Baby was 7 when her mother died. She loved her mom’s smell, and the stories she would tell. Her father was rarely at home, sometimes only available to come by her room around bedtime for a kiss on the forehead. He also had a great smell. He would rush around doing work, and he would chew the ends of his pens. When he was distracted, or having a talk with her siblings, she would gather the pens and feel the gnarled marks with her fingers. He had such strong teeth! Her Father was starting to get angry at her siblings, and sometimes his yelling would make her cry, so her Father told her that he was going to give her a present and send her to a new school. Boarding school. Her siblings joked that it would be “BORING school,” but she was going into 3rd grade, and she knew it was going to be a great time. It was far away from home, and gradually she was more and more at peace with being there. She had found her mother’s perfume, so that she could smell like her mother all the time. Her teachers always told her that she smelled great.  She also kept a box of her Father’s chewed pens, so that she could taste the plastic, and feel her father’s teeth-marks with her own. Whenever she looked at photos of his smile, she thought about his strong teeth, chewing the pens. She stayed at the school longer and longer, sometimes staying over holidays when the other siblings were “going through hard times” at home, making her Father angry. She knew she was special because she never made her Father angry. She was his “little lady,” and whenever she closed her eyes, could see him smiling. As she got older, her patience for her classmates grew thin, and she spent less and less time playing with them, or spending time talking before lights out. She started writing more poetry, and making little dances. She sent the poems to her father, and he would always say that he “loved” them. She started writing poems about his teeth, and she decided to share them in class. The kids laughed, but she expected them to misunderstand the poems. They didn’t know her dad like she did. Her teacher said that the poem was well-written, of course, but perhaps she should pick a different subject. A different subject? She was gutted at first, but then found inspiration in writing about her father’s other features: his eyes, nose, and head. Her poems became prolific, poems about her Father’s hands and embraces, his angry bellows, and his speeches in public. Girls in her class started making friends with boys, and writing poems themselves. Baby read them, they weren’t that great. Their poems described the boys in such basic innocence. She knew hers were better. She began writing more elaborate poems, about her father as the character in her favorite movies. She started writing stories about them living in castles, dancing in the great hall. She imagined a beautiful future with her Father when the most confusing thing happened. He got engaged to be married. She hadn’t considered this as a possibility, he never mentioned wanting to get married. And of course, she wasn’t considering it for herself, but surely there was no better companion than her Father. Baby didn’t know what to think of her new step-mother, and despite the beautiful dress that she was given, she sobbed throughout the ceremony, grimacing through tears at their dance at the wedding, and then collapsed into an exhausted pile of fabric after her Father’s attendants escorted her back to her room. She knew she was right for feeling wronged, but it would take a while for her to understand why. Two years later, her school announced their annual purity ball, the time when all girls entering high school were to receive their purity rings — from their fathers. It was a confusing time, as Baby had started to resent her father, and her poems about him had grown more complicated and emotional. She just wanted a clear answer. She decided that the Purity Ball would be the deciding moment. She would declare her love for her father. It was only a week before the ball when a world-wide plague would keep her plans from happening. She would have to change her tactics. But how?

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