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I pulled into the parking lot as the mp3 player finished one song and was supposed to start something else.

The little LED screen on the player told me the title of the track: Mother by Tori Amos. It was a song I hadn’t heard in a very, very long time.

It was soundless for the longest time and then, out of nowhere, the very softest sound of  piano. Then it disappeared…and came back. Between the cheap auxiliary cord crackling and fuzzing out and the volume, I could barely hear it.

I turned up the volume, restarted the piece, and held the little music machine as gingerly as I could to prevent cord jiggling.

“Mother, the car is here,” Tori sang. I could see a girl in my head, eyes shining in fear but dressed and doomed to go. The car arriving was tantamount to the Grim Reaper knocking on the door and the girl knew it was her time.

My mind zipped to that show about the Romany and Traveller girls who leave home to live with their husbands. They’re children when they marry. They’re children when they leave. And every one of them, no matter how happy to have found the one, are still quietly terrified by the step they’re taking into the unknown with a stranger.

I’ve had nightmares about it.

“He’s gonna change my name,” Tori continued, singing for the girl in a tremulous voice.

The horrors pile up as the song goes on, and death is truly coming for her. All the while, Mother insists it’s necessary.

It’s never been necessary in my family. For the greater part, marriage never has been necessary for us at all, ever, no matter what decade or century. Marriage is an option, even if there’s a child involved. Marriage is an institution of man, and that child damn sure didn’t wait for a piece of paper before it came along. No sense in binding yourself to somebody that looks upon you and the child as a burden.

“Mother, the car is here…maybe you’ll leave the light on,” the girl in the song hopes.

Yes, don’t forget the daughter that was made to leave with a man who will now own her…

“Maybe you’ll leave the light on.”

The song ended and something else came on. Despite the sadness of the song I was sort of happy. Tori had once more told a story that mattered. She had told a story that I connected with because, in a way, it was a torture. I’d known it every time I was pushed into the frey by someone with a straight face and blank eyes who didn’t care how cold with fear I was.

However, this song was a torture i need never know.

I’m the daughter of mermaid in jeans. I am proud of my mom and love her for who she is and what she’s gone through. And, thanks to her, this little mermaid has been given a deep and wide life to explore instead of being bound to a fisherman’s boat and limited to tide pools.