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by Len Kuntz

We’ve been in the waiting room for over an hour, my daughter and I, everyone slumped in a chair, no one meeting eyes, everyone’s secret tucked inside their pockets for now.

When she was a little girl my daughter was fearless, jumped into a hotel pool at three years of age even though she didn’t know how to swim, tried to learn how to fly by jumping off the garage roof. Now she’s a frail shell.

The nurses and staff are not somber, just professional and dull, like mannequins with voice boxes. Every fifteen minutes or so someone is called up and follows through a door without a window.

My daughter leans over, muttering into my shoulder, “We don’t have to do this. We can just go.”

I tell her no for the eighth time.

When her name’s finally called I go with her but a strident nurse says it’s against the rules. The boy who did it used to steal liquor from my cabinet, even after I’d added a lock. His name was Axel. Neck entirely covered in tattoos. Whether it was their first time having sex or not, the pregnancy stuck two months ago around the time of my daughter’s fourteenth birthday.

It takes forever for her to come out and so when I go to the desk they tell me she’s already gone, that she’s changed her mind.

“That’s impossible,” I say. “But where is she then?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“She left through the back door.”

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’m Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither Are You out now from Unknown Press. You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.