Chapter 1 - 3
“Shut the fuck up and listen to me, the person standing in front of you. I won’t put up with your shit any longer Cliff. No more bars and no more damn bitches waiting outside the backdoor.”
“Go to hell Bess! You and that damn brat of a girl can go to hell. She don’t do nothin’ but run around playing her made up shit. You promised me a son and gave me a retard instead.”
And then I watched as my father smacked my mother across the face. Immediately after he turned away, like I knew he would while the whole side of her face began to swell. I could hear him cracking his knuckles as he twisted his fingers. It was a ritual that he somehow had to follow, while the sound always made me cringe.
He turned a minute later with tears streaming down his cheeks as he pulled my mother to him. “God girl, I’m so sorry. But you damn well push me until I just gotta do you back somehow.”
I was only four that time, but I can remember wishing he’d at least look at me and smile…or even say I love you too little bit, when he held her. It happened so often that over the years I learned to use those same words when I talked to myself or when I was really angry. Of course, I’d get a pop across the mouth if he heard me.
I can still see that last fight between the two of them as if it were only yesterday. After four years of trying. my mother once again carried his child, praying every hour of every day that it would be a boy. Like so many other times, he’d come home late and drunk, with red lipstick still smeared on the collar of his shirt.
“What the hell is your problem? Can’t you get your drunk ass home in time for dinner at least once a week? I’m so fucking sick of you chasing other women and then screwing them senseless while I sit here carrying your kid that I could kick your ass to hell and back.”
“Take a look in the mirror bitch and see that fat ass of yours. You think I wanna crawl into bed with a slob? You think that kid you’re carrying is worth me falling at your feet and worshiping you? You’re damn well crazy if you think that way! And look at that fucked up brat you’re raising. She’s as worthless as a sack of shit. Never feeds my dogs, never does her chores even when told to do them or else. Sits and reads those crap ass books instead of pushing a broom or cleaning out that damn chicken coop you wanted so bad.”
This time when he hit her, she stumbled over his work boots and ended up hitting her head on the corner of a brick planter that held worn out fake flowers. I can still see the blood oozing from her scalp as she moaned and then made a sound that for some reason caused me to turn away.
Instead of calling someone for help, or even kneeling beside her, my father threw a glass of water on her face while yelling that she needed to get up and stop acting like a drama queen. By the time he realized she wasn’t going to follow his directions my mother was dead, along with the baby boy that until then had been growing inside of her.
I don’t remember a lot of what happened next. The cops finally came, along with an ambulance. My father cried as I told a female officer what I’d seen with my young eyes. Not long after, I left in one car just as he left in another one, handcuffed and still crying as though his tears could bring her back.
I didn’t cry, just as I didn’t had a chance to say goodbye to the few things that I’d loved; a stuffed bear that I’d had forever, a little jewelry box that played music when I opened it, and the five books that had been given to me by a neighbor when I’d seen them at a yard sale she’d been having.
I ended up going from home to home and shelter to shelter while they tried to find a relative that wanted me. Parts of the foster care system that I was immersed in for years helped and parts made me the holy terror I’d become as a young teen, trying to cope with the past and that God-awful feeling of never being wanted…really wanted. Usually it was the money those who cuddled me in public while ignoring me in private were after. Even worse, they made me aware of it almost daily.
I finally stopped writing for a few minutes as I scanned the diner I’d stopped at. I knew it was close to three am; too early for the people who worked regular jobs and too late for the night shift to be thinking about anything but sleep.
I’d learned that putting everything on paper helped me control my anger. Over the past few years, I’d filled probably three journals with shit that bothered me, shit that hurt, and the worst part, my inability to interact with males.
I rubbed my tired eyes, wondering where to go next. I’d met my past today, reliving those few horrible hours as I stood looking at what was left of the abandoned home I’d spent too many years in. I’d laughed a little also, seeing the chicken coop still sitting there as if it were waiting for its past residents to finally come home. I even hoped that the neighbor had been kind enough to feed them until they too decided to move away.
After paying my tab and grabbing another coffee to go, I sat in my beat-up Toyota trying to decide whether to go south and then head west or just keep driving along the freeway I’d been on. What the hell, I said to myself about twenty minutes later, the cornfields it is. And sure enough, that’s just about all I saw as I drove through Kansas, until I finally had to stop and sleep for a few hours.
I’d saved for this trip for almost six years, working every job I could get. I’d found early on that with five hours sleep I could work two jobs and even three if the last one was just a couple hours long and I didn’t have to do much more than push a broom or answer phones. When I was fourteen, I’d seen a picture of the beaches along the California coast. After dreaming of walking though the waves the Pacific Ocean carried from Asia, past the Hawaiian Islands until they finally ebbed along the shore, I’d made it my goal…to walk those same beaches barefoot while I looked out at the sea as the swells came in one after another.
To be honest, there was another reason, a reason that had been festering inside of me since I’d turned eighteen. When the foster care system decided that it was time for me to go my own way, I met one last time with Mary Diaz. She was the last in a long line of social workers who’d always smiled politely when I’d look back at them, wondering why I was being moved to yet another house with empty windows, positive that I was nothing more than a rag doll, constantly being thrown out with the trash.
She’d handed me a small cardboard box that day, saying that since I was considered an adult, the items that someone had collected were mine now. It took me two days to find the courage to even peek inside. It was then that I found the letters held together with a rubber band, stashed beneath the damn bear they’d kept but never allowed me to hold when I needed to…when I was totally alone.
I read each one, realizing that I had an aunt; an aunt that had begged my mother to leave my father again and again, until in her final one, she’d given up and wished my mother well for the last time. After some research, I found out that Susan Wells Mitchell still lived near a beach, right off the Pacific Coast Highway. Walking along the beach while remembering that dream was important, but not as important as meeting if only for a moment, a part of my mother’s family.
I didn’t have the nerve to just pick up the phone and say hello even if I had her number. Instead, I’d decided to knock on her door, see a face that maybe I’d seen once before as a baby, and then walk away after stating that I was on the wrong street.