Lacey could tell something was off. “What’s wrong, Mom?”
“Nothing, Honey. But we need to talk – all of us.” Her mother meant all of “the girls” She looked at her three daughters warily. “Something’s happened, and I don’t know how to tell you.”
“What happened? Are grandma and grandpa okay?” she asked.
“Yes, dear. They’re fine. It’s about your father.”
“What about him?” Lacey didn’t want to hear it; she hadn’t spoken to the man in years.
“He was arrested.”
To say Lacey was shocked was an understatement. She never thought she would see the day her father would be caught.
“For what?” Lacey’s little sister asked with tears in her eyes that threatened to fall and lips that began to quiver.
“He assaulted his girlfriend,” Lacey’s mother replied, disgusted. She made the word “girl” sound insulting.
Insulting to the man and the woman he played with.
Lacey knew what her father was capable of. She had seen what he could do. Felt it when she was only seven years old. When he was drunk. When he had nothing better to do. At first, Lacey thought she was just being punished. But she kept being punished – over and over again. She would accidentally spill water on the floor or wash the dishes incorrectly. And he punished her for it. “It’s my fault,” she thought. She believed she deserved to be punished.
After a while, a long while, a lot of whiles, she thought it might not be her fault. “Maybe – maybe it’s his.” By the time she realized she was being abused, she was ready to keep it a secret.
Lacey didn’t mind enduring the pain by herself if it meant that her sisters and mother didn’t have to. She held on to that personal pain until she was 14. Then, one night, her mother came home from work early. The house was full of yelling.
He held Lacey against a wall, his hands around her neck. Breathless, unable to fight back, Lacey looked like she was going to die. As her head banged against the wall, he forced her to look directly into his eyes. His cold, loveless eyes.
“You are so fucking worthless, you know that?” He yelled. “You know that?!” He screamed, tightening his hold on her neck.
“Y-yes” Lacey cried, choking back tears. She kicked her feet with all her strength, but it did nothing. All she could think about was how hard these bruises will be to cover up. How sad her mother would be if she knew her kind, loving husband hurt their oldest daughter this way.
“Stop it!” her mother cried out. Lacey’s father dropped her and babbling something, an explanation of sorts, a meaningless jumble of reasons and ramblings. Lacey’s mother refused to listen and grabbed her daughter from her husband’s hands.
“M-mom. I-I’m sorry” she utters hoarsely, hugging her mom, struggling to walk.
“Lacey, you have nothing to be sorry for,” she says to her daughter for the millionth time. This time that she says it, it holds so much more meaning. She woke up the other girls. They all left their home that night. They never returned.
Lacey has tried to put that night to bed. She’s tried to tuck that part of her life away, behind a dresser or in a closet or in the backyard where the garbage cans stink outside. But she can still smell the man and the fear. The smell is in her brain, on her skin. It’s suffocating her.
Lacey never wanted to see her father again, but she couldn’t stop the fixation that overwhelmed her – the fascination of his crime. She wanted justice, if not for her, then for the world. She researched everything. She fell into the screen of her laptop pounding the keys to the closed doors of her fear.
Where did he get sent to? Linked In. Logged in. Located.
What did he look like now? Mugshot
Police reports, court dates, lawyers and judges and daily dockets. She wanted to be the first to know how long he would spend in prison, but she never got that far. Daddy was released from jail after only 3 ½ months of detainment – “lack of evidence.”
The photographs of the victim body and bruised, the witnesses that saw him beat his girlfriend, the admission of guilt were not enough – “charges dropped.”
“What did the court want for enough?” Lacey thought. She was not angry. She was numb.
Lacey did not go to the courthouse when her father was released, but her mother and sisters went. When her father saw two of his daughters, he burst into tears. He was so happy to see them; he hugged and kissed them both.
He called her cell phone that Friday night – around midnight. She answered wearily, barely uttering the word, “Hello.”
“Hi sweetheart” her father’s voice made her cringe. The term of endearment made her want to vomit.
He apologized for everything he’d ever done. He said he was “so sorry.” The elongated “so” seemed insincere. She had waited a long time for one, but, now, it didn’t matter to her at all. No number of apologies would matter to her. Nothing he said could make up for the pain she endured for so long. In her mind, the “so” seemed never-ending.
Her mother and sisters were quick to forgive him.
She refused to.
She only hoped they would understand why. How terrified she was of him — of the smell of alcohol on his tongue, the look of his eyes when he was angry, instilled in her mind. She wanted them to understand how hard she struggled – fighting him — in bed – every night – and the nightmares that followed her for years. She wished they could understand how hard it was to trust anyone, anytime, anywhere, anymore.