Because I swore on the Bible that I would tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, and God always knows when I lie.
Because I want to be clean; clean as a blade through skin, a church pew before Sunday service, a
wooden rosary worn smooth by years of wandering fingertips.
Because the Bible says “respect thy mother and father,” even if you have a father who loves Jim
Beam and the crack of a belt more than he loves Jesus.
Because the only burning I can stand is the carpeted kneeler in the prison church rubbing my
Because there is no second baptism.
Because there is no one else to pray for my sister, Mary, who is neither a virgin nor a mother,
who had no messenger of God to tell her “do not be afraid” when she felt that first wriggle inside
the most sacred parts of herself.
Because after a month of good behavior, I was rewarded with a paperback copy of the Bible, its
delicate pages spread on my pillow like angel wings.
Because God loves all His children.
Because my father was not God.
Because the last time I felt close to Him was in the baby blue waiting room of the clinic, when I
prayed for Mary and the cluster of cells nestled in her warm, tiny belly.
Because my soul is filthy, and a lifetime in Purgatory can only scrape so much dirt and crusted
blood from my imperfect, human body.
Because my dinner comes pre-sliced, steam curling from the opened lid of a hardened dinner
roll, a pat of butter oozing across the dough while a warden guards the box of plastic knives.
Because it started as an accident, but everything else was with a careful purpose: the headphones
humming Debussy against her belly, the stuffed bunny with velvet-soft ears, the list of names she
kept in her pocket meaning faithful, Godly, bright one.
Because the Father always forgives.
Because mine doesn’t, and when he found the pregnancy test, creamy white with two pencil-thin
lines, the chink of his belt buckle shattered the silence of that God-forsaken house.
Because I want to be like Mary, who never hurt anyone, not even when my father’s belt curled
into a white-hot whip that knew nothing but damnation for the sin he saw in her stomach.
Because I reached for the kitchen drawer when I should have reached for the Bible, should have
read my Commandments before I broke them, should have listened when God said, “Thou shalt
Because it was the same butcher knife my father used to carve the Thanksgiving turkey, back
when he was quicker to smile than to hurt, back when I didn’t wonder if his blood was as dark as
Because unlike the rest of him, the skin at my father’s throat was soft and smooth and easy to
Because Mary has no one else to pray for her.
Because despite how low I kneeled, how tightly my fingers crushed together, white as the sheets
in Christ’s abandoned tomb, God did not answer my prayers. So I answered them myself.
Annabelle Smith is an eighteen-year-old writer from Maryland. She is a student at Franklin and Marshall College and has received national recognition from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. More of her work can be read on Every Day Fiction, Spotlong Review, Amethyst Review, and other journals.