The Secret

When I told Truth to go away,
we were both girls –
blossom-cheeked,
skipping rope with life.

“I can’t be your friend,” I told her.
“You know my secret.”
Truth shrugged. “OK.
I’ll be here if you need me.”
She waved goodbye, and went
to live high in the hills
with hummingbirds and foxes.

I stayed behind, secure in my choice,
though joy was hard to find, I never
trusted love, and I reacted oddly
to the seemingly mundane –
lilies made me nauseous, Black Beauty
gave me nightmares, a breeze against my neck
could make me cry.

After fifty years, I looked for Truth again.
She hadn’t changed – still young,
sweet, smiling, glad to see me.
But I’d become Wilde’s portrait in the attic –
haggard, bitter, burden-stooped.
I asked what would have happened
if I’d let her have her way.
“You’d have suffered,” she said. “People
would have shamed you. They’d say
you made it up.
But you’d be free.”

– Sarah Russell
First published in the anthology Secrets and Lies 
For Real Toads quote by Dickinson
Painting:  “Two Little Girls” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir