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Secret

Dominic and I had been together for 2,562 days, or seven years and one week. I did the math in my head while trying to distract myself from the surging pain that comes in the lovely package that comes with giving birth. But now the pain was over, my husband was holding our new daughter in his arms like she was precious glass vase, but the glass was so thin even the slightest amount of pressure would crack it. He can’t see her, but I can.

Six years ago Dom went blind. We’d prepared for the event after he’d suffered from bad vision his entire life and knew his eyes would eventually fail him, but every now and then I remembered that he was missing out on a lot of life. He put our daughter carefully down into my arms. Like all babies, she had blue eyes, but unlike most babies, she had the thickest black hair I’d ever seen. She got that from me, but I wasn’t interested in how much she looked like me; I wanted her to look like Dominic.

Suddenly, I felt my breathing get heavier. Dominic heard it and gently petted my damp hair, trying to comfort me; he probably thought I was trying to hold back tears, which I was, but not for the reasons he thought. I had to tell him something. For years I’d suppressed the thought; when it tried to surface, I just shoved it back into the deepest corner of my head. It only came out in moments when I looked at a picture of my family and noticed how I looked more like my mother than my father, or when I visited home and stared in my childhood mirror, remembering why I had fled that town.

“Dominic,” I spoke softly. He nodded to let me know I could go on. But I couldn’t; I didn’t know what to say. How do you start to tell the person who knows you best that they are missing a big chunk of your history? Our baby must have noticed the shift in my emotions because she began to squirm and cry.

To a person with sight, cries are the most annoying sound to the human ear. We live for things like sunsets and prom pictures, but to a blind person, like Dom, cries are the greatest sound. They mean life; sounds and feelings and smells are the ways he sees, so when our child’s cry rang through the room he lit up like a Christmas tree. I almost thought I saw a flash of green gloss over her now gray eyes.

“Shh…” I whispered to our daughter.

“What were you saying?” Dom asked after she quieted down.

“Um,” I looked down at the feeding baby, “we still have to give her a name.”

“Right.” Dominic smiled, I was glad he couldn’t see my face. I knew my forehead was wrinkled and my face was plastered with a worried frown.


We returned home two days after Anna Beth was born. My mind was still heavy with what I needed to tell Dominic. In my head, like most distressed people with something heavy they need to tell someone, I played out every possible way I could tell him and every possible reaction he could have. I was sure he wouldn’t be mad about the tale I had to tell, but I knew he wouldn’t appreciate that I’ve kept it from him for seven years. Who just forgets one of their deepest, darkest secrets that they spent years brewing over? Apparently, I do.

Anna Beth seemed to adapt to her new environment quickly; she was awake to get a tour of the house and cried a little in the car ride here; but now, after being home for an hour, she was peacefully sleeping in her new crib. I decorated her room with as many colors as I could find, not just because babies love colors, but because I didn’t want her to miss out on the gift of sight for a second. Dominic had laughed when I told him this; he promised our child would have my eyesight and his sense of hearing. (That only made me worry, just a little, that our child might be deaf.)

I stood in the doorway to the living room and watched Dominic close his eyes for a nap on the couch. I let out a deep breath and finally called out his name loud enough to make him open his eyes to me.

“I…I have to tell you something.” I stuttered and my knees shook; they were threatening to give into my weight and cause me to collapse from fear. Dominic sensed my fear; he was sometimes better at noticing my emotions blind than he was when he had sight. As quickly as I could, before my legs gave way, I walked to the couch and fell more than lowered myself to sit next to him. “It’s about why my mom left when I was fifteen.”

“Listen, Naomi, I don’t care what happened between you and your parents.” Dominic took my hand, which was now covered in a puddle of sweat.

“She left because of me.” I told him, it was common Divorce Child talk. It wasn’t uncommon that they blamed themselves for their parent’s separation, but it was true for me. I drove my mom mad with guilt, so I was the final straw that made her pack her bags and leave. “You’ve probably never noticed the differences between me and my half siblings.”

Dominic went stiff, half-siblings, was a new term to him. “Twenty-eight years ago my mom had an affair, and I was the result. For fifteen years she got away with the lie; no one noticed I looked dominantly like my mother and was mixed with something else, but everyone just accepted it as my father’s traits. I myself didn’t notice the differences until after she confessed and left me.”

“Yes, my mom left all of us, my dad, my older brother and my two younger sisters, but most of all, she left me. I felt dirty because of it, like I was covered in dry mud that I couldn’t get off, no matter how much I scrubbed. Some would say she loved her love affair child enough to keep her, but I always saw it as her feeling guilty for creating a child from an affair that she left me behind, like a rotten banana peel. I would forever be the disgusting result of one night of infidelity, I would never be able to be anything but a living lie that surfaced.”

Dominic was the first I ever told about my history, and it felt good to finally tell someone, to express verbally what had been festering in my head for years. But because it was a new experience, I was afraid he would think of me as the reason for the affair, but I was really the result.

He filled in the silence with, “and it hurt you when your mom left you behind.”

“Yeah…” I said, a knot was forming in my throat and the tears fell easily. I sobbed into Dominic’s shoulder. He wasn’t angry at me for keeping this secret, he wasn’t embarrassed by the way I was conceived; he was sympathetic towards the situation. “I was her baby, not the man I call dad, and she left me with him. For weeks I avoided him, afraid he would lash out at me and kick me out onto the streets. I was certain it would happen; I was the reminder his wife cheated and lied to him. I was the outsider in the family; the only connection I had was half-siblings, but even they felt wrong to me.”

Dom hushed me and rubbed my back as I cried into his shoulder. After a few minutes of sobbing, I finally lifted my head and listened. The house was silent, which was unusual, we always had music, or the TV, or talking… something was always fighting the silence away. Two days ago I might have found this eerie and immediately turned the radio on, but now that we had a third being in the house—a sleeping third being—it felt peaceful. I felt peaceful.

The biggest secret I’d kept from Dominic was out, and the best part was, unlike fifteen year old me, he didn’t regret my existence and stare at me with hateful eyes. I smeared my tears and snot onto my jacket, letting myself grow silent.

But just as I got the hang of this whole Being Quiet thing, I heard the smallest cry come from upstairs. Dominic lit up again, happy our child was finding ways to connect with him. I blubbered a laugh at the way he sat up straighter and turned his head towards Anna Beth’s room.

I held his hand and together we walked to investigate the cry. When I scooped her up into my arms, Dominic smiled in my direction.

“What?” I asked. His hand reached up to Anna Beth’s head and he let his fingers grace over our child’s face. I repeated my question, “What?”

“Nothing.” He tried to suppress his smile, “It’s just… I was checking to make sure you weren’t telling me that story because this isn’t my baby.”

Twelve years ago I would’ve broken down into tears, and probably would’ve been upset with him for weeks. But people change. They get over their past and look towards their future. For me, I realized I wasn’t my mother, I am Naomi; a faithful wife to a good husband and a new mother of a beautiful little girl. I am happy with my present life and ready for the future.

So instead, I laughed.




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