap of trash in the wastebasket. But I didn't, couldn't, look there.

    I was 15 years old. Tall and lean with well-placed curves and a habit of smiling no matter how strongly my lips ached to grimace; chin up, kid .. people just like you more when you smile. I had strawberry blond hair, daddy issues, freckles and a mother with all the same. My mother: on the surface afraid of nothing, no one, and as soft as a mile of double-edged razor wire. She was my biggest fear and my fiercest protector. Still is.

    Perhaps nothing stings more hotly than the memory of my feet that day. They were the feet of a child - with roughly torn cuticles, chipped pink toenail polish and dirty black bottoms. I still wore shoes only when I had to, and rarely anything more sturdy than plastic flip flops. He hated that I never wore shoes, said it was dirty, said it made people look at us, said people looking at us was bad. He was afraid - of the wrath of my mother, soft as razor wire. And more, of the wrath of caged strangers with only one hard and fast rule.

    I sat there, knees to chin, alone, on the bathroom floor until afternoon faded to evening and into dark. I listened to the song hope sang and hummed plaintively along. By the time the slam of the front door announced my mother's arrival home my legs ached and my feet had long since gone beyond numb and tingly. I got up anyway. And I looked.

    On top of the toilet sat four white sticks, bought with the last of my allowance. Smelling simultaneously of urine and dashed dreams, they subtly displayed their little pink plusses. Hope's song stuttered and died. I was going to be a mother by the time I turned 16. He, a father by 31.
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