She was too beautiful. She’d be chosen — like all the others.
But she’d be chosen first.
Her beauty was radiant. She had blossomed the way all others wished their daughters would. Tall and flushed with youth, her glow was a sight to behold. There was a whimsical, magical quality about her that I couldn’t make sense of. I hadn’t been able to take my eyes off her since she came into existence.
She was still growing, still reaching for the sky like nothing under the sun would impede her from touching it. She didn’t yet know we weren’t in control of our own destiny. She hadn’t yet learned how cruel this world could be.
The wind flowed around her, the sun enunciating every perfect feature. She caught me looking at her and smiled. I smiled back until she lost herself in the elements again. My smile faded, the breeze carrying it to places I couldn’t go.
Maybe I should have told her of her fate. I had told her sisters and as a result, they were never as beautiful as her. It wasn’t possible for her to contain this ethereal quality with baggage like that to carry. I didn’t want to tell her — I knew what it had done to her sisters and I didn’t want to contaminate the brief time she had here. Maybe I was selfish and just wanted to watch a purity so divine go untarnished.
Whatever my reasoning, I had guaranteed her suffering. She would suffer far more than the others. She would pay the price.
I heard them coming. She felt my body stiffen and turned to me, her expression curious and innocent.
“What is it,” she asked gently. “You’ve never felt like this before.”
I bore her naïveté into my memory — I would never do this to a daughter again.
I forced a smile to comfort her but I wept in my silence. They were closer now and I could see them — two of them. It was only a matter of time.
She continued looking at me. Her curiosity climbed to the top of a precipice. Soon she would tumble into the valley of terror.
“Look at this one,” one of the men said. They stopped in front of us — as I knew they would.
“Wow — be a sin not to take that for yourself, huh?”
The men chuckled and the first one who spoke reached out to grab her. Her curiosity turned to confusion, turned to — for the first time — fear.
Intrusive fingers wrapped around her thin frame and she cried out in terror, her pain piercing the air that was calm only moments ago. I knew there was nothing I could do — I had tried a thousand times before — but I tried again anyway.
I stabbed at his hand and he drew back in surprise.
“Shit — this one’s feisty.” He laughed it off, not deterred in the slightest. Any thread of hope I’d had disappeared.
“What’s happening,” she cried. “What’s happening?”
He reached for her again but this time he was gentle. “You are a beauty — aren’t you?” He pulled her to him and breathed her in as his eyes fluttered closed. She sobbed in his grasp, trembling so forcibly it shook me with her.
I saw the blade in his other hand.
“Listen to me — ” I whispered. I had done this a thousand times before and not an ounce of panic trickled into my voice. It was calm and deceitful like I needed it to be.
She looked at me, paralyzed in her horror. All the fear she’d never known had made up for lost time. I couldn’t bear to see her this way — but I wouldn’t lie to her in her final moments.
“You’re always going to be beautif — ”
He sliced her throat. Flesh split open. A final gasp escaped her, terror and fear frozen in her last expression. I wailed as she was pulled from my clutches but my screams fell on deaf ears. Blood spilled from her neck, life flooding out of her. Each weakened pulse drained her of the youth I wanted to preserve.
I sobbed at the daughter that had been robbed from me. But there was nothing I could do. There was nothing I could ever do.
Why couldn’t I stop bearing children? A thousand daughters severed from me carved me hollow like the first. I was a failed mother, unable to protect her own.
I watched the men walk away, my beautiful girl already lifeless in his hand. He held her up to the sun, his face beaming with pride. He would only enjoy her for a moment before she was forgotten.
I let out another wail — never the last — when I heard him say:
“Just gotta find a bunch more like this one and I’ve got myself a bouquet. You can’t go home empty-handed on Mother’s Day.”