Rainey Daze and Crazy Nights

Poetry, Paintings, and Ponderings: Through My Eyes

Where Were You, When I died? February 1, 2014

Filed under: about me,all,Poems,poetry — rainey46 @ 5:45 pm
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Where were you, when I died?

Watching the game

with your hand deep in a bag of chips

licking the bits from your fingertips?

Where were you, when I died?

Driving to work

mind drifting and problem-solving

as you dart in between the cars?

Where were you, when I died?

You were right here

beside me, looking past with glazed eyes

as I crumbled.

You were right here

and you never even noticed.

 

Cracks in the Veneer September 14, 2013

For days, weeks, and even (if I am lucky) months at a time, my life is shiny; covered with a beautiful glossy coat. Everything rolls along and falls into place as it should. Even the bumps in the road are handled with humor and navigated well. Good times are enjoyed, bad time are endured, and average times are sweet.

Then, for some unknown reason, the glossy veneer of my beautiful life begins to crack.

It always starts small. Something I forgot to do, and hubs mentions it. Or the boss mentions it. Or maybe no one mentions it, but I know and I feel it. It sours things just a wee bit, and the first tiny crack appears in the glossy veneer.

Even if I immediately take care of it, whatever caused the first crack haunts me. It reminds me of every other time I screwed up. It makes me feel like I am in over my head in this life; that sooner or later, I will be found out. I’m not good enough and everyone knows it. I am just living a lie.

So what is the difference? How is it that I can handle things so well for periods of time, then suddenly it all falls apart? I need to know, because I can feel the cracks creeping in, and things have been so good for a while now; I don’t want the darkness. I will fight it, but it always, always wins.

 

I Took Back My Power From the Rapist June 9, 2013

 

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape

It’s strange how J mimics my own life in some ways. I wish it wasn’t so.

She saw her rapist at the grocery store.

The same grocery store where I saw mine.

Years ago, as a very young and wild teen, I was gang raped by “friends”. Long story….I know I wrote about it already, but I don’t feel like searching for it to create a link. Maybe later.

A year later, I moved on. I made all new friends, cut my ties with that so-called group of friends (all of them, not just the ones who raped me). I literally moved on to a new boyfriend (who became my husband) in a new town. The first town is about a 35 minute drive to the town I moved to. I grew up, married, had kids, and became a teacher. My life moved forward, but my soul did not. Just as I did with the molestation I endured as a child, I covered it up and pretended it didn’t happen. If I don’t think about it, it can’t hurt me, right? Or so I thought.

One year, one of my students happened to be this weird little dude I will call Paul. I taught fourth grade, and some little boys having a crush on me was the norm; it goes with the territory. After a week or so, they usually get over it and fall for a more appropriate love interest, like the cute blonde with freckles who sits next to them in class. Paul, however, persisted to fawn over me all year. Like I said, a weird little dude. I met his mother several times during conferences and we laughed together over his strange infatuation with me.

At the end of the year we had a big awards ceremony. The day before, Paul gave me a strange smile and said,”My dad is coming to awards tomorrow.” I was slightly shocked,  as Paul’s dad had not attended any events that year. In fact, Paul NEVER talked about his dad, so I assumed he was a very un-involved parent. Then Paul said, “My dad knows you.” He giggled and ran off.

I truly didn’t think anything of it until the next day. I was standing in my classroom when Paul’s dad, my old friend and rapist, stood in my doorway. Time stood still as our eyes met. The world around me faded away and all I could see where those eyes in the darkness. I was unable to blink or breath until he smirked and turned away. He told his son he would see him at the ceremony and then he was gone. When I was able to move again, I looked at Paul, who stood there, staring at me, with that same smirk. Like he knew.

Somehow I got through that day. I pulled Paul’s records and realized I lived one street over from my former friend. We lived one street apart and I never knew until that day.

But he knew. He knew the whole time that I was Paul’s teacher.

That summer I saw him again. This time at the grocery store. I left my groceries in the cart and walked out.

It began to eat away at me. I couldn’t sleep without nightmares. I began spending most of my waking hours doing the “What If” game. What if I had pressed charges. What  if I called him out in front of his wife. What if…

Finally I realized this was very counter-productive for me. I had to take my life back. I could not run from this anymore. A few days later, in the same grocery store, I saw him. I followed him. When he saw me, the blood drained from his face. I was angry and I did not look away. I would not back down. I took back my power when I looked him in the eyes and loudly said, “Fancy meeting you here. Does you wife  know you are a rapist? Does she know how you gave an under-aged girl drugs until she passed out, so you and your sick friends could rape her?” I saw true fear in his eyes for the first time. In that moment, I got my power back. He and his fear no longer controlled me.

Life is funny. That was years ago, and I have not had a chance encounter with him since. He still lives one street away, but it no longer haunts me. In fact, I hadn’t thought about him and those events in a long time.

I wonder how long it will be until J gets her power back.

 

 

Firsts May 11, 2013

It takes guts to try something you’ve never done before. When I think back to many “firsts” in my life, I can still feel the butterflies in the pit of my stomach.

 

My first bicycle ride without training wheels: My sweaty palms gripped the handlebars of my banana seat Schwinn as I pushed off the pavement in my sneakers. My dad had his hand firmly on the sissy bar, so I started off well. The moment I sensed his hand let go I began to wobble. The front wheel jerked back and forth as though it were having a seizure, and my heart nearly pounded out of my chest. I had no control over the direction it took and in seconds the row of mailboxes loomed in front of me. I heard screams of “Hit the brake” but my legs were frozen and unable to respond. CRASH! My first ride ended in tears and bandages. Learning to ride was put off until I could lick my wounds and heal my pride.

 

My first time teaching my own class: I am not going to lie; the first day I was alone in my classroom I cried with joy. It took me seven long years to get my teaching degree, and it was the hardest thing I ever accomplished. I was proud and overwhelmed to finally be there, in MY classroom. Nerves drove me to dive in and prepare the bare room for my 24 students. Books were labeled, shelves were filled, and bright bulletin boards were assembled while the butterflies danced so hard in my stomach that I couldn’t even eat. I bet I rearranged 50 times before the first day of school! When my students walked in on that first day, all my nervousness disappeared. I knew I was right where I belonged. I stepped to the front of the class and began teaching.

 

My first pregnancy: Unless you have experienced this firsthand, you can only try to imagine. Having a life, a real, tiny human, growing inside of you is beyond anything else in this world. My nerves were at times so bad I would shake. Other times I felt confident that I would be a good mother. As my belly grew, I became more afraid. I was terrified I would do something that would damage this wondrous little piece of perfection. After giving birth, I held my body so tightly clenched the nurse kept telling me to relax. It was weeks before I finally gained some confidence and began to enjoy my baby girl.

 

Firsts can be scary, but trying new things or doing something for the very first time makes you feel more alive. Even if you fail, you gain from the experience of trying. I haven’t had any firsts or new things in a while, so maybe that’s what I need. I need to find a good, worthwhile “first” to try. It’s time to shake things up…

 

English: A Schwinn banana seat with sissy bar,...

English: A Schwinn banana seat with sissy bar, bobbed fender, and slick, square-profile tire, on a bicycle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Screw-Ups May 5, 2013

Filed under: all,Poems,poetry — rainey46 @ 2:45 pm
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When his fists rained down

on her  bent and shattered body

the pain was further affirmation

of her lack of worth.

She brought out the demon

because she was a screw-up

and screw-ups always

got what they deserved.

 

 

 

Gypsy Vs. Small Town Me March 30, 2013

I am so restless. I itch to make things happen, and yet I do nothing. Is it because I am scared? Is it because I am just a lazy dreamer? Is it because I don’t know how to start? I don’t really know.

Am I destined to live my life with this restless spirit, or is there some way I can live this life I have and satisfy my desire to wander? It is like I am two people in one: one reliable person who is the wife and mother living in Small Town, USA. This person baked cookies, made homemade jelly, coached softball, and taught all the neighborhood kids how to create awesome science projects. She desired a house with a big yard and traditional furnishings. She is the good wife, daughter, and mother. The other person inside of me is a gypsy. She doesn’t care about social norms; she lives by her own set of rules. She believes in the spiritual goodness found in nature. Her one desire is to wander the earth to see all there is to see. Her life is found in a traveling caravan. She creates beautiful things just for the sake of beauty.

I know we all have different parts of our personalities, but mine seem to be constantly waging war with one another because they are polar opposites. The older I get, the more Gypsy me tries to take over. It’s like I have been what society expects me to be for as long as I could, and now I feel restless and rebellious to let the ‘real’ me take over. I want to see things, do things, have experiences that Small Town me could never do. Some times I am disgusted by what I allowed myself to become, because it is not the me I hold in my heart.

So, do I just walk away from this life? How do you walk away from a family that  you love? YOU DON’T! So how do you find a peaceful way to allow the Gypsy me to be satisfied without harming the people and life I led? I feel selfish just THINKING these thoughts; I lived my life putting my family before me. I have much to be thankful for; please know I am not complaining nor do I take what I have for granted. I just know this restlessness is not going away…it is growing stronger day by day.

flower5

 

It’s Coming March 14, 2013

It’s coming. I can feel it, breathing down my neck. It’s not here yet, but it is close. When I gaze in the mirror, I can feel it hovering just out of view. When I walk down a long hall and turn the corner, I can almost catch a glimpse. As I stare into my own eyes, I feel it staring back, right there behind the dark brown flecks of my irises. Just the thought is wearing me down.

There is nothing I can do. It will come, it will stay as long as it wants, and it will leave just as abruptly as it came. It will tear me apart if it wants, and leave me in tiny little pieces that I can never, ever make fit perfectly again. I will fake it for as long as I can so that no one else can see the turmoil it brings. I will fake normal so no one will know my secret. But I know, and IT knows.

How long is my uninvited and unwanted guest going to stay?  Will I make it? Will my life be so interrupted that nothing is ever the same again? Only it knows.

I hate depression.

 

 

Black and White Without the Gray February 10, 2013

Interesting reading I found this morning.

http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2011/05/brilliant-musicians-whove-battled-mental-illness.html

 

http://www.adhdandbipolar.com/famous-people-with-bipolar-disorder.html 

When I feel “Up”, I become very creative. By up I don’t mean a normal good mood; it’s so much more than that. This is the reason I suspect I have some form of bipolar disorder. It is NOTHING like what my daughter suffers, but it is there staring me in the face.

I really understand how so many creative people in the world are bipolar. When you have that edge of mania, just sharp enough to make you invincible, the creative juices flow. Even during depression I find inspiration. I could live and die by my art if there were not people in my world who keep me grounded. I often wonder what it would be like to totally give in; stop fighting the rhythm of my body and mind and let go. Forget trying to fit my square peg into the round hole. Sometimes it becomes so exhausting trying to be like everyone else; I’m just not like other people! I know this and have mostly accepted it. But still I continue to work the 9-5, and live the typical suburbanite life. I think that is where most of my unhappiness originates.

It’s not that I am miserable all the time. I’m not, really.  I have a great job that I love, and I am good at it. I have a husband who does love the me I allow him to see. Most people seem to like me and I like them most people. Of course you know I have my dogs whom I love more than most humans. I just know that I spend so much time suppressing “me” that I often forget who I am.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, who am I really? I am an artist who cannot decide on one art form. I love to paint with acrylics or watercolor. I enjoy making jewelry from metal, wire, rocks, glass, paint, and clay. Writing gets in my blood and I must get it out; poetry, quotes, stories, or simply blogging about life. I love pottery and feeling the slippery clay between my fingers. But I think my true art form is photography. I love photography and would spend most waking moments traveling around the world and taking photos.

new art april 2011 217So why do I work and live like I do? Because it’s what I’m supposed to do. You know: get married, have children and a career, buy a house in a good neighborhood. I did all of that. I’m not unhappy that I did, but I often wonder what life would be like if I lived by my creative juices like my heart desires. Ideally, I guess I could live this life and create in my spare time. The truth of the matter is this life consumes me and all of my time. Just taking time to blog is a challenge.

I have a studio. It is tiny; it once was the bedroom of my daughter, S. Now it’s crammed with the remains of old projects and the tools of all the above mentioned art. I’ve tried spending my summers, when I am out of work from mid-June until mid-August, creating. IT’S NOT ENOUGH! When I create, I become consumed by it like a drug or a new love. I don’t want to talk to people, or cook dinner, or do any mundane things of life. Yet, time after time, I must stop and attend to life matters.new art april 2011 163

I feel like I am some weird schizophrenic blend of two people: the Domestic Me, who enjoys working and conversing with coworkers and children. This version of Me enjoys having everything in order: files put away, papers organized, and dinners planned. She lays out her slacks and dress shirt before bed,  goes to bed on time, and even remembers to put gas in the car! The other part, the Creative Me, only goes to bed when sleep overcomes creativity, puts her hair up in a sloppy ponytail, wears t-shirts, old jeans and bare feet, and listens to blaring music as creativity rules her every breathe.

new art april 2011 164The Domestic Me has ruled for many, many years. Only on occasion has Creative Me taken control and she sometimes wrecked havoc in my life. But SHE is the one that seems like the real me! She is me if I am being honest and really, totally ME. Why, then, do I keep her deep inside? Because that bitch is scary! She would get the tattoos and piercings someone of my age shouldn’t even think about. She would quit the 9-5 because it impedes the creative flow. She would probably then starve to death because, while I love my art in all its forms, I’m not nearly good enough to live on it. Even if I were good, Creative Me would not know how or where to begin to sell my craft. At least she would be much skinnier than Domestic Me! She would always wear jeans or flowing dresses, seldom cut her hair, smoke weed, and probably scare the piss out of small children! 😀 Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the truth is out: I am the original hippy. I am a hippy living a soccer mom life and it sometimes hurts.

So, how do you blend the unblendable? How do you mix black and white and not create gray?

sundown

 

i am July 29, 2012

i am strong

but filled with weakness

i am dead

but i still breath

i am intelligent

but not always smart

i am hidden

but i’m in plain view

i am tough

but not invincible

i am empty

but filled with pain

i am alive

but i don’t always live

i am sick

but no one knows

i am hurting

but you cannot see it

i am fragile

but not easily broken

i am tired

but too stubborn to give up

 

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.