Thursday, November 10, 2016

Writer's Digest Short Story Competition 2017

The Daughter of a King
by Brittany Shannon

This is the short story entry for the Writer's Digest Short Story Competition 2017.
I've never written a short story before. In fact, 1500 words is daunting to me...because it is SO short. That's a typical journal entry for me.
Nonetheless, I'm always up for a challenge. I decided to share a nonfiction story. MY OWN.

I do this a lot. My life has few secrets. I'm not ashamed of this, but I will prepare you for the ugliness.
Disclaimer: Adult Content

The Daughter of a King

By Brittany Shannon

Confusion was my first conscious thought, as I came to and realized my right arm was dangling in the toilet bowl. My cheek was smashed against the toilet seat. Music thumped against the closed door. The stench of my own vomit was convictive.
I was choking.
My brain sent the message to my throat to cough up the bile lodged in my throat, but my body’s reflex would not comply. I was incapacitated. The odor encompassing me was putrid, exaggerating my queasiness. Poison fought its way out of my belly, burning into my mouth and nose. I gagged.
Is this it? I wondered. Is this how I’m going to end?
The music was loud. A party continued on outside the bathroom door. It must have been the middle of the night, for the last time I had seen the clock it read two-thirty AM. Who knew how long I’d been laying here in my own filth?
A bang on the door startled me. I coughed, coaxed my throat into dislodging the hot substance. Spitting into the toilet, I tried to raise my right arm out of the bowl. My boyfriend called my name. He banged on the door again. I wanted to respond. I tried. The noise of my own voice, bubbling and gurgling against the toxic liquids, frightened us both. He kicked the door in.
That’s the last thing I remember of the night that should have been my last.
Step one. Admit that you of yourself are powerless to overcome your addictions.
Let’s go back in time. I was seventeen. I was a good kid. 4.0 student who never stepped out of line. I was on my high school’s competition dance team which required fierce discipline and plenty of sleep. I grew up Christian and knew about Jesus Christ and God, basing my decisions on the strengths and testimonies of those around me. I’d never personally felt moved by the Spirit of the Lord. No burning in my bosom. No warmth. No premonition of a hand patting me on the back. But it didn’t matter. People I trusted believed in God, so I did, too.
I met a boy. It was a head-over-heels phenomenon that struck my seventeen-year-old heart unto devastation. My parents were not happily married and, in fact, had a sick relationship of who could hurt the other the most. The thing I wanted most in life was to live Happily Ever After, with the man of my dreams. At nineteen, I’d found him. ‘If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.’ I said, “I do” for time and all eternity. And I meant it.
I knew he’d had a pornography and sex addiction from the age of twelve, but it didn’t matter to me. I loved him. We would carry one another’s mortal burdens. That’s what marriage is. Two imperfect people helping and supporting each other. His parents were caught up in their own addictions. His father was a kind, gentle, drug addict. His mother was the poster-child for codependency and suffered discreetly from the obscure, but real, disorder of being sexually inappropriate with her children. I did not believe anything sexual had transpired between my beloved new husband and his mother, but they had strange interactions that belonged in a marriage, rather than a parent-child relationship. Nonetheless, I looked past the imperfections, for all humans are fallible. I wanted the fairytale, and I was not going to let anything stop me.
Life was great. For four months. On the first Valentine’s Day after we were married, I found out my husband was cheating on me. I’d thought we had a great sex life and wondered what he could possibly want from someone else. He came clean about the sex addiction, which had nothing to do with me…but felt every bit my fault. It was the “excitement” of cheating that he loved. The pornography addiction expounded as well. Viruses corrupted every one of our technological devices. He spent hours beyond hours a day, at work and at home, watching porn. He created artificial profiles on social media sites, dating website, and hookup websites. He also starting going to a church where single people were attending, and would ask girls out on dates.
I was humiliated. It was the most brutal attack to my naïve heart. Summoning my Christian roots, I prayed for help. I sought guidance from Christian leaders. I worshiped all the time and begged God to save my marriage. I was willing to give up anything to have a husband who loved me.
In the short course of a year and a half, my husband’s addictions blew up. Abuse poured from his soul, in all forms of physical, mental, and sexual. I grew up taunting young women on television, who sat on Oprah’s chair and confessed that they still loved their cheating, beating husbands. Who would stay? I’d think. Those girls are pathetic. Then, years later, as I wake up in the night to my husband humping me from behind without my consent, I realized I was that girl. That I loved this man. I would let him harm me, choke me, slap me, call me every foul name, and yet I would do anything for him.
As a strong believer in the Almighty, I am also a strong believer in the Adversary. The contentions within my marriage got so bad that I could feel the devil walk into my home. I knew my husband was home from work before I saw him. I felt it. It frightened me. I began to lose sight of everything. My body shut down. Numbness overtook rationality. It was a living nightmare, and I was the walking dead.
I do not remember what went on from November 2008 - February 2009. It’s funny how the mind is smart enough to block out what it knows the body cannot handle. Somewhere in that time frame, I was in a play. Peter Pan. My role was Wendy. One night, I was too afraid to return home from a rehearsal. “Peter” asked if I wanted to stay at her house. I did. I was sleeping at random houses every night. Her husband, who had never met me before, asked if I wanted him to say a prayer for me and ask God for a special blessing. I conceded. I do not remember a single thing this stranger said, except the words, “Guard your womb.”
That March, of 2009, I left. This time, my bag stayed packed. I grabbed my dog and some dog food, hopped in my Saturn, drove to the auto store to pick up antifreeze, and drove two states away. I’d left before. This was nothing new. But I was not going to return this time. This was the end of my marriage. The marriage I’d battled to save, surrendered every part of me to rescue, killed each inch of my soul to salvage. And I left everything I owned, and loved, in that house. I never saw him again.
God saved my future children from a narcissist and family line of abusers. He did not save me from the mountain of trials I would not face. My marriage was just a hill. Pain subdued me. I was lost in a negligent abyss, and began drinking so heavily I poisoned myself several times a week. My heart would flutter in the mornings. I wouldn’t remember a thing. It was a bizarre place for a Christian girl to be. I knew God was there. Why didn’t he help me? What couldn’t he hear?
My pleas were soon heard. I was beseeching the Lord to take away my desire to drink. I knew I was killing myself, but I also knew I was meant to be a mother. God would not have told me to guard my womb if it was not in my destiny. The consequences of a single glass of wine became such a physical ailment that intoxication lost the frivolity it once held. I was able to get clean. I’ve lived sober for three years.
I have two beautiful children. Their father is the man who broke down that bathroom door. He broke down the walls of my heart. We welcomed God into our life together. Sought healing and comfort. Christ had not abandoned me. I had abandoned Him. It is hard to feel the Spirit of God when you’re numb. You cannot hear the promptings of Jesus with crude music blaring.
My life has been changed. Purified.
Post-traumatic stress is real, and the therapy is hard. But I wouldn’t change it, and the opportunity it provided me to meet God, for anything. I don’t know who that girl was, with her arm dripping with her own vomit, sunk beneath the water of the toilet bowl. But I know who I am now. The daughter of a King.

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