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  • The most noteworthy thing about my existence is that my mother inherited two mutated X-chromosomes from my grandparents, who were descended from British royalty. The result of this unfortunate legacy was hemophilia, a rare disorder that prevented her blood from clotting. Because of the hemophilia, or because of her soul, my mother was perpetually terrified. Terrified of paper cuts, of knives, of nails and glass and ballpoint pens. She was terrified of drowning, and spiders. She was especially terrified of heights.
    When I was three years old, my parents bought a large Victorian home in the New England countryside. They were thrilled with it- their first house, their first child, everything was pretty and perfect and quaint. They spent months congratulating themselves on their little corner of the world. My mother congratulated my father on his manliness as he chopped logs for our grand stone fireplace. My father congratulated her on her beauty as she hung charming landscapes in the sitting room. They both congratulated me on whatever I happened to be doing at the time, though I could not understand, because I was quite a slow child and had not yet learned to communicate very well; I spoke only one- or two-word sentences.
    The new house had a sort of indoor balcony that overlooked the wide, empty foyer and kitchen area. It was not dangerous; there was a sturdy wooden rail taller than I was protecting the edge, so I could not fall over. Despite the railing, the only person that ever went up there was my father, because my mother was terrified, and terrified for me. However terrified she was, though, she was also busy, and could not keep an eye on me at all times. Often I had free reign of the house for hours on end while she decorated and cooked and mended and did all those lovely things young mothers always do.
    One afternoon, my father got a craving for apple pie. His craving was such that he actually managed to persuade my poor mother, with kisses and croons, to use the wonderfully sharp cutlery she had received as a wedding present to cut the apples for the pie. Terrified as she was, my mother agreed, for she was a dutiful and loving wife. So out came the cutlery and the heavy wooden slab and the fresh apples, and my anxious mother began to slice the fruit into eighths with a gleaming chef’s knife. She bravely held back tears as she did so, but it was still slow work for her trembling hands.
    I watched her for the first few minutes, but quickly tired of it, and wandered off to explore my new home. It was not long before that engulfing three-year-old curiosity led me to the stairs pointing upward to the forbidden balcony. Checking behind my shoulder to make sure I was not being watched, I began to crawl up them. The old white paint flaked off on my hands as they made contact with the wood, and by the end of the climb, my chubby knees were aching- but oh, it was worth it. Eyes widened with wonder, I grasped the railing and stared between the wooden bars. I could see everything. There was the colourful picture book I had been playing with on the rug. There were my father’s painting things lying in a puddle of Warm Ivory near the south wall, which was still partially covered in fading floral wallpaper. There was sweet, golden sunlight streaming in through the highest window, and there was the dust dancing like fairies, all the way down to my tiny mother in the kitchen. I could see her trembling even from my height. I understood in a simple way her fears, but not what caused them, or why it was so hard to cut the apples. In my juvenile joy, I knew I could assuage her anxiety by sharing with her the miraculous view from the balcony.
    “Mommy!” I called to her, searching my brain for the next word I needed to use. “Up!”
    It happened so quickly. I see it in my mind every day like it was still happening.
    My mother, still slicing apples, looks up, sees my delighted face through the bars of the balcony, screams, “Colin, no!!!!”, the terror in her eyes complete as she jerks around to face me, knife still in hand, poised, forgotten completely at the sight of her child in danger, her thumb resting on a section of apple, the knife slips, comes down with a small, terrible sound, another scream, and her thumb is separated from her body, lying next to the pieces of apple, red and white, red and white, and there’s blood, too much blood, my father comes running in from outside, I am forgotten, my mother is passed out, blood is everywhere, on the counter, on the knife, on her dress, on the apples, the floor, everywhere, and I’m crying now, my father’s crying, my mother’s not crying, my mother’s face is white, she’s not moving, red and white, what’s happening, what happened, what happened…..
    She bled to death in the passenger seat of my father’s old Ford pickup truck, on the way to the hospital. I sat in the back amongst a pile of towels that I had to constantly hand to my father to soak up the blood. We were both crying and scared and covered in my mother’s congealing life force.
    The drive was only ten minutes long.
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