Hope, Pretty, Dream – Short Fiction by Jennifer Mills Kerr

When I was four, my father gave me a crystal rabbit. Translucent yet cloudy, the figure symbolized mystery to me, though at such a young age, I could not begin to give the rabbit a story. Instead, I gave words to my father’s gift, words that described how I felt:  Hope. Pretty.  Dream. 

“Will you name the rabbit?” my father asked.

I clutched the figurine, warm in my palm. “I don’t want to name it.”  Naming a mystery was impossible, but I couldn’t have articulated such feelings then. Still, my father nodded, as if he understood.

I was a romantic child, one who sat outside for stretches of time, enraptured by birdsong, breezes, the fragrance of grass.  When I was six years old, my mother appeared in my bedroom one morning, face haggard and strange. Your father has leftHe’s not coming back.  She disappeared, and I fell back asleep. When I woke, light pressed against the windows, and I imagined it a dream.

Entering the kitchen, I discovered my mother at the table, a glass of amber-colored liquid in front of her. Her face was the color of ash, and I knew it wasn’t a dream, that my father had left.  He left because of you, she said.

I ran outside, certain the fresh air and light would cast her ugliness away. He left because of you. Eventually, I lay on the grass, gazing at clouds, imagining my father within one. He’d always been a hazy figure, drifting upon the edges of my life.  Although he felt like a benevolent presence, he was not clear in my mind now, and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t picture him. That was why he had given me the crystal rabbit, I decided, so I could hold him close, even though he was a mystery, someone who floated out of my life like a cloud.

My mother lost her romantic nature the day my father left.  But I was different, for in his absence, my dreams only intensified.  I imagined him climbing Mt. Everest, fighting battles in Europe, sailing around the world.  I imagined his returning to our house like an Odysseus and claiming me once again.  My stories were my redemption; I needed them because for many years, I believed my mother. He left because of you.

Thirty years later, I know that my father went to Upstate New York when he left our home, that he lived quietly and alone, and that he died a few years later. I was eleven years old then, living inside a world of hope, pretty, dream, a world I still live inside today.

My daughter’s name is Olivia.  Almost three, she is learning words she hears every day, but also those that come from the story books I read to her at night.  Princess.  Wolf.  Magic.  She touches the book’s pages with tiny fingers, and I know my mother’s words cannot be true. 

Jennifer Mills Kerr

Jennifer Mills Kerr's short fiction, memoir, and poetry have been published in The Dickens Literary Review, Flashquake, and First Leaves Journal, among others. An East Coast native, she is a lover of mild winters, anything Jane Austen, and the raucous coastline of Northern California. You can read more of her creative work at www.JenniferMillsKerr.us.

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