She waits for him every day. Starting at 5:00 pm, she stands in the bay window, waiting for Daddy to come home from work. Sometimes he’s home at 5:05. Sometimes he’s home at 5:30, or even later. It doesn’t matter to her. She still waits there, ready to run to the door and greet him with the strongest hug her little arms can give.
Elle loves her Daddy, and he loves her. Watching them together fills my heart. Sometimes I think that I might cry for the sacrifice he’s made for her. For us. I’m not sure whether the tears would be from joy or from the ache of almost-sadness for him, and for me, and — though she’s joyful, for now — for her.
What she doesn’t know, and what I dread one day revealing to her, is that Wynn isn’t her biological father. I think other people would hesitate, writing that sentence. They would use the term “real father.” That’s not right. It’s not fair to Wynn, and it’s too kind to the man that gave his sperm to make her.
Wynn is her real father. He loves her more, I think, than he’s ever loved anyone or anything. I see it in his face, when he waves to her from the sidewalk as he walks up to the house after work. I hear it in her voice when he greets her.
I know that he loves me, too, but sometimes I wonder if he regrets marrying me. I wonder if he resents me, somewhere deep down. I wonder if he married me out of a sense of obligation and kindness. I wonder if he longs, in the dark of the night, to leave me and find someone else, someone for whom he can feel a different kind of love.
He’s never given me any indication that he wants that. Wynn is Good, and the capitalization is important. I’ve never met anyone like him. He has his flaws, like anyone else. I’m not saying that he’s perfect. Nobody is, especially not me. I’ve known him my whole life, and I’ve always known he was a good person, but when he got down on his knee and proposed to me the day I told him I was keeping the baby, I knew. He is Good.
Elle is my child, and I love her, but sometimes when I look at her all I can think about is her biological father. There’s a reason I haven’t told her about him, even though I know it won’t make her love Wynn any less. If anything, she would love him more, I think — especially once she’s older. I’ll tell her then.
It’s my own shame that keeps me from telling her. I guess it’s not my fault. They all tell you, “It’s not your fault.” I know that, but I still feel it. I still hear people say that it was, even when they don’t say it to me, or they don’t say it out loud. I worry that Elle will blame me as much or more than I blame myself.
I did not know Elle’s father. I do not want to know him, not ever, even though I can picture every line and blemish upon his face. Even though every time I see someone with eyes his shade of blue, I think of him. Even though every time someone touches me with a calloused hand I think for a moment, irrationally, of his own hands upon my body, holding me down.
I couldn’t get away from him. It’s not my fault, but it felt like it was. It feels like it was. I didn’t lead him on, but he said that I did. It feels like I did. Maybe I should have fought harder. Maybe I should have said “no” louder. Maybe, maybe. It doesn’t matter now. Right?
People tell you, “life is unfair.” That’s true. I didn’t deserve what he did to me, even though a little voice inside me tells me, sometimes, that I did. More importantly, Wynn doesn’t deserve to be stuck with me like this. He deserves another life. He deserves someone that can make him truly happy. I can never do that for him. I feel it in my bones.
Wynn is gay. He came out to me in middle school. I was the first person he told. I was not surprised, which disappointed him, I think. It wasn’t that I knew he was gay beforehand, or that I thought he acted gay, or something. I didn’t. I just knew that gay people existed, and some people are gay, and that you can’t always tell, so why bother assuming someone is straight?
I’ve known for years that he isn’t attracted to women sexually or romantically, yet he loves me, and I love him. I cried when he proposed to me, and I shook my head.
I told him, “You can’t.”
I said, “Please…”
But I couldn’t finish that sentence, because I didn’t want to tell him no. I never told him no, because I said no to Elle’s father and Wynn was giving me something entirely different, a beautiful gift that I would never have had the strength to ask for.
Elle doesn’t know any of this, because I haven’t had the strength to tell her. I’m starting to think maybe that’s wrong, though. It’s only going to get harder to tell her as she gets older. Wynn married me because he wanted her to have a father, and he wanted to be a father, and because he loves me, he says, more than he’s ever loved anyone.
I told him I couldn’t do this alone, and he said I didn’t have to. Not “I won’t let you,” no. “You don’t have too.” I took his kindness, and I accepted it. I appreciate it and I love and respect it, but at night, lying there next to him, I wonder if I’ve done him wrong, if I’ve been selfish to let him love me this much.
Is that selfish? Is it selfish not to tell Elle the truths of her life?
Sometimes I’m afraid she’ll find out before I’m strong enough to tell her. I worry that my mother will let something slip. She knows, of course. She’s known Wynn was gay since we were in high school. I could never tell if she totally approved, of him, or of the marriage. For Elle’s sake, she holds her tongue, but I can see her temptation.
Sometimes I want to tell Wynn to leave me, and find a strong, beautiful man to love him like he deserves. I’m weak and I’m broken and I’m not ever going to be what makes him happy. I know that, and I suspect he knows that, and I dread that someday Elle is going to figure it out, too.
Then I see Elle waiting in the bay window. Then I watch her run to the door, and I see him scoop her up in his arms, and I see the joy on both of their faces, and I think — maybe this is alright. Maybe this is the right thing for us. Maybe we’ve come as close to happiness as we’re ever going to get, and I just need to accept the good that I’ve been given.