Five By Five
by backfromspace

You're too old now and she's in jail. She's too young for this. You don't know how old she is any more, maybe twenty, maybe twenty-five. Too young.

She's five years old and you're playing Monopoly. She takes all the little pieces and makes a tower out of them. She puts the horseman on top. Because horses aren't as heavy as houses, she says. She lines up the hotels in little rows, five after five after five. Because she's five, she tells you, a big smile on her face.

She's twenty-eight. They let her out of prison early. Parole for good behavior. She promises to clean up and goes back to school.

It's her tenth birthday and you bought her a bike. It's red, like her favorite shirt. You know she'll love it. A man comes and tells you something about demons but you're not listening, because you've got to remember what ingredients you need for a cake. And the next thing you know she's gone, and you didn't even get to give her the bike.

She's thirty-three. She finally got her Bachelor's Degree. Performing Arts. Dancing. She always did have a dancer's physique. She dances with a man named Anthony and they concieve. She searches everywhere for you to share the good news.

She's nine. You're at the beach, just you and her and the throngs of strangers in little pockets up and down the water. She's splashing around, ankle-deep, and you're reading a magazine. She laughs suddenly and you look up, worried, but she's all right, she's having fun. She wants you to join her, but you go back to the article.

Her thirty-sixth birthday and the baby is three. They named him after your father. He took his first steps in your living room while you and your daughter cheered her on. You go to the store to buy cake ingredients and wonder what miracle brought you two together again.

It's her fourteenth birthday and you still have the bike. Its paint's been worn thin from constant polishing. You miss her terribly but it doesn't bring her back. The police ask you all sorts of questions and the judge frowns down at you from his podium but all you can think about is her playing in the water.

She's forty-four and her baby is ten. He looks just like his father. She grins and ruffles his hair. She's always smiling. You bake a cake for no reason and the two of you eat the whole thing. She gets sick and complains, but she's still smiling. She's always smiling. The years march by, five after five after five, and her smiles only grow stronger.

She must be twenty, now. You've lost track of the missing years. You leave the bike behind when you move and it feels like your heart dies. She's somewhere else, God only knows where. You begin to wonder if she's still alive.

She's fifty now, and she looks just like you. Her cheeks have wrinkles from laughing and her hair is shot through with grey. She laughs and tells you she's proud of her age. She's proud because she looks just like you. Her son is an honor student. You take them all to Greece as a reward and he smiles all the time. Just like his mother. She turns to you and yells that she loves you, and she's moving to hug you...

...But she's young and convicted at twenty-three, and she can't reach you through the bars.


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