Above the Darkness

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A New Morning

When I woke up nothing appeared the same. The size of the window, the posters on the wall, or even the very existence of my mouth didn’t seem the same. I touched my lips, then my tongue and nibbled on my fingers just to be sure my teeth were there.

I breathed so easily, but more powerfully than ever. I could feel the energy well up inside my stomach and make its journey up through my body and, as the air passed through my lips, it tingled with pleasure.

As a baby grabs its toes examining their every quality, I too was doing the same with myself, inside and out. Except now I had the wisdom of knowing I was a part of something bigger and more beautiful.

The newness overwhelmed me. Not because I didn’t like it but because I knew I had no part in it. It was as if someone had decided it for me. That concept was scarier than my father: a power so great it could control my destiny, my dreams? No - I could not believe that. Somewhere inside of me knew I had chosen what I was about to embark on. I did not know how, where, when or with who, I just knew it was what my heart craved. And I was determined to figure out those mysteries. In the meantime, I had to deal with my reality at home.

Just like my awareness of my body, my situation at home also took on a new reality; as I found it easier to cope. I walked down the stairs slowly, instead of running. I listened and watched around the corner of the kitchen to scope out the present situation. My mother was drinking orange juice, but it was spiked with whisky, of course and she was humming a tune very familiar to me. It was the lullaby she used sing to me when I was an infant “Hush little baby, don't say a word.”

I felt a sudden shift within my body. I felt I had become a baby again. My mother's humming brought me right back to my first days of life. Her touch was gentle and loving. The rocking motion put my anxiety at ease and the sound of her voice brought life into my heart. It was one of the few times my mother showed pure love for me.

Eventually this song became entrenched with poison. As I grew older, the words grew meanings, and these meanings were very true to how I was treated. I was never allowed to speak and if I was, I was punished. However, if I did what they wanted I still felt punished, for I never got any of the rewards the song promised.

Although I was not looking to get a shiny ring, I was simply looking for the energy of pure love that my mother once gave to me as she sang this song. But that had not happened since I was a newborn. For this reason, I had a lot of built-up resentment. My expectations for my mother were once high, but now I place no expectations on her at all.

Today, however, was much different; I was reborn and therefore nothing was clearer than her loving energy. Before, I could never look past the negativity that she exuded with her drinking, but today I finally did.

“Elizabeth, come here and stop daydreaming. Why don't you finish up breakfast here? I have to take care of something,” my mother demanded.

“Okay mom.”

She raised her voice as she left the room and said, “Glad to see your attitude has changed!”

She was right. My attitude had changed, but it had nothing to do with me trying to please her or my father. I simply did not want to waste energy resenting everything. Instead, I gave in to the imposed responsibility and made the most of it. I cooked a huge pan of bacon, a mountain of blueberry pancakes, fried potatoes, and eggs Benedict. I also cut up 3 plates full of fruit.

“Well, look at you Miss thang, all grown up, makin' breakfast for everyone. I never thought I'd see the day! You must be feeling guilty for yesterday huh?” I tuned out my 16 year old sister, Christine. She always tried to push my buttons and she did successfully most of the time, but I was not going to give her the satisfaction of pissing me off. “Well come on Lizzy, aren't you going to say anything?”

“No. I am quite fine thanks. There is fruit there on the table and I have your plate of pancakes keeping warm in the oven.”

“Made with blueberries?”

“Yup, it's just how you like them.”

She put her hand gently on my shoulder as I passed her the plate. She breathed in gently, “Mmm, smells good sis.” I was expecting a thank you, but I knew she appreciated it, since no one has made her favourite meal for years. She used to have blueberry pancakes on her birthday every year, but that faded. I knew this because she often brought this up in fights with our mom. She used this as an example of my mother's neglect. This was the least severe of the examples, but it seemed to be the safest one to bring up.

“I think I smell bacon!” Both Jamie and Matt exclaimed at the same time, as they graced the kitchen with their barbaric presence. It was like nothing had ever happened, as usual. Strangely, Jamie didn't show any sign of bitterness. His and Matt’s brotherly love, or should I say their camaraderie always seemed to push through. Mostly for survival reasons, they felt the need to stick together- as did my two oldest sisters, Samantha and Christine. The three youngest, including me had to fight alone.

“Yo Lizzy, izzy, shawizzy, Can you get me one of those fine lookin' eggs benedicters?” Normally my 13-year old brother's attempt to act cool would irritate me as much as a swarm of mosquitoes attacking me, but I decided to laugh and say, “No problemo, Jordon, dog.”

“HAHAHA, oh man Liz, what has gotten into you today?”

“Not sure Jordan, maybe your coolness rubbed off on me.”

“I don't know about that. But you sure are funnier. Thanks for the grub Liz-a.`` He was the only one who thanked me, even though I could tell the rest of them did appreciate it, through their enthusiasm.

All except Sam: she was always reacted differently to everything, than the rest of them. “Oh great, more food to get fat from. Are you trying to kill me Elizabeth? You know I am on a diet.”

“Well, there is some fruit there, you can have that, right?”

“No thanks. I can't stand the smell of all this grease. I'll just grab a glass of water and get out of here.” I just sighed in disappointment. I felt sorry for her obsession with weight. I did not understand it much, mostly because she had never been fat. In fact she has always been a toothpick. I figured the need to be skinny was a lot like my mother's need to have alcohol, in that it seemed like a solution to her problems, when, in fact, it was just causing more problems.

The other day, I went to use the washroom and I could hear Sam barfing up dinner. My first reaction was anger because I didn't even get to have dinner that night, but that quickly turned to sadness. I would give anything to see her healthy again and to have her realize how beautiful she is. In my family I could never say that to her though, for I would be ridiculed. Besides, she probably wouldn't believe me, just like my mom doesn't believe me when I tell her she doesn't need alcohol to be a good woman.

“Hey Sam! Wait up,” I cried out, hoping she would hear me.

“What do you want now Elizabeth?” she asked in an irritated voice.

I wrapped my arms around her waist, looked up at her and said, “You are the most beautiful young woman I have ever seen. Please come eat with us, it would mean the world to me.”

Her eyes got watery, but quickly she pushed me away and said, “Maybe, but you can't let me eat any of that bacon.”

“Sure thing- I think Jamie and Matt probably ate the whole plate already anyways.” She laughed for the first time in a long time, and then followed me back into the kitchen.

My 14-year-old sister Ruth was still sleeping, so I sent my brother Jordan up to get her. Lately, that seemed to be all she does. She has not even gone to school in the last 2 weeks. My parents don't know of course, because if they did, the consequences would be unspeakable. She had kept a note from her doctor and my mom, when she was sick, and copied their exact handwriting and signature as a way of getting out of school. It was pretty impressive how well she could copy it, even though what she was doing was wrong.

I had tried talking to her a couple of times, but like I said before, we don't seem to connect at all, unfortunately. Honestly, if I was her, I would probably not be able to get out of bed either. She had gotten the worst of dad.

About a month ago, just before she stopped going to school, I heard her screaming in the middle of the night for help. My sister Christine and I were the only ones who heard it. We both rushed to her bedroom listening from the outside of the locked door. I couldn't say what exactly I heard for it was too disturbing to remember. I asked my sister Christine what was happening, and all she could say was, “Someday you will understand, but I pray that you don't. Quick, get back to bed, before he hears us.” I prayed a lot that night, for it to stop happening to her and wishing that it would never happen to me. All I knew was that it happened to all the girls in my family, but after a certain age they didn't have to put up with the torture anymore. I had wished I could skip the age where my father's demon would take hold of me, but I knew it was inevitable.

“Nope. She won't come down. She says she feels sick, which I think is bull crap. But oh well, more for us, right?” Jordan announced as he waltzed back into the kitchen.

I looked at him with my brows furrowed. I could feel the heat rushing to my face. If he only knew, what she had to endure…

At that moment my father came in the door. We weren't sure where he had been, even though he said he was at the store. It was Sunday morning and barely any stores were open at 8:30 in the morning. We didn’t question his story though- we knew better.

“Where's your mother? What the hell is she doing making you cook breakfast, that lazy whore.”

I lied, and said, “I am only making sure things don't burn. She made it all.” My siblings looked at me shocked that I lied, and shocked that I had tried to protect mom.

My mom walked in at that moment as if she sensed he was home and quickly took over in the kitchen. “Here is your favourite; eggs Benedict, extra bacon and fried potatoes on the side.” She said it so convincingly, it seemed like she believed she made it! Which was good for me, only because I wouldn't be caught lying.

He put his plate down on the table then stood there looking down at us with his eyes bulging and hands on his hips, then said, “Now! Does everyone know what day it is?” He asked us this question like we were in kindergarten learning the days of the week. Except he wasn’t capable of asking in a friendly way like a school teacher would.

“Yes, father, Sunday of course.” We all said almost in unison.

“Good. Now your asses better be in the car by 9:15 sharp.” he paused, looked around, and then said, “Where the hell is that Ruthanne? She better not still be asleep.” At that moment she rushed down the stairs pulling her shirt over her head. “I was just in the shower; I am here now father, all ready to go.” She must have heard dad coming in the door. She always had a knack for being “just in time”.

“Well good! Glad to see someone has it together!” He then took his breakfast from the table, walked heavily to the front door and slammed it behind him. He never ate with us in the morning unless there were overnight guests. He ate in his car while he smoked and drank his coffee. We always joked about how he had to have his morning meeting with himself, to plan how he was going to torture us for the day.

After that we all ate quickly, and started to take turns for our three-minute showers. Ruth really had not showered; she just wet her hair and face in the sink before coming down the stairs so that her performance was believable. The rest of us didn't have her kind of talent with acting. Maybe it was because we didn't have as much to lose as she did.

The oldest was always first. It was more important for them to be clean and look good than the younger ones because they interacted with more people. The younger ones could hide in the back, being smelly. Well, that was Jamie's explanation, anyways. He usually had a half-assed explanation for everything.

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