Rainey Daze and Crazy Nights

Poetry, Paintings, and Ponderings: Through My Eyes

The Luckiest Girl In the World: A Fictional Story April 30, 2012


This is a fictional story about child abuse. Please do not read if it may trigger negative thoughts or memories.

Jen quietly shuffled through each day at school. She was a third grader at Parkway Elementary in a small southern town north of Atlanta. Jen was the kind of student every teacher dreamed about: she completed her homework every night, never missed a day of school, and was always on time. While she was not a top student, she usually made solid B’s or C’s. She didn’t talk much in class, but would answer quietly if called upon. Jen’s teachers wrote nice, generic comments on her report card: “A joy to teach” and “Turns in all assignments” or “A pleasure to have in class”. In a few short years, they would forget all about the quiet little girl who once sat in their class.

Jen loved school. She loved learning about far away places where boys and girls dressed differently and spoke with different accents. Reading was her favorite subject, and she could get lost for hours in a good novel. Jen had a harder time with math because sometimes the numbers just didn’t make sense the way they jumped about being equal or added or divided by 4. But words strung together, one behind another, led her to places she could see in her mind.

That is why she walked to the public library after school one cold, autumn afternoon. It was a Friday and Jen was out of school for the weekend. Everyday, she was to walk straight home after school, but she couldn’t stand the thought of spending all weekend without a few books to read. Jen rushed in the door and dropped the books she needed to return in the book drop. She hurried to the children’s section and quickly selected three books that looked interesting. Jen glanced at the large clock above the librarian’s desk and saw that ten minutes had already passed. Three people were in line ahead of her, but there was nothing she could do about that. She silently prayed the librarian wouldn’t get chatty with the customers, but of course she did. Mrs. Aimes was chatty with everyone in town. Another seven minutes passed before Jen finally secured her books and bolted out the door.

She ran the entire four blocks home. When she made it to her street, Jen stopped running and instead began walking fast to get her breathing under control. She quickly hid the library books in her backpack and took several deep breaths. She said another silent prayer, begging God to please let her mom be asleep as she made her way up the front steps, slipped the key in the lock, and opened the door.

It was dark inside. The lights were out and the blinds were all drawn shut. That, she thought, could be good or bad. Maybe she’s asleep. Jen quietly closed the door, being careful to turn the knob as she shut it to prevent it from making a sound. She then slipped off her tennis shoes and slid them into her backpack. She tip-toed through the small living room and down the hallway to her room, being careful to avoid the squeaky places in the floor. She knew every squeaky spot in the house from years of experience. Just as she was about to open the door to her room, she heard her mother’s voice.

“Jen, is that you?”

“Y-y-yes, mom, it’s me,” Jen stuttered with her hand frozen on the doorknob to her room. Her heart was pounding.

“Would you come in here please?” her mother asked in a soft voice.

Jen hesitated. It might be better if she put down her backpack in her room. Just as she was about to open her bedroom door and sling her backpack inside, her mother said, “Now.” Jen gulped and stepped into her mother’s room.

Her mother’s room was dark, as usual. Jen could see her lying in the middle of the king-sized bed, propped up on three pillows with her eyes closed. She still wore the pajamas she was wearing when Jen left for school that morning. Her long brown hair was a tangled mess that looked as though it hadn’t seen a hairbrush in days. The room smelled of stale cigarettes, beer, and dirty clothes. Jen walked with small, hesitating steps to her mother’s bedside.

“Yes, ma’am?” Jen asked.

Her mother did not reply. She continued to lie back on her pillows with eyes closed.

“Can I get something for you, mom? Do you have a headache? I can get you some…” Her mother’s hand came out of nowhere and slapped Jen on the side of her head. Still she did not sit up or open her eyes.

“Did I ask you to get me anything, Little Miss Know-It-All?” she growled at Jen.

“No, ma’am, I’m sorry,” Jen said quietly.

“What I want,” she said, as her eyes finally popped open, “Is for you to explain to me why you are late.”

Jen thought, for a split second, about lying, but she knew if she got caught it would be bad. Very bad.

“I, uh, stopped at the library. I’m sorry,” Jen said in a small voice.

Her mother sat up on the edge of the bed and leaned over to stare directly into Jen’s eyes.  Jen could smell alcohol on her breath but she didn’t dare turn away. “I see,” her mother replied. “That means you directly disobeyed me. Is that correct?”

“Yes ma’am.” Jen’s voice was barely a whisper.

“Then you know what this means, Jennifer. You now must face the punishment for your actions. You must learn your lesson. You are to never lie.” Her voice rose as she stood towering over Jen. ” You are to never cheat. You are to never steal. YOU MUST OBEY YOUR MOTHER!” With this, Jen’s mother punched her in the stomach so hard it lifted Jen up off the floor before she collapsed in a heap. Her mother then kicked her repeatedly as Jen lay on the floor, quietly sobbing. She knew better than to cry loudly or protest her punishment. It only made it worse.

“You are a terrible, sneaky child who doesn’t deserve love. Do you hear me? You don’t deserve love! You are just like your father: a stupid, spineless creature! Now, go to the Punishment Room. I’m sickened by the sight of your lying face.”

Terror filled Jen’s head. She wanted to scream, to beg, but she knew it was no use. When her mother drank and had her mind made up, there was no way to change it. Jen forced herself up from the floor. She slowly walked out of the bedroom and then turned the corner toward the kitchen. On the other side of the kitchen was a door that led to the basement. It was a dark and scary place, crawling with rats and roaches, but her real fear was in being alone for days.  She was, however, more terrified of defying her mother, so she opened the door and stepped through. As she did, her mother kicked her, causing Jen to fall down the stairs into the darkness below. She rolled and bounced down the creaky wooden steps until she came to a rest at the bottom.  The last sound she heard was her mother slamming the door and locking the deadbolt.

Jen lay there for a minute, assessing the damage. Her right knee and left elbow ached from the fall down the steps. Her head throbbed from where her mom had smacked her, but it wasn’t too bad. The worse pain came from her ribs. Jen moved cautiously, afraid her ribs were broken. It hurt to breath. She tried to take one deep breathe to get beyond the pain, but it was too intense, so she took little shallow breathes instead. After a few more minutes, the pain receded enough that she felt able to get up. That is when Jen realized her mom’s mistake. Her mom usually made sure that Jen left everything in her room before being placed in the Punishment Room. This time, she forgot that Jen still had her backpack containing the library books. She could read! She felt such joy that she almost wept. Her joy, however, was short-lived.

Looking around in the gloom, she realized she could not read, after all, because it was too dim. There was an overhead light, but her mother had removed the light bulb years ago when she first came up with the idea of the Punishment Room. Her heart sank. Having her books with her, but no way to read them was worse than not having them at all. She remembered something her teacher, Mrs. Butler, liked to say. “If you face a problem than seems too difficult to solve, try thinking of a different way.” So Jen looked around the dusty basement and tried to think of another source of light. She immediately thought of a fire, but dismissed that as too dangerous. Then she thought of a great idea: candles! Surely, somewhere in this room she could find some old candles. Jen began wandering around the perimeter of the basement, poking stacks of old magazines, piles of broken pipes, and boxes filled with rusty tools. A movement to the left caught her eye, and she fell back as a large rat glared at her before scurrying off. Not wanting to see him again, Jen turned toward the far wall of the basement to continue her search. There was an ancient brown trunk underneath a pile of suitcases with broken latches. She thought there might be candles in the trunk, so she began to move the suitcases out of her way. She had to move slowly because every move sent a burning pain through her side. When she moved the first one, Jen noticed something she had never, ever seen in the Punishment Room: a dusty ray of sunlight. Her eyes traced the light back to its source. It came from a rectangular frame high up on the wall. Peering closer, Jen realized she was looking at an old window. Covered with black paint, over the years the paint had peeled away in a few places allowing the sunlight to beam into the dark. She hadn’t seen it before because the stack of suitcases had blocked her view. Jen was so happy to see the sunlight that she cried for joy.

A few minutes later Jen discovered a rickety wooden ladder, leaned it against the wall behind the trunk, and carefully climbed up. She found a flat piece of metal in the pile of rusty tools and used it to scrape away a little more of the paint covering the window. Jen was afraid to remove too much of the paint because her mom might notice it. She shivered at the thought of what her punishment might be for that. Using her shirt, Jen wiped the spot clean. She placed her face against the glass and much to her delight, could see outside. Sunlight always made her happy, but this was like a special beam of hope created just for her.

Even though Jen knew her mother would not let her out until late on Sunday afternoon, she was afraid that her secret ray of hope would be discovered. She rearranged the trunk and suitcases by sliding them out and re-stacking everything. This gave her enough room to slip behind the pile and climb the ladder, but blocked the view from the stairs. Satisfied, she chose a book from her backpack and climbed the ladder to read.

After reading for a little while she began to get stiff. It was hard to balance on the ladder and hold the book up at the right angle to catch the light. Jen placed the book on the rung of the ladder and stretched, being careful of her side. She gazed out of the peephole she created and looked at the outside world. She could see the side yard and the wooden fence that encircled her house. Beyond the fence she saw her neighbor’s house. There was a boy who lived there named Hunter who was in the fifth grade. He lived with his mom and dad, and they had a cat named Lucky. Her mother never interacted with the neighbors, so she didn’t really know him or his family. All she knew about him came from watching him from her window. As she stood on the ladder looking out, she saw Hunter in his yard tossing a basketball at the hoop in his driveway. She stared wistfully out the window, wondering what it would be like to have a normal family. I’ll never know, she thought to herself, and she went back to reading her book. At least she could get lost in another land by reading.

Deeply engrossed in her book, Jen hardly heard the noise near her head. When she turned to look, an eye appeared on the other side of the glass only inches from her face. Jen was so startled her voice froze and she couldn’t even scream. She heard a muffled, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!” as the eye receded and she saw that it belonged to Hunter, the boy next door. He smiled at her and gave a little wave. She was still too startled to speak so she just stood there, staring at him.

“So…what are you doing? Isn’t that the basement?” Hunter looked at her as if they were standing outside having a normal conversation.

Jen finally found her voice. “Um…yeah, I’m just….looking around down here.”

“It looks like you are standing on a ladder reading. Is your power cut off or something?”

Not knowing what to say, Jen just stared at him. Finally, Hunter cleared his throat. “So, you wanna come outside and hang out, maybe shoot some hoops?”

“Um, well….I can’t,” Jen thought quickly. ” I’m on restriction.”

Hunter frowned. “How come you never come out and play?” he blurted. “I mean, you seem nice and all but you always go straight in your house and you never play with any of us. It’s like, weird, you know?”

Jen’s eyes flashed angrily as she spoke. “I’m not weird. I just don’t like playing outside. I like to read instead.”

‘No offense!” Hunter exclaimed. “I, just, well, um….I wanna ask you something and I don’t want you to get mad. Why do you always have so many bruises? The other kids say your mom is a drunk and she smacks you around. Is that true?” All of his words came tumbling out without a pause for a breathe. “Cuz my mom used to do the same thing to me and that’s why I live with my dad and step mom now. The judge said no one had the right to hit me hard enough to break bones or leave marks and that was not what love was about.” Hunter looked away as he spoke these last words.

Jen stood looking at this boy. All of this time, she thought he was this happy kid in this wonderfully normal family. Now he was telling her that his mom used to beat him? Jen could not believe her ears. “She broke your bones?” she asked through the glass. To Jen, that seemed like the worst thing possible. He just nodded.

“My mom never broke my bones. She just gets mad sometimes, but it’s because I do bad things and I deserve punishment.”

Hunter stared at her for a moment, and then said, “That’s what I used to think. The judge said that’s not appropriate punishment and the things my mom did were because of the drugs she took. They made her not think straight. They call that having ‘impaired judgment’. She did bad things to me because she felt bad about herself.” Hunter shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal, but they both knew it was a big deal. “Are you locked in the basement?” he asked quietly. Jen nodded.

“My dad can get you out.”

“NO!” Jen spoke in a sharp whisper. “Do you know what she will do to me? NO!” She glanced around nervously. “Just go away and leave me alone!”

“I have to help you. Now that I know, I have to do something. I’ll be right back.” Before Jen could speak, Hunter trotted across the yard and jumped the fence to his own yard. A moment later, he disappeared inside.

Jen was more terrified than she was when her mother kicked her down the stairs. What was that stupid boy going to do? If he told anyone, her mother would be furious. The thought made her so scared she wet herself. She used to wet the bed when she was a little kid, and sometimes it still happened when her mom really frightened her.

Jen jumped down from the ladder and hid her books in her backpack. She paced back and forth, wringing her hands. Please, she prayed quietly, please don’t let him tell anyone. I was stupid to trust him. Jen was so worried she didn’t even notice it was getting dark outside. She continued pacing back and forth, not knowing what might happen. Suddenly, she heard a noise at the window. It sounded so loud she almost screamed out loud. She scrambled back behind the trunk and looked up. A bright light lit up the clean spot on the window. Jen threw her hand up to shade her eyes and the light went away.

“Jennifer Workman, this is Officer Emily. Are you hurt?” The light shone on a small blonde woman wearing a police uniform. “I’m going to shine that light on you again so I can see if you are alright.” The light pivoted around and shone through the window. Jen shaded her eyes, and then responded.

“I’m fine. You shouldn’t be here! My mom will be so mad! Please be quiet and go away!”

“I’m sorry, Jen, I cannot do that. I need to make sure you are okay and that someone is not hurting you. Is there someone in the house who hurts you? If so, I can help you. You just need to tell me the truth.”

“No! I told you I am fine. Please go away!” Jen spoke in a loud whisper as she glanced behind her for any sign of her mother.

“Jen, my partner, Officer Paul, is going around to the front door to talk with your mother. I need you to tell me what happened today. Was your mother drunk when you got home? Did she hit you?”

Jen was so scared she practically screamed. “NO! Leave us alone! Nothing is wrong! Hunter is just lying because he hates me. Now go before my mom gets mad!” She was crying so hard she could barely speak. “I don’t want you here! I love my mother and she loves me and she would never hurt me!”

“Jen, I know you feel scared. I understand. I will stay with you until Officer Paul comes in to let you out. We are only here to help you.”

At that moment, Jen heard sounds at the basement door. The deadbolt clicked and the door opened. A strong flashlight lit up the stairs. “Jen, this is Officer Paul. No one is going to hurt you. Can you walk?” The stairs creaked as he slowly descended the steps. The flashlight swept the room until it landed on Jen. She stood frozen to the spot.  All Jen could think about was her mother, but there was no sign of her.

‘Where is my mom?” she whispered.

Officer Paul said gently, “She is drunk and passed out. I couldn’t wake her, so I have called an ambulance to come check on her. I also want them to check on you. Are you okay, Jen?”

Jen nodded. She was glad her mom wouldn’t wake up. That at least gave her time to figure out what to do. She heard the siren of the ambulance as it arrived, and Officer Emily came down the stairs toward her. Jen was so frightened her legs began to wobble, and Officer Emily reached out to catch her before she fell. Jen cried out in pain when the officer touched her side.

“I tripped and fell. I’m so clumsy and it is dark down here and I just tripped. And fell.” Jen’s voice faltered because she knew no one in the room believed her. Officer Emily yelled for the medics to come downstairs. They insisted that she lay down on the stretcher and then placed her in the ambulance. Not once did she see her mother.

A few hours later, Jen lay in a hospital room with three broken ribs. She lay in the middle of the bed, trying to stop the terrible thoughts that bounced in her head. There was a knock at the door, and Officer Emily walked in and sat in the chair by the bed.

“How are you, kid?”

“I have broken bones.”

“I heard. You ready to talk about it?”

“Where is my mom? When can I see her?” Jen shook with fear as she spoke.

‘Your mom can’t see you now. She has to get help for her problem. Don’t you want your mom to get help so she can stop drinking? Only you can help her.”

Jen thought for a minute. “How?”

“By telling the truth. If you keep protecting her, she will keep drinking. She will keep hurting herself and you. Jen, you are smart enough to know that the drinking is very bad for her health. She needs to stop. We can get her some help if you will tell us what happened.”

Jen thought about it. She did want her mom to get help. She wanted that more than anything. She read about terrible diseases that drinking could cause, and she wanted her mom to stop.

“She never broke my bones before…” she began. And once she began, the words poured out. She told them about the Punishment Room, and how she stayed there two or three days at a time. How she learned, years ago, to stash food and water in plastic containers inside an old cooler to keep the bugs out. She told how her mom would sometimes disappear for days or weeks, and leave Jen with no food in the house. Once she started talking, she told Officer Emily everything. That day, as she talked about it for the very first time, Jen began the long process of healing.

TWO YEARS LATER

Jen got off the school bus in front of her house. She raced up the front steps two at a time and flew through the front door. “Mama Ann! I got my report card! I made the Honor Roll!” Jen skidded to a stop in front of the kitchen counter where her foster-mother, whom she called Mama Ann, sat mixing the batter for brownies. Mama Ann threw down the spoon and picked Jen up, swinging her in the air as she yelled, “Woo-Hoo! I knew you could do it! Way to go!” Jen giggled and hugged Mama Ann. Together, they chatted about school as they finished the brownies and placed them in the oven.

Jen never saw her real mother anymore. When she was first rescued, the courts let them visit as long as a social worker was in the room. They tried to get her mom to stop drinking, but as Mama Ann later explained, alcohol just has too strong of a hold on some people and they just can’t give it up. Her mom tried to come see her a lot for the first month. After that, she only saw her mom once every two or three months. A year ago, her mom signed away her rights as her mother. It made Jen feel very sad, but her therapist explained that her mom had an addiction. Addictions control your life, even how you feel and think about people. She also said that her mom knew that Jen deserved a better life, so she gave her up. That made Jen feel a little better. What helped the most, though, was Mama Ann. She loved Jen and wanted to adopt her. This made Jen feel special and worthy of love. Even when Jen was being a brat, Mama Ann loved her. Jen knew, as she stood in that warm kitchen smelling brownies bake and chatting with Mama Ann, that she was the luckiest girl in the world.

Jen never saw her real mother anymore. When she was first rescued, the courts let them visit as long as a social worker was in the room. They tried to get her mom to stop drinking, but as Mama Ann later explained, alcohol just has too strong of a hold on some people and they just can’t give it up. Her mom tried to come see her a lot for the first month. After that, she only saw her mom once every two or three months. A year ago, her mom signed away her rights as her mother. It made Jen feel very sad, but her therapist explained that her mom had an addiction. Addictions control your life, even how you feel and think about people. She also said that her mom knew that Jen deserved a better life, so she gave her up. That made Jen feel a little better. What helped the most, though, was Mama Ann. She loved Jen and wanted to adopt her. This made Jen feel special and worthy of love. Even when Jen was being a brat, Mama Ann loved her. Jen knew, as she stood in that warm kitchen smelling brownies bake and chatting with Mama Ann, that she was the luckiest girl in the world.

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2 Responses to “The Luckiest Girl In the World: A Fictional Story”

  1. rashmenon Says:

    beautiful. i’ve always felt that adopting a child and gifting her with a home is a noble deed and ranks higher than even raising your own children

  2. Summer Moon Says:

    This is so wonderful, Rainey! I love this story. You created such a great piece on such a horrible issue. I was in tears at various points, especially the part where her mother tells Jen that she doesn’t deserve love. What an awful thing for a mother to say, and sadly it’s really said to children in many abusive homes. And, then when she beat her and kicked her down the stairs, I was just so hurt for her. I’m so glad that you shared this. Child abuse is such a horrible thing and needs to be addressed. I think it’s awesome when it’s addressed in fiction ’cause many people can connect to it better through a story, than statistics in the news. And, as Rashmenon said, adoption is truly “a noble deed”. My mom was adopted as a baby, and I think it’s such a beautiful thing for someone to do. She grew up to be a beautiful woman both inside and out, with a heart of gold. She was shown that she was worthy of love and has given it back into the world.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I greatly enjoyed it. 🙂


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