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blood on my hands

A month after my husband moved out, the three children and I stood around the kitchen table, eating raspberries out of the box. Sam, our oldest, who was tall and thin for eight, reached out and scooped a small handful of berries. He lowered his face, and in a voice so quiet I almost didn’t hear, said, “I’m angry about the divorce.”

As he spoke, he slowly closed his fist until the red berry pulp pushed up between his fingers like blood. Ivy and Will, who were five and two, froze. When tears begin to slide down Sam’s cheeks, they each silently reached forward and took a handful of berries, too, and squished them slowly, in solidarity.

I wanted to throw my body between them and the oncoming bus of this pain.

“I see how angry you are,” I said, quietly, looking at Sam. I reached for the berries slowly, moving as if toward a cornered animal. I picked up a handful of berries, too, curled my fingers around them, felt them collapse under the pressure.

The children stared at their palms, curling and uncurling their sticky, red fingers. I grabbed a sheet of white paper from the desk. “Sometimes,” I said, making it up as I went along, “it makes it hurt less if we tell the people we love how we feel.”

I pressed my stained palm to the smooth surface of the paper. Then I slid it in front of Sam, who placed his print close to mine. He slid the sheet across the table to Ivy, who added her print with the solemnity of a notary applying a seal. She positioned the paper in front tiny Will, and nodded at him, and he somehow understood what he was supposed to do, too.

“Let’s write down how we feel,” I said, uncapping a Sharpie. “What should we write?”

No one spoke. I waited. Then Ivy said, as if it were plain, “This is the day we felt bad about the divorce.”

We all looked at Sam for approval. He nodded, once.

“Yes,” I said. They watched closely as I transcribed Ivy’s exact words underneath the handprints, in big, clear, letters.

There was nothing more we could do then. We washed our hands, dried them, and went outside to play.

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