Chapter 1 - Prologue
One of the first memories I have is of my parents screaming at each other. I think I was three years old. The memory is dusty and faded, so all I recall are the loud voices and how much they frightened me. By the time I was six, I was so used to hearing their fights I didn’t even flinch.
When I was nine my father beat up my mother so bad she was hospitalized for a week. That was the first time I was removed from my home and put into foster care. I stayed in a house with twenty other kids, all with similar stories. We instinctively divided ourselves into two categories, the shell-shocked first-timers and the seasoned veterans.
After two weeks, the courts gave me back to my mother and we returned to our house. My mother swore to me that she had kicked my dad out for good this time and that we were going to start our lives fresh. Three days later my father returned and by the following week, so had the screaming. I hadn’t really believed her anyway.
On my eleventh birthday, my mother planned a big party for me and decorated our entire house. My father was supposed to stop on his way home from work to pick up my birthday cake. He stumbled into the house around ten o’clock that night and the screaming started again. I went to my room, closed the door and climbed into bed. I could hear their yelling over breaking glass and slamming doors. Then I heard it, the sound of a loud crack and everything went quiet.
I knew right away something was wrong and sat up, feeling sick to my stomach. The sound of heavy footsteps echoed down the hallway. My door opened and in the shadow of light, my father’s large silhouette loomed. I couldn’t see his expression, but I could see that he was holding a small revolver in his right hand. I stared at that gun and followed it as he slowly moved his hand up and pointed it at me. There was no sound except the thumping of my heart against my chest. In those few, silent seconds my father discarded my life and became the face of my death. I closed my eyes and waited, and for the first time ever, I felt truly at peace. But it was broken by a second loud crack. My eyes flew open and the breath I was holding rushed out in a gasp as I watched my father’s body fall to the floor. It was then that I realized my mother was dead too.
That night, I was removed from my home a second time and put back into foster care. A woman, whose name I forgot as soon as she told me, stood at my bedroom door in the exact spot where my father had stood. She gave me twenty minutes to pack a bag. I grabbed some clothes, my toothbrush and a photo of my parents. As I was walking out of my house for the last time, I spotted the birthday present my mother had given me. It was a book of fairy tales, thick with stories that started with ‘once upon a time’ and ended with ‘happily ever after’. I left it behind.
As the car I was placed in drove away, I turned and looked back at the flashing red and blue lights and the small crowd of neighbors that had gathered on the sidewalk. I thought to myself, this is it. This is the most horrible thing I will ever have to endure.
I was so wrong.