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The Lockbox

[Author's Note: This is my story, though names and details have been changed. I believe in sharing our truths so that we can grow.]

“I don’t want to,” Leah found herself saying out loud as she burrowed her face into the mattress. Shit, she thought. Not again.

It was becoming a regular thing these past few months. Every time she had an orgasm while having sex with her husband, a deeply buried sadness would bubble up from its secret hiding place in her belly, and she’d find herself weeping. One moment she’d be lost in the complete pleasure of climax, and in the next instant she was overcome with unfathomable sadness.

She took some deep breaths to try to lock the sadness back in this time, but it wasn’t going to go away without some release. Ben gathered her into his arms and said, “It’s okay, Lee. Let it out.” So she did, crying like a child, curled up in a ball and rocking her body with the waves of emotion.

‘I don’t want to.’ The next day, while the girls were napping, Leah found herself wondering what was behind that resistance. She didn’t want to what? Ruin the moment? Yes, that was a part of it. Ben had been so wonderful about this new pattern once he found out that the sadness had nothing to do with him, but Leah still felt badly when their lovemaking ended with her crying uncontrollably. But she knew that what she really didn’t want to do was go back and feel these emotions. This sadness. The anger. The betrayal. The hurt. The confusion. She didn’t want to have to open up the lockbox that was safely keeping all of those ugly things hidden.

She also knew that there was no holding it back now. The lockbox was deteriorating, and these feelings needed to come out. Now in her mid-thirties Leah was softening, opening, becoming someone strong and confident. Those ugly feelings no longer had a place inside such a person. She felt so safe with Ben, so unconditionally loved. After seven years together, even the part of her heart that was still cautious had opened up to him, to life. That opening up had probably been the key to this new pattern of release. Sex was so vulnerable, so intimate, such a way of deeply connecting. Each time she would let down her walls to allow for this intimacy, the other stuff that was behind the walls would come out as well.

Her mom had told her that this might happen when the girls were this age, that the abuse would rear its ugly head again. Leah’s twin daughters were now around the same age Leah had been when she went to stay with her aunt and uncle in Edmonton. Her mom had complications during her pregnancy with Leah’s little brother, and her parents had needed Leah taken care of and out of the way.

Leah sighed as she cleaned up a puzzle the girls had left out. What a nasty fucking thing to do to a girl so young, she thought. To anyone any age, really, but seeing her daughters, just freshly four years old, she couldn’t imagine how someone would dare to violate such innocence. Fuck, Leah thought. The anger was the hardest thing for her to deal with. She felt that if she really let herself feel it, she’d explode. It was too big. She was angry with her uncle, of course. He was the dickhead who had helped himself to her body. Not just her own body, even, but also those of a handful of other female family members. A few had come forward with accusations, but she was sure there were many who didn’t want to, or didn’t dare. She was angry on their behalf, and angry for so many girls and women all over the world who had similar stories of abuse.

She was also angry with her aunt, who continued to defend her pervy uncle, even now that he was dead.

Leah put the kettle on for tea, and sat down to fold laundry. Things had gone alright when she’d seen Aunt Nettie last month. Leah had prepared herself, set her boundaries, and was ready for whatever came. She’d stayed at least ten feet away from Aunt Nettie at the family reunion, and was careful not to get into any private conversations. She’d learned that one the hard way.

Uncle Bill’s funeral had been in the spring three and a half years before, when the girls were just a few months old. Leah hadn’t been sure she wanted to go, but she thought that it might be a good way to find some closure. So she packed up the babies and flew to Calgary to be with the family. She wished her mom would be there for moral support, but since her parents’ divorce her mother was glad to be done with that side of Leah’s family. ‘At least Dad will be there’, she’d thought, ‘and Uncle Jim’. She wasn’t sure where some of the family members stood when it came to her own story of Uncle Bill’s violations, but she knew that her dad and his youngest brother stood with her.

Leah shook her head, remembering. She put down the shirt she was folding, and walked over to pour the water over her tea. 'How did I fall into that trap?', she wondered again. So many times she’d walked herself through that afternoon, wondering why she’d let herself be cornered like that. The whole family had been together in a big borrowed house belonging to someone in Leah’s dad’s church congregation. Most everyone was having a good enough time, considering they were all there because someone was dead. Leah had just gotten the twins to sleep in a quiet room in the basement, and was coming upstairs to find something to eat. Aunt Nettie was sitting alone in a sunroom off the kitchen, and waved Leah over. Instantly, Leah kicked into obedient young girl mode, and went and sat beside her aunt. Nettie got up to close the sliding glass door Leah had just passed through, and then sat across from Leah at the little table.

Nettie asked how the girls were doing, and how was Ben who had stayed back in Vancouver because of work. They chatted a bit more about nothing important, and then Nettie said, “I need you to know that Uncle Bill swears that he didn’t ever do anything to you. He wanted to be sure I told you that.”

Stunned, Leah found herself nodding her head. Nettie was still talking, but Leah wasn’t there anymore. She was on autopilot, being careful not to disobey or to cause any trouble. Uncle Jim walked into the kitchen, and Leah could see him through the sliding door. She longed to stand up, wave him over, even just catch his eye and beg for rescue, but she felt herself turning her head back toward Nettie, who was now crying and clutching Leah’s hand. When Nettie was finally done, and was appeased enough by Leah’s nods and repetition of, “Okay, Aunt Nettie”, Leah sprung up and out the door. She zipped through the kitchen and the maze of hallways and found the front door.

She met her dad coming up the porch steps as she was fleeing down them. “Hey, Leah! This is nice, eh?” He’d said. She wanted to crumple up and tell him what had just happened, but she was still in shock, and still in people-pleasing mode. Her dad was so happy to have his family together in one big house, she didn’t want to mess it all up for him. So again, she was smiling and nodding as she pulled herself further away from the house.

Holding her cup of tea, Leah looked out her front window as she let the steam rise to meet her tears. The tree here in her front yard was similar to the one she’d found in the yard there. She’d clung to it and cried for a while and then slowly tucked the feelings all back into that secret place, so that she could return to the house, to her babies. She knew she wasn’t done with the anger, or the sadness. They were going to keep coming up until she’d let them all the way out.

Leah smiled, knowing that this was happening because she was strong, and she was ready. Little Leah didn’t get to have those big feelings. She had to be good, be quiet, hide it away.

“I’ll do it for you, little one”, Leah promised herself.

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