My divorce left my cynical. I had believed in happily ever after, that forever meant forever, but that idea was trampled on February 1st 2014. Now I have hope but I don't have faith.
The relationship I'm in now is the healthiest and happiest one I've ever been in. Whilst we do fight and there are areas we aren't perfectly synced up in, for the most part we fit and we fit well. We have love and trust and friendship in all the ways you need to make a romantic relationship last. If I'm going to be in a forever relationship then I think this one has the best chance of being it.
But I know it might not be. I know things can end.
I also know I'd survive it. I survived it once I'd survive it again.
But my eldest girl?
The baby we've had together would be fine. He is morally and financially tied to her, and unlike my daughter's father, he's a good person. His daily care of his son from his first marriage proves he does not walk away from his children. My baby will not be left fatherless. But my daughter?
When her father ended our relationship he left a huge gaping wound where a daddy ought to be. He vaguely filled that hole occasionally for a year or so after but it soon tailed off and now he hasn't had any contact with her in over a year. When he first left she was traumatised. She was broken. She had panic attacks and raging tantrums and struggled to cope. When my partner and I got together she had just turned two. Over the subsequent months he transitioned for her from Jon, to Daddy Jon, to Daddy. He began to fill that hole left by her father, and he fills it well.
But if we split?
He is not bound to her. Though she refuses to answer to her birth name and insists she is a McKinney, she isn't one. She isn't his. He would not have to support her. He would not have to see her. He could wash his hands of her entirely because she is not his.
Even though he's the most incredible step father, and totally devoted to her in the best way he can be, the absence of biology is significant and should he choose to walk away from her she will be left without a Daddy for the second time, something her baby sister will not have to go through and she'll have to witness that every single day. And she barely made it through last time. If she loses him as well she'll have that scar brutally ripped open and be left with a gaping hole that might never be repaired.
He's said to me time and time again he would not walk away from her and, to be honest, I do believe him. I know he loves her and he considers her to be his responsibility, which is a noble thing for a man to feel when he's only been in a child's life for a relatively short time - but for her it's not a short time. For her it's the majority of her memories, I doubt she remembers a time before he was with her.
I find myself getting anxious sometimes. Don't drive him away. Be good to daddy, don't be naughty, don't annoy him. He could leave you. He could leave your life and never look back and you'll be completely broken by the pain. She has to lean out the door and shout goodbye to him as he walks to work each morning, and then has a little cry that she misses him after we shut the door. If he's working late and isn't there for bedtime she has a cry that she doesn't get to say goodnight. She celebrates every weekend that he can be with her. She gleefully waits in the car for him to come out of the office, looking for his "sticky up hair" then shrieking "DADDY!" when she spots him.
It's not fair and it's not something I'm proud of. She doesn't do things worse than other children, she's a delight in so many ways. She tantrums and strops but she's loving and good. She's not going to drive him away by throwing the occasional toy or stamping upstairs because she's cross. And it's never a fear I would vocalise to her. But it's not one I have for her baby sister, and it's not one I have for her step brother, and I'm pretty sure his mother doesn't have it either. It's only there for my daughter. A horrible niggle in the back of my skull. Be good for Daddy. Don't drive him away.
That's my fear. Don't drive him away. That's not something to put on her ever because it's not her fault her first father left and it won't be her fault if her second one does. I don't blame her for last time and I wouldn't this time. But that fear bubbles in my chest. I don't have that fear bubbling horror over him leaving me. It breaks my heart to think we might break up, and it's certainly something I never want to happen, but it doesn't haunt me. Him leaving her haunts me. It terrifies me.
Biology doesn't tie him to her. Just as some of our family members don't bother with the step child on either side, though most are pretty fabulous and embrace them all equally, he could stop bothering because she's not really his.
But to her she is really his. He's really hers. To her he is as much her Daddy as he's the baby's Daddy and his son's Daddy. He fathers her, he raises her. He celebrates her accomplishments and disciplines her when she needs it. He worries about her, guides her, reassures her and loves her. He wants to walk her down the aisle one day. He leaves her wanting for nothing.
Should he leave her his absence will be felt in the most fundamental and hideous way and I am terrified for her.
I love him to the very bones and he loves me and he loves her. We are safe as a relationship can be. But the fear is still there.
Please love her like she loves you. Please need her like she needs you. Please don't break my little girl's heart.
Please don't break her.
You can check out all my contact info and links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I'm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There's also www.sirenstories.co.uk where you'll find other work from Siren Stories and extra information. My first novel, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, is out now and available on Amazon.