Identical, p.26

Identical, page 26



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  Grandma Gardella called the other

  day. We talked about it for a few

  minutes, which is about all the time

  she could spare for me. I swear

  I could run away and she wouldn’t


  me gone. Daddy is a different tale.

  Sometimes I turn around suddenly,

  sure he’s behind me. But he’s not.

  Sometimes, even though I know

  he’s miles away, I feel him watching


  monitoring every move I make,

  every twitch, every pee, every

  thought, even. Sometimes, rarely,

  that makes me feel safe, and that

  scares me through and through.

  Will I ever be able to leave Daddy

  at all?

  School Was Crazy

  For a day or two, like Mom’s

  celebrity had somehow worn

  off on me. Today is better.

  No questions. No jokes.

  Everything back to normal,

  at least as normal as things get.

  Thank God for Ian, always

  my reality check. And often,

  my voice of reason. I guess

  it’s good to have a conscience

  hanging around somewhere.

  The fact that he happens to be

  a great kisser is a definite bonus.

  At least as long as those strange

  feelings about my father,

  and how he can see beyond

  the miles, don’t happen to prove

  true. Then, considering how much

  kissing has gone on between Ian

  and me today, I’m toast. If so,

  the kissing was worth every crumb.

  One Thing Kind of Weird, Though

  As hot as our kissing gets (and it

  gets pretty intense), Ian has not

  tried to take things further. Once

  or twice, his hands have strayed

  to certain places, places that made

  me want a lot more than kissing.

  But he always pulls back, intuiting

  that, much as I might want more,

  I’m really not ready to give myself

  to him in that way.

  All the way. Not yet. Everything has to be right.

  In place. Hopeful. Fearless. Perfect.

  He drives me home now and my

  heart beats against his back, promising,

  “I do love you. I do love you. I do…”

  He stops around the corner from home,

  out of sight of our windows,

  of Hannah’s windows (just in case).

  We are well ahead of the school bus.

  We’ll let it go by before I walk on

  home. Daddy took the week off.

  Who knows where he’s at, or what

  he’s doing? Even this is risky,

  and we both know it. Don’t care.

  At Last the Bus Goes By

  I haven’t much time, at least

  not if Daddy is home, aware.

  I press myself into Ian, try to

  absorb enough of him to get

  me through the long night

  without him. He doesn’t need

  the words, but I offer them

  anyway. “I love you so much.

  More than life itself. I’d be

  a total wreck without you.”

  He looks into my eyes, smiles.

  I know. I feel the same way.

  My head shakes automatically.

  “You’re so together. You don’t

  need me to keep you that way.

  But you are my glue. Without

  you, I’d be nothing but broken

  pieces. Completely useless.”

  Never useless, Kaeleigh. And

  you’re stronger than you know.

  I Try to Keep That in Mind

  As I arrive home. With Mom gone,

  the house wears its usual aura

  of hushed nonwelcome. I focus

  on Ian as I tread quietly to my room.

  Daddy is home, his bedroom

  door open a crack, and through

  it leaks his voice, thick already

  with his usual escapes.

  C-c’mon, Hannah. Y-you don’t

  mean it. She’s gone and might

  not ever come back to me.

  I n-need to see you. N-need you.

  Wow. Things went deeper

  than I thought. I almost

  feel sorry for Daddy. Almost.

  Not like he deserves anyone.

  P-please, Hannah. D-don’t

  leave me, just like everyone

  else. Please! Several silent

  seconds pass before a solid

  clunk tells me the phone has

  fallen against the floor. And,

  sequestered in his dark, lonely

  cell, Daddy is sobbing.

  I Close My Door

  Turn on my music, slip

  headphones over my ears. I don’t

  want to hear him cry.

  He’s a sad, sick man, who

  deserves every tear, at least that’s

  what I want to think.

  I’m shredded, wrecked.

  Completely confused because as

  much as I hate him most

  of the time, every now

  and then, a sliver of love for Daddy

  embeds itself in my heart.

  Hard to tell who’s more

  messed up. Daddy? Or me? And,

  much as it’s the end result

  that affects me every day,

  I really have to wonder who or what

  made Daddy become this way.

  Babies aren’t born cruel

  or filled with sick desire. Evil is not

  intrinsic. It’s fashioned.

  Soundless as a Shadow

  I stay in my room all evening

  Drawing any sort of attention

  to myself would be an enormous

  mistake. Shh! Turn off the music.

  Every now and again, Daddy

  leaves his own room, on a Turkey

  hunt. Staccato footsteps accompany

  his muttered threats and pleas.

  You can’t leave me. I won’t

  let you. I’m not a little boy

  anymore. I’ll go after you.

  Please. Don’t leave me!

  I keep the bedside lamp

  very low. It sheds a pale,

  wheat-colored light, barely

  enough to read by. Not

  that I can concentrate on

  the words. Mostly what I’m

  doing is praying Daddy slips

  into substance-fed slumber.

  Back and Forth

  He goes, bedroom to bar. Why

  doesn’t he just take the bottle

  with him? It comes to me with

  sudden clarity that his pacing

  carries him by my room twice

  every round-trip. I extinguish

  my light, hunker down in my

  bed, as if hiding there might

  somehow influence him to keep

  on going. Going. Please go on by.

  This trip is to the Turkey, and

  it seems to take a very long time.

  Maybe he fell asleep in the living

  room. I start to relax, just a little.

  And then I hear him, unsteady in

  the hall. One, two. Three, four…

  He pauses outside my door.

  This time, the knob turns.

  And I know why he’s here. I’m

  the only one who doesn’t dare run.

  I Want to Shout

  Leave me alone!

  What’s wrong with you?

  Don’t you remember

  who I am? Who you are?

  This is not a father’s love!

  I want t
o scream,

  Can’t you see what

  you are doing to me?

  What you’ve done to me?

  What you’ve made of me?

  I want to cry out,

  I am your little girl.

  I am not your girlfriend.

  I am not your whore.

  I am not my fucking mother!

  But he is on top of me

  and my shout is silenced.

  He is inside of me

  and my scream stays

  there too. He is finished.

  And I don’t cry out,

  but I do cry a bucket

  of silent tears. He slithers

  away and at last, I quietly sob






  He Says Not a Word

  Except a whispered I love you.

  And as he exits, an almost-silent something

  half-sounding like I’m sorry.

  Is he? How can he do this despicable

  thing to me, expect

  me to believe he’s the slightest bit sorry?

  Once, after an extended “visit,”

  he pushed himself up above me, dared to

  slur, Forgive me. Not my fault.

  Whose fault, then? Mine? All I ever did

  was try and make

  him feel forgiven. Healed. Accepted. Loved.

  Mom’s fault? Maybe. But why,

  then, does he still want her? Still want to

  love her, with or without sex?

  Hannah’s fault? Someone else’s? What

  unidentified ghost,

  wearing Daddy’s face, might come to me?

  Most of me doesn’t care, just

  wants him to leave me the hell alone. A tiny

  part of me demands to know.

  Both Parts

  Are exhausted. Too little sleep.

  Much too much unsolicited attention.

  It is unsolicited, isn’t it? I don’t ask

  for it (maybe subconsciously), do I?

  Stop it! Can’t think like that, even

  for a instant, or go completely insane.

  My body aches. My brain aches more.

  But I have to get up and go to work.

  At least I won’t have to share a table,

  share a couch, a room, a house,

  pretending last night didn’t happen.

  I’ve done a lot of pretending.

  I pry myself from between

  the covers, limp off to the shower,

  hoping fifteen minutes of hot steam

  and fragranced vapors can wash away

  the scum. Scrub away the disgust.

  Cleansed but not refreshed, I dress

  in simple jeans and an unadorned T-shirt,

  apply no hint of makeup. I want no

  attention, no compliments, no come-

  on nor get-off smiles. I want to be

  Mother Teresa, helping the elderly.

  Okay, it’s a ridiculous fantasy,

  but one I desperately need right now.

  Enveloped by November Fog

  I walk to work. Slowly.

  I see now, more than ever,

  that I belong to Daddy.

  My father is my keeper.

  I can never escape to Ian.

  Ian was only a fantasy.

  Beautiful make-believe.

  A movie poster to focus

  on when I have to hide

  out inside my own head.

  By the time I reach

  the old folks’ home,

  I realize I have to break

  things off with Ian.

  Not fair to let him keep

  thinking we have a future.

  Not fair to me to play

  this game any longer.

  I go inside, drowning.

  Crying, inside and out.

  The First Face I See

  Belongs to William. He can’t

  help but notice the state I’m in.

  Straightaway, he puts an arm

  around my shoulder. You okay?

  I yank away from his touch,

  like he’s fresh from the oven.

  My muscles twitch, quiver,

  begin to shake uncontrollably.

  Greta, nearby, rushes to my

  side, latches onto my elbow.

  Come with me. No ifs, ands,

  or buts about it, young lady.

  Next thing I know, I’m in Greta’s

  room, on her bed, tissue in hand.

  I think it’s time you told me

  this deep, dark secret of yours.

  Oh, how wonderful it would be

  to break down. Confess. “I can’t.”

  This has to do with your family,

  yes? Perhaps with your father?

  Any hint of composure vanishes

  in a tremendous hailstorm of tears.

  Greta sits beside me. I should

  have told you my story before…

  Her Voice Softens

  Remember once, I told you I met evil

  when I was very small? My Satan

  was a butcher, tall, heavyset, and

  the face he wore looked exactly

  like mine. He was my father, and

  he believed he owned me.

  A gasp escapes my best effort

  to hold it inside me.

  Greta continues. He would come

  home from his butcher shop,

  rank with blood and fat. Often

  he stripped without washing,

  and he would call me into his

  bedroom, a calf to slaughter.

  I was expected to bring a wash

  basin and soap. “Cleanse me,”

  he would say. “Take the stench

  away.” Hands. Arms. Feet. Legs.

  And by the time I reached the place

  between them, he would be stiff.

  And then he would tell me how

  to touch him, before he laid

  me on the bed and did the thing

  no father should do to his child….

  I cannot believe she’s telling

  me this. Cannot believe this

  beautiful, strong woman

  ever suffered this thing.

  When I met my Lars, I loved

  his gentle way, loved how

  he never demanded. I told you

  my father found us together,

  beat me because of it, and I was

  afraid he would beat Lars, too.

  But Lars didn’t care. He asked

  me to marry him, and I so wanted

  to, but could not imagine sharing

  a bed with any man. Pleasure

  from sex? Never! When I said no,

  Lars went off to soldier.

  How I regretted that decision.

  Later, my father arranged

  a marriage to a man no better

  than he. But that is another story.

  And now, if you will, I think you

  should share your story with me.

  Oh, How I Want To

  But Daddy would kill me,

  and get away with it. I can’t

  ever tell, not even to someone

  else who has had


  forced on her by her father.

  What if I ask for it somehow,

  maybe subconsciously? Being

  brutally honest with myself, it

  feels good.

  How can that be? Not that

  there’s any joy in it. Unlike Greta,

  I want to know joyous sex.

  It does exist outside of books,


  it? I want sex laced with love,

  and not warped parental

  love, but the honest kind.

  I want sex that makes me

  feel right,

  not like some freak, some inbred

  monstrosity. I’m not, am I?

/>   Damn it, I really don’t know.

  Will it

  one day be revealed that Mom

  is actually my grandmother? OMG,

  could there be even deeper secrets

  that can’t be unearthed, never



  IMH (not) O

  In my not-so-humble opinion,

  Kaeleigh definitely asks for it.

  Feigned innocence invites


  more than a frank come-on does.

  Anyway, she tries to pretend

  she doesn’t like it, but it

  feels good

  and she knows it. Feels good

  with Mick, although that particular

  chapter of my life is definitely over.

  Even if he has forgiven the whole

  truck episode, I prefer a guy who


  have another girlfriend spoiling

  for trouble. Someone like Ty, maybe.

  Sex feels great with him, too.

  I guess it might be nice for sex to

  feel right,

  like the person you’re with

  might even love you. But hey,

  I’m not exactly sold on the idea

  that love is, in fact, real.

  Will it

  find me one day, overtake

  me, infiltrate my life like sunlight

  snakes through the cold of morning?

  Can love thaw me? Will it


  I’m Not Even Sure

  What love is, or just what it’s supposed to


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