Home was an apartment on the first floor of his parents house. Our own separate entrance–keys and everything. A house from the Victorian era, its ghost stories left me unsettled. Always I felt the eyes of someone watching. Once I even heard the cries of a babe no one could explain.
I was sixteen and pregnant and lost in more ways than one.
Piecing together a home we skidded by with mismatched furniture and silverware. The spindles on our rummaged cradle alternated pink and blue pastels.
Violence had been as much a part of both our lives as peace. We reenacted the only way we knew, there in that drafty apartment. Rage and tears. Fists and teeth. Dreams shattered before they began.
There was a wedding in the park. Friends of ours with a baby of their own. She passed along the aisle before me and I cried tears not happy but resigned to what I knew would never be. He watched me watching their first dance. We’ll make it, he promised. Whether he believed it I can’t say, but I knew. If anything, I knew empty when I heard it.
One Christmas Day he gave me a ring, its prongs dipped in silver to make the speck of a diamond look bigger. Knowing better, I allowed myself the fraction of hope but that ring would be given and taken–flung into the street in anger–more often than it would be on my finger.
With a baby on my hip I wanted nothing more. I remember the broken. The can’t go on. The not how it’s supposed to be.
And then she and I, taking first steps together. Growing up and growing away, ever so slow. One foot steady before the next.
The miles between the here and now and the there and then stretch out like a road map. I couldn’t tell you how I got here, only that I did. And if the map were to burn in my wake, regret wouldn’t find me.
Those unanswered prayers weren’t after all.