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Harriet, Introduction

A young girl skips down the sidewalk in front of my house. Her brown pigtails bob, her dress twists, and her shoes tap on the sidewalk with her steps.

The neighborhood is full of houses built in the eighties, and the road hasn’t been fixed since then, either. Potholes line both sides of the street. The safest place is the sidewalk, and even that is uneven slabs of concrete, cracked and divided by grass and anthills.

A woman calls the girl’s name from down the street, warning her to be careful and to stay away from my house. All I catch of the woman is a blur of sandy blonde hair, a grey shirt, and pale skin. I don’t catch a glimpse of her face, but I know it from memory.

“Harriet!”

I always wanted to name my daughter Harriet. It was my grandmother’s name–the woman was a saint and a hero to me. I told Sandra many times that if I ever had a little girl, that’s the name I’d pick, but she would only laugh at me.

“It’s such an ugly name,” she’d say. “Why would you do that?”

After all that happened between us, I couldn’t understand why she would name our child the one that I’d picked.

Harriet stops in the front of my neighbor’s house, waiting for her mother with a half smile and impatience. She’s four now, but Sandra won’t let me near her.

She looks like me. Her hair, her skin, and her smile are all mine. I can’t see her eye color from this distance, but I know from other occasions and photos that they’re olive green like Sandra’s mother’s.

I blame her for what happened. It’s easier. All the woman did was poke at a hole that was bound to be noticed one day, but the timing was poor, and I’m sure she knew it.

The two continue down the street, observing the neighborhood. Harriet points at things, and Stacy nods and smiles along. Closing my window shades, I turn to my lonely dinner–a bowl of microwaved ravioli and a can of Pepsi.

fiction prose Writings

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