When I met him my life split down the middle. Before him and after him. Like history, B.C. and A.D., except I never understood why, if B.C. means Before Christ, A.D. isn’t A.C. After Christ.
The first time we had sex I thought I would split in two. I felt my body pushed to some edge it might not come back from. No one told me it would hurt. No one told me anything about sex, except not to do it.
I couldn’t make myself breathe. My heart would stop. I would die and go to hell and it would serve me right.
I pledged my purity to Daddy and Jesus both. I guess I cheated on both of them.
His mouth moved against mine. Breathe with me, he said. Then I could breathe again and I knew I loved him.
He bought me clothes. White shirts and short plaid skirts and over-the-knee socks. After a while the top buttons on the shirts got hard to close and he frowned a little and bought me a tight camisole thing, and they fit again. He cooked me dinner. Pasta (not spaghetti), and when he put cheese on it wasn’t from a can.
It’s like Olive Garden! I said, and he laughed.
You are a baby, he said, like I’d pleased him, and when he offered me dessert I thought of those shirts and said I was on a diet and he picked me up and carried me into his room and I knew he loved me.
Sometimes I thought of home. How the air smelled in fall, like a tobacco field after it rains, and I missed that smell, even though everything is clean here and it’s never hot and never cold and nothing’s worn out or has holes in it, ever.
Sometimes a girl came to visit and I worried. She dressed like a lawyer on TV, tight skirt suit and high heels, but he said it was business. She was college age or grown up and once when he wasn’t there she asked me if he’d introduced me to his friends yet.
Just you, I said, and she asked how old I was and I told her and how we were going to get married when I was old enough that we didn’t need Daddy’s permission.
I was that young once, she said, and she gave me some pills and said if I had a hard time sleeping I could take one.
I sleep just fine, but I took them anyway and hid them in my teddy bear with my purity ring and my old babysitting money and tip money from when he’s away and I’m supposed to order takeout but I don’t.
Like the change Mama used to hide. Mad money, she called it. Just in case.
Because this is love and we’ll get married and be together forever and nothing will split us apart, not ever.
But just in case.
I broke up with Jesus once.
# # #
Kathryn Kulpa is a fiction writer with words in Monkeybicycle, Pithead Chapel, Smokelong Quarterly, and Superstition Review. She was a visiting writer at Wheaton College and a workshop teacher at Writefest 2019. She is also an editor, librarian, and pet-sitter, so she will fix your grammar, find you a scholarly citation, walk your dog, and still be back in time for coffee.
Cover Image Geralt
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