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The Burden

Tags: fiction, drama,

The weight was beginning to crush her. She could feel the heaviness of it on her shoulders, the squeezing of her chest till it hurt, the throbbing in her gut. It was the weight of too many secrets.
The first she could remember had come from her father, whispering in the night “You can’t tell anyone, sweetie. It’ll be our little secret.” A secret she hated and had not understood. She was only four.

And years later, “You’re not calling the police. You mustn’t tell anyone!” cried her mother, lying on the kitchen floor, surrounded by broken dishware and the remains of dinner, a bruise already starting to blush on her cheek – the ones on her arm and back not yet faded - while her father crouched in a corner sobbing “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.” The warm smell of liquor fouling the air.

“I’m going to get rid of it, Dee. Promise you won’t tell. Please,” her best friend begged. “My parents would kill me if they found out. You’ll help me won’t you?” So they went ‘shopping’ for the day, Dee driving Judy’s car home from the city, as her friend lay on the back seat, alternating between shaking, sobbing and sleeping.

She had her own secrets too. The CDs and make up she stole from the stores, the first joint she shared with her cousins at Thanksgiving one year, that Bill had found in his dad’s dresser drawer and sneaked to grandma’s, all the times she had sex in the back of the family mini van with Robbie the Geek, Eddie the Jock, and Tyler the next door neighbor. Little ones. Big ones. Holding a kitchen knife to her father’s throat and calmly telling him if he ever touched her again, if he ever hit mom again… And she meant it. Both of them knew she meant it.
He left then – a couple of weeks later, unexpectedly throwing his clothes and a few belongings into the mini van, leaving her holding her breath, hoping he would never come back and secretly bearing responsibility for her mother’s unexpected, incomprehensible sobs and cries of “What are we going to do?” Live! She wanted to scream. We’re going to live.

The funeral was yesterday. Her father had not shown up at the wake or the funeral. She thought he should have even though she probably wouldn’t have spoken to him. But he should have. To show some respect for the woman who put up with him for all those years. To show some sorrow for the woman who actually cried when he left while she, Dee, secretly rejoiced. Maybe he was dead. She’d probably never know. She didn’t even hope he was - it made no difference to her any more.

She would sell everything. Everything but the car. The car would get her out of here. California maybe. Las Vegas. Somewhere warm, somewhere alive. Her secret plan.

Her happiness wrapped around her guilt and her grief and she pulled the covers tighter.

Maybe tomorrow she would get out of bed. Maybe tomorrow. But not today.

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