“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers, you cannot be successful or happy.”
~Norman Vincent Peale
I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t feel. I was trapped, tied to my own darkness. It was pulling me under, tearing at my limbs, working its way through my body, clawing and ripping its way to my soul.
I tried screaming, I tried running, but I was still being pulled backwards... towards him... no... towards them; the avalanche of memories that haunted my measly existence.
In an instant I was flung into another world, one where I couldn’t breathe. My chest heaved in an effort to retain at least a pinch of the oxygen that was being blocked by the big meaty hands barricading my neck...
With a gasp and a raging heartbeat, I was immediately torn from my nightmare and flung into a sitting position on my bed.
My body jerked at the loud echo that resonated throughout my room. My vision blurred slightly until it finally cleared.
“Get up, little slut!” My mother’s hoarse voice yelled from the opposite side of the door followed by her incessant knocking against its surface.
I slowly released a few calming breaths and massaged my temples.
Sigh. I could already feel the headache rising.
Another pathetic day in my pathetic little life.
With slightly shaking limbs, I removed myself from my tiny, uncomfortable bed and began to dress it neatly with the light blue sheets. The nostalgia of my nightmare tried to surge itself to the forefront of my brain but I shoved it back down immediately.
“I am more than what these memories make me.” I whispered silently to myself.
At the end of my task, I turned my body and peered around the dimly lit room. The peeling once white but now cream paint adorned with water stains were smiling at me and I mimicked its actions, satisfied. My room wasn’t the best but I tried to do as much as I could to keep it clean and organized. After all, it was my safe haven.
“Alehandia?!” My mother’s voice rang throughout the room, penetrating through my bedroom walls.
Ugh, only if this little room was also sound proof.
“I’m up! I’m up!” I shouted back at her.
There are two types of mothers in this world; those who were mothers and those who were well... ‘mothers’. My mother has worn both titles, first she was a mother then she transformed into a ‘mother.’ Though Optimus Prime may be proud that she could transform, he would be very disappointed to know that ‘mother’ couldn’t transform back into her previous form. But I still had hope.
“Hurry up and come make breakfast, I’m hungry!” she demanded.
“Baby, what’s all the shouting about? My head is pounding,” a rough hillbilly voice of a man bellowed to my mother.
My eyebrows furrowed and my mind started reeling.
“I’m sorry baby, but my lazy, good for nothing daughter needs to come to make us something to eat.” My mother replied.
Ah, Already? I thought. Though I shouldn’t be surprised, ‘Mother’ changed men ever so often I could hardly keep track. I clicked my tongue in distaste and walked over to my bedroom window. It was bolted shut and lined with a few of my sketches. The sketches were not only a form of decoration but they also prevented onlookers from peering inside my room.
Through the small slit that I had purposely created, my vision zeroed in on the rather covert but active neighborhood.
At first glance, it seemed normal... a bunch of early risers enjoying an early morning conversation; But if one were to look closely, you could see that the conversations were way too short, as well as the slight exchange of money for a baggie whenever those ‘friends’ shook hands.
A deep masculine voice groaned and my attention snapped towards the direction of my room door. I listened closely for the prior sound but was instead greeted with the hillbilly man’s voice, “Okay baby, but while she gets ready, I want to make you feel real good.”
A loud moan erupted from my mother’s diaphragm followed by tumbling. A few seconds later, a door slammed shut, and then there was silence.
I shook my head, removed myself from the window and made my way into the bathroom.
Ice cold water assaulted my skin and I bit my lips to prevent myself from shrieking. I closed my eyes and stood my ground until my body finally adjusted to the intensity of the cold. After a few seconds I unclosed my lids, ran my hands through my now wet hair and over my goose pimpled body. I quickly washed my hair and cleansed my skin. The soothing scent of vanilla filled my nostrils and I sighed.
After my shower, I made my way over to the half broken mirror, retrieved my toothbrush from the sink and began cleaning my mouth. I stood static for a few seconds and stared at my reflection.
Sad, hollow green eyes stared back at me. My pale skin was extra pale from the cold shower, and my fire red hair clashed against it all. I rinsed my toothbrush then my mouth and used my finger to comb through my wet crimson locks. “I hate you” I softy chastised my reflection and then sighed.
I know that I am not an ugly girl, but I would never consider myself beautiful. I could never be one of those girls who were all couthy and sweet. One of those girls who had every guy and girl at school fall at their feet.
That could never be me.
Alehandia! You are a meek, weak, pathetic little slut who will never be successful! You are just like your father! A mistake sent upon this earth to burden others. You are good for nothing piece of shit that doesn’t deserve to live. Tears welled in my eyes as the words that my mother once uttered to me vibrated through my head.
With a heavy heart, I tore my gaze away from the mirror and entered my room to get dressed. I made my way over to my broken closet and pulled out one of four pants and a black sweatshirt that was way too large for my 5 feet 4 inches slender frame. When I returned to the room, I retrieved a set of undergarments from the drawer attached to my bed and got dressed.
I Sighed, “Time to face, Clare.”
I gingerly walked over to my bedroom door and undid the four locks that kept me safe at night. It could really get hectic around here; there was no predicting what will happen when both Clare and her companion came waltzing in the house at god knows what time in the night... high and intoxicated.
My body shivered as unwelcomed thoughts threatened my mind, attempting to break through. My eyelids kissed each other in a tight embrace while I fought for control.
“I am more than what these memories make me.” I repeated the mantra over and over in my head, while simultaneously diverting my thoughts to the new design that I have been working on for the past few days. And finally, after a few minutes my body relaxed.
As soon as I removed my person from the room, I peered down the narrow hallways. There was no sign of mother. The closed door coupled with the muffled moans was a clear indication that she was still busy with Mr. Hillbilly.
With a sigh of relief, I hurried into the kitchen and got started on breakfast. The smell of scrambled eggs and pot-made toast permeated the room...
“Mummy! Mummy! Could I please get peanut butter on my toast?” I yelled while bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet.
“Of course pumpkin, just go tell daddy that breakfast is ready...”
I smiled at the memory and then frowned, because that’s what it’ll ever be... a memory... a very faint memory.
After my father announced that he didn’t want to be with my mother anymore and that she and I were the reason why he never went to college and was stuck washing dishes in a rundown bar.
He left us.
He said that it was because mother got knocked up at 16, with me, why his life turned out the way it did... living behind paychecks.
So, my father left and never returned.
The hatred that shunned through his eyes when he looked at my tear stained face, begging him not to go is forever burnt in my memory. My 3-year-old self didn’t understand then, but I do now.
It was from that day my life began to crumble. Instead of cooking my mother took up drinking, instead of buying food, she bought drugs to fill the void my father left behind, and instead of trying to heal she sought consolation in random men.
For 14 years, I have watched my mother turn herself into the monster that she is today. But I can’t shake the feeling that my once loving mother was still there, hiding... or maybe even trying to claw her way to the surface again.
I wiped the lone tear that slipped from my eye and completed breakfast.
Hurriedly, I took a piece of toast between my teeth, grabbed my backpack from the broken down table in the living room and ran through the front door just in the nic of time.
“Breakfast is on the stove, I’m off to school.” I shouted as I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my head, concealing me from the eyes of the outside world.
From a distance, I heard my mother shout, “bring back some milk, little slut.”
I made no effort to respond and continued on my journey to school, of course I’d buy the milk; after all I’m the one who bought the groceries.
I rolled my eyes at the thought.
If it wasn’t for Mrs Bakes, I would have probably had to source food from the local garbage cans.
Mrs Bakes is a nice elderly woman who lost her husband to cancer about 3 years ago. She owns a small but cozy Cafe near my school. I stumbled across this sanctuary when I was 14, while walking home from school and it became my second home ever since.
While other students went home or went to parties, I’d normally take a seat on one of the chairs outside the Cafe’s door and sketched away as my heart desired.
During those times, Mrs Bakes would give me a cup of tea or a glass of water and said that it was “on the house”. She would normally eye my ratty old bag with concern before walking off.
One evening, she sat down at my table and asked me why I stayed there instead of going home.
I couldn’t have told her about my mother and what was going on at home. It was too embarrassing. Plus I didn’t want to end up in some foster home or worst, stuck in an orphanage. So, I just told her that her Cafe was a nice cozy little spot to study and draw.
She’d eye me wearily and sigh. She’d then plaster a smile on her face and tell me that she had to continue working. As a parting tradition, she’d give my hand a light squeeze before sashaying off to serve more customers.
Every time she did that something tugged at my heart string followed by warmth. A warm feeling would wound its way throughout my body leaving me in a state of happiness and contentment.
I smiled at the thought.
As the months rolled by, Mrs Bakes and I got to know each other... so much that I opened up to her a little about my background.
One day we were sitting, having a cup of tea when Mrs Bakes asked, “Dear, what do you love so much about this bag? Does it mean something to you?” She took up the ratty school bag and wrinkled her nose. I felt so embarrassed that I nearly choked on my tea. By this time I felt comfortable enough to share with her a little about my life and that I did. However, I subtracted the bits about my drunken and drug addict mother.
She listened keenly to my story... with a face of interest coupled with a sad filled expression. After our conversation she offered to help me, but I refused. I didn’t want anyone’s pity nor their money, I wanted to make my own. So because of this fact we made a deal.
When I turned 16, I would work at the Cafe from 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. and she would pay me for my services.
So now at 17, I had been working with Mrs Bakes for a year and a few months.
It was because of this job, I was able to buy the necessary school supplies and food for the house. I didn’t have to pay for light because mother did that. Though, sometimes I had to take care of that too.
Tangled in my thoughts, I didn’t realize that I had reached my destination, Drew’s High school.
My legs ache slightly from all the walking, but I was used to it. When I walked to school I was able to save money that could later be used to do something useful.
In the nights, however, Mrs Bakes insisted that I take the bus home as it was safer than walking.
"Aleh dear...” she’d begin. “It’s safer you take the bus, please, I’ll pay.”
That lady really did care, and for that, I will forever be grateful.
As I made my way through the gates of Drew’s High School. I shrank further into the hood of my sweatshirt and walked towards my locker.
I was not a social butterfly and I hated the attention that my hair normally attracts. So I did everything that I could to keep it covered.
“Aleh!” I heard a voice call and immediately, I snapped my head in its direction and froze. I slowly ran my eyes up his 6 feet 1 inches frame and peered into his smoldering brown eyes.