I sat at the top of the staircase, trying hard not to make any noise as I watched him on the couch with her. My little girl eyes stared intensely, knowing the things I spied upon were wrong. I just wasn’t sure at the time. Hands through hair. Arms around each other in suggestive ways. He took us to play at her home with her son and daughter. Mother and children had brown, wavy hair and fair skin. Their home smelled like mothballs. My siblings and I played in the girl’s upstairs bedroom but it was the boy, with his long bangs and back tail- a terrible 90s haircut- that got on my nerves. I needed to escape and hid among the shadows, witnessing things that no seven-year-olds should see.
I laid in my bed next to my boyfriend many years later. It was sunny for January as we basked in the rays, naked, without sheets. His freckled bare back faced me as I thought about my parents’ divorce and my own past relationship troubles. We talked about marriage and confessed to him my greatest desire to be a mother, to happily sing an infant to sleep. But right at this moment, I rested there, with my stomach in knots, pushing back the need to vomit. I had no reason to suspect infidelity, or any form of cruelty. It was the learned lack of trust that was telling me to flee, not fight for something I once wanted so badly. He turned around and greeted me with a kiss to my sweaty forehead. I responded, speaking with clarity, that I wanted to end our relationship.