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"What If I Knew?" by Margo Griffin

CW: self-harm, abuse

I didn't know it then, but my friend Susan stole the five-dollar bill she gave me for my birthday right out of the card while we ate cake, but my mother assumed my cousin Deanna had taken the money and called her mother, informing her of the theft.

"I told you about her," my aunt said.

I didn't know it then, but when Deanna's father fell on hard times last year, Deanna stole Wrigley's spearmint gum and a Hershey bar from the corner store, and her mother told my mother that Deanna couldn't be trusted anymore and was nothing more than a thief.

I didn't know it then, but later, when Deanna's father heard about my missing birthday money, he gave Deanna a beating, and then she cried herself asleep.

"I warned you what would happen," my uncle told her.

I didn't know it then, but the following morning, Deanna made tiny cuts on the inside of her arms to forget about the money, the strawberry-colored welt on her arm from the belt buckle, and the bruises peppering the back of her thin legs like tiny purple plums.

"Please God, let me die," Deanna prayed.

I didn't know it then, but my friend Susan's conscience had gotten the best of her during the party, and she tried putting the money back into the envelope. But my mom walked back into the room, and Susan got spooked, so she crammed the money into a nearby seat cushion where Deanna later sat.

"Now what do I do?" Susan wondered.

I didn't know it then, but Deanna saw the corner of a five-dollar bill peeking out from between the cushions and pulled it out. But my mom came in to clear our plates, and Deanna panicked, so she shoved the money into her pocket.

"I hope Auntie didn't notice," Deanna worried.

I didn't know it then, but I don't even want that five-dollar bill and wish I had the chance to give it back.

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