this one can stay

When Anne was born her mother tried to be indifferent, even though Anne was prettier and healthier looking than the first two had been. Even Anne’s father was more hopeful this time: her cry was lusty, her skin was rosy, and she looked into his eyes almost immediately. The other two were boys and weak as kittens, and their cries were so quiet. Each boy had lived only a week and had barely nursed or opened their eyes. When they did open them, their eyes were a deep indigo. What Anne’s mother remembered most about them was the way their eyelashes curled against their cheeks, and how their eyes had looked so solemn.

In Anne’s first few weeks, her mother kissed the pink skin on her small face, making the little black curls that covered her forehead damp. Her mother wanted this baby to live, she wanted to fight and stamp her feet in the dust and learn incantations. Maybe with other two she hadn’t prayed the right way. Maybe she should have read some Pagan book and memorized the words inside; some powerful, ancient book bound in black leather and printed in blood. Maybe she should have whispered spells that were older than any Christian prayer. Maybe she should have begged the moon for mercy.

When Anne started crawling her parents breathed a little easier, and when she started walking they allowed their shoulders to relax a bit. The other two babies had not crawled, or walked, maybe God wouldn’t take this one back.

By the time Anne was two, her mother sang as she worked in the kitchen garden or cooked, and her father whistled when he left for the fields in the morning. They laughed about things that happened when they were first in love, and they smiled at and indulged Anne, who was growing into a pretty girl with thick, raven curls and a full, red mouth.
When Anne was five she had her parents wrapped around her tiny pink finger, and when she was twelve she could stay out until midnight. None of her friends were allowed to leave the perimeter of their parents’ land after dusk. Anne’s parents were over the moon for her, and convinced that she should be given all the pretty things they could afford, and all the freedom they could offer. They were trying to keep her with them. They were trying to make sure she never left.
When Anne was sixteen she was like a wild mustang, her hang was long, tangled, full of leaves. She was good at school but didn’t have patience for studying for long hours at a time, so as soon as her homework was completed to the minimum sufficiency she would swing her long legs off of her twin bed, shove her books and composition notebook back into her school satchel, and bolt out the front door to explore.

She liked the woods around her father’s field especially; she liked the quiet deer that spooked so easily, she loved the noisy ravens (she liked how they talked to one another, how their calls sounded like the exclamations of the gossipy old ladies in town). There was a large creek that drowned out the sound of farm machinery and trucks on the dusty red road that led to her farm. Anne liked to lie on the grass next the creek and look up at the tree canopy until she felt sleepy. She liked the way the wind traveled over her body in waves, and imagined how it would feel to be made love to.

When Anne was seventeen she left the woods, and started exploring the other farms. She visited the ones that belonged to boys from her school, and she’d sneak around like a bobcat, spying on them. In the past year the boys had changed into something interesting; before they had been like sweet little colts galloping around her. Now they were tall with lean brown muscles that peeked out from beneath crisp short-sleeved shirts. Their jaws had grown more masculine, their voices deeper and stronger, and when they looked at Anne, their eyes were hungry.

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