E was seventeen when they met. She wore her rose-colored glasses proudly, and the new city didn’t faze her. She was there to succeed, to become someone. She wasn’t there to waste her time.
And then she met M. He was twenty-three, a smooth-talker with a charming smile and emotional constipation. She didn’t trust him much, but she followed his every word with rapt attention, and maybe, maybe M wasn’t as bad as everyone said he was.
It took one car ride, one smile, and E fell head over heels and never resurfaced.
+ + +
She was sweaty and sticky and not for fun reasons. E sighed deeply as she watched the shoppers pass her by, thinking about all the work waiting for her at home. But she looked at her wedding band and reminded herself about commitment, about how much she loved M.
Breathe in, breathe out. If her high school friends saw her There, at a flea market trying to sell M’s merchandise, they’d laugh. They’d judge. She was a lonely formerly-rich girl in a city far away from her family, and there she was, selling trinkets and cheap groceries.
It was all for M. She’d do anything for him.
+ + +
They didn’t like her. She was an intruder, she didn’t belong. M’s sisters talked about her behind her back, and she knew it. L sat next to her and handed her a plate.
“Don’t let them bother you,” L snorted. “It’s not worth it.”
E wondered how L had managed to make it as an outsider in this family, in this snake pit. E wondered if she’d be able to survive at all.
+ + +
M was disappointed. Their first child was a girl, not a boy, but a screaming, curly-haired girl.
“Maybe the next one,” he said, half-joking.
E looked at the crying girl in her arms and she was able to breathe for the first time in months.
“Alejandra,” she said softly, and she felt happy again.
+ + +
He raised his hand and E didn’t even flinch. She waited for the slap, eyes open and head held high.
M had already destroyed her verbally and emotionally. Maybe a punch wouldn’t hurt as much as his words.
Their daughter looked up from the table, a crayon in her hand.
M walked away, hand in his pocket. E’s face was intact, but her soul, well, not so much.
+ + +
M was disappointed, again. Their second daughter was born during World War III, their looming implosion too close to ignore. The baby didn’t cry, and E couldn’t help but laugh at the thick black hair that was quite literally erupting from her daughter’s head.
Just like her father’s.
“She looks just like you,” E said.
M held the baby in his arms and he smiled, a miracle. “Yeah. She does.”
And for a second, E thought that maybe it was time for white flags.
+ + +
It all ended (or so it seemed) two years before the new millennium started. M took boxes and boxes and boxes and hoped E would reconsider.
But the damage was done. E was all shreds and tears and blood and she wanted him gone. M knew he couldn’t hurt her anymore. Unless. Unless.
He grabbed their eldest daughter and told her, “I am dead to you. I’m not your father anymore.”
He made his grand exit, feeling accomplished, thinking that by hurting an 11-year-old he had managed to hurt E one last time.
Their daughter handled it well, though. She learned that ghosts can’t be loved.
+ + +
Like fucked-up magnets, they somehow ended up involved again. E couldn’t help it, M was the one, the only one, and forever would be. M didn’t know what he wanted, and whatever force brought them back together played a cruel joke on them.
First Act: Friendship and late nights and movies and this is how it should have been from the beginning.
Second Act: M is actually a decent father now. His daughters learn to love him again.
Third Act: Collapse. Poof! He disappears.
Daughter number three looked nothing like him. She looked just like daughter number one, and E felt like there was a lesson to be learned there. Time to go back to her roots. Time to leave the city that had caused her nothing but heartbreak.
A year after the Third Act, E and her daughters packed their bags and left that wretched city.
E slowly learned how to live without him.
+ + +
She managed to put hundreds of miles between them, and somehow M continued to hurt her, to hurt their daughters. E wistfully reached for her rose-colored glasses, forgotten so long ago.
They were cracked, and she couldn’t see anything anymore.
She loved him. She was not in love with him anymore.
+ + +
She’s dying. Her daughters pretend everything is fine and that they will all grow old together. Her youngest storms into the room and tells her all about her day, and she’s smart, and witty, and funny.
E sees so much of herself in her youngest. And she worries about her the most.
The other two try to hide their sadness with loudness and laughter. The eldest doesn’t let her do anything without supervision and E wants to scream at her sometimes. She’s perfectly able to do things, thank you very much.
Sometimes she has fever dreams, and her mother is standing right there. They have long conversations and E wonders if she’s already in heaven. But then she blinks, and it’s just her eldest, asleep and snoring on the chair next to her bed.
E reaches for her phone, and finds M’s number.
Maybe they could talk one last time. She doesn’t have much left, and she’d like to say goodbye. So she slowly types the text, every single muscle on her body begging for rest, and hits send.
She wonders if he’ll reply.
+ + +
+ + +
Their eldest daughter finds a letter addressed to M after E passes away. E forgives M for everything he did to her on that letter, and gets her closure. Their daughter wonders if E wanted to send it to him at some point, but then she gets to the end.
“This letter is for myself,” E scribbled. “And no one else.”
The letter is torn into a million little pieces, and is thrown into a large, black trash bag.
The rose-colored glasses follow suit.