Patchwork Elephant

Joanna had met Ben and Maddie at a consent workshop at her house. It was part of a “Safer Sex” series that one of their mutual friends was organizing, and Maddie, four at the time, had impressed Joanna by staying quietly at Ben’s side with a cache of Magic Markers, doodling spiral patterns on his jeans while the grown-ups practiced saying, “Could we take this slower?” and “Can I take your bra off?”

“Is she yours?” someone asked Ben.

“What do you say, Mads?” he’d asked the little girl.

“I’m my own,” she said solemnly, and Ben grinned and kissed the top of her dirty-blonde head.

“She’s my daughter,” he said, “but she belongs to herself.”

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