Masked

by Dena Daw

I’ll miss him so much. He was a good husband and a great provider. Our kids never went without anything, and neither did I. He was always there when I needed him, and he was always there for the kids. He worked hard for us. I remember so many nights when he’d come home late and tired from work. I never could get him a warm dinner on the table. Sure, he’d be a little grumpy, but he’d gotten so much grief at work.


He’s gone now and I feel so alone. Now that the kids are grown, who will I make dinner for?


Charles was always a strict disciplinarian. People said we had the best behaved kids they’d ever seen, and I owe that all to him. Without him, I don’t know how I would have raised them. Sure, sometimes I thought he was a little harsh with them, but they turned out great. Kristene is in law school and Douglas is graduating this coming May. They made their daddy proud. He was never one to say it, but I know it in my heart.


I invested so much time and effort into our family. Friends come and go, but family lasts forever.


* * *


That bastard. I’m glad he’s gone. I cringe at the memories of my childhood, and every time my mother speaks well of him it’s like sticking a knife in an open wound. How could she have loved that man? She knew what he had done to me all those years… or did she? Could she have really been that na├»ve, that blind?


He was a monster in disguise. Everybody loved him but my brother and I. We knew the other side, the side that he hid from his coworkers, church members, and even his close friends. He was a master deceiver. He wove deception like spiders do webs, but Doug and I saw through it.


I remember nights when he came home “from work,” smelling like cheap perfume and old sweat. I could just see his eyes change the minute he stepped into the house. It was his castle and we were his subjects. Home was the only place where he could be his true self and he took complete advantage of it. Every night he’d walk into the kitchen and ask where the food was. Because he always got home around 9:30 p.m., we’d have already eaten and the leftovers were in the fridge. Without fail, he’d lose his temper and slap momma around. Doug and I would hide in our closets until we heard momma’s cries subside. As Doug got older, he would challenge our father, but momma never saw the need for help. It was this that stopped Doug’s confrontations, not the beatings he took for her salvation. She just didn’t want to be saved.


I’m glad he’s dead. All the terrible things he would do to me, late at night when he thought momma was asleep. He’s burning in Hell right now, because God is just. Unlike him, I actually listened to the sermons on Sunday morning.

* * *


Dear Charles. He was a good man, and such a faithful steward. He always did whatever he could for the church, whether it was marital counseling or teaching children’s Sunday school. He was well respected as a man of God, serving whenever possible and expecting little in return.


I remember all the times he volunteered to help build houses for the less fortunate.

Sometimes he’d decline, but that was only because he put family first. When he did help out he’d always work long and hard, knowing the he was reaping eternal rewards in Heaven.


I was the one who nominated him as a fellow deacon in the church. Being the humble man that he was, he declined at first, saying he didn’t feel he deserved such an honor. In response, the other deacons and I unanimously voted him in.


I’m so glad I had the opportunity to know him. He was such a respectable man, with good kids and a faithful wife. Everyone could take a page out of Charles Nelson’s book.


* * *

He was just like his father, Ronald. They both had big hearts and sour tempers. If I remember correctly, Charlie came out of my womb in a bad mood.


Ronald was always really hard on him. Too hard, and I always worried that it would somehow affect Charlie. But he got along fine, always succeeding in whatever he did. Sometimes I think he was afraid to mess up, for fear of his father. Ron never accepted less than perfection. But he always knew I loved him, no matter what. I can’t believe he’s gone. He was still young, and so successful. He had just gotten both of his children completely through college and was ready to think about retirement. He had worked so hard for so long.


I often worry about my grandchildren. I hope that Charlie didn’t raise the bar too high for them. Sometimes I worry that he became his father and was a little too harsh in his discipline. I talk to Grace about it but she says Charlie was always fair. I hope so. I would never want his children to hate him.


* * *


Charles was a nice enough man. Whenever we’d go out of town, he’d always make sure to pick up our mail for us and watch over our cats. He always kept his yard immaculate, so no complaints there. Sometimes he’d offer to take my daughters out for ice cream, but I never took him up on it. He was a nice guy, but you can’t risk it.


Sometimes I heard screams coming from the house. One night I went over there and knocked on the door to see if anything was wrong. I had to knock about three times before Grace opened up. She stood there, smiling up at me. A little baffled, I remember asking her if everything was alright. She laughed it off, saying the kids were watching a scary movie and apologized for their screams. She seemed so happy and care free, I felt foolish for even checking.


I never saw much of Grace, but then again no one ever did.


* * *


My father is dead, but I feel nothing. My sister has the ability to hate, my mother has the ability to love, but I am empty. There wasn’t a decent bone in the man’s body, that’s for sure. But then again, there’s not a decent bone in my mother’s. It’s a miracle that Kristine and I turned out like we did.


Dad was always angry about something, whether about work, mom, the woman he was seeing, or my sister and I. I got used to it after a while. I was beaten many times, but Dad always made sure to beat me in places where people couldn’t see it. He was like that with all of us, my mother included.


I used to wear my hidden bruises like a badges of honor. I remember staring at the other kids in my class, thinking they were sissies. They hadn’t survived what I’d survived. I was a real man. I had been tested.

For the longest time I tried to identify with my dad. He had been raised in such a brutal way, and I knew that the anger that I saw in his eyes wasn’t really directed towards us. But there was something else there…something that there was no excuse for, and I never knew what it was until Kristine confided in me a few months ago.


Now I feel nothing. He’s dead, but he was never really alive. Not to me, anyway.


* * *


I killed him, and no one will ever know. He deserved to die; he had gotten away with too much in his lifetime. I’m not a murderer. I’m a savior. It amazes me how people still don’t know the truth, even after his death. He managed to deceive people, and still deceives them while lying in his grave. I used to hate the fake smiles he’d put on every Monday, the minute he’d step out of the house in his Alfani suit with a crisp edition of the New York Times under his arm. But now I see that hiding has its benefits. I see that the whole world is no different than him, and that lesser truth is an illusion.


So many lives were ruined because of his existence. All I did was push him. That was all it took. It was almost too easy to kill such a hard man. But finally, it has ended.


No more masks, it’s over now.

© 2010 Dena Daw. All rights reserved.


About the Author

Dena Daw, originally from Atlanta, G.A., discovered her passion for short stories while taking a creative writing class at the University of South Carolina. After earning her degree in journalism, she now resides in Raleigh, N.C. with her husband and two children and continues to write children's picture books and short stories in the hopes of becoming a published author.
 
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