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Mary Anne always hated braids. Her father made her wear them every day until she was twelve. They felt like little chains weighing down her head, making her nauseous. They were metaphorical chains, tying her to her father. She felt as though they were the most babyish things when she was in junior high. She felt as though they were a sign pinned to the sides of her head, declaring her a baby.

She almost threw a party when her father finally allowed her to take down the braids. That came after one of her sitting charges had to be taken to the hospital while she was sitting. It was the same night her father pushed back her curfew.

The first day she wore her hair down it felt as though she was breathing for the first time. People in the halls of Stoneybrook Middle School looked at her as though she were new to school. Maybe it was the air of confidence that came with having her hair falling down in gentle waves. Maybe it was that she looked almost pretty with her hair framing her face. Or maybe it was that she'd finally made a change in her life.

Changes came rapidly after the braids. Logan. Her father marrying Sharon. Moving into the farmhouse. The fire. The Baby Sitters-Club disbanding. High School. College. Marrying a man she'd met in college.

She closed her eyes as she remembered the wedding. She'd cried, of course. Her hair was in an updo, something Sharon had done for her. She wore her mother's gown, though it was outdated. It was a way of having Alma at the wedding with her. She remembered her father walking her down the aisle.

From there, life moved even quicker. Children. She'd always loved children, but when she had them for herself, she missed the days of having them for only a few hours before giving them back to their parents. Her husband helped with the children, and from time to time, she'd send them to her father's house. They never had to wear the dreaded braids. They never had to feel the weight of chains growing out of their heads.

When Mary Anne was thirty, her father grew sick. At thirty-one, the doctor said he didn't have a year left to live. Mary Anne found herself longing for the days when she had to wear braids, where her father watched her like a hawk. Often, at night, she'd put her hair in the braids to feel the connection to her father.

When her father died, she wore braids to his funeral. She tried to imagine an outfit that he would approve of while shopping for something to wear. Despite her best efforts, she felt as though she failed. Except for the braids, she wasn't the little girl her father had raised. She looked down at her two daughters. They both had their brown hair in twin braids. Kristy smiled when she saw the three of them standing by the grave, six braids between them.

Mary Anne Spier had always hated braids. They had always been little chains, binding her to her father.