I’ve heard the stories about him. They tell me when I was a baby he wouldn’t even hold me. When I was five years old, all us girls lined up for daddy’s inspection in our new Christmas dresses. There was a kind word here, a token of praise there, but never for me. My father seemed angry any time he looked at me. When I was ten and wondering in the mirror if I would ever be pretty enough, he let me wonder and wonder, though he always showered my sisters with praise. But when I was fifteen, his cruelty broke over me like a whip when he denied he was my father – a laughable claim because anyone can see I look just like
Him. By fifteen I was old enough to receive regular beatings. Whenever the man was angry, whenever drinks, or darkness, or some inexplicable hatred washed over him, I was the recipient of slaps and punches. By seventeen we couldn’t share the same space. If he was in the living room I was in the bedroom, and if I was in the living room, my father would be somewhere far away. He never said where. I never asked. I never had the right words or the right opinion, and this too led to more beatings. So it was easy enough, to step by step, stop airing my thoughts, silence my voice, and drown my feelings. On graduation day my father got up early and said there was some sort of emergency at work that needed his attention. He promised he’d be along shortly but I never saw him at the graduation. Just once, once, I had wanted to see him proud of me, smiling for once, applauding this step in life. But the reverse seemed to be the case; with every success or accomplishment, I only seemed to anger him more. I began to see myself as the heap of shortcomings and disappointments he always attributed to me.
But then YOU smiled at me in class that day. My face in a knot and usual mask, all I could give anyone was a smirk. But YOU. You knew to keep a safe distance. You somehow saw the danger. But you saw something else, too. You pressed on, you sought me out, persisted, pursued me. You looked at me like I mattered. You told me you loved my blue jeans and blazer on our first date, while I thought they were too casual. You told me I had a beautiful smile, even though I was only beginning to learn how to respond to your silly jokes. I had always been told I was made only to listen, but you asked me for my opinions, and you not only listened to me but took my advice. No one had ever fought for me before, and you can’t imagine how I felt when you said you were going to talk to him before our wedding.
Then you asked me to marry you. “I do,” I remember saying.
You must have understood my seriousness, why, despite all the light you’ve brought me, sometimes the darkness still holds me in its grasp. And late at night, when I look at you sleeping by my side, if I don’t kiss you, then I think it. And I pray you’ll never change.