Grandmother was dead. It was about time.
Elena felt horrible for thinking it, but she knew she wasn't the only one to feel a sense of relief at finally being out from under the old woman's tyranny. No one had been safe from Grandmother's bitter tongue or judgments, not even the niece whom she claimed to be her favorite.
The family often said, when Grandmother couldn't hear, that Grandpa had died young to get away from her.
As the only grandchild, Elena had been drafted by her parents to help clean out the house of anything that family members might want or that could be thrown away. Whatever was left would be either sold or given to charity, depending on its condition. Grandmother had left everything to her son and granddaughter, despite not having spoken to either in months, but neither of them wanted much of what the house contained, and they certainly didn't want to live there.
While her parents worked on the upstairs of the house, Elena chose to go to the basement, where cardboard boxes and strongboxes held old sheet music, books, and a deck of tarot cards that Elena might have tried to sell if they hadn't made her hands ache when she touched them. "Nothing here," she muttered to herself. "The old woman was the queen of packrats."
She opened another strongbox and discovered, finally, something useful. Papers, including the deed to the house and notices about bank accounts that might still exist. And a small, leatherbound book with the word "Diary" embossed on the front cover.
Diary? What could Grandmother have had to write about? From the way she'd talked, she'd never dated, never loved anyone but herself. The marriage to Grandpa had been one of convenience; their families had been friends and when Grandpa had returned from World War II they'd decided he needed marriage to help him get over the horrors he'd seen. Grandmother had been older then and had been getting on the nerves of everyone in her household, so her family had married her off to get rid of her.
Curious, Elena sat down in the half-broken rocking chair beside the pile of boxes and opened the book.
* * * *
How odd to write those words. I never planned to keep a diary. Too many people might read it, and my life is no one's business but my own. But given everything, perhaps a diary is a good idea. I have no one else to talk to.
It's my eighteenth birthday today, and this diary and a new blouse were my only gifts from my family. Money's hard to come by now, so I'm thankful to have gotten anything. Still, I'd asked for that gold neckchain at the jewelers, and I thought I would get it. Mother said it cost too much, and the money had to be saved for Sally's doctor bills. I can understand that, but sometimes in the dark when no one can see what I'm thinking, I wish they would stop trying to save Sally. The child is in pain and no amount of money's going to help her.
My birthday with my family may not have amounted to much, but Thaddeus made up for it. He picked me up at dinnertime and took me to the new restaurant in town for a birthday dinner that included a slice of cake with a candle. As we ate, he reached across the table, took my hand, and said, "Amelia, I have to tell you something. I'm in love with you."
To hear him say that! It was the best birthday present I'd ever been given. "I love you too," I said, and I meant the words with every fibre of my being.
"Soon, darling, I'll let everyone know how I feel. We'll be married, Amelia; would you like that?"
My breath stuck in my throat and I couldn't answer. Marriage? It was more than I'd ever dreamed! Thaddeus is so beautiful, so handsome, so everything that I'm not, and yet he has chosen me. The secret little part of me that no one knows had believed that he only wanted me for that one little thing, the thing all men seem to want, and I haven't yet given in to him. But now I know he loves me and wants to marry me, and so maybe it would be all right to give in. I have no ring yet, but we're as good as engaged.
I managed to murmur some acceptance of what he'd offered and we went on with our dinner. Afterward he brought me straight home, since we both have to work tomorrow. "I want to see you Saturday night, Amelia," he told me. "May I?"
"Of course," I said.
He pulled me against him, across the seat of his old truck, and kissed me so hard he took my breath away. "Until Saturday," he said when he let me go. "I love you, Amelia."
"I love you too."
I know what will happen Saturday night. I could tell by the way he watched me as I got out of the truck. After Saturday, I'll be a woman, and I'll belong to Thaddeus in all ways. It's about time.
I've done it. I can't believe it, but I've done it. I allowed Thaddeus to take me. Oh, golly, didn't it hurt! I never thought it would be so painful my first time, but so pleasurable at the same time.
Thaddeus picked me up as we'd planned and he took me to a casual supper at the coffee shop. Then he drove out to the falls. "Do you know what I want to do with you tonight?" he asked me.
"Yes," I said.
"And do you want me to do it?"
Should I say yes, and be truthful but risk him seeing me as a "bad" girl? Should I say no, and risk angering him but keep his good opinion of me? I had no idea how to respond, although I thought I'd made up my mind when he told me he loves me.
He was patient, though, while I thought of an answer. Finally he said, "Amelia, darling, I won't think poorly of you if you agree. After all, we love each other, don't we? We could be married by this time next year, one never knows. I want to make love to you. Will you let me?"
Praying I was doing the right thing, I said, "Yes."
He drove to a hotel. I've never in my life stayed in a hotel; they cost far too much, but Thaddeus paid for a room for the entire night just so he and I could spend a few hours in each other's arms.
He was so tender with me, so patient. I was frightened to undress in front of him, but he encouraged me and reassured me. He told me over and over how beautiful I was and how happy he was that I was giving him my virginity. Then we lay on the bed and he kissed me. On my lips, and on my breasts, and even between my legs! Oh, it felt so wonderful! I had to wonder how something so beautiful, so pleasurable, could be as evil as I'd been taught it was before marriage.
Then Thaddeus asked if I was ready, and positioned himself on top of me and pushed himself inside me. And it hurt so much I cried, but it felt so nice to be so close to him.
Afterward, he held me tightly and brushed away my tears. "I love you, darling," he said over and over. "You're mine now. My Amelia. I love you." We stayed there a while longer, then he brought me home.
My pussy—Thaddeus called my private area that while we were making love—is sore now, but in such a wonderful way. Thaddeus promised that he'll see me again in a day or so, and though I know we won't be able to make love every time, I can't wait to feel him inside me again. I am truly an adult now.
Oh, what a strange few days it's been! Mother confronted me about my relationship with Thaddeus. "I hope you're being a good girl, Amelia," she said. "You know men only want one thing. I hope you've refused to give it to that boy." Of course I assured her I was being good. How could I tell her the truth?
Thaddeus phoned me on Sunday and Monday to find out whether I was all right. I thought that was so sweet of him. Then last night he came by. Father gave me permission to go out with him for a short while; only short because I had to work today. But there was time for Thaddeus and me to go to the hotel again, where once again we made love.
During our first time together, I was too shy and embarrassed to look at his manhood, but last night I decided I wanted to see it. After all, I'd felt it; I might as well know what it looks like. I touched and stroked it as he encouraged me. "That feels lovely, darling," he told me. "Some women are afraid to touch a man's cock, but it feels so nice. Thank you for doing it."
Cock. Such a strange word for that part of the body, but it makes me feel naughty to say it. Naughty in a good way, that is. Oh, I'm all mixed up trying to explain how I feel. I know that "good girls" don't allow boys to touch them, and certainly not to make love to them, but I like feeling like a "bad girl". It's exciting, and Thaddeus seems to enjoy seeing me enjoy myself.
On the drive home, he mentioned again that he wants to marry me someday. Then we'll be able to fuck—another word he used, which makes me feel aroused just writing it—whenever we wish.
It's difficult at times to find a moment to write in you, but so much needs to be written. My work is the same dull, boring, repetition as always. My parents are the same bossy, stodgy people as always. Sally's still ill and in pain, and still needs surgeries, and my brothers are still trying to act as though they run my life since women can't take care of themselves.
And then there's Thaddeus.
We've made love three times now, and each time is more wonderful than the last. It no longer hurts, and I've grown bolder about caressing his cock. Last night, he even persuaded me to kiss it, though I refused to put it in my mouth as he wanted me to do. "You'll learn," he told me when I said no. "Men love to have a woman's mouth on their cock, even as much as they love putting their cock in her pussy." His words were filthy and should have disgusted me, but instead they thrilled me.
I love him so much, and I'm so happy that he's chosen me as his. I wish we had more time together, but he sees me as often as he's able and as often as my parents will let me get away. Honestly, I'm an adult now; it's been nearly a year since I graduated and began earning a living, and yet they still treat me like a child. Soon, I hope, I'll no longer live under their roof. I'll have a life with Thaddeus.
April Fool's Day. And I'm the fool.
Two days after my last entry here, I realized that I'd missed my monthly. By only a few days, but I'm normally regular as clockwork, so I was concerned. And then a day or two after that, I was forced to run to the restroom at work so I could lose my breakfast. That's happened every day since.
I fear I'm pregnant. Dear God, how can I tell Thaddeus?
I've finally stopped crying enough to write this.
I went to Thaddeus tonight and told him of my concerns. My breasts feel swollen, the vomiting every morning has continued, and there's still no sign of my monthly. I'm pregnant, I know I am, and since Thaddeus took my virginity, the baby is his.
But when I told him, he turned on me. "You fucking whore!" he called me. "You think I'm going to support you and your bastard? How stupid do you think I am?"
I cried then. How could he be so angry with me? "You said you loved me," I said. "You said you wanted to marry me."
"Should have thought of that before you opened your legs. Love you? How could I love someone like you, Amelia? Men don't love whores." And then he walked away, leaving me alone.
Alone. I can't tell my parents, I can't tell anyone. And Thaddeus—I wish Thaddeus were dead!
I wish I were dead.
Today Mother confronted me, having somehow discovered that I haven't had my monthly in well over a month. I confessed everything to her, from Thaddeus's proclamation of love to our lovemaking to his response when I told him of the pregnancy. "I told you so," was her version of comforting. "I suppose we'll have to get you to the doctor to make sure. Honestly, Amelia, I can't believe you would disgrace yourself and us this way after all the times you've been told to be a good girl."
If it weren't for the baby, I would kill myself. How can I survive this when my own family thinks the worst of me?
I haven't felt much like writing lately. I haven't felt like doing anything at all. I've moved from home to work and home again as though automated, and have refused to speak to any of my friends or coworkers beyond the necessary. Even my family has barely heard from me.
And I've heard nothing from Thaddeus, though rumors are that he's seeing Millie Hebert now.
I was to the doctor's the other day, and it's been confirmed. I am carrying Thaddeus's child, though I refused to tell the doctor who the father is. My family knows, but only Junior seems to feel that Thaddeus bears any responsibility. Mother and Father seem to feel that this is entirely my fault, as though I created the child on my own, and Sally is too sick and Franklin too young to realize what's happening. I wish I could leave, move away to a city where perhaps being an unwed mother would be less of a scandal, but how could I support the baby if I did that? Soon I'll begin to show, and that will destroy me. Everyone will know. Everyone will say the same thing Thaddeus said.
My parents, in their infinite wisdom, have found a solution to protect their precious image in the eyes of our friends and neighbors.
The Killiams, family friends, came to our rescue. Mother, in desperation, told Mrs. Killiam of my impending situation, as she put it. Mrs. Killiam pointed out that her son Horace, who recently returned from war, is unmarried and could do with a woman at his side, as he has been depressed and lonely since his return. Without consulting me in the slightest, or, to my knowledge, consulting Horace, they've arranged my marriage to him.
When I protested, Mother told me, "You lost your right to choose your mate when you embarrassed our family by allowing a man to lie with you and impregnate you. How dare you question this? You're lucky Horace will have you. You're lucky any man would have you after what you've done!"
I don't feel lucky. I feel like an embarrassment. I've known Horace Killiam all my life, and I barely even like him, let alone love him. But this is my only chance to have a life at all. If I marry him before I show, people might suspect that the pregnancy came before the marriage but no one will be able to prove it. No one but Thaddeus, but he's deeply involved in planning his wedding to Millie Hebert, whom he was evidently courting at the same time he professed to love me.
How I hate men! How I hate everyone!
This will be the last time I write in this diary. I shall put it away where I'll never have to look at it again. I've destroyed my entire life and I will live with the consequences, but I shall never think of Thaddeus again, nor of how this child came to be. I shall be a wife to Horace and a mother to this child, and I will never again allow myself to love or trust, because doing so will only hurt me.
* * * *
Sure enough, that was the last entry in the diary. Elena closed the book and sat, stunned. Grandpa Horace, whom she'd barely known, hadn't been Dad's father? And Grandmother, prudish, judgmental Grandmother, had lost her virginity at age eighteen and become pregnant out of wedlock?
Elena couldn't believe what she'd read. Grandmother had told her over and over again not to let boys near her. When she'd heard about Elena's first boyfriend, she'd called Elena horrible names and hadn't spoken to her for two months. And yet Grandmother had done the very things she'd accused Elena of doing. What a hypocrite!
And yet it all made sense. The abuse her father had gone through from his mother's hands and tongue, the bitterness and even hatred the old woman had shown toward her husband, the lectures and judgment of Elena. All because one man had treated her so badly that she'd chosen to shut herself off from everyone and everything.
Elena had never heard Thaddeus's name before, but she despised the man.
Elena tucked the diary into the bag she'd brought with her to hold things she wanted to keep. She wasn't sure why she wanted the diary; she only knew that she didn't want anyone else to see it. She doubted anyone else knew who her father's father really was, and there was no point letting it come out now. "Coming, Mom," she called, and went upstairs.
* * * *
Grandmother's funeral, two days later, was surprisingly well attended, given how many people had given up on friendship with the old woman as she'd become increasingly bitter and angry. After the service, Elena joined her parents on the receiving line, shaking hands and greeting people she'd never heard of.
Then a man came through the line, and Elena caught her breath. His height, his eyes, his frame... all were copies of her father's. Or, rather, her father's looks were copies of this man's. "You must be Amelia's granddaughter," the man said.
"Yes, and I know who you are."
He started. "She told you about me?"
"No." There were people behind him. "Please wait a minute. I need to talk to you."
The man nodded. "I'll be by the altar."
Elena shook a few more hands, then mumbled some excuse and went to get her bag. As he'd said, the man was waiting for her by the altar. "So how do you know me?" he asked.
Elena took out the diary and handed it to him. "I think you should have this, Thaddeus. I think you should know what you did to my grandmother. And to the rest of my family, thanks to how you treated her." Without giving him a chance to reply, she walked away.