Lies My Parents Told Me
If I had been any younger I think everything would have worked out. As it happens I was eight at the time, frankly a terrible age. My parents had decided after years of arguing that they were finally going to bite the bullet and divorce. Of course being eight, not seven or six, I wasn't as blissfully unaware as I would have liked to have been of their problems and unfortunately for me I remember almost all of it with distressing clarity.
My parents had met just ten months before I was born. Within a month my mother had fallen pregnant and to satisfy their parents conservative nature. Nine months later I came along, but about six months before that they had decided that marriage for the sake of the child was a mistake. To their credit they stuck with it. For a few years at least. Mum told me that they managed married life well enough until Dad's eye started to wander. Mum said he started going out after he put me to bed and wouldn't come back until the early hours of the morning smelling of booze and some tart's cheap perfume. He made sure that it didn't affect me, he worked, he gave the money straight to Mum keeping back a little bit to entertain his lady friends and made sure I had everything I needed. But Mum got tired of it pretty quickly but even then she managed to hold off far longer than I thought she would. But some time after my eighth birthday she snapped and kicked him out. We became one of those 'every other weekend' families.
Every other weekend Dad would pick me up and I'd go stay with him and the woman he'd moved in with. I think her name was Allison? You'd think that would be the end of it, but Mum and Dad never could get on after the divorce. Now that Dad had more time to work he showered me with presents when he saw me and I always came back to Mum's holding a new toy, wearing a new dress or waiting to watch my new video. Mum was never too impressed by it, I remember her shouting at him accusing him of trying to buy my love. But Dad was affectionate enough even without the gifts and I always had a good time with him and his new girlfriend, Emma was it?
The first parents evening was eventful. They spent a number of weeks arguing over whether they were going to go together or have a separate appointment. In the end I think they saw how ridiculous it was to take up the teacher's time having him explain the same thing to both of them separately. They both went and discovered that I had a love of literature. As a present for a glowing report Dad brought me a beautifully illustrated volume of fairy tales for me to read. It was my most favoured possession, it was the nicest and best thing anyone had ever gotten me and I read it at every opportunity. One time while I was there, Dad had to take the car to be repaired. His new girlfriend, Jennifer saw me reading Hanzel and Gretel and we spent the day making a gingerbread house decorated with all kinds of sweets. I didn't want to eat it, it looked too perfect but we did anyway. When I came home I asked Mum what her favourite fairy tale was. She said she didn't believe in fairytales. I wasn't nine yet, I thought she meant she didn't like fairytales.
I remember reading about the fairytale princesses and how they always got their Happy Ever After. I asked Dad if I would get my happy ending and if I would find a Prince Charming to fall in love with. He winked at his new lover, Harriet and told me that love was everywhere and surely I would find someone to love me. In fact I would probably meet a dozen Prince Charmings. I asked Mum the same question and got quite a different answer. Of course I wouldn't find my Prince Charming. There was no such thing as true love and happy endings were for fairytale princesses not for real people. I didn't know who to believe. Then as I grew up, became a teenager, went to college, left college I started to realise that they must both be right. I could find 'love' with whoever was willing to take me like my Dad did or I could hold out for my one true love and never find him like my Mum, either way I wouldn't get a Prince Charming or a happy ending. Some of my friends said that it was all rather bitter and cynical, probably the product of a bad divorce after losing eight years of their lives to each other in a loveless marriage. But I knew they were right, my parents wouldn't lie to me after all.
I graduated university with, shock horror, a good degree in English literature. I went to work for a family firm that collected and sold rare books. It was the perfect job for me. I travelled widely, seeking out valuable books and bringing them home with me. I got to read books I would never think of looking at, it was all just so perfect. Then sadly, the owner passed away but thankfully the firm stayed open, his son, Mark, a man just a few years older than I took over it.
You can probably see where this is going.
I started travelling less and less and spent more time in the shop making sure the books were treated with respect and stored properly. Mark spent a lot of time in the shop too. We spent a lot of time together. We didn't really have a first date and our first kiss wasn't very romantic, nothing like the magical moments I'd read about. Instead of standing on a moonlit hill with only the stars to watch us as we embraced lovingly, one of our co workers dared him to snog me at a staff party so he did. It was probably the push we were waiting for though and we started seeing each other and soon moved in together. Even with my parents cautionary tale hanging over me I got pregnant and realised then that we would probably end up just the same way. Getting married for the sake of the baby only to watch our lives fall apart. But Mark didn't propose to me. So I waited for him to walk out. But he never did.
The months passed and Mark spent time decorating the nursery. I became quite distant from him determined not to get hurt when he decided to leave me. I started to think about the kind of man I'd like to find after Mark left me. I figured if I was going to miss out on my happy ending then I'd rather be like my Dad and have someone with me. Anyone as long as they kept me company. I didn't want to end up alone like my Mum. I delivered Mark's baby, a little girl he insisted was as beautiful as me. Then just before the baby's first Christmas Mark got down on one knee and offered me a ring. I surprised him when I told him that I'd think about it but I eventually said yes, on Christmas day no less.
We married a year later. Dad walked me down the aisle all smiles, mostly directed at his latest piece of arm candy. Mum didn't look too happy that I had let him bring Maria with him, but she was nice enough. That day was my day though. I had never been so happy as Mark promised to love me and cherish me for all our days. Even as he said his vows doubt crept into my mind. I couldn't help it. I wished I didn't think it, as soon as I thought it I regretted it. The thoughts stayed with me, everyday I woke up to the face of my smiling husband thinking how hard it would be when he decided to leave me.
Then one day I woke up and found that he had wrapped his arms around me in our sleep. I looked at his sleeping face and then down to the end of the bed where our daughter lay sleeping in her cot. Then I realised. He wasn't going to leave me. It was such a weird feeling, to wake up and realise that I trusted the man next to me implicitly. It wasn't a gradual feeling, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Mark loved me, I loved Mark. He had married me not to do the right thing by our daughter but because he had wanted me to be his wife. As if to confirm what I was thinking Mark stirred, he tightened his grasp and even in his sleep murmured, "I love you." I smiled into his chest and let him relax against me. It was the first time I would wake without thinking today might be the last time I see him. I rolled over letting Mark leave one arm draped over me, as I fell asleep for the second time I realised that both my parents had lied to me. I would get my Happily Ever After after all.