These beatings took place often throughout Marley’s life. Her daddy never beat her like he did Mommy, but he would spank her for anything. Marley learned to keep quiet, to speak only when spoken to, and to keep her voice low. She always wondered why Mommy would answer back when Daddy was being mean. Sometimes, Daddy would laugh, and other times, he would growl loudly, like their dog Doberman. When he growled, a slap often followed. The slap would hit so hard, once Marley heard Mommy’s teeth rattle.
When Marley was 18, Mommy disappeared. Over the years, Marley had grown disgusted by her, blaming her for her and Marley’s situation. At 18, Marley was dissatisfied with life, tired of her father, afraid of him, yet irrationally, madly in love with him. In her eyes, he was a flawed man, a man who could not help himself. Part of her battled with his violence, and the other part saw only his smile, steeped in memories of him holding her, juggling her on his knee, and being sweet to her. At 18, she still thought he could change.
Then Mommy left. Alone with him now, she was in charge of everything. She had to care for him, cooking, cleaning, accompany him. Angry with her mother, and not knowing beyond the basics, Marley dealt with her situation, keeping her anger locked away. After two years of life with Daddy, it was time to go. Two years with him meant two years of beatings too. Every time it happened, Marley wondered about her mother. Her situation was different, the violence was different – and every time he was done hitting her, her father cried. Her heart would break, the anger inside her dissipated, and she would pity him, seeing him as a broken man, and once again, she forgave.
One day, when she had been out of her house picking up things for the kitchen, someone else showed up. The addition to the house meant her father was moving on…Marley was confused, but at the same time, stirrings of freedom rang inside her. Biding her time, she waited for the perfect moment.
That moment never came. One night, her father sat at the table while the new addition, the new woman, was bathing outside. In his own way, direct and brusque, Marley’s father asked her to leave. She was 20 now, and she had to go live on her own. He no longer wanted her living with him. Her dramatic farewell, her final bid for freedom was upstaged by his refusal to allow her to continue living with him. Angry, embarrassed, Marley vowed never to return. He told her he did not want her to come back.
Two broken people, one in spirit, the other soulless, faced off. Wordlessly, he lifted his hand, and in one final show of superiority, landed an open-palmed slap across her face. The stars that sparked behind her eyelids, the sudden, biting pain all over her face, the pins and needles, and the rattle of her teeth that bit into her tongue from the force of his brutality – all compounded his request. She was to be no more for him.
Nearly a year later, Marley watched as he stumbled into the bar, blind drunk. She wiped down the counter, clearing it of the spilled beers, rum and occasional whiskeys. Ashtrays were emptied, wiped clean, ready to take on another pile of ash and butts from those who could not drink without lighting up. Marley had once watched a woman who lit up cigarette after cigarette, dusting the tips into the trays, yet never once taking a drag. The things she had seen in her year of exile.
Two bleary eyed regulars slumped over the corner of the long curved bar, and as they signaled for another drink, she poured drafts and slid them over, hardly ever looking away from the pathetic sight of her father as he wobbled on his stool. There was a man with him, someone who looked a little familiar. She walked over to take their orders, smiling slightly; satisfied to see him reduced to a drunken mess. His companion looked over at her appreciatively, and ordered a whiskey. Turning to her father, she raised her eyebrows. He looked at her, but didn’t see her. He ordered the same, politely, but there was no spark of recognition.
Stung, Marley stalked to the bar to get their drinks. Again, he had gotten the best of her, without even trying. She slammed their drinks down on their table, and barked out the total. Her father’s companion, a rugged, bearded man of about 30, still smiled and paid her, tipping generously. They finished their drinks, and while she stayed behind the counter, she watched them hold a short conversation before walking/stumbling out.
About a month after her run-in with Daddy, Marley saw his companion stroll into the bar again. He headed straight to the bar, and smiling, ordered a whiskey. As Marley poured, he asked her how her day had been. Unable to resist, she responded. He stayed until the bar closed down. He returned often, always ordering the same drink, and waiting until the bar closed, before leaving. When Marley finally worked up the courage to take him to bed with her, almost 6 months later, she wondered why she had waited so long. There was not much she did not like about Daniel. Maybe he could stand to get rid of his scratchy beard, but he was pretty much the most decent man she had been with since leaving home.
What she knew of him was limited, but there was a part of her that took into consideration Daniel’s acquaintance with her Daddy. He rarely brought him up, and when he did, it was in passing. Marley felt twinges of satisfaction that on some small, childish level, she was getting even with her father by sleeping with his friend. She could never rationalize her anger, her confused feelings for the man who had heaped so much pain and hurt on her, but part of her still yearned for his attention. Her big regret was that he didn’t know about her and Daniel. Or if he did, she couldn’t know how he felt about it.
On her 22nd birthday, Marley decided to take the night off from the bar. Excited to have a night with Daniel, she prepared for a night of fun. Her room was tiny, a studio really, but it was her own space, and she enjoyed having a place where she could just be. While she readied herself in the shower, there was a knock on the door. Daniel, she smiled to herself. She would have to give him a key soon.
Wrapped only in a small towel, she swung open the door with a big smile. There stood her father. The clouds of anger on his face contorted his features, and before she could utter a sound, his hands were around her neck. Angry words flew around the room, but in her daze, Marley only heard dull murmurs. Here was the reaction she had wondered about, here was the passion she ignited in her father – pure unadulterated anger. Marley could not even reach her hand to defend herself. She could feel herself slipping away, in her mind, she saw herself as a small five-year-old, running to her daddy, hugging him, sniffing him, loving him. She saw herself as her mother, slumped over in utter physical defeat, battered and bloody, shameless as she lost control of her kidneys and bowels, pain an afterthought to the numbness. Weightless now, she watched from above as her father shook her below, lost in his rage. He pulled her hair, slammed her face into the floor, kicked and punched her – while she, while her body, flopped like a limp rag. Blood poured forth, and her last vision of herself was her body, curled into itself, its final breath a single bubble of blood. And then, she was no more.
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