She was born into a family of cursed women. It couldn’t be seen from far away. Up close, it was there. The curse. You could see it in their eyes.
It was like a fever. A hot, painful glare deep in their amber eyes. The collective memory of their mothers mothers, perhaps, tainted them all. An invisible sorrow that seeped its way into each new life.
From the moment she was expected, Lena was a great hope. Her mother had her a little later in life, her dad wanted to be involved, and little Lena smiled like no one else. She would break the cycle. She was their last chance. All the addiction and suffering would end with her.
No one knows who the curse started with. Her great grandmother is as far back as anyone remembers. She had her first daughter at fourteen. She was a selfish mother, not only because of her age, but because of her own upbringing. As her daughter grew, she was emotionally taken down, day by day, comment by comment, tear by tear, until she shrank away.
Her daughter, Corinne, was beautiful. They all were once. She had a perfect smile and a confident way of walking through the neighbourhood. When she walked by, everyone forgot where they were and how poor they were, if only for an instant. She exuded something. It was only when she came up close to them, if they were lucky enough, that they saw the curse. Her pain and fire seemed to burn through those who looked her in the eye. After a time, only those with similar fates could handle her presence.
She fell into the full possession of the curse when her own children were young. She needed her addiction to forget about the childhood she never had, the childhood her mother never had, the childhood her children were forced to endure. It was hopeless. So she married him, and let her addiction and his addiction melt into one pool of loss.
Her daughter, Halle, came home one day to find her mother’s body in the living room. The trial lasted only a short time, but it felt like forever until he was behind bars. She vowed to find a man better than her mother had found. She vowed she would never become an addict. But, like her mother and grandmother, she broke her vows and failed at breaking the curse. She became pregnant with Lena while she was tangled up in her own vice.
When Lena kicked for the first time, Halle fell in love with her. She was alive, she was perfect, and she didn’t know the pain of her family. Not yet. If Halle could have it her way, Lena would never know. She remembered her mother, and she felt Lena’s life within her. Her life will be different.
One windy winter night Halle’s water broke. She went to the hospital alone on the bus.
She came home alone.
When her boyfriend asked her where their daughter was Halle told him the truth. On the inside she was terrified of him, but she made her body stay still.
Tears streamed down her face. But not for the reason he thought. She was mourning her daughter, but not because she had died. She mourned that she couldn’t be her mom. She knew it was the right decision. Today she would break the cycle. Her daughter wouldn’t know her pain, her mother’s pain, or her grandmothers. She wouldn’t see the same poverty, abuse, or addiction that the women of her family had seen since before anyone could remember.
She would be missed. She would be remembered. Yet, she would never know the life she could have had. Halle knew it wasn’t about a curse, like her mother has always said. The curse was merely an excuse for choices they made. It was about a cycle of unbroken torment that they kept subscribing to. And it ended today.
Halle decided to be the best mom she could be in that moment. Lena, or whatever her new parents would name her, would have a chance. A chance was all Halle had to give.
By Ashley Foy | Featuring artwork by Kristin Soh