White Oleander
written by Mary Agnes Donoghue, from the novel by Janet Fitch

Astrid: Everybody asks why I started at the end and worked back to the beginning. The reason is simple. I couldn't understand the beginning until I had reached the end. There were too many pieces of the puzzle missing, too much she would never tell. I could sell these things. People want to buy them. But I'd set it all on fire first. She'd like that. She'd make it just to burn it. I couldn’t afford this one, but the beginning deserves something special. But how do I show that nothing, not a taste, not a smell, not even the color of the sky has ever been as clear and sharp as it was when I belonged to her? I don’t know how to express that being with someone so dangerous was the last time I felt safe.
The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert that fall. Only the oleanders thrived. Maybe the wind was the reason my mother did what she did. If it was, I wouldn’t have known. I lived in her shadow then. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I know everybody thinks that when they’re small, but she was the most beautiful woman most people had ever seen. He came into our lives without warning. She ignored him at first; he wasn't her type. We laughed about him, his persistence. "Never let a man spend the night," she said. "Never apologize. Never explain." She was breaking all her rules and it would change everything.

Astrid: Two years after Paul and I moved to New York, I received a letter from my mother. In it was a copy of the Los Angeles Times Magazine, my mother on the cover. A Santa Monica gallery had mounted a showing of her work, and the Times included seven pages of her hauntingly distant prison collages. She stares out from the cover, the bars of her cell behind her. Beautiful. Dangerous. Proud. The Times said her lawyer came close to winning a retrial after a first failed appeal, they called her show a triumph. It's too much to imagine her tempering her joy with a moment of grief, a moment for what that triumph had cost. These suitcases are a map of that country, a terrible country I will never revisit. Even so, I find myself thinking of her, wanting to feel that wind. It's a secret wanting, like a song I can't stop humming, or loving someone you can never have. No matter how much she has damaged me, no matter how flawed she is, I know my mother loves me.

Kudos and much thanks go to Christina for this monologue, it is very much appreciated.

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