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 flash fiction and poetry have been recently published in Blink-Ink, Platform for Prose and Writing in a Woman’s Voice. An East Coast native, she loves mild winters, anything Jane Austen, and the raucous coast line of Northern California. You can read more of her creative work at www.jennifermillskerr.com.

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