He kept her trapped inside the winter of his life like a frozen flower.

He gave her no happy sunshine, no soul-quenching water, and no rich, nurturing soil in which she might grow. Instead, he made certain she would never thrive in the cold, hard, unbreakable ground of his disapproval.

He admitted this to her openly, that he kept her poor and unhappy so she would find the idea of life without him, the idea of life not-on-his-terms too daunting to try. He kept her broken, so she’d never feel whole and strong enough to run away.

So she prayed for warmth, wondering on the shortest, darkest days if joy would ever come back into her life. She began to question whether or not it had ever been there in the first place. She had forgotten what it felt like.

That harsh season, she learned that alone and lonely don’t always go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the loneliest one can ever be is in the arms of someone who isn’t really there. And sometimes when somebody says they’ve given you their love, they have actually given you nothing but empty words in the shape of a heart.

She continued to beg him for scraps of kindness, like a dog in a restaurant alley. He moved further away with every desperate plea she made. The unwanted mongrel of her weakness only filled him with disdain.

Please give me flowers, she would ask, wanting to feel appreciated.

Annoyed with her requests, he once brought home grocery store flowers, and tossed them at her in disgust.

“Here are the flowers you wanted so badly,” he sneered.

That really wasn’t what she meant.

He never understood.

What she really meant was please approve of me, in the way my father never did, and please genuinely care about me. Please want to take care of me, even though I can take care of myself. And even though I’ve proven I can live on nothing, give me something, simply because you want to, and not because you have to.

Stop making me feel like the afterthought I have been for every single person in my entire sad life.

Make me the first thing you think about every day.

She waited patiently through the solstice of her pain, life standing still and afraid to move, until one day she found the sun. The ice melted off her petals and she felt strong, like she could grow again.

She was finally ready to value herself in the way he never would. She finally knew her own worth. She was ready to leave.

It was springtime.