The waiting wasn’t the worst part, but it was a close second. The girl opened her bedroom door and called for the dad to hurry up. She closed her door and wriggled back into her hiding spot in the darkened room. She had pushed the mattress away from the wall a bit so she could slide between it and the wall. She quickly pulled the covers over her and the bed, hoping that the dad wouldn’t notice her small figure hiding. The door opened and a crack of light came into the room. The dad shut the door and started looking in her usual hiding spots. The girl could hear him looking all around her small room. He couldn’t find her! Would he leave? Did she want him to? Suddenly the lights turned on and she felt his hand grab her. The dad had found the girl. He turned the lights back off and she shifted herself back on the bed.
They talked for just a few minutes about inconsequential things. “Do you want a kiss?” the dad finally asked. He asked every night, and every night the girl didn’t know what to say. If she said no, he would leave; rejecting her. If she said yes, he would stay and she could tell him about her day while he did it. Both choices would end up being painful. The girl whispered, “Yes.”
She slid off her bed and laid on the floor. The dad helped her take her underwear off and then pushed up her nightgown. The girl talked about her day the entire time. At one point, she felt herself leave her body. She felt like she was floating above her room. She could see herself lying on the floor with her eyes squished shut and her hands in fists. She could see the dad between her legs. She could see her rumpled bed and outside the window with the glow of the Christmas lights. Eventually she came back into her body. Her talking had never stopped. When the dad was finished, he helped her put her underwear back on. She climbed back in bed and he pulled the covers up over her, giving her a goodnight kiss on the check. Then he left the room.
The girl tried not to cry. She heard the dad go into the brother’s room next door. She got up and went out to the bathroom, looking down the hall into the family room where the mom was. The girl knew the mom didn’t know and the girl knew that she would never tell her. She tried to clean herself up as much as she could in the bathroom even though the dirtiness she felt was on the inside and couldn’t be cleaned away. She went back to her room, into her bed and sat there with her ear pushed against the wall that separated her from the brother. She made sure that the dad and he were both talking; making sure that the dad wasn’t doing anything to the brother. She couldn’t stop this for herself but she would stop it from happening to the brother if it ever did. It never did. It only happened to the girl. Every night it happened to her. She curled up in her bed, hoping for something to come and take her away from this. Maybe Captain Kirk would come beam her up to safety. Maybe Jaws would come tearing up through the floor of her room and just eat her and that would be the end. She had an active imagination. The girl was six years old.
Second grade was difficult for the girl. Her best friend had moved the year before and she wasn’t good at making friends. She would watch the kids on the playground running and laughing while she sat by herself. These are the same kids she had run and played with last year with her friend, but things had changed. She wasn’t that girl anymore. She was a new girl. A different girl. A dirty girl. So she sat alone during recess and lunch, looking through her purse or eating her lunch slowly.
It was different in the classroom. For some reason it was safer for her to reach out to the other kids in class; even if she got in trouble for it. The girl was always finished with her work before everyone else so she would start talking to kids near her. Maybe they needed help with the math or reading. She knew she could help. But as always, she ended up in trouble. Eventually she sat at the corner desk. All desks around her were empty so she had no one to talk to. Her parent’s received many notes from the teacher in regards to her behavior.
At home, the girl suffered from headaches. She was “dramatic.” She would lie on her bed with her head hanging off the edge and stare at the sun. She would do it as long as she could before the sun burned her eyes. She knew she could go blind doing it and that was okay. She didn’t want to see what was happening to her every night.
Her parents eventually took her to a psychologist. The doctor kept saying that the tests might be difficult but they weren’t to the girl. At the end, it was decided that she was gifted and bored in second grade. The girl was reading at a fifth grade level. The dad never mentioned what the real problem could be and the mom never knew, so the girl went home where nothing changed. The kisses had been happening for two years now—every night. The girl was seven years old.
The dad was in the girl’s room again looking for her. She was hiding in the closet again. This was a usual spot for her if she knew he was going to be coming in quickly. But she was as far back in the corner as she could get and was sure that the dad couldn’t find her. The closet had just one sliding door as the other had been broken. She tried not to breathe. Then she saw his hand; a black shape reaching around the door towards her. She would have nightmares about hands grabbing her for a very long time. His head came around the door and he somehow saw her. He opened the closet door and she climbed out and into bed. They talked for just a few minutes about inconsequential things. “Do you want a kiss?” he asked. This time she whispered, “No.” He said, “okay,” gave her a kiss goodnight and left. She lay in bed crying because she knew that he would only stay with her if she said yes to him. He didn’t stay to hear about her day. He just left; rejecting her. She lay in bed, listening to the murmured voices from the brother’s room. She didn’t listen at the wall anymore because she knew by now that this only happened to her. Tomorrow she would go ahead and say yes so that he would stay with her. It was the only way. She still wondered if something would come take her away from of all of this but she knew in her heart that it would never happen. It would just go on and on. The girl was eight years old.
The girl started getting mean. It was bits of anger that she had stuffed inside of her for almost three years. She was making fun of kids at school and saying horrible things to them. It was a small town so everyone knew everyone’s business. The girl made sure that she said all the mean things that she had heard from the town gossip. She didn’t actually say it. She had a new friend that was bold. This friend would say anything the girl told her. Once again, the girl was in trouble at school. She was going to the high school for advanced classes but still stuck in fourth grade. There had been talk of moving her up a grade but then she would have been the same grade as the brother and her parents didn’t want that. So she stayed where she was at. And her anger came out. And no one noticed or those that did notice didn’t know truly what was wrong and didn’t know how to stop her. She eventually stopped herself. Maybe it was a phase. Or maybe the girl was just able to stuff the anger further down so it wouldn’t come out. The girl was nine years old.
Fifth grade was a bit easier for the girl as she was able to keep the anger inside at school. She made more friends and even became the captain of the Safety Patrol at her school. Then she became Captain of the town Safety Patrol and even competed for the county spot. At school she was a normal girl. She had gotten good at living two lives. There was the daytime life where she was at school with other kids and she tried to blend in and do her best. Then there was the home life, where the day always ended in her room, with the question, “Do you want a kiss?” The girl was ten years old.
The girl’s only safety was at the grandparent’s house. There she was free and safe and loved. Anytime she visited there, she always begged the mom to spend the night. Most of the time, the mom agreed. The girl and the brother would borrow a t-shirt from the grandpa and sleep in the pull out couch. In the morning, she or the brother would run over to the television and turn on cartoons and then run back to bed. As the girl and the brother got older, they were allowed to sleep upstairs, first in the room with twin beds and eventually in their own rooms. During the summer, each one of them got one week alone at the grandparents’ home. The girl treasured these weeks and always begged to stay longer. She would spend the day with the grandmother, doing whatever was on the schedule for the day. When the grandpa got home from work, the girl would help the grandma make dinner. The grandpa went to bed early and so the girl and the grandma would watch television until late at night. The grandma would make a late night snack for the girl to take up to bed. As the years went by, this home was the only sanctuary for the girl.