I now know what you were doing.
I didn’t at first, though. I didn’t know why you went to the bathroom so often when you were home, especially when Momma had to go to the store or visit a friend and it was just you and me. You’d take your smartphone in there with you and I wouldn’t see you for a long time.
I heard noises from behind the door that I didn’t understand, faint moanings mostly, that confused and scared me. I knocked on the door and asked if you were OK, only to hear you scream that you’d be out in a minute.
And you were, but then you yelled at me louder about privacy and respect, then you spanked me and told me to never bother you while you were in the bathroom again. I ran to my room and cried because I was your little princess and you were my prince, and princes don’t make their princesses cry.
But that wasn’t true.
You see, I stayed away from you when the bathroom door was shut but not from your phone when it you left it lying around. I found the sites and apps that took you to the pictures and videos of naked women and men doing things to each other that I didn’t understand back then. You had so many of them on there, Daddy. Way more than I ever saw of Mommy and me.
I started to think you loved them more than us because you loved looking at them so much. That couldn’t be true, though. Not about my Daddy, who read me Bible stories and took me to Daddy-Daughter dances and said he loved me to the moon and back.
Only it was true because as I changed, so did you.
The hugs stopped first. The big ones you used to give me when I got off the bus from elementary school were gone by the time I got home from middle school classes. Your bathroom door stayed closed more and more by then, bear hugs replaced by quick pecks on the cheek.
And the worst part was, even though I knew what you were doing, I was willing to forget all of it, no matter how hard that would be for me, in exchange for a few hours of your time and affection. I needed you. I needed my strong Daddy to help me figure out how to live a changing life in a changing body. But you weren’t there. You’d shut a door between us that I could no longer open.
Not that I didn’t beg God to break it down, though. I prayed, sobbed, and screamed into my pillow more nights than I can count, pleading to God to give you back to me.
Those nights of desperate loneliness tore a hole in me. I wanted your love and affirmation, to feel as special and cherished as I did before you locked yourself away in your prison you’d built out of your own pleasure and pain.
I went looking for that love with other boys because, without your voice guiding me, all I had left were the same broken, scared little girls I called friends. Most of those boys knew how to get what they wanted. Caring and gentle at first, all of them eventually asked me – forced me, sometimes – to do the same things I’d seen frozen in full-color in your secrets.
I did what they wanted because I didn’t want them to leave me alone like you did.
I now know what you were doing because, as I write this, the husband I thought would stay pure is locked away downstairs, doing the same thing right now. He’s prey to the same hunter stalking you. He thinks I don’t know but as soon as I send this to you, he will. I don’t know where we’ll go from here but if I don’t confront him now, he’s as good as gone.
I want him to get help because I love him and swore before God to be his wife forever – for better or worse, in sickness and health.
I want you to get help because you’ll always be my prince, no matter how prodigal, and I need you now more than ever.
Help me put my family back together.
Help me put my heart back together.
Help me dance with my Daddy again.