He came home today. He came home today with shiny boxes. He came home today with shiny boxes mostly full of fake smiles, false words, and superficial gestures. The decoration, the glitter, the glitz was supposed to hide the darkness. It was supposed to make everything all right again. It was supposed to make everything good. And everything would be good. Until the darkness came back.
I did my part to pretend that everything was better again. Mommy made me wear the pink lace and taffeta dress she'd bought for me for when He came home. I ran down the stairs in my white lace socks and my shiny white buckled shoes without a blemish. "Daddy!" I cried, when I saw Him, throwing my little arms around His neck.
"Baby Doll!" He cried as I ran to Him. He swung me around in circles and I laughed, smiling. Not crying like I wanted to. Not yelling at Him. Not yelling at Him to get out of our house with His darkness.
He sat me down on His lap as He sat down. I stared at the walls behind Him, nodding to let Him know that I was listening. I pasted a smile on my face below my little button nose and between my two cute chubby cheeks. The walls had been white once, before the darkness came, but the darkness had swallowed up the whole house and the once clean walls had yellowed with time becoming a dingy sandy color.
He told me how much He'd missed me while He had been gone and called me His doll. I was His doll. Like a young girl rules her doll's life, He ruled mine. I wasn't like the other nine-year olds I knew. They didn't have to contemplate every reaction the darkness would have in response to their every action. I had asked a girl in my class, Jenny, what the darkness did when her mommy yelled at her daddy. She told me that she didn't know what the darkness was. It was then that I learned that we were the alone in our constant struggles with the darkness. I realized that I was special.
I wasn't special on the outside though. I was pretty enough to fit in with my curling blonde and crystal blue eyes. My eyes didn't sparkle anymore though. I did my best when He came home, but I couldn't make them shine for Him. I couldn't make them shine for him because of His darkness. As a family we weren't very special either. We blended into our high middle class society with ease due to our affluence and societal charm. My daddy worked at a big law firm in the city, and my mommy, like the other mommies, wasn't permitted to work. I didn't know if she wanted to, but her wants didn't matter to Him. We were a happy sort, on the outside. My mommy and I did what He wanted. My mommy and I did what we were supposed to do. On the outside we were just like everybody else. Our house was the same as the others on the block, pretty and white, with a perfectly manicured lawn, and a few happy looking lawn ornaments. No one would have guessed how the darkness had swallowed up our lives... and swallowed up our souls.
I waited in my room that night. I waited for the darkness to come, creeping across the polished wooden floors up the creaking old stairs, into our beds, infesting His mind, consuming Him. I waited, huddled in my room, pink wool covers draw tight around my small, trembling body. Nothing happened. I stayed up all night, paralyzed, poised waiting...but nothing had happened.
I squinted as the light of dawn crept through my pink blinds and lit up my room. It slowly made its way up my covers and over my face, warming every corner of the dark as the light filled the space. I heard footsteps approach my door and I cowered, fearing that the darkness had come. My mommy opened my door, and leaned over me.
"Julie. Julie," She crooned melodically. "I know you're awake, sweetie." She leaned down to kiss me on the forehead, and I squirmed out of her grasp, giggling happily. Julie, she called me. Not baby doll, or doll, just Julia. Mommy said she named me Julia because I'm her jewel. Strong and beautiful she'd say. Mommy showed me her pretty jewels in her jewelry box. Most were trinkets that He had bought her. Most were trinkets that He had bought her to apologize for the darkness, for His darkness. My favorite was the diamond, the diamond ring really. Mommy had said that it was the hardest jewel there was, but I thought it was the most beautiful of all of the jewels. Its clarity surpassed all of the others. I wanted to be the diamond, hard, unyielding. Some say that the diamond's beauty gives a refulgent softness, the light that it casts giving it the illusion of perfection, but there are always flaws.
"You have to get up and get dressed for school. Your bus will be here soon, and your cereal is getting soggy."
I got up obediently. I yawned as I went into the bathroom, standing up on my pink wooden stool to be high enough to wash my face. When I went back into my room, I picked up dolls that I had left carelessly strewn across the floor. Mommy came up a few minutes later with my breakfast tray. I had a bowl of fruit, slices of peaches and strawberries, a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios dowsed with just enough milk for only the tip of a pile of Cheerios to break the surface, and a glass of orange juice with pulp. I hated pulp, but He liked pulp. He refused to drink orange juice without pulp. My mommy bought what He wanted, as she always did. She did what she could to keep the darkness away, and it wasn't her fault. My mommy loved me, and I knew it. I wasn't just her showpiece, her doll. I was her daughter first and foremost.
I waved good-bye to her with my lunchbox free hand, as I climbed the recently swept black rubber coated stairs to my school bus. I made my way towards the back of the bus. The school bus was organized social standing as well as the traditional school cliques. Yes, they do start as young as elementary school. Ours, like most in that high middle class position was organized by affluence. The farther back one went, the more wealth the child had as well as popularity. I found my seat about two rows up from the back. I was considered to be in one of the most coveted positions. I was part of the highest circle, not a leader but one of the second hands to the leaders. We were a close-knit group, best friends forever we liked to say, but I knew if my daddy were to get fired, I'd be ignored in a second. I would be cast off like any other poor child. I would be viewed and judged as a stranger. It wasn't that we weren't friends, that we didn't truly and deeply care for one another, but there were rules that had been instilled in all of us since childbirth. These were the tenants of our lives; our futures depended on them. Every single child on that bus knew that money and power were superceded all else; they were valued above friends, above family, and even over life. If one were to ask any child on that bus why money was so important, no one could give a plausible answer, but they all would do anything for it. This perfect society bred what they believed were perfect children. Children with eyes and hearts only full of greed and their own self-importance.
Recess found me walking out into the glaring sun while the others ran free around me. Usually I ran with them, liberated by my lack of boundaries, not restricted by my constant terror. Then, I was boisterous, wild, bursting into fits of laughter at the slightest hint of something that could be considered jocular. Today was different, He had returned. I slowly made my way over to a large, upraised portion of the ground, past the amorphous masses of loquacious children, laughing, running, jumping, so absorbed in their play that I slipped away unnoticed. I sat for a moment on the lush green grass watching them, jealous of their innocence, of the childlike joy that I myself was not allowed to experience. I reminded myself that it was He who had done this to me, that it was He who was the cause of all of my pain and anguish. I slowly brought myself back to the task at hand. Silently still, I patiently waited, unmoving, slowly fading into the darkness, my Rock.