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Cora Mae keeps her mother's old pearl earrings in a box separate from her own, pulls them out on sunny days.

Cora Mae keeps her mother’s old pearl earrings in a box separate from her own, pulls them out on sunny days.

“I don’t want to talk about it.

But it’s time. I need to get it out. In the open. This scar has held me hostage more than forty years. And it still hurts like I just got it yesterday. This scar is called Lily-Anne. My first born.

I was only sixteen and Mama said I had to give her up. To my father’s cousin’s daughter, Thomasina, and her husband, George. They were good people, Mama said. George was a banker, and Thomasina a school teacher. My daughter would grow up without a want in the world. They were perfect, but they hadn’t been able to have children. George wanted a boy, but one look at my Lily-Anne and he was happy enough. It’s like they didn’t care that it was my baby. They took her out of my arms, and out of the soft, faded yellow blanket I had saved from my grandmother for the baby. They wrapped her in a new blanket. It looked stiff and cold. She cried. They thanked my father. And left.

I cried for a whole year. Didn’t go to school. Daddy was mad. Mama was embarrassed I wouldn’t be graduating on time. They made up some story I had been ill. Doctor’s orders. Bed rest. But I wasn’t just ill. I was dead. I was dead and Lacy of all people took care of me. My secret nurse. She spoon-fed me soup. Washed my body. Changed out my rag sometimes. It was that bad. But Lacy gave Mama the updates on me, when she cared to ask. It’s like my own mother couldn’t even talk to me, let alone touch me. So I bruised alone, longing for my mother to fix what she had broken. It never happened.

I heard a few years later that Thomasina had kept the name I gave my daughter, well sort of. She was now called Anna Lily Rosswell. And everyone called her Anna. Except me, but no one heard me calling her name anyway, because I only mentioned her in my mind.

I didn’t see Pitch much after she was born. I know he loved me, but he couldn’t just stay around and watch me die. He had music to make. People to feed with his songs. Our daughter was gone in his mind, and so was I in a sense. This is the scar that is buried. They never told Lily-Anne about me. And they never took anyone else’s child to make their own. I have seen her just five times since giving birth to her. She has two boys. She’s a teacher like Thomasina. She’s very pretty, looks just like my Mama. No one talks about it. I never even told Delilah and Moriah they have a big sister. I told my husband before we got married. He hugged me, told me we’d make our own family, and he promised I could keep all my babies. So when my Delilah died, and Moriah went mute, I realized I could die again and still be alive to feel it. And I wished I had never given up my Lily-Anne. Wished I had run away with her like Lacy whispered to me to do. I could have found Lacy’s mother in New York, and just made a way.

Yes, I have Cora Bella, my beautiful granddaughter. But she don’t know me like my daughters did. And she more Tess’ grandchild than mine. I mean we contribute plenty, but she just never warmed up to me. It’s like she is the grudge her mother never could let go against me. Maybe that sound crazy. Probably pathetic. Bella’s just a child. I’m just sad. No, I’m angry. I don’t know how to make myself known to her.

So, you see this isn’t a scar in the traditional sense. It’s stained on the skin of generations, steeped in silence, molded in fear. If it did take a space in my physical body, it would be a punch in the stomach. Every morning when I wake up. A punch in the stomach.” ~~ Cora Mae, mother of Delilah, answering the question, ‘Do you have any scars?’