When I was five years old I got married to Penelope Jones. She was the prettiest girl in my kindergarten class and after the ceremony we ate snack together. Six days later, Penelope Jones got pulled out of school. On Wednesday she was sitting next to me during group time, and on Thursday; Laurel Burke was biting her string cheese in my ear. I remember asking Mrs. Adburry about it, she told me I wasn’t big enough to understand, but that Penelope Jones’ parents had to go somewhere and she went with them. As I got older, my memories of Penelope began to fade, she seemed to just slip away into a corner of my mind. I would think about her from time to time, but eventually I forgot her completely.
So I entered my senior year of high school, Penelope Jones and worry free. That was, until I saw the news on October fourteenth. A girl had been found in a trailer right on the edge of town, she was skinny, traumatized, and had just given birth to a child. However there was no sign of a child in that trailer. For privacy reasons they wouldn’t release her name until she had settled back in with her family, so the whole town waited, sitting by their T.V.’s. Mostly because they had nothing better to do. On October twenty-first, I had a physics test. I didn’t go. Instead, I sat at home, the T.V. turned on to the news channel. Hoping to get a glimpse of the girl from the trailer.
On October twenty-first, Penelope Jones’ name flashed across my T.V. screen. I saw a skinny girl, with brown curls down to her waist, standing in front a big blue house. Her eyes were darting around nervously, and she was gripping tightly onto her mother’s hand. Every memory I had of her came flooding back like I had turned away from the ocean for too long and it was finally getting it’s revenge. I couldn’t believe that Penelope Jones, my Penelope Jones had been locked away in a trailer for twelve years. What had she done all that time alone? How had she gotten there? Why hadn’t she come back earlier?
On November second, I got pulled out of class by our principal. She sat me down in her office to tell me that my Penelope Jones was asking to see me, and I was the only person she remembered in the entire city besides her family. At first I didn’t understand. If she wanted to see me so badly why would she leave? I sat in the office confused for what seemed like forever. Until I realized; Penelope Jones didn’t leave, she was taken.
An hour later I was knocking on the front door Penelope Jones’ big blue house, my hands were shaking, I was in uncharted territory. When her mother opened the door she gave me a hug. Not the kind of hugs my mother gives, that make you feel safe and loved. The kind of hug where they drape off of you, almost forcing you to hold them up. When she finally let me go I felt relieved, I barely knew this woman. She led me into the living room, and gestured for me to sit on the sofa, it was large, made of leather and very uncomfortable; she instructed me to wait. So that’s what I did. I waited for two whole minutes, with sweaty palms and cold fingertips. Until my Penelope Jones walked through the door.
The moment I looked at her I was five years old again. Like Penelope had finished all of her crackers, and I was about to offer her my last one. Except this wasn’t my Penelope Jones. This girl wasn’t five years old, she was seventeen, and she was an empty shell of a girl. But when I looked at her, like really looked at her; past all the memories, and the shared snacks, I saw that five year old girl, more terrified than I had seen anyone before.
Penelope Jones sat down next to me, I wanted to move away badly, but I didn’t. She grabbed my wrist and looked up at me, a smile began to spread across her face. Then she asked me if we were still married, or if I’d moved on. I told her yes, we were, because she hadn’t been around to tell me otherwise. Her mother made a sharp move in my direction, almost ready to scold me. But Penelope Jones just smiled, tucked her hair behind her ear and look at her knees. As I stared at her I noticed her ears were pierced. They hadn’t been pierced when we were in kindergarten, and I wondered aloud when she had gotten them done. She told me he had done it in the trailer when she was thirteen, in order to make her look more grown up. Then I asked her if it made her feel more grown up. She said no, it only mattered if she looked grown up to him.
My Penelope Jones, had been treated like a grown up in that trailer. I was smart enough to know what that meant. I remembered what the news had said about the girl just giving birth to a child. I wondered where that child was, but I didn’t dare ask. My Penelope Jones had a child. A child who was off somewhere with the man who treated a little girl like a grown up.
Penelope Jones and I spent the next months together. I helped her feel more comfortable out in the world, and she helped me hold onto my last little bit of childhood. As time went on, my memories of Penelope Jones’ child began to fade, it just seemed to slip away into a corner of my mind. I would think about it from time to time, but eventually I forgot about it completely.