Bind - Christine Breckler

She was born in a rainy month of spring, under an abysmal sky and grey stained world. Held tightly by mother, upon the baby’s left arm a great deep maroon ribbon wrapped snugly just beneath her shoulder. Mother cried tears, fiddling with velvet in attempts to hide it beneath the bright blue blanket swaddling her new child. Soon, father escorts son to see their new family addition. Cautiously, she hands off the baby to her husband, while her beloved son gazes upon his sister with amble curiosity. In distraction, one small slip, the boy’s hand traveled over fathers forearm and under the loop of his sister’s ribbon. Mother shrieks, curdling blood and ears as she jumps out of bed to steal daughter back from father. Their son, quiet and gentle, bursts into tears as father moves him from the room whilst the nurses administer sedatives. Heart pounding, mind racing, little girl screeches out for comfort from the fears of her protective mother. And Mother, drifting under the haze of drugs and delirium, cradles baby tightly against her collarbone, angled just so that she might view the ribbon she herself bears.

The girl is two, bright eyed and filled with wonder for the world she walks. Brother, aged ten, guides her mildly across the stream near their family’s summer cabin. An energetic toddler, she has a penchant for wandering into bushes and puddles, all places she should not be. Though the summer heat climbs, she is content, dragging her long sleeves along the trees as she explores the textures and colors of the world around her. Rubbing mud covered hands over a fallen branch, her shirt is caught on a jagged groove. Flailing her arms around, she dances in circles, bumping against all manner of rock and wood. Finally, brother catches her, and pries the stick loose from sweater. In accident, the ribbon too is yanked away, almost undone. The girls screams, and brother runs to get mother. When mother arrives, she fixes the ribbon, picking up her baby girl and escorting her brood back to the lodge. Son is petrified as father confronts mother, unsure of what to make of her anger.

“It’s just a little ribbon,” He says to mother, who walks off in silence. Grabbing a new shirt, she fixes the girl’s sweater, covering her silk ribbon once more. An edge of the right loop lay torn, irreparable even if mother were to try. The girl touches mother’s neck, her ribbon, resting velvet between chubby fingers. Mother kisses her forehead, resting her against their bed for naptime.

She is now fourteen, fixing herself for the first day of school. In jeans and a black t-shirt, she adjusts her eyeliner and glasses in the green sedan mirror. Mother opens the door to the drivers side, the strong scent of coffee and hairspray perfuming the car. Setting her thermos in the center console holster, mother suddenly shuts the car off.

“You need to pick something else to wear.” She says.

“It’s fine!” The girl insists, but mother will have no nonsense. Daughter returns to her room, with five minutes to change. She ruffles through her tiny closet, throwing all the heavy sweaters she owns to the ground. The same white and black undershirts every day, every night. Itchy, long sleeves constantly scratching against her skin, her hands, her face, her ribbon. Standing in her vanity mirror her eyes move down to that shock of maroon, that weathered material so glued in place. Temptation creeps from the recesses of her mind, slipping her hand against one of the silk laces. She pries. She pulls softly at first, but the knot mother made is strong. Pulling harder, she turns to yanking and soon the knot slips, so close to coming undone, but mother finds her. Mother cries, catching the knot before it comes loose, choking her arm so it might never be pulled again.

The girl is eighteen, attending graduation day. In robe and tassels, mother and father hold great expressions pride for the end of her school days. She applied to a decent nursing institute and plans to transfer immediately in the fall. Brother attends too, grown and tired for the master’s degree he worked so hard to get. Less than an hour before the ceremony begins, she finishes adjusting her gown. Indents of her ribbon poke from underneath, grating against her shoulder with a burning ache. Daughter rolls up her left sleeve, readjusting her tie to lessen the pain and burden. With right hand over her knot, she holds the bow contemptuously, white veins popping from her knuckles with her tightening grip. She is alone behind a locked door. Unfastening the loop, she snaps her wrist back, and she frees the stitch of maroon from infinity. She loses sensation in her left hand, and then her left arm. It trails quickly, like ants up her skin until the drop. As the ribbon falls, a heavy thud hits the ground. Right on top of her flats, her hand lays limp over her toes. There is no blood, no pain, just confusion. Flexing her shoulder, a stump shows through her draped sleeve hole. She reaches down, tracing hands over her palm. Sliding fingers through fingers, she locks her hands together. How bizarre she feels, holding her own hand like a stranger. The ribbon flutters below her elbow as she shifts up. She hooks her bow between her pinky and left wrist, taking one final look over manicured nails. Weightless from bated breath, daughter walks out of the bathroom, chatter quieting as she carries her ribbon and arm to her waiting family.

She is twenty, tied to responsibility and hope by a web of maroon. Ribbons decorate her dormitory, hung by her roommates and sisters as she walks the campus without her bow. The bedroom is dark, chilled by an air conditioning unit that violently rattles every other second, filling the blank walls with a constant cacophony of beating. She studies as much as she can, preparing for her midterms while whispers of her unbound nature fly freely through the halls in constant cycle. She wonders when it will end, when she will be no more than the white noise of a crowd drowned out by the next ribbonless, but they never stop. Her phone begins to ring, as if her mother knew. She picks up the call, exhausted by definitions. Mother informs her she is an aunt, that a beautiful niece was delivered healthy and happy just minute before.

“Does she have a ribbon?” Her first question. There is a pause, one in which daughter drops her flashcards.

“It’s yellow.” Mother says. Daughter ends the call, sending her love. With hand over mouth, she bounces off her bed, pacing. Yellow like a summer day, a warm and beautiful soft glow. She touches the scar of where her ribbon once sat, her stomach twisting as fear returns in haunting recollection. Sinking below her preface of doubt, she recalls her parents faces, their outline by the spotlight of one hundred lights the day she walked off stage with her diploma. Their sheer and utter horror.

The woman is now twenty-five. She works a dull nightshift, scrubbing and repairing the sick and injured who pass through her clinic. She quickly dips her head up and down, filling reports for another patient as someone screams. She rushes from her chair, stumbling over medical equipment and IV poles to reach the distressed calls. An older woman in a wheelchair, shriveled like a raison, points at her scar, her missing arm and ribbon. The old lady is escorted by her son, who tells her to quiet down, apologizing for her outburst. Trailing them to a private room, the old woman and daughter are left alone. Daughter shifts to take report, addressing the concerns for the old woman’s purpose there, but the patient refuses to answer. Instead she gestures to her right foot, right below her blanket. Crinkling her sheets, daughter concedes and begins to look over the injury. Peeling back the sheets, she expects a broken ankle, but there is no injury, not even a foot. Instead, there is a scar. She looks up to the old woman, tears in the corner of her eyes. Opening her mouth with a kind grin, the old woman fiddles with the blanket in her lap.

“Mine was blue.”

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