Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
As the year ended, Nate and I grew distant. I kept pushing him away when he tried to talk to me. He didn’t believe that I didn’t remember what happened the night of our first date. He also really resented me when I claimed to like his brother instead of him. I wanted more than anything to forget all of this, and since I knew Tim wasn’t going to make a move, it was safe to pretend to like him. But while we argued back and forth, our parents got closer.
Mom ran off for the weekend with their dad and left Nate and Tim stranded at our trailer. It was mortifying. I never wanted anyone else to see how we lived, and here they were, staying over with me and my younger brothers. I hoped it would do the final trick and turn him away, because it was so embarrassing. And yet, instead, he just wanted me more.
“I can take care of you. I won’t ever let anyone hurt you.”
I really wanted to believe that. I wanted my life to be different, to smell different. I wanted a bigger life than this.
I finally gave in and we officially started dating in January, and true to his word, no one was allowed to hurt me. When my ex-boyfriend and his friends drove by and called me a whore one day while I was walking home from school, Nate went after them. He went after anyone who said anything bad about me or even looked at me the wrong way. I was his girlfriend, I belonged to him, and that’s just the way I liked it. He made it obvious how much he cared about me.
In late winter, my older brother moved away from us to live with his dad in Minnesota and the rest of us moved into an apartment in town, finally away from that disaster of a trailer. It made life a lot easier for getting to school and seeing Nate. We spent every waking hour together, and then we’d spend many nights, too. We couldn’t get enough of each other. He’d hold me and we’d talk about our future and the children we’d have one day, whom we’d name Gertrude and Billy Bob, and we’d laugh and kiss and cuddle.
“You know how much I love you, baby, right?” he asked one night, standing outside my bedroom window.
“I love you, too,” I said.
He had tears in his eyes, and I pulled him into my window to hug him. “What’s wrong?”
He cried for a little while before speaking. “I was just thinking about my mom, is all. I miss her so much.”
I pulled him into my arms and just held him. I never knew what to say when he talked about his mom. When Nate was just five years old, his mom was murdered by another woman. Jealousy had driven one to kill the other, and his mom’s death left a dark place in his life.
“I’m sorry, baby,” I said, kissing his forehead. “I’m so sorry.”
He pulled me closer and whispered, “You know I never pressure you.”
“I love you and so I don’t pressure you. I’ll wait for you forever. But sometimes I just need you.”
For half a second, I stopped breathing. As much as I loved him and wanted to comfort him, and even as much as I sometimes longed to give him exactly what he needed – what all guys need – the very idea of having sex scared me to death.
“I’m not asking you,” he said quickly. “I just wanted to tell you that since we are so honest and open with each other.”
He pulled me in closer and I breathed in his POLO cologne. It was true he didn’t pressure me. He was wonderful to me, always buying me little gifts, always calling to check on me. He had even helped me understand how most of my new clothes from the mall were just inappropriate, and we threw them away together.
Several nights later, though, he came to my window again, climbed into my room, and broke my heart.
“The other night, when I was upset about my mom…I wasn’t really upset about her. Well, I was, but only because I knew she’d be ashamed of me because you’re so wonderful and I’ve done something so bad.”
My heart seemed to stop beating for a moment, and then made up for it by thundering in my chest. There was only one thing that I could think of that was really bad. Tears stung my eyes before he could even tell me.
“Please don’t hate me,” he said. “It’s just that, guys have to have it. I told you that. I was weak. I didn’t want to cheat on you, but I had to. I love you and didn’t want to pressure you, because I respect you so much, so I just slept with her so I wouldn’t hurt you. But it does hurt you, doesn’t it?”
I sat still for a moment. Of course it hurt me! I imagined slapping him over and over and over until he fell to the floor. I thought about my mom fighting with her various boyfriends, the way she hit them over and over, and they never had a chance to defend themselves, and she’d just keep hitting, and that’s what I wanted to do. But first, I just wanted to cry. How could my knight in shining armor do this to me?
“Baby, I’m so sorry. I tried to tell you I have to have it. I’m a guy!”
“Leave me alone.” I might have only been thirteen, but I could see this for what it was – the worst betrayal. I’d watched my mom go through it and now here I was. I’d been hurt all my life, but I thought Nate was going to be the exception, the one constant person who would love me and treat me like a person should be treated.
“I’m really sorry,” he said, and climbed back out my window, and as far as I was concerned, out of my life. I didn’t need him. I didn’t want him.
But that’s not true. I knew it was my fault he had to cheat.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!