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TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains references to sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.


You can’t catch me anymore—
I made sure of that.
I’m too fast. Too smart, now.
Although—I wasn’t, once.

I didn’t need to be, then.

Before.

Before you put your hands
Where they had no right to be
And I was too young
To know better
To tell you off, or complain
(like I would ever complain).
I thought it was an accident
Or a mistake
Over and over again.
It must be my fault, somehow.
My imagination.

Until the day you found me
In the barn
With its low, cramped ceiling
Its small, dirty window
The smell of warm horse
And the curry comb in my hand.
As you entered
The hairs on my neck, on my arms
Stood up immediately—
Danger.
The dust motes floated
Frozen in the summer sunshine
Above the hay bales
By the pitchfork in the corner—
There was a pitchfork in the corner.

I put the horse between us
While I brushed
And listened to you talk
And tell me
How I had nice breasts—
Things you had no business saying
To an eleven year-old.

I understood in that moment
What it was to be an adult
And that those touches were no accident.

So, I decided to dance with you,
My turn to lead — finally!
You followed me around the horse
As I sidestepped my way
Toward the pitchfork.

But—the sunlight streaming
Through the nearby doorway
Distracted me
So that I grew five years, ten, as I suddenly knew
And raced for the light.
Bursting through, I could see nothing but sunshine
Blinding light, after the darkness of the barn
And— the bright cherry red of my bike
My beautiful, beautiful bike.

I tore myself away from you
Streaming away so fast I could hardly see
My face wet, heart racing
Knowing that I was free.

You can’t catch me.
Not anymore.

Heather Shaff

Heather is a book designer based in Boston who, when she’s not writing or taking care of the fam, can be found racing her bike, enjoying nature, or just daydreaming.

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