1) Start fresh and carry on
Congratulations, you beautiful breathing thing. Stray bullets from the celebratory gunshots missed your skin on New Year’s Eve. The curfew applauds your compliance, and as promised, you’ve reaped safety.
Now, put out that cigarette. You know he despises the sting of your bitter breath—as if his strikes anyone like a wreath of roses. Those “welcome home” kisses bring about the exchange, and his demand repeated through time builds up in volume. This year, don’t wait till his actions speak louder than words. Remember that nicotine patches are only twenty bucks and can even cover bruises.
Oh, don’t you dare touch his cigars. Grabbing even one Perdomo is a death wish. You just might find out what he loves more than whom. Hurt and innocent, are we? Months ago, one could recall you cherishing unnamed vices above all else. Admit it. But seriously, keep that mouth smoke-free.
2) Tone and toughen up that stomach
His calling you “beans in a pod” must not be taken lightly. To add to your temper, Maggie guffaws behind thin walls and later inflates her cheeks in your presence. You sure showed her by kidnapping all her stuffed animals, hiding them in the van with the tinted windows, and tying cloth napkins around their heads.
Behind your sinister laughs, the moniker “beans in a pod” still resounded. Yes, his wrinkly eyes might be giving him illusions, but your belt, which moved two holes toward the tail, tells no lie. With a righteous voice, the hellish plate of greens is now calling you. Meet it halfway on the daily and realize once more that what he sees matters most. Leave the bacon and cholesterol to him—some people are just eager to see what’s smoking down there.
But when it comes to that bedroom magic, your gut, though free of vegetables, seems to bend and revolt every time he and his lust swoop in. It can’t be controlled or ignored. The good news is: you can con your gut if you first con yourself. Believe it’s just you and last month’s calendar boy messing up the king bed, breathing with passion and candlelight. Call him “Colonel,” of course. You’re dead if you don’t.
3) Keep the bathroom immaculate after use
He expects peace in there but oftentimes goes in meeting war. No, the grumbles behind the door are not farts gone wrong. Don’t even bother passing blame regarding those hair strands crowding the drain because they’re yours. Pick them up. When you shower, be a dear and keep that roll of tissue dry. If he can do it, so can that nineteen-year-old beaut in the mirror!
Shampoo froths are not decorations, missy. Splash them down.
After doing your business, flush and go put that bamboo-scented air freshener to good use. Three sprays are enough, but always put out any lit candle before spritzing away—burning another one of his towels is not an option.
And I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the trash should go in the bin.
Patience is thin in the belly of the beast, so keep it spotless.
4) Pour extra effort into speech therapy
There is a reason he fell in love with you before you said a word, and you just couldn’t pretend to be mute, could you? Your lisp, especially during pillow talk, wipes the icing off the cake. His face says it all. Upon hearing it for the first time, Maggie snickered and chased you with echoes of it till days turned to months. No one, not even you, ever got to see how far you could throw her.
Take those Youtube tutorials to heart and practice from nine to five—nine minutes to five every afternoon, to be exact.
To quote Doctor Bernard: “The s’s hiss and the z’s buzz. A hand on the throat can be your gauge.”
Sugar babies need sugar on their lips. Get to work and earn yours.
5) Work on walking with heels
There was nothing half-meant when he said he wanted his woman tall. For some reason, he loves how they make you tower over him. Being that he’s in a rush every morning, you’re only expected to endure the blasted, glittery shoes from dinnertime till shuteye.
Find your balance. No wobbles. Slay. Keep it sexy.
Maggie enjoys watching you walk in them, her vague smile saying so. She either finds joy in your pain or beholds a lady she hopes to become—the safe bet is on the former.
But don’t bother wearing them outside the manor. Looking like a belle who’s “asking for it” to those thirsty soldiers on patrol would be the last thing you want. If ever they insist, the words “Colonel Ardac will know of this!” are yours to use and theirs to dread.
6) Don’t look!
Specifically, don’t look for love. You’ve made your choice, girl. It was either the old man in here or the bloodstained days out there.
Even if it’s Private Hammond’s eyes, don’t look. Though both his cheeks and brow speak kindness and care and stupidity, don’t look. Gone are the days when you will accept another one of his “winter leaf bouquets,” which are just clusters of cold stems tied together. Still, you keep them.
He has it in him to be that playground boy who pinches you and provokes the chase instead of telling you he likes you, and for your heart’s sake, don’t bother waiting. Please don’t. Hearing Hammond say it wins you no lottery.
They’re all the same—heartless, abusive, hungry for control, and always thinking the worst in people. Their hands differ not from those who orphaned kids from families like yours, who raped both wives and damsels for sport. Though Colonel Ardac is leagues away from being a saint, his love is your fortress. He may have trimmed his horns when Maggie moved in, but the housekeepers never forgot, and neither did his other victims.
Assume that he won’t be too friendly if he stumbles upon this list.
7) Make the artist in you bloom
When Maggie begs for your help in finishing her color-soaked school projects and the colonel “encourages” you to do so, you yield with a smile—attagirl! Maggie, the pint-sized procrastinator, seems to prefer having someone else to blame if ever her scores disappoint.
On those late nights, why bother sweeping your fingers across her hair whenever she falls asleep? She bails on you every time that happens and does not deserve a makeover. Carrying her to her bed is more than enough, and you certainly won’t ask her father to do it. The toil is yours to bear, and somehow, you await it.
Of course, you’d go back to the abomination you both created, add that “submitted by Maggie Ardac” tag in the middle of it all, and pray for the teacher’s mercy.
This year, deny her the chance to turn in you into a scapegoat. Grab those crayons and put that bowl of fruit on paper.
8) Learn to climb trees
She told the story about how her friends climbed riverside trees in the summer far away from the patrols. Heartbroken, Maggie asked them why she wasn’t invited. None of them wanted a scratch to show on a colonel’s daughter and be responsible for it. These smart kids also believed her to be a magnet for patrols.
As expected, the patrol magnet invited you to join her in the scratch-fest activity. Thank goodness she nodded to your suggestion about starting with the backyard giant, which deserved its own tree house. Both of you agreed to give it a go in the summer, but this list will, no doubt, force one to get up at dawn, put on some workout clothes, and scurry up that huggable trunk midway through spring.
You’ve given her too much to laugh about. Don’t give her this one.
9) Read a boatload about birds
You already know what she would rather do if she weren’t speeding up heartbeats atop trees: bird watching. She just can’t be an iPad girl, can she?
The old binoculars have been dusted. Yes, you’ve tricked Maggie into doing said activity along the city streets where pigeons, the birds you can most certainly tell apart, rule the highs and lows.
But those nosy soldiers, who said that your spy-like activity is frowned upon according to martial law standards, moved you two to the park where a Tweety-like bird and a slightly bigger bluish bird came out of hiding. Maggie identified a few more, and you know you can’t take that sitting down. No one likes a wise ass unless it’s you.
So grab that b-lettered encyclopedia and get started.
10) Watch more sunsets
You can start by squeezing through the top window and perching yourself on the roof. While you find your ears repelling a faraway gunshot or two, count the colors of the changing sky. Before his headlights blind the gate, take in that last light of day. Relish the freedom in the wind before the leash on your neck tightens, before the need to put on a fake face flashes red.
Maybe Maggie will crawl out beside you and ask what it is you’re looking at. “Right now, you,” you reply with a smile, then gently aim her chin skyward. Maybe she will grab your arm to keep herself from slipping. Maybe both of you can name the next winged critter that floats from above. Maybe later, not one word would need saying.
As sure as the approaching evening, his boots would return to home ground, but all your care seems lost, stolen. And if you do go searching, try looking to the side, then down a bit. You’ll find it all there, in the precious little girl of a monster, her face adorned by the setting sun.