portion of the artwork for Elizabeth Pettie's story

How We Part
Elizabeth Pettie

Lucy burrows against my chest. Moisture seeps through my blouse. Please let it be drool, not snot. Drool dries. Snot leaves a yellow crust. Nearby toddlers unpack a basket of costumes, donning gowns and plastic crowns.

A daycare lady wraps a hand around Lucy’s shoulder. “And what’s your name?”

“Lucy,” I answer, my daughter’s name replacing my own.

I pry Lucy from my waist and plop her on the ground where she collapses, boneless, refusing to support her own weight. She leeches to my leg. Her arms strangle my thigh, ankles lock around my calf. My phone buzzes, signaling five minutes until I need to leave for my first day back at work.

I reach to remove her. Lucy bites my hand, drawing blood.

“That’s one,” I say. Parenting is constant counting: counting bad behavior, minutes until bedtime, days until I end my post as a stay-at-home mom.

“How about you try comfort,” says daycare lady.

“She bit me.”

“It’s normal to act out when undergoing change.”

“She bit me,” I repeat, still shocked by how much it hurts. Sometimes, I swear, she’s trying to chip away at my patience until I become the toddler throwing the tantrum. The other day at the grocery store she asked for the zillionth time if she could have cookies, begging, “Please, Mama, please,” lower lip out, pouting. I screamed, “No!” Some grandmotherly woman pressed her hands to her heart. I grabbed the box of cookies and threw them in the cart.

Lucy squeezes my leg. I slide my hand under her bicep to pull her loose. She scratches my thigh, ripping my pantyhose.

“That’s two.”

I yank her arm. She rubs her cheek against the hole in my pantyhose. This morning I rocked her in the glider while she sucked her thumb, her cheek warming my chest. I’m scared I’m no longer capable of returning to who I was before she was born.

My phone buzzes again. Stepping forward to help, daycare lady peels Lucy from my leg. She cages my daughter in a hug, nods at the door, signaling for me to leave.

I watch for a moment through the narrow window, surprised by how light I feel, my body, my blood, once again my own. Daycare lady nudges Lucy. She whispers something in her ear and points to the window. My daughter refuses to look at me. Refuses to wave goodbye. My phone buzzes. I move down the hallway, out of her line of sight.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 46 | Fall 2015