Against Erasure - Fiction / by D.M. Jerman

The following is a response to the novella The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing.
On the third night my daughter snuck out I rearranged her room. She would know when she fell hard back thru the window where the bed should be and I wouldn't say a thing and the next morning I'd make sure she had something nice to eat. She would think she was being smart by bringing it up and then I would turn on her, slowly. My eyes getting big and I would say- well something is probably missing. You should check all of your things carefully so that nothing else dissappears.

And the missing thing would go unnoticed for awhile because it would be something she didn't use very often. But maybe she would see a woman in a coffee shop with a gold bracelet and know it was hers once. Something she wanted back with raw desperation. Something I knew she shoplifted but I'd never said anything about either.
She'd know her mother's power then. And the variable environment of ownership...

The world of the city can be that small. Can teach lessons you didn't know you should learn until you did.

I did it when I was a girl. Shoplifting and smoking and eating cock. But my parents were stupid. They were meaner too. I loved them more than my daughter loves me.

There was never a time she was not at odds with me. I knew this risk from her birth. I had read the books. I chose to love her in spite of the spitefulness of love.

When I learned I was pregnant I sat up straight in bed like it was all mine even though I shared it with my husband, propping the pillows and working my teeth with a wooden pick at 2am. The pick took the place of dark red wine, like blood, and cigarettes with smoke like haunted voices. I would not cripple my enemy before I could befriend her. I began to talk to my stomach. Not out of reason but out of generous disgust. And for fear.

I was up nearly all night with my confession. My lips were chewed and torn.
I remember every word.

My husband is a man who does things differently. He does not politely look away. He's been with a prostitute and I hold more respect toward him for this. Perhaps he was a whore in another life. When I told him I was pregnant he too knew it was a girl, and that she would hate me with a passion cold as November. The ruthless ice storm the month she was born stood as a stark proof.

"Do you want to test your luck?" He leered at me once while he bent to listen to my belly. His voice could wring sense from the animal occasionally. In early October the sounds began keeping me up. She did not kick and turn, only cried out from within me. My repeated confession did no good. He taunted and cooed and I could finally sleep, though my dreams were no better.

She had reached 13. Menstruating for the first time on her birthday. That night I have a dream as soon as I hit the pillow where I remove her left hand by ax. This was also the first night she snuck out. It was as if she knew the scent of her blood could lure her rescuers.

She is a cunt
who deserves to die
but so do I.

So am I.