Friday, February 22, 2013
He was down on one knee and Dani stood in their dining room, frozen. She was unable to move, unable to speak. Time stopped moving forward and everything slowed to a deliberate pace. Her heart rhythm slowed and she could taste her breath as it moved slowly from her mouth. The haze set in.
She drew in a long deep breath and closed her eyes, trying to absorb all the pieces of this moment.
She was unsure what to make of it all, and the flame from the candle played tricks on her eyes like a strobe light, replaying her past. Flashing bits and pieces before her in this arrested reality.
She had never believed in love before. This was as close to love as she'd ever known. Maybe it was real.
She had never allowed herself to imagine a world where a man would do all of the things he had done for her, where he would forgive her faults, where he would not just tolerate her flaws but embrace them. Where someone would just love her.
Love didn't last in Dani's world. It never lasted.
Her mother, oh her mother. She was a selfish beast of a woman, Dani figured that out right quick as a child. For as long as she could remember, Dani had been told at every opportunity that her mother only married him, it, that, because of her. She was pregnant and stuck. She wasn't in love, she didn't care about him. She certainly didn't care about the baby.
It didn't take Dani long to figure out that she just was more afraid of being alone than with someone she loathed.
Their tale of wedded bliss began and ended in a courthouse with witnesses pulled from the hallway. Visibly pregnant by then, she'd at least had the decency to put the cigarette down for a picture with her new husband. The picture that would be the only outward evidence her parents were married since she refused to wear a ring, saying it would control her. She wouldn't be limited. The smirk on her face in that photo was trite and revealing. She didn't want to be there. She didn't want to be married. She hadn't quit smoking because she didn't care. The baby was an inconvenience to her. A life changing, unwanted inconvenience.
Dani grew up being reminded of that all by her mother repeatedly, until it finally became ingrained in who she was at her core. She was a mistake. She ruined lives. She messed things up.
Dani's earliest memories were of being yelled at by that woman. Slapped. Forced to spend hours in her room, where she dared not make a sound for fear of what would happen if she did. She remembered being so grateful when her father would come home from work, because then things would be better. She could breathe again. He would calm that woman. Mama wouldn't hit her then, never did when he was around.
He made Dani better. He made her safe.
Her memory flashed to the day, one of many, where she found her mother passed out on the bathroom floor. Dani was six in this version and she knew mom was drunk again. Vomit all over the floor, Dani carefully navigated the piles, nudging the thing on the floor to make sure it was breathing. A moan and a swatting hand told her all she needed to know. This was her childhood.
Then she was eleven, walking in to find her her in bed with someone else. A man she didn't recognize. Mother yelled, threatened. Promised to hurt her if she told anyone. This man started to come around more and more, but never when he father was home, and Dani knew what that meant. She tried to ignore what she saw as much as she could, force it away from her mind, but it wouldn't go. The stench was undeniable and the entire house smelled like deception. Her father found out one day, and even though Dani never understood it, he was broken.
He loved her, even though she never loved anyone or anything.
The day, not long after that, when the person she called mother left. Forever. Never looked back, not once. She threw dishes first, yelled at her father about how this was his fault. He made her do it. Thrust her spindly finger out at Dani and lashed her verbally for one last time before she walked out the door and never came back.
Her mother was a liar, an abuser, a cheater. Then one day, she was just gone.
Her father, the only constant in her life for too long.
Dani's memory flashed to Bryan again. To the night he found her on the bathroom floor. The ways in which that all was similar to how she'd found her own mother as a child made her sick to her stomach. She hated that woman with a depth of loathing she'd never known for or toward anything else. The last thing she wanted, ever, was to be like her. Like that.
The day that Bryan left burned into her memory again, suddenly. He said all those things, and he'd meant them all. She didn't trust him. She didn't tell him. She was afraid to be married. She didn't want a baby. She hadn't even given him a chance. He deserved better and she took all that away from him. He deserved the truth, and she'd denied it. He tried but couldn't forgive her. She knew immediately when he left that she'd failed not just him but herself. She also knew it was too late.
In many ways, she had already become her mother. She hurt the only people who loved her.
She had become her worst nightmare.
And now, in this moment, in this place, she wasn't afraid anymore.
She had learned so much about herself, how she got to this place, how she became who she was in the past year. Therapy had helped some, the clarity of sobriety more so. Each day things came into focus more. She still had far to go, but she was good now. Really good.
The best she'd ever been.
Scott had taught her to love. He'd known her at her absolute worst, even when he found out only because she hadn't been good enough about hiding it. He didn't judge. He didn't leave. He wanted to help her. He wanted her to learn to help herself. To find her value. To see her good.
He made her better.
Time launched forward again, and she was dizzy in the moment.
He held in his hand the most beautiful ring. The center stone was an aquamarine, the band encrusted with tiny diamonds.
The stone symbolizes truth, he said. When I look at you, I see our future together. I love you. Dani, will you marry me?
She glanced around the room quickly, trying to force every piece of this moment into her memory, and she took a leap of faith. In him. In herself. In love.
This post is part of a fiction challenge I am participating in. This is a continuation of a story that already has two parts. You can find them here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6 and part 7.
Here is this week's prompt:
Your character has a certain deep-held belief about love and fidelity. This belief may be based on religion, on something s/he learned from her/his parents, or on her/his own experience. Decide what this belief is and where it came from. In your story, something happens to the character that seems incompatible with this belief. How does your character react? Write the story.
Check out the pieces from the other participants!
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