There are some stories, O Best Beloved, from which even the moon turns her face.  So tonight, as we sit here huddled around a fire that gives no warmth and no comfort, she hides herself from us in the clouds, because she knows that I will tell you a story that she does not want to hear.  She will not stop me, though, O my Best Beloved.  Even the moon knows that all stories must be told in the end, because every story has a name, and all names are true in some turning.

But remember: all storytellers are liars at heart.  There are three lies in this story, and this is one of them.

This is a story that is not mine, but one that I was told by the one who lived it, who whispered it in my ear when no one else would hear it, when the moon was dark and all was quiet in her hiddenness.  I was told so that it would be told to you, when she was hidden again, so that you could sift the truth from the lies and learn from the sifting.

This is the story I heard:

“The concrete was cold and hard on my face, but warm against my hip, where I was bleeding on it.  I liked the places where it was warm, because I couldn’t remember the last time I had been warm all over.  I was so hungry, and so tired, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept more than a couple of hours.  I just wanted to sleep.  I wanted to be warm, and I wanted to sleep.  That was all.  I wanted it so so so badly.

“She was laughing at me, purring her laugh, like a great cat that’s just heard a good joke.  ‘Get up,’ she says to me, laughing.  ‘You’re fine.  Get up.’

“I can’t, I tell her.  I’m so tired, and I’m so cold.  Please, can’t I just lay here for a minute and have a little sleep, and maybe a little something to eat?  I’ve tried to be so good for so long.  I’ve almost got it perfect.  Please, please, can’t I just go to sleep?  I promise I’ll do better when I wake up.

“She’s not laughing anymore.  She’s slapping that stupid stick against her boot, tapping it to make noise, looking at me, making her mad face.  ‘Get up,’ she says again.  ‘You’re not hurt.  You’re just lazy.  Get up.  If you want to rest, you have to work first.  So get up.  Now.’

“I can’t help it.  I start to cry.  Not out loud, because then she’ll be really mad, but the wet just wells up and leaks out of my eyes and onto the floor.  I try to push myself up on my strong arm, and it just shakes and drops me back down again.  I try pushing with my legs, and they just won’t work at all.  Nothing’s answering right anymore.  It’s so scary.  I’m trying so hard to be good, to do right, but it’s not working.  Nothing will work, and now she’s so mad.

“‘Well.  I see how it is then.’  She’s walking around me, tapping the stick on her boot some more, making that whap-whap-whap sound in the quiet.  ‘You told me you would do as I asked.  You told me you were worth the work.  I should have known you were lying.  I should have known you were just a girl all along.  We both know girls are too weak to be of any use.  When you can be bothered to get up, then get out.  I have no use for girls.’

“She put so much hate in that last word, so much contempt.  And she was wrong! I got so mad.  I’m not a girl.  I’m not weak.  I can do it.  I can do anything.  I. Am. NOT. A. Stupid. Weak. GIRL.

“It hurt, when the chain around my ankle tore into the skin, pulled on the bone.  I don’t remember getting up.  I don’t remember running at her, yelling.  But there I was, on my feet.  I am not a GIRL.  I am USEFUL.  I can WORK.  And I can GET UP, see? I am UP!

“Then she laughed again.  She was happy.  I was useful.  My blood was dripping down my leg from my hip, where she’d hit me before I’d fallen down, and it was going faster now, and I was out of breath.  But I got up.  That was what was important.  I had proved it.  I was not a girl.

“I got up.

“I got up.

“And so she loved me another day, and I got to stay another day, because I got up.

“That was a long time ago now.  I can’t change what happened.  There are a lot of days where I think it would have been better if I’d never met her.  A lot of days where I think it would have been better if I’d stayed down, or never been sent away.  But those days aren’t today.  And as long as those days aren’t today, I’m getting up for me, instead of her.  So that’s all right then, I guess.”

This is a story I wept to hear, and I weep to tell it to you, and the moon hides her face from us to hide her tears.  Put another log on the fire, O my Best Beloved.  All of us could use a little light, a little warmth, and a little comfort against the stories the moon hides her face from.

So join me in weeping, and help me lend a hand to those who would get up for themselves.  Even liars have hands, and every hand is useful.

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