our wedding song, and I started sobbing.
“Why are you crying?” My mother asked. “Is it because of your father or because you know you’re making a mistake?”
The minister held my hand and said, “Just nerves.”
My mother had to remind me to take my father’s arm. Did I have to touch him? He smelled of smoke, that disgustingly familiar, soothing smell. My crying became ugly and uncontrollable. A camera was flashing. I was remembering.
“You’re such a naturally pretty girl, but a lot of girls are pretty,” my father had told me while he was setting up the photo shoot in his bedroom. “You will need more than that to make it as a model.” I told him I was uncomfortable wearing just the bra and panty set he put me in. “Real models wear much less. You need at least a few shots in something revealing,” he said between short drags from his cigarette.
I shrugged off the memory, gathered my strength and walked down the aisle. The day will be only twenty-four hours, I told myself, but the picture will last forever.
After the quick “I dos,” our song came to an abrupt stop. A chapel staff member escorted us to the photo room.
“Father and daughter look so much alike,” the photographer said. "Daddy’s little girl, right?”
After our honeymoon in Hawaii, I spent hours arranging all of our photos perfectly in a wedding album. Finding no satisfaction in it, I never looked at it again. Six months later, just before my father died, I gave him the pretty picture he wanted, my forgiveness, but I didn't mean it and I still don't. I cheated on my husband within months of our marriage and divorced him by our second anniversary. But years afterward, my mother still refused to take the wedding photos down off of her mantle. “They’re such beautiful pictures,” she would say. Beautiful, perfect and utterly meaningless.
If you or someone you know needs help after surviving sexual assault, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-Hope and visit RAINN.org.