Precious Space

She’s there.

In the corner of my mind.

Occupying precious space in my memory where images of my father should reside.

The heavy makeup, the cloying perfume.  The way she touched and spoke to me all those years ago.

Sixteen years after my father’s death, I learned where she was and my eagerness to see what had become of her was so real that I could almost touch it…taste it…

I sought her out.  

She worked at a convenience store, a cashier, working the early morning shift.

I sought her out in the predawn hours. No longer night, but not yet day. 

I approached the counter, certain that I would unsettle her.  

Her makeup was the same…her hair hadn’t changed.  I could smell her before I even reached the counter, the weight of the disgustingly familiar perfume, her nails that same shade of coral.

There was nothing left that she could do to hurt me.  She had already done the unimaginable.

It was my turn.

I paid for my purchases with a check that bore my name.  I offered identification before being asked for it.  She took my check.  She didn’t even flinch. 

I wanted so desperately to force her to see me.

She had tried to stop time. But her face was aged.  Her skin yellow from too many cigarettes. Lipstick feathered into the fine lines around her mouth.

I stood, staring, trying to imagine what he saw in her.

What was it about her that made him walk away from his family? What was it about her that made me and my mother disposable?

Where was that magic? That allure?


She called my mother in the months following my father’s death.  She wanted my mother to know that she had grown tired of my father and was preparing to break things off with him.  She said that she planned to send him back to us because she was bored with him and that my mother could have had her leftovers.

The cruelty of those statements is beyond measure.  Those words, pure acid…impossible to wipe clean, eroding and burning long after exposure.

No one won.

Her husband, destroyed.

My father, killed.

My mother, changed forever.

Me, fatherless with a devastated mother.

And she stood there, on the other side of the speckled-gray Formica counter.  The root of all of that pain. She looked me in the eye…no sorrow.  None.  No shame.  No words of apology.

Time had not clarified her actions.  It had not brought her wisdom or accountability.

I asked her if she knew who I was.

Her reply was “yes.”

The evil emanated from her, so real that I could almost touch it…taste it…

This post is in response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club. You can see the details here.  I have never had a more difficult time hitting publish. 


  1. Leslie

    Oh. My. Goodness. That was so very, very well written.

    I seriously felt like I was there, standing next to you.

    Not only do you have some formidable talent there, but you've got quite a story to tell.

    I'm blown away.

    (It's always the hardest things to write that are the most hauntingly beautiful, isn't it?)

  2. Damn…:hugs: I know how that feels, from a different angle.

  3. Sarah

    Wow. What a gem. How disgusting she sounds. Your heart must’ve been racing. I’m floored by her coldness.

    Simply disgusting.

  4. Wendy

    Girl, if that’s non-fiction, we have LOADS in common. Scary.

  5. kris

    Nichole –

    We have talked about this. About how much easier it is to deal with the past if everyone just stays in the boxes we assign them.




    You know I have these same issues. I paint my father as villain, but he was not pure evil. Others in my family did not experience him as I did, and their memories?

    Are different.

    And so I am faced with the FACT that there was more to my father than what I saw.

    And I paint my mother as the victim.

    But I know that she played a role, shared responsibility, and has things for which she must answer.

    And so there is more to my mother than her victim-status.

    No one is all one thing. Even if that one thing?

    Colors all of our memories of that person.

    My heart aches for your recognition here that your father was more than a victim. The vulnerability you have shown here? The courage?

    So impressed with you, babe.

    I have more to say. But I will not say it here.

    You know what I'm going to say, anyway.

    Love you more and more every time, Nichole.

    More and more.

  6. Cristina Dos Santos

    wow, this was beautifully written and so honest.

  7. ksluiter

    Oh my dear friend. This is unequivocally the most beautiful and haunting piece yet. I can not imagine the sort of courage you needed to muster in order to click publish. How dreadful this situation must have been. I get a sick feeling in my stomach imagining being in your shoes–looking, with your eyes–at this humanized evil–and yet all the conflicts.

    You have captured this moment. and exploded it.

  8. Because I know you, and only you, I have the luxury of hating this woman.

    I don't have to put her in any other box than a woman who was cruel to you.

    Not because of an affair, even an affair gone horribly wrong, but as a woman who could not find in herself the grace to be humble to those she helped wrong.

    Dozens of sides to this woman, probably.

    But I have the luxury of only seeing the one.

    And I can hate her for it.

  9. CDG

    Nichole, your story haunts me. And your telling of it is so unvarnished and true; it squeezes my heart.

    Thank you for trusting us with it.

  10. Natalie

    Nichole, wow. Some people are just bad, and you don't want to know why and you don't care why. She is one of those people. She couldn't/wouldn't even look at you? She must've known the pain and tragedy tha she caused…and she couldn't even be ashamed. I hate her too.

    Did you just walk out? No further conversation?

  11. Any homewrecker, in my eyes, is evil but this one wins the prize.

  12. Kim

    I love honesty and personal stories in blogging. There's too much talking about nothing and not enough about something. This was something.

  13. Jackie

    She doesn't deserve the time of day from you. Or anyone for that matter. You did a great job writing this and even more so sharing it with everyone.

    It baffles me how someone could be so cold & callous towards another. What she did is wrong and it seems that she doesn't understand that.

  14. This is a very good character. I would have loved to have "seen" her as she called the narrator's mother and spewed her cruelty. You could write that as a scene. That way you wouldn't have to say that the woman was evil. We would know it through the scene.

  15. Ratz

    This is a powerful story… the emotions behind it are so disturbing.

  16. Nancy C

    Those words, pure acid…impossible to wipe clean, eroding and burning long after exposure.

    This captures it so well. You are so, so good. Every detail, from that awful coral to that speckled Formica countertop is spot-on.

    I am so sorry that you had to do this, and I admire the incredibly bravery of you doing so.

    You inspire me on many levels.

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