When I was a teenager, my cousin sent me Bluebell perfume from Penhaligon’s of London. It had a flowery lily-of-the-valley smell that I loved. And my abuser also loved it. He would tell me how much he loved the scent on my neck every time I wore it and he’d be disappointed when I didn’t have it on. I had a large bottle of it and it was so strong that I only wore a drop, so it lasted for years. But eventually, my supply ran out.

One winter Saturday morning a few years before the fire, my abuser started raging at me about something I’d done wrong. Deciding I’d had enough of his verbal assault, I retreated to the basement and went on my computer. I could hear him going in and out of the garage where I’d eventually wrestle with him over a gas can. I continued surfing the web, hoping his foul mood would improve. I heard the door to the garage slam shut and then his footsteps above me as he stormed downstairs to the basement. As I looked up, he threw a small box that hit me in the face and said “Merry fucking Christmas”. Then he turned and stormed back up the stairs and out the door. He had ordered a box of Bluebell and it had just been delivered — to my face.

I never wore that perfume again.

I was at Mademoiselle Antoinette’s Parfumerie in Disneyland last week. I walked in for a second and walked right out because the scent of lily-of-the-valley smacked me in the face just like that box of Bluebell. I was having a wonderful time at Disneyland, And all it took was a smell to trigger the memory of my abuser’s footsteps on the stairs and the pain of being hit head-on by a box of perfume along with an insincere gesture of love.

So I went to Cristal d’Orleans and made new memories.

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