“Perfume is the key to our memories.” – Kate Lord Brown
Thank you, Laura Corbeth, for inspiring me to share this story. Your book, My Courage to Tell, is incredible and your words resonate so deeply with me. Thank you so much for sharing your story with everyone. You are truly amazing.
I was seven years old when I received a gift that I cherished more than any gift I had ever received prior to that day. I attended a friend’s 8th birthday party that afternoon. There are no words to express how happy I was at that party. No one was out to harm me. I felt safe and free to smile and laugh. It had been 2 years since I felt that level of security. The type of security that lets you laugh freely and smile and giggle and be silly. The security knowing that the wall can come down because no one is aiming to destroy you. I truly did not want to leave that party that day, but sadly, all parties end.
However, some parties end with party favor bags and sometimes those bags are filled with wonderful little treasures.
I was not allowed to open my favor bag until we got home. My father was afraid that whatever was in the bag, I would find a way to make a mess in the car. He was probably right. So, I impatiently waited and waited and waited. I waited for what seemed like a lifetime. When we finally arrived, I bolted out of the car and dashed to my room as quick as I could. I ran to my closet where I huddled in the corner away from prying eyes. I wasn’t allowed to close my bedroom door. It had to remain open… those were the rules. And I was okay with that because in my experience, at least for the most part, closed doors meant that all sense of security was gone and my soul would have to disappear until the door was reopened.
As I sat there, huddled in my closet, I quietly opened the bag. Tears immediately ran down my cheeks. I, ever so gently, took the little square glass perfume bottle from the bag. Yes, this was my first bottle of perfume, but it meant so much more than that. It meant that every time I wore that perfume, I would be reminded of the party and how happy and free I felt. It would take me back, even if just for a moment. In that moment, I would be free. I cupped the little bottle over my heart as hard as I could, thanking God, tears still flowing.
I got up and hid the bottle in between my mattresses. I would have been devastated if anything happened to my precious gift. I walked back out to the living room where my sister was watching cartoons. I sat on the couch, uninterested in the cartoon, but had nothing else I could do. I heard my parents yelling at each other in the kitchen and for the first time, heard the shattering of glass. Apparently, my mother grabbed whatever she could get her hands on and began throwing glasses and plates at my father. To this day, I could not tell you what the argument was about nor do I care. Over the last 2 years, since our family friend, my tormentor, moved in with us, they began to argue more and more.
After dinner, I brushed my teeth, put on my pajamas and climbed into my bed. My door still open, I could hear that the argument started again. This time though, the only voice I heard screaming was that of my mother. I heard my father say in the most defeated voice that he gave up and he couldn’t take it anymore. As I peeked from under my blanket, I saw the shadow of my father walk passed my door to their bedroom. A few moments later, he walked passed again, only this time, with a suitcase in hand.
My heart sank.
My heart sank because I felt that if anyone was going to eventually save me from my tormentor, it would have been my father. The family friend, my tormenter, was from my mother’s country so, of course, I felt betrayed by her since she was the one to let this beast into our home. As I heard my father start the car, I ran to my bedroom window and the sight of him backing out of the driveway is still as vivid today as it was on that night. I knew what I had to do though. I don’t know why or how I knew, I just did.
I cracked my bedroom window open and grabbed my perfume bottle. I got on my knees, bowed my head, and I prayed to God. I had only been to church maybe one or two times with my Grandmother in the past 5 years. I didn’t come from a religious family. We didn’t pray at the dinner table, we didn’t attend Sunday sermons, or church bake sales. However, for reasons unknown to me, I believed in God and in Jesus. I just knew in my heart of hearts that they were always there and I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that when I prayed that night, I was heard.
I made a deal with God. I told God that I would give him my most cherished gift, the perfume contained in that little precious square glass bottle. All I asked in return was for my father to come back home and to never leave again. With tears, once again running down my cheeks, I stood up and walked to the window. I took the cap off the perfume bottle and without any hesitation, I reached out the window and shook the bottle until every last drop of perfume had escaped. The bottle no longer represented happier times. Instead it was a representation of who I was in that moment. An empty shell that once held something so beautiful inside.
I climbed back into bed. At some point, I drifted off to sleep, but was later awoken that same night by a figure sitting on the edge of my bed. I pretended to be sleeping because I just knew it had to be my tormentor. I did sneak a quick peak. The figure, sitting with his head hanging low, was my father. My father had returned and not only that, he came and sat on my bed. He still believed I was asleep when I heard him speak. He said, “I came back for you little girl and I will never leave again.”
And to this very day, he has never left.
– Brown Eyed Princess