If she could go back in time and tell her twelve-year-old self anything, she would tell her that she would be okay. She would promise her that in a few years the chaos would be quieter, not gone, but not nearly as frightening as it had been every single day she could remember in her young life. She would tell her that he wouldn’t break her. She didn’t know how but he didn’t, he couldn’t, and that in some ways that would almost make it worse because that would be the very reason why he hated her so much. She wouldn’t fucking break.
The words, the beatings, the rage and destruction, she would take it silently and watch it with eyes wide open and hear it loudly, tears slipping down her face because she didn’t know what to do with it yet. She would tell her that something would protect that tiny fragile heart. She would assure her that something, a seed maybe, would take root, deep down where it mattered and where it couldn’t be crushed. A seed that would grow into an ability to still see something good in its brokenness, to be fair and trusting even when you earned the right to be afraid, and would eventually bloom into a strength that she, herself, as an adult couldn’t even explain.
So that even when he came for her again when she was a grown woman with a family of her own to protect, with the same words and rage and destruction because he was still the same person with the same anger and she was the same one he hated, she took it. Even though it would rock her to her core and make her ashamed of herself because she was sure there was nothing left that he could do to reach her, to cut her, to affect her. But the fear and ugliness came at her anyway, in a wave so big and so strong she thought it might pull her under. She took it. She took it and she let it carve one last tally on her heart and then she used it to prove she had earned her way out. She could be done now.
She cut each and every string tied to a lie, released the heavy anchors that threated to sink her down to his level, and ripped to shreds any obligation to make the dirty truth shiny. She gathered up all the shame and excuses, polite smiles and the versions of the stories that good girls tell, into her fists. She stood all alone with her toes at the edge of a new way, she raised her arms above her head and she opened her fingers wide.
Because it was time and because it was right, a mighty wind picked up and pulled them away from her. One by one they were carried away from her but at a cost. Each bit of damaged history, each twisted untruth, each bitter memory clung to the skin on her hands, her arms, her neck, anything it could grab ahold of because it didn’t want to be let go. What did it have if it didn’t have her? Each and every one that left her, peeling back a bit of skin and ripping it clean off as it lifted from her body. The searing pain took her breath away, it brought her to her knees and she thought she might be sick because this was it, this was the beginning of the end, she couldn’t undo what she’d started. She wanted to scream and lay down and curl inside herself because this unprotected, raw ache that she had buried, she had hidden, she had made excuses for and minimized for her whole life was bleeding for the world to see and she didn’t know if she could take it. But she didn’t cry out, though she knew that it would bring relief. She was exhausted but she didn’t lay down. She didn’t shield herself from the forces that were slicing away the most damaged and embarrassing and tainted pieces of her and scattering them to the far corners of all the places she couldn’t follow to explain them away.
She didn’t how much more she could take because she’d already taken too much. She’d taken the brunt and the responsibility and the blame. But still she took it. She stood as strong as she could on the edge as a sacrifice to her twelve-year-old self who didn’t understand why he couldn’t love her, just fucking love her, and she begged and pleaded for each piece to be gone, to be ripped away so she could be left alone with whatever flesh was left behind.
If she could go back in time and tell her twelve-year-old self anything, she would tell her that she would be okay. She would show her the shiny new skin that covered her scars and show her what it looks like to heal.