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 "Happy at Last, See"



   "I just don't get it, Raelene. Sometimes I think the Lord put your brain in backwards. Why do you think you should marry that man after everything he has already put you through?"


    Of course, Michelle, my best friend of forever, didn't understand. She had never been in love. She left highschool for college, and then into her (almost) dream career as an assistant librarian. She finds love in books...romance novels, she calls them...what do books know anyway? I was never good at, nor interested in all that made up hooey. I live in the real world, with grown up problems.


    "Well, I just do. And I am gonna marry him and we'll be just fine. I want you to be happy for me, Michelle."


    "Raelene...I want you to be happy. I do. Marrying Darrel is only going to bring you more heartache and pain. I'm here for you, though. You're the sister I never had. I love you."


    She knew I loved her, as well. She would just have to find out how happy I'll be. She'll see. They'll all see.


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    "Honey, I don't approve! Darrel is a horrible man. He runs around on you, and talks down to you. Why would you ever want to marry him"?


    Of course, Daddy didn't like Darrel. No man would ever be good enough for his baby girl. He sees everything Darrel does as horrible...even breathing.


    "I know you don't like him, Daddy, but we're going to get married, and we'll be happy. You'll see. It won't be like you and mom, always bickering until she up and left us. We'll be a family, and have our own to raise. I love him, Daddy. I just want your blessing."


    "Well, I ain't giving you no blessing. Not with at Darrel. Of all the boys you could've found yourself entangled with, you had to go and pick Stan's boy. The worst family in the whole of Perry County. No Mam! If you do this, Rae, I'm washing my hands of the lot of you. I mean it, you hear me"!


    Daddy stormed out of his office before I had a chance to open my mouth in rebuttal. He would just have to see how happy I would be. They all would see.


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    "Raelene. Sweetheart. I am so happy for you! Marriage. And, you say this Darrel fella has a good job, his own house, and you are in love? Well, that's wonderful! When do I get to meet this fella"?


    Of course Gramma was on my side. She never spoke to my dad after her daughter (my mom) left town. She blamed my dad for losing her daughter. We've always stayed in touch, though. I knew she would understand. She was married fifty two years, to the love of her life until he passed away. She knew real romance.


    "I'll bring him by real soon, Gramma. I promise. You'll like him. He's real good looking and polite and all. Did I mention, we go to the same church?"


   "That's even better. A church man. I look forward to meeting him, then."


   Of course, I fibbed just a little bit. We met at the same church, true enough. He was in the hallway outside the meeting room for AA, and I was pushing a mop bucket toward the sanctuary. He tripped, I apologized, we struck it off right away. It was lightning and fireworks.


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    "Dangit, woman! What do you mean, we have to get married? Whatever for? What's wrong with the way things are"?


    Of course, he was going to disagree. Why wouldn't he? We really never agreed on much. This would be different though.


    "Because, Darrel! I'm pregnant! That's why we're getting married. I already told Daddy, Michelle, and Gramma. They expect a wedding."


    "Oh, God Raelene! You told them you were pregnant? Your dad is going to kill me. Why didn't you tell me first"?


    "Get your hands off me Darrel! You're going to hurt me!" Stop!"


    He stopped. Always did before it got too bad. It was like a switch in him. On. Off. Just like that. He never really hurt me. Not really. He was always so saddened and apologetic afterward. Just like he was then.


   "I'm sorry, Raelene. I...I don't know what gets into me. Please don't cry baby. Of course we'll get married. I'll do right by you. I promise."


   "I know. And I told them we we're getting married. They don't know I'm pregnant. If we get married quick like, we could just say we had a honeymoon baby. That's why I said we have to get married."


    Darrel looked relieved, but distant. He didn't seem to notice I wasn't crying. Hadn't cried in about six months. My tears were all cried out. I no longer cried. I allowed a numbness to settle over me, an out of body existence. It lessoned the pain.  


     Darrel smiled. "Gotta get to work, Rae. Might be late getting home. Make whatever plans you want." Then, as an after thought,. "I'll have spaghetti for dinner tonight. Gotta keep my strength up". And with a laugh, he nearly skipped out the door.


    I knew he'd be happy. He just needed to get used to the idea. Of course, he perked right up when I told him he was the only one who knew he was gonna be a dad. See, he was excited to be a dad.


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   "Raelene! Where are you? Come in here and bring me a beer"!


   I pulled one of the beer cans out of the plastic ring in the ice box and carried it to the den. As I handed it to him, I noticed an...well...sinister look on his face. For a moment, I was scared, and pulled my arms into my sides as I stepped back. Darrel laughed. It was frightening.


    "Where's that spaghetti I told you to make?"


    I hurried to the kitchen and brought back his plate and another beer. I sat on the ottoman, in case he needed something else. I always waited to eat until I knew he was finished. I didn't mind making sure he had enough.


   After his second plate, he suggested we go for a drive. He was feeling romantic. I just knew it. I loved riding and looking at all the scenery and nighttime skies. How sweet of Darrel to think of me. I forgot all about dinner in my glee to hop up in the truck and go riding with my soon to be husband.


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   "Slow down, Darrel, I'm missing everything I wanna see.!"


   He laughed, and punched the accelerator to the floor until I screamed, then he let off. He never stopped the random laughter.  


    "Where are we going?"


    "Where are you taking me"?


   Everytime I opened my mouth, he punched the accelerator. I shut up. I'd know when I got there.


   After two hours of reckless driving, Darrel pulled down a long, gravel drive. At the end, there was a tiny cabin. It looked deserted. It was peaceful, though.


    Darrel opened my door, helped me down off the seat, and held my hand while we entered the cabin. I could smell...smell, gasoline? Why would I smell...


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   The last and only stars I saw that night were not in the sky.


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     "Raelene. Honey. There you are. We've been so worried. We... Michelle and I, now understand why you wanted to get married. We just wish you had told us. And, Raelene, the doctor told us you've got evidence of having been beaten repeatedly over the last year. We're sorry we didn't do more. We...maybe..."


   Daddy broke down in tears as he told me he loved me and that I would be happy again real soon and no one would take that away.


    I understood finally, why they didn't want me to marry Darrel. They loved me, when I was too blinded by lightening and fireworks to see the darkness of Darrel's soul.


   And the epitaph on her tombstone declared just that:


   "Happy at last, see".

July 31, 2021 17:35

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3 comments

Susan Whitlock
20:44 Aug 10, 2021

So sad - but I have know a hundred Raelene's....nicely done!

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Cass Marie
18:42 Aug 11, 2021

I, fortunately, survived but could have easily been a Raelene. But for God, I'd be another statistic. Thank you for reading, and the kind words.

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Babika Goel
17:58 Jul 31, 2021

Sinister, dark, evil. I sensed the impending doom..well written.

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