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on Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:38 am

You’re named River. Your mother, Imogen, never gave you a real explanation for it, she just said it sounded pretty. It was just her and you growing up. Well, her, you, and the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. So really, it was her, you, and the rest of the Fawcett clan.

There are 200 Fawcetts in the parish of Saint Saviour on the Isle of Guernsey. Not many know of Guernsey, and those that do only think of it as a wonderful travel destination. It is equidistant to Paris and London, but belongs to the latter. It only homes about ten thousand, and only two thousand live in Saint Saviour. Because of Guernsey’s proximity to France, and rule by England, you speak both french and english. You’ve also been taught the traditional norman language of Guernsey, Guernésiais. It has been passed down through the Fawcetts of Guernsey for generations, along with the other original families of the island.

You lived in a small manor off a cobblestone road, mum, you, Aunt Louise, grandma, grandpa, and great grandma. The manor had been owned by Fawcetts since it was built in 1735, back when they had a lot of money from the textiles trade. There, however, was a brief period during the german occupation that the house was taken by nazi forces and housed a german general and his family. After the occupation, the house returned to the Fawcetts, where it remains, despite the lack of fortune in the family.

Your family has always been close, so when your mother came home pregnant, your grandmother only hugged her. The family was familiar with your father. The two had been dating for six months, and were practically inseparable. Maybe that’s why it was odd that they never saw him again. Your great-grandmother, Bettina, only shook her head and said, “He’s no man.”
Jean-Luc Callier, that’s the name your father gave her. He said was visiting from Paris. It was hard for her to resist him. It was hard for anyone to resist him. He was the personification of charm. His real name was Cupid.

You were born on the 9th of June, a perfect summer night. That’s how you were always referred, perfect. The mothers of your friends would always say, “Be like River, she has perfect manners”, your cousins would complain saying “We can never live up to her, she’s perfect.” It wasn’t true. You messed up, you did bad things, you occasionally rolled your eyes. But you were docile, obedient, quiet. You didn’t take up space. When it came down to the root of it, people didn’t like girls who took up space.

When you turned twelve, people started realizing you were beautiful. “What an awful thing for a girl to be.” Great-grandmother Bettina says one day. She speaks it as if she knows what is coming. It doesn’t hit you, until you’re walking at night, that she’s right. You fear the tourists the most. The ones who have no attachment here. They can do what they like, and the next day they’ll return home, free of consequence. What kind of man must he be, to be lusting after a girl only twelve years old? You discover there are many of these men out there.

One day a man approaches you, walking home from school alone. He smiles and you immediately know what he wants. He calls you sweetie, and dearie, and comes dangerously close. You try to cross the road and he only follows. You feel your heart race, and your eyes tear up. He grabs you by the arm, and you can’t scream. You can’t fight. You can only stay still. But then there’s a blur of hair and teeth, and suddenly there’s a wolf standing over the man, her teeth in his throat. When she looks up at you, you know she won’t harm you. You also learn that beauty and docility don’t mix.

Lupa is her name. She tells you this, leading you through the farmland of Guernsey, into the trees next to the reservoir. There’s a pack of wolves there. They look at you curiously, like they haven’t decided if you’re a friend or foe. You’re told that your father is a god, and at first you don’t believe it. Then you remember you’re with a talking wolf, and it might as well be true. Proving yourself is hard, but they show you how to fight, and they show you how to take up space, and you’re a quick study.  

The next day you’re on a ferry boat, and before you know it you’re in America. Things move differently in America. Its faster. In the middle there’s no coast to be seen, and you think you’re going crazy. When you reach camp and see the ocean stretch out on the horizon, you know you can breathe easy.

They place you in the fourth cohort, and it’s not long before you’re claimed by cupid. Your probito is short, after you save an incoming recruit from a monster tailing behind them. You show promise at camp. You still say sorry after accidentally injuring someone, and you do as your told, but you don’t hesitate to pull your sword, you don’t wait to fight back.
You’re fifteen when you meet him, and you feel like the air is being sucked from your lungs. He’s human, and you’re not, but that doesn’t matter to you. You leave camp every day to see him. You hate going back home, because you know he can’t follow. You know you’re in love with Joshua Donovan.

When you’re eighteen, you find out you’re pregnant. When you tell him, his face lights up. He asks you to marry him right then, and you say yes. The wedding is only a month after that, because you don’t want to show on your wedding day. Only your mother can make it over, your grandparents and bettina are too old to travel, they say. His whole family is there. It’s much smaller than yours, but they seem to welcome you into the family. Though you start to feel odd around them. Sometimes the uncles stare at you too long, or you hear his grandmothers whispering but stopping when you look towards them. Yet you’re too happy to care. Everything feels perfect.

You leave New Rome and find a place in San Francisco. His parents are wealthy, so wealthy they fly private and have a vacation home. Josh has a trust fund, and works for his father’s tech company, so you’re comfortable. You don’t have to go to school or get a job, you become a homemaker. You learn to take care of the house, far newer than anything you were used to in Guernsey.

Life is good for a long time. But then you start to notice cracks. You want to name the baby Olive. He wants to name the baby Margaret, after his grandmother. You’re willing to make it the middle name, and find a first name you both like, but he’s insistant. One day, when you still haven’t agreed, he tells his mother anyways. So you name her Margaret. You make her middle name Bettina though, just like yours. Margaret Bettina Donovan is born at six am, after sixteen hours of labor, and she’s perfect. Josh says she’ll be beautiful, “like her mother” and suddenly you remember great grandma Bettina’s words.

More cracks come as Margaret grows. He stays out late, complains when Margaret cries, refuses to get up in the night. You sit in the rocking chair in her room for the fifteenth time that night, shushing her as she wails, close to tears because you don’t know what she wants. When he appears at the doorway it isn’t to help you soothe her, but to tell you that he needs to wake up early next morning. Six hours later, when he wakes up, he’s angry you didn’t make breakfast for him. So, you pull yourself out of bed and make his breakfast, and give him a kiss as he leaves. The next 365 days are similar to this.

Your mum friends say you’re so lucky to have such a perfect guy, with such a perfect family, and such a perfect baby. You’re this perfect package this trio of you. Beautiful, wealthy, happy. If only the last bit were true.

He isn’t violent at first. It scares you the first time you see it. His eyes mad with rage. His voice shaking the windows. Maggie is sleeping, and she starts to cry when he yells, but you’re afraid to move. It isn’t until he barks at you for not going to soothe her that you move from the spot your feet are planted on.

Sometimes things calm down, and you almost forget about your troubles. You go to the park together, and to museums and it feels perfect. The three of you walking together, looking so picturesque.

Eventually he suggests couples counseling, and you agree. When you’re there, he brings up your flaws, how you nag him whenever he wants to spend a night at the bar (failing to mention that you don’t get nights out), how you don’t include him with Maggie (failing to mention how he doesn’t help with any of the dirty work), and sure, he gets mad sometimes, but he feels bad about it afterwards (he always feels bad, crying in your lap saying how he doesn’t deserve you, after gripping your arms so hard you still have the indentations from his finger nails).

You know its bad. Yet you can’t leave. You don’t know where you would even go. Your family is so far away. You know that he’ll come for Maggie. You know you’ll be left with absolutely nothing. You have no money of your own, no job, no education. So you stay, and the cycle continues.

The final straw is when a monster comes for you. You’ve gone on holiday in the mountains, and you knew better, but you couldn’t tell him no. It was a cyclops, big and burly. You kill it, because you still carry your weapon with you. Even though it’s been four years since you’ve set foot in camp, you still have the skills. Josh blames you. He takes you by the shoulders and shakes you, blaming you for bringing this into his life, and passing it onto his child. He slaps you, and pushes you, and you do nothing, until you remember Lupa. You remember her going for the throat, telling you that you needed to protect yourself. So you fight back, and you leave with the car and Maggie. You leave him sitting in the dirt, dumbfounded.

When you get home, you file for divorce and for a restraining order, you pack up what few things that were yours to begin with, and you take Maggie and you leave. You return to New Rome, where you know Maggie will be safe, and Josh cannot follow. You take the Donovan out of her name and replace it with Fawcett.

You sell your wedding and engagement rings, and you can pay for a small apartment. You get a job at the only place that will take you, a secretary at the senate. You fetch coffee and lunches, and do what others tell you, and you feel like nothing has changed, yet you stay, to collect a paycheck. You spend your free time with Maggie, and any extra hours on top of that are spent at the university, getting through night classes and trying to make something of yourself. It’s all worth it, even when you have to get a second job to stay afloat. When Maggie comes home with a smile on her face, your pain melts away.

She’s growing every day, and it blows you away. Almost six years old. She doesn’t ask about her father, she seems to know what’s happened. If she does ask, you’ll tell her the truth. At least parts of it, maybe more when she’s older. You’ll teach her to take up space, and to be bold, and let her know that she doesn’t have to be perfect.

You’re River Bettina Fawcett, and you are not perfect, and you are not docile. You will take up space.
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