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I used to have the perfect white-picket-fence family. I was never in need of anything, and my family loved me. People often thought the grass was greener on our side, but the reality was far different from the picture we portrayed.

Like many families, we had our ups and downs, but I began to notice rifts around the time of my birthday. I felt a strange tension between my parents, but every time I questioned my mom, she would ignore me. A few days passed, and before I knew it, it was April 7th. My birthday was supposed to make me feel special and loved, but it felt like a typical day. The next day I had a dance class. I remember my mom picking me up early and speeding to the house. She told me to go straight to my room and not open the door for anyone, especially my dad. I was confused, and while in my room, I heard my mom rummaging through the drawers and putting clothes in bins. My dad came home about an hour later. I recall hearing my parents yell at each other, and I realized they had fallen out of love. I was bombarded with sadness and tears as I came to understand reality; my parents were no longer going to be together, and life was never going to be the same.

Months went by, and during that time, my parents became the on-and-off couple. Their indecisiveness took an unfortunate toll on me. My dad no longer lived in our house and had moved to Orlando. He had a new job that forced him to travel a lot.

The truth was my parents split up because my dad cheated on my mom; there is no other way to put it. After 19 years of marriage and 25 years of knowing each other, he chose himself over his family. It hurts knowing that he wanted another family over his own. It hurts knowing he won’t be at my dance recitals, won’t be backstage to wish me good luck, won’t be there when I go to high school, and what hurts the most is knowing he won’t be there to kiss me goodnight. I wonder if he realizes the impact his decisions have on me and the damage he has caused.

Each time I dance, I’m overwhelmed with sadness, knowing he will not be present. He didn’t like me going to dance; each year, he would threaten to take me out because it consumed my life. In one of my parents’ discussions, my dad justified having a mistress because my mom and I were always occupied with dance and never had time for him. He became distant and searched for companionship. As a result, I’ve drifted from dance. I’ve become more reclusive, and the outgoing person who I once was has disappeared.

I wanted something to make me feel alive, to be passionate about something, anything because it is a horrible feeling getting through the day and not having something to look forward to and excite you. When my dad left, it brought a cloud of sadness. I wanted to have my dad again, but some wishes weren’t meant to come true. I have to live with knowing I wasn’t good enough to make him stay. There’s a hole in my heart, and I don’t know if it will ever be filled. Some part of me will always love him, but for now, I don’t know if I can love someone who has broken my heart time-and-time again.

I didn’t ask to be in the situation I’m in, but as the days go by, I get closer to finding acceptance in what is to be the rest of my life. But for now, I’ll keep dreaming of everything I lost, of the opportunities that left, and the dad I’ll never have again.

© Martha Cheno-Jauregui. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.

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