A Mother's Story
Peggy Duffy

It was the smile that fooled her. A brilliant, beguiling, bewitching smile which lit up the girl's face; it was an illusion, a delusion, a seduction she allowed to lure her in and ease her mind between the periods of the glum and the irritable, the attitude of indifference.

"Seventeen-year-olds are moody," the family physician said.

"It's a difficult time, one of stress and indecision," the guidance counselor agreed.

"You're overreacting," the girl's father concurred.

She could see the anger seethe from her, how the girl held her face in an expression of disdain and defiance, her body weighed down by scorn and contempt. She shared the weight of it, felt it press against her own maternal heart. She offered to take her shopping, to enroll her in a dance class, to hire a tutor for her falling grades. The girl took no interest.

The girl took interest only in the boys--young men?--whose calls came in the late hours of the night. One week it was Josh, the next Dave, the following Mark. Briefly they made her smile, a wide beacon of hope radiating throughout the house, then they made her cry, inconsolable behind closed doors.

"Don't you remember your first loves?" the girl's father asked, making light of her concerns. "You rise fast but fall hard."

The last boy broke her. She found the girl in the car, a thin smile stretched across blue lips, the garage thick with exhaust fumes.

"How could we have known?" the father asked, reaching for her.

"I knew, I knew," she admitted and turned away, the quiet agony of guilt embossed forever onto her soul.

First published: August, 2003
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