“Off with their heads!” the short-tempered, fiery-haired female screeched. My mind recalls watching “Alice in Wonderland” as a young, impressionable girl. I was fascinated by the whimsical story, enthralled by my childhood curiosity. Now a mature woman, my curiosity pulls me back to the scene when Alice meets the Queen of Hearts. I ponder why this woman who seemingly had everything she could possibly want—wealth, power, followers—would be so bitter and calloused.
My younger self, through naive eyes, viewed the hostile queen as the villain of the story. She seemed an insignificant character in the greater adventure being had by Alice. While her demanding demeanor and arbitrary rule preyed upon Alice’s curiosity and fear, my hopeful mind anticipated that Alice would not meet her doom with the Queen of Hearts. In fact, in my innocence, I rather empathized with the queen.
Alice’s wealth and privilege was a foreign concept to me, growing up on food stamps and hand-me-down clothing. My heart grew heavy with envy for her perfectly posh and cozy lifestyle. I struggled to reconcile why she would allow her curiosity to lead her down the rabbit hole and into this upside down world. If I were her, I would have preferred to remain in her familiar and safe home.
The Queen of Hearts was a much more relatable reality. She made sense. I understood her fear-inducing, domineering presence. It was familiar. From the young age of seven, a saga of sexual abuse began. The abuse was repeated in various forms and at the hands of different men throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adult years. Enduring such brutality from others, I, in turn, adopted the Queen’s cold heart as my own.
For decades, I played the part of the Queen of Hearts, adorned with my own fiery, red-headed crown. Pushing away anyone who inched a little too close, living on the offense, and denying any forgiveness or pardon became ingrained into my persona. I used my deck of cards to build an impenetrable fortress of protection around my frigid heart. As long as I could stand guard and strike first, I could prevent anyone from hurting me again. My success manifested in college, where I proudly wore my adopted title of “biatch” as if it were a high honor my friends had bestowed upon me.
Vulnerability was a four-letter word in my vocabulary well into my adult years.
My wounds were still too raw to be exposed. They desperately needed to be lanced, but I was too ashamed to admit they existed, yet alone allow anyone to examine them.
Despite my valiant efforts to disguise my pain, the infection burrowed and expanded until at last the abscess of abuse burst. The red blood of shame mixed with the yellow pus of despair oozed from the gaping hole beneath the skin of my soul until it was a hollow void. Drained of the poison, my body began the work of healing. This place of emptiness was sacred and divine, a sweet respite.
A wound so profound takes a great deal of time and care to heal, as the scar tissue slowly deposits its protective covering. The wound may never heal completely, a tender spot forever marking the memories that haunt my mind. Still, I am grateful the infection was cleared before it turned fatal.
My older and wiser mind, seasoned by trauma and turbulence, now has a clearer view of the Queen of Hearts. I don’t believe she was evil. Rather, she was wounded and misunderstood, lonely and scared. She didn’t want to cause harm to others; she only wanted to protect herself. I fully understand her and empathize with her. I offer her my love, for love is the only sword that can cut through her armor. Now, when I see that frightened, fiery-haired girl, I shelter her and straighten her crown.
At long last, this Queen of Hearts has traded her guillotine for a quill. She no longer demands, “Off with their heads.” She channels her past and pens words of hope to be read in the form of poetry, memoire, and blog posts for all the queens suffering in silence.
Lynn Roberson is passionate about educating, encouraging, and offering hope to women who have experienced trauma. A poet at heart and a lover of words, she feels most alive before a blank page with a pen in hand. She is the author of the blog Beautiful, Broken, Redeemed and is currently working on her first book, a memoir. She resides in Shelbyville, Indiana, with her husband of 15 years, teenage son, two dogs, and a cat.