Excerpt from Each Day is a Century by Yvonne Navarro

"Each Day is a Century"

An Excerpt

       She turned her eyes toward me again and I saw that their color had gone disconcertingly green, like her father's. I hadn't seen him since two years before my sister died; he'd come to her funeral but in my mourning I hadn't noticed. Now memories rose in my head, stronger than I expected, more detailed than I could deal with right now: his crooked smile and young basketball player's body, big, gentle hands with grease under the fingernails from working on cars, long fingers that could spin a basketball on one finger or change a diaper or punch a dent in a metal kitchen cabinet at ten after six on a Friday morning.

       I put my face in my hands and cried; I couldn't help it.

       Joelle watched me for awhile without saying anything. "You have a good life here," she said finally. Her voice, so crisp a few moments ago, had softened.

       I raised my head, eyes filled with the familiar sting of salt, the skin of the lids already swelling. "What?" I whispered. "A good life?" My voice found a bit of strength, fed itself on frustration and loneliness. "I have an empty life, Joelle." I stretched out a hand and she flinched away before I could touch her. Before I dropped my arm, my fingers wavered in the air between us like a dying person's search for a lifeline that will never be there. "Where did you go?" I asked woodenly. "Why? I did it, didn't I? It was my fault."

       "No, it wasn't," she said honestly. Her face fascinated me: rounded cheeks like her father's instead of my prominent cheekbones, a pointed chin like my mother's, nose a little too long like mine, a face that no one person in the family could take credit for. Sincere, open, with nothing to hide and no reason to be afraid anyway. Would she lie about something like that? Could she?

       "I... wished you were dead."

       "So what?" she said again, as if my horrid confession were as traumatic as saying I dropped my book. "It's not like you did it, you know. You were sixteen and buried in diapers and poverty. You think you're the only teenaged mother who ever looked at a kid who squalled all the time and thought I could take it if she died?" Her voice had grown mocking but not cruel.

       "I-I hit you--"

       "A few smacks on the hand, big deal. Okay, so you tossed me in the crib once, but as crazy as that was, you knew damned well where I'd land, didn't you? You aimed."

       I shook my head fiercely. "It doesn't matter," I choked out. "It was wrong, it was abuse--"

       "It was frustration," Joelle interrupted. "And yeah, maybe you were skating the edge of right and wrong, but you'd have pulled it together. I'm sure of it."

       I said nothing.

       "You're drowning yourself with guilt," she said. "You sit here and relive a handful of bad moments over and over in your head when you should be getting on with your life."

       Now it was my turn to look away, but even then there was no escape. My reflection stared at me from the glass of the window over the table, reminding me of age and years forever lost. "It's a little late for that."

       "Bullshit," she said crudely. "You should have had another baby a long time ago. You've had plenty of chances."

       "I was afraid!"

       "You were a coward."

       The sight of her faded out for a moment and all I could see was the twenty-two year old replay stuck in my mind: the rays of the sun slanting through the window, and why was it shining so strongly this early, anyway? Golden light spilling into the dingy, cheaply furnished room and falling across the bassinet and the still, silent form lying inside it. Sound effects then, filling my mind like a symphony of anguish, my screams mingled with Erv's, shouts into a telephone receiver punctuated by the crash of a fist into metal, the sigh of a baby's cold breath escaping her lungs when I dropped her on the couch after a clumsy, uneducated attempt at CPR. The sounds of hell come to visit my living room on an early July morning and burned forever into my ears.

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This story is also still available as part of the audiobook anthology, Hear the Fear. As your local independent bookseller to order it for you!

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All text copyright © 2004 by Yvonne Navarro. Don't be naughty-- no reprinting or use in any form whatsoever without prior written permission of the starving author. We mean it. We know lots of lawyers. And we ain't afraid to use them.