THE FALLEN LEAF

The drive home was the first alone time, she had spent in a long time. She had visited her father on a few occasions while in university but it was never a good experience. He had learned to control his drinking but had never regained his former self and there was always a wall between them, a wall that was built by them both and would only come down if they both worked on it together.

It was evening by the time she reached her hometown and so she stopped to get a pizza, just in case there was nothing in the house to eat. Her father was home when she entered the house and she set the pizza on the dining room table. “Hello Dad,” she said cautiously, not knowing what to expect,

“Oh, hello Julie,” he responded cordially, as he put the evening paper down. “Wasn’t expecting you… is there a problem?”

“No, just thought I would pay you a visit.”

“Well, make yourself at home. Sorry, there is not much in the house to eat.”

“I bought a pizza dad, would you like to share some with me.”

“No, that’s alright, I ate at the hospital cafeteria.”

“Doesn’t sound very exciting, are you sure you won’t join me? There is plenty here.”

“Well, maybe just a piece then.”

Julie went into the kitchen and was disappointed to see that it was a mess. She took out some plates and reached for the trays when suddenly she had a flashback to the spaghetti dinner she had made for her father years before. She fought off the negative feeling she was getting. She had learned to accept all of her personal mistakes and had used them to rebuild her life, but the rape by her father was not her mistake and she knew she could not move forward until the wall between them was taken down.

“Here you go, Dad,” she said as she handed him the tray.

“Ah, smells good,” he responded, “it has been a while since I have had pizza.”

They ate their meal while talking superficially about their lives. Julie was surprised to learn how much her father already knew about her. He had never indicated that he had much interest in her but it was obvious she was wrong. When he mentioned Matthew, she knew he had inside contacts. “Where do you get your information from, Dad?” she finally had to ask.”

“I am a Doctor Julie. Not much happens in our circle that stays a secret. You are just starting out in this field but you will soon learn this.”

“Hum, I will have to remember that I guess.” Julie responded with a smile.

“I suppose that it is not my business Julie, but I have always wondered why you keep that ugly Tattoo on your arm. You are aware, I am sure, that it could easily be removed.”

“You are the second person to ask me that this week, Dad, and I will give you the same answer I gave Matthew… this Tattoo and these scars are what has given me the strength to come this far.”

“But isn’t it time to forget the past, Julie? You have done so well and I am so very proud of you.”

“Have you forgotten the past, Father?” Julie asked, looking him straight in the eyes.
Her words were like an arrow piercing his heart. He hung his head, as tears started rolling down his cheeks.

“No I haven’t Julie, and no matter what I do, I can not erase that horrible night from my mind.”

“It is the same for me, father. I will never forget what you did to me, nor will I ever be able to forgive you.”

“I am so sorry Julie, and I understand your not being able to forgive me. I have punished myself for years and will continue to do so because I don’t know what else I can do.”

“But there is something Father… there is something that you can do.”

“What is it, Julie? Please tell me, because I am so tired of having to face myself in the mirror every day.”

“You can admit to what you are and build your life upon it. I can not accept the man who raped me, father, but I could learn to love the man who built upon his weaknesses and learned to love himself again by stepping out of the closet.”

“You mean telling people what I did? I would be ruined as a Doctor.”

“Perhaps you are right, Dad, but if you became a therapist for other men who have done the same things as you, perhaps you could do just as much good as being a Doctor.

“What you are asking me to do, Julie would be very difficult; it could also have a negative effect on you and your future with Matthew.”

“I have already considered that Father and can assure you it will not be a problem. Like you, I must look at myself every day in the mirror, and up to this point, what I have seen I am proud of. I have considered what it would be like to have a beautiful body again, free of blemishes. To wear nice clothes and to live in luxury… but I know that if I did that I would no longer see myself in the mirror. I would be betraying my past and those who got me through it.”

“I am not as strong as you are, Julie. I don’t think I could go through with it. Not at this point in my life.”

“That would be your choice, Father, but I can not love a lie.”

The room fell silent and after several minutes Julie picked up the dishes and brought them into the kitchen. Her father was still sitting in his chair when she was finished washing the plates, and so she went to her room for the night. Her decision not to marry Matthew had not been confirmed until her talk with her father and now she had to decide how she would tell him.

The road ahead of her suddenly became clear; she would dedicate her life to underprivileged and abused women and children… and on this positive thought, she slept.

She awoke to the smell of coffee brewing and went done to the kitchen to find her father making breakfast. “What’s this all about Dad?”

“I did a lot of thinking last night, Julie… and you are right. I will resign from my position at the hospital today and see what tomorrow brings. This morning was the first time I have been able to look myself in the eyes since the night I… I raped you.”

Julie was speechless, as she looked at the new man that stood in front of her. She walked over to him and threw her arms around his neck. He was hesitant at first but with tears of joy streaming down his face he returned her hug… and there was innocence in their embrace.

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