Death of Innocence

She believed she had gone through a certain death when she woke in her bed, sheets soiled with blood. The crude stains frightened and perplexed her; why would she bleed if she had no noticeable wounds? And she thought she was fine until a gradual pain knifed through her gut and back, wrenching a shocked cry from her, that buckled her knees.

She had no mother to explain this new rite of passage. Only a clumsy father who awkwardly fumbled through an explanation of her body’s transition into womanhood. He took her sheets and nightdress, leaving her to shower and change. But as she stared at herself in the bathroom mirror, eyes swollen from panicked sobs, there was no evidence she was becoming a woman. The aureolas of her breasts were only mere brown patches blending into the dark plain of her chest. She had no pronounced curves, like her friend Sherry, who’d ripened into a woman attracting boys long before her. She was more like an unflattering plank, fixed with lanky appendages.

But this was her rebirth, a sudden resurrection from the death of her childhood which had bled away overnight. Without preamble, time had snatched a treasure she thought would last forever — clutched to her bosom — in spite of her stretching limbs and pimpling face.

Yet there was hardly a moment to properly mourn her loss because her friends celebrated it. Whatever sadness she’d felt was overtaken by the corrosive nature of curiosity, leaving her open and vulnerable to every outside influence.

She indulged those first years of proclaimed womanhood with her friends, slipping away into the night that flourished with an energetic zest, urging her forward to fulfill every secret pleasure. But she found she didn’t like the taste of beer and its way of scorching down her throat with an admonishing bite. Her attempts to smoke smothered her lungs in black clouds, leaving her with a cough that embarrassed her amid her circle of friends. But instead of leaving with an indignant pout, she stayed with them; huddled around a fire by the lake beneath a swollen, white moon where they exchanged wild teenage tales. Stories she could only listen to because she hadn’t yet discovered that salacious streak inside her.

Until she suffered her second death beneath Craig in his bed. She’d met him at a club, egged on by Sherry and the girls. And after a few days of exchanged texts and flirtatious calls, she accepted his invitation to his house. But this death felt more tragic than the loss of her childhood. The premature heat that had consumed her when she willingly allowed him to invade her body was replaced by a cold epiphany. That there was a part of her which wanted to preserve the last vestiges of her purity. Why? She didn’t know, but an overwhelming shame made it hard for her to meet his gaze when he lifted her chin for a kiss.

She shoved him away from her and gathered her things without explanation. Though he ran after her when she rushed down the stairs, and tried to pull her back, she flung off his hand and darted down the pathway after pushing her feet in her shoes. There was no trace of the nervous excitement that had followed her to his house. A hollowness took its place and the night wind on her face, though tender and forgiving, couldn’t stop the tears streaking her face. All she wanted was to go home, back to the sanctuary she’d neglected for the sake of this new self-discovery.

When she slipped in through the front door, she found her father pacing, phone clenched in his hand. But the worry etched on his face twisted into an upset shadow of open rebuke and she lowered her gaze. The air was taut with a sense of his expectancy to know where she was coming from. She was ready to explain herself and took a decisive step forward that ended with her crumpled against his chest.

What she expected was a cold hand pushing her back and reprimanding eyes without sympathy, not the ease of his arms wrapping around her — palm stroking her back. He asked no questions and she felt her sadness ebb in the sway of his silent understanding. His voice hummed a soothing melody that she remembered he’d sing for her whenever she’d had nightmares.

How long had it been since she’d allowed herself to depend on her father? She had been so convinced she knew how to approach womanhood. So sure that it was something to be figured out on her own without need for him to explain anything to her after he’d helped her through her first period. But there had been a restless emptiness inside her all those nights spent out with friends. A certain cluelessness mirrored in all of them under the façade of teenage confidence. Perhaps it wasn’t that her childhood had ended. Maybe she’d been too eager to put it to death herself.

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