Damon walks into the restaurant while I’m waiting tables.

Guillermo, the owner, has warned me about having visitors show up while I’m working. Damon waits for me by the back door. I hand my order off to Mirna, the cook. I gesture towards the door and tell her I’ll be back in uno momento. “I no like that boy,” she hisses in broken English across the kitchen. She says it every time and always makes sure it’s loud enough for Damon to hear.

“I got it!” Damon says, waving around a piece of paper. I unfold it. “You did it!” I squeak. It’s a marriage license. He’s been promising this for months. I hug him as Guillermo stalks up, ready to chew me out. “We’re getting married!” I say. Guillermo brightens. I know he’s embarrassed to have an unmarried pregnant nineteen year old girl working in his restaurant.

“I gotta go back to work,” Damon grins, picking me up and twirling me around. “I’ll see ya at home.”  I’m so excited that I can’t stop grinning. “Mirna, I’m getting married!,” I tell her as I pick up my order. She glares, then softens. “Good,” she says finally, “that baby need family, he innocent, he don’t know no better.” 

___

I’ve been sitting on my hands for three hours, waiting until the urge to die passes. It’s early dawn. Damon left. Went back to his ex-girlfriend, Julie. My ride dropped me off after work. When I walked in, he was just standing there in the living room, packed. All he said was he loved her and he couldn’t marry me.

I keep looking at the oven. I don’t know how to turn the gas on without the oven heating up. I don’t have enough pills of any kind, an OD on prenatal vitamins seems unlikely.  No razor blades.  I have a rather dull set of steak knives, but that’s just too gory for me, even in this state. All I have is the oven, a lump in my stomach and some vague memory of The Bell Jar.

___

Damon comes to get the rest of his things and I beg him to  have sex with me. I can’t stop crying, sobbing until I can’t breathe. He says if I tell Julie we fucked, he’ll never speak to me again. He says Julie is against abortion, so no, he won’t pay for one.

___

“I miss you.” He calls me two months later. I’ve spent those two months doing little other than staring blankly out the window. “My brother’s moving out of his house, we can take over the lease. There’s more room for the baby.” I cannot run back to him fast enough.

___

I spend the summer huge and uncomfortable. Damon brings girls home, fucks them in a little room he’s set up in the basement. When I yell at them, he hits me. One day I’m washing dishes, he comes up from the basement with a girl in tow. I throw a dinner plate at his head, but it misses and clips him hard on the elbow. He howls in pain and I can’t stop laughing. The girl looks properly terrified.

He keeps bringing the girls over, though. I spend one evening listening to fucking noises and music float up from the basement. I cut my hand open, then write FUCK YOU all over the walls with blood and rage. I clean it all up before they see it because I don’t want anyone to know how completely crazy I’ve become. I don’t want him to win and he is.

___

The obstetrical nurse asks me if the father has shown up yet. He went to go sign me in at the reception desk, he’s been gone a long time. When he returns, he says he couldn’t remember my middle name for the paperwork.

___

I’m in the front yard, bloody. My shirt is half torn off. He’s grabbed the baby and locked the front door. I scream but no one comes to help. Years later, I’ll be introduced to someone who already knows who I am. She’ll say I lived in that big white house on the corner with that guy, Damon, and that she lived just over on Chestnut Street. She’ll tell me that she could hear me scream from two blocks away.

___

Despite all this, I’m hired as a newspaper reporter. The editor tells me I’m the youngest reporter they’ve ever hired.  This has been my dream job ever since, well, as long as I can remember. I lug the baby around with me on assignments.  I never get tired of seeing my byline. Damon calls the newsroom constantly. Sometimes he just shows up, especially if I’m working at night.

One Friday, after I’ve put my weekend section to bed, the editor calls me to his office. He tells me I’m fired.  Damon creeps them out, the constant phone calls are unprofessional. I’m not turning in as many features as I used to, and well, taking the baby around with me… As I walk out the door, the editor tells me they had thought about promoting me to assistant editor. I won’t write another word for ten years.

___

Damon takes me out on my birthday, but makes me sit in the back seat. His girl-of-the-week, Nina, wants to sit up front. He drops me off early. Nina just giggles.

___

One afternoon when he moves to hit me, I punch him hard enough to split his lip. His face is covered in blood.  He never lays a hand on me again. That’s when the psychological mind fuck really starts.

___

Damon kisses the dog when he comes home from work. I’m invisible, except when I can get him angry enough to fight with me. It’s something, anyway.

___

He throws a big party for Valentine’s Day. I come home from work and he stands in front of the door and won’t let me in. He doesn’t want me to ruin his party. Something in me finally snaps. I tell him it’s over. I get my things the next day and I move out for good.

___

“Jesus fuck! What did he do to you?” Manny whispers. We’re on our first date. He moved to hug me and I flinched.

___

It’s the babies birthday. I bring the baby to Damon’s mom’s house for a little party. Damon shows up for a few minutes then leaves. A week later he calls in the middle of the night from Colorado. He’s moving to Arizona. He asks if I want to come. I tell him no. I will never see him again.

___

Sixteen years later, the phone rings. A crying woman I don’t know says she’s Damon’s wife. He’s just been sentenced to prison. For life. No hope of parole. She thought I should know. I ask her gently if he hit her too. She sobs on the other end of the phone for a long time while I listen.

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