When I first came here I was whole. Arms and legs and laughter: no cracks. I could see and walk and smile and he liked that. I dressed myself in reds and blues, I taught myself with books and words. I fed myself until he fed off me.
He caught me one night as I walked home alone. He bundled me into his car, and I sat, resigned. Silent.
‘You’re mine now,’ he said, and I nodded. I didn’t struggle. It was the way it had to be.
On the drive we listened to love songs on the radio and the whirr of the heater vent. The window didn’t wind all the way up. New air whistled through the crack; old air suffocated. He kept one hand on the wheel and the other on my lap. His fingers were frozen. I still didn’t struggle.
‘Is it how you imagined it?’ I asked, as we walked up the path to the two bedroom house with a garden just so and a kitchen to boot.
‘It is,’ he replied, smiling.
I’ve been here ever since.
He is proud and kind. He works 9-5, drinks two pints of lager on Saturday nights and buys me presents on Christmas and birthdays. He doesn’t shave on weekends. I do the cooking, he washes up. His favourite food is steak (medium rare) and I make him a whole roast chicken on Sundays. He lets me pick my portion first, but I save the best for him.
It takes me longer to iron his shirts than it does my own. The boss likes him neat. His mother likes gingernut biscuits, and I lay them out when she comes to visit on Thursday evenings.
He showers in the morning, I shower at night. I like to feel fresh and clean as we tuck in, but he likes to feel fresh and clean as he leaves.
One day we will have 2.5 children: one boy and one girl and one baby that we will always consider too small and precious to count as a real living thing with a gender and thoughts and hopes and dreams. I will love them equally but love him less for it, and eventually I’ll wonder if I love him at all.
When I’m old I’ll remember: that time, that night, the person I was before I got in that car with him, before I walked into this house with him, put I put on chains. I will smile and feel stronger and I will walk out of the door, not looking back.
I will walk the streets until I find her again, that girl I left behind. She will be laughing and painting and drinking and living. I will cry and I will feel and I will pick up exactly where we left off. Eventually we’ll become one again.
I will be happy alone.
But not yet.