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emily was born blue.

there was another baby before her - a boy, she thinks, but her mother slurs whenever she talks about him, and there are no photos. in her mind, emily has called him benjamin, and, when she closes her eyes, she imagines that he is pushing her on a swing. big brother benjamin. emily and benjamin, running around the garden, playing hide and seek, emily always the seeker, benjamin always hiding.

emily has seen photos her mother tried to hide from her: emily lying, a cord wrapped round her neck, blue. in the next one, her limbs are a blur and she's choking on her own fluids, but she's alive and screaming. her mother has an expression of relief, but also grief. she had not known she was carrying a girl.

emily imagines her parents, a paired pastiche of bloodshot eyes and shaking hands holding baby monitors, lying awake in the hot summer nights of her infancy. it's no wonder she looks back on her childhood and feels suffocated.

'she's my miracle baby', her mother would babble to her father, 'isn't she? my miracle child.'


'emily's a swimmer, aren't you, emily? you like swimming, don't you?'

emily would nod, thinly, trying to remember the litany of rules she had learnt by heart. don't speak unless you're spoken to - no elbows on the table - don't ask awkward questions...all the while, counting the rise and fall of her chest.

'she's a good girl, your emily, isn't she?' her grandmother would say. 'what a good girl you are, emily.'

her teachers held the same opinion - emily was such a good girl. emily never spoke out of turn. emily was doing really well with her reading skills. well done, emily. good job.

'you're so lucky you weren't damaged,' her mother said to emily. 'you didn't breathe for so long that mummy was worried you might grow up and have troubles with reading and writing.'

emily thinks she's wrong, she is damaged, she isn't the perfect child her mother thinks she is. she wakes up in the middle of the night, terrified that she isn't breathing, and has to cover her ribs with her hands so she can see and feel her chest rising and falling, one, out, two, out. she's a quiet child because she is busy counting her breaths. the more numbers she learns, the quieter she gets. emily thinks in blue - electric blue for happiness, sky-blue for peaceful, aquamarine for worry. right now, she is navy-grey.

'you're my miracle baby, aren't you emily? my miracle child.'


years later, she is still a swimmer. strong and lithe, she breathes only when above the water, through her nose and mouth, gasping. she dives, and counts underwater until her chest is burning, her muscles are screaming, and the pressure of the water on top of her is too much, too much. she kicks up from the bottom, screaming out her last bubbles of air, before breaking the surface and filling her lungs again. her chest rises and falls again, and she cradles her ribcage in her spread hands.
one, out, she thinks. two, out.

she's beyond imagining benjamin as her swimming coach - but she still feels lonely when she walks back into town, afterwards, as if she should be arm in arm with somebody, as if the click of her shoes on the pavement should be accompanied by the shuffle of a teenage boy.

she still thinks in blue.

looking even smaller in a huge hoodie, her hair damp and her knees hugged to her chest, she sits in a circle in a park with people she calls her friends. some boy she supposes she knows quite well takes in another lungful of weed, and asks,
'what do you reckon is the easiest way to die?'
'drowning,' she answers, quickly. 'it'd be hard at first, but then all you have to do is not do anything.'
there is a small silence after her words. somebody passes her a spliff, and she takes it.
one, out, she thinks. two, out.
things i've had in my head for a long time. let's see how this pans out.
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poshlost Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
you have a gift for taking the best slices out of life. this was amazing, as always. hope you're doing well, i miss you.
Athazagoraphobias Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
I thought this might be an uplifting story. I was wrong. Somehow this was a pleasant surprise. :)
Carousel-Dreams Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010
22thorn Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010
Funny how the last paragraph (about not doing anything) seems to tie in with a piece I did today.

wonderfulrachel Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010
ooh i hadn't seen that, it's pretty! (:

i've had the beginning and the end in my head for an actual forever. i found it scribbled at the bottom of a journal entry from last year, which is what prompted me to actually write this D:
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Submitted on
March 4, 2010
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