Don’t call me a sellout. My family had nothing when I was a kid. Six of us barely living on a damn bus driver’s wages. You ever tried to sleep when your siblings are trying to stifle their sobs because they are hungry? You don’t forget that: the sound or the feeling of an empty stomach.

I left at sixteen. I made friends with a long-haul trucker and ended up in Colorado. I worked for five bucks an hour. Week after week, grabbing every possible shift, I saved up as much as I could. I struggled for years, staying in shithole apartments and I never got anywhere.

I met Leah when I was twenty-four. She came into the store and needed help with her phone. Truthfully, there was nothing wrong with it, but I went through the motions because she was sweet, beautiful, and appreciative. I showed her how to do a few simple things and then she started asking me personal questions. I wasn’t taken aback at all. I welcomed it because she seemed so genuinely interested in what I had to say. It only took fifteen minutes for me to fall in love.

She was younger than me, but far more intelligent and curious. I had focused on survival for so long that there wasn’t room for anything else- until she found me. We dated for months before she revealed her family situation. By then, it wouldn’t have mattered to me one bit what her family did or what level of dysfunction there might be. I kept no secrets about my horrible childhood and I was not about to judge her. Yes, they had a lot of money. Insane amounts that I couldn’t wrap my head around. I didn’t care. My life was with her. Leah was all I wanted, then and now.

We moved in to a new place together after a year and I was happier than I ever thought I could be. I never expected anything much out of life. Low expectations were kind of the family motto. Marrying into her world was a revelation, even with her parents’ coldness towards me. I could breathe freely for the first time.

Now you say that I don’t deserve it. That I turned my back on you and I should be broken and alone. Well, I’m done apologizing for love.

© 2021 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

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