My parents’ voices trailed up the stairs from our living room late one night. I snuck down the stairs to sit on the very bottom step to listen in. This occurred often enough that I knew what their topic of conversation would be, that I was the root of it.
The first thing I could hear my mom say was, “It’s out of control, Leo. What are we going to do?”
Even though I was only eight, I understood that she was talking about the disaster that was my mouth. I had offended her aunt Tena by pointing out her likeness to the Sumatran orangutan. Which, for argument’s sake, she did resemble. It might have even been Aunt Tena’s fault that I had such knowledge of the Sumatran Orangutan since she got me a subscription to National Geographic Kids for my birthday.
“Ros, it’s endearing. She’s just speaking her mind. All children do it.”
My heart lifted with my dad’s defense. He rarely argued on anyone’s behalf; a lover not a fighter. But it turned out that my mouth issue was not just me being a kid. It hurt people and pushed people to hate me.
“Leo, we cannot keep coddling her like this. One day her mouth will get her into serious trouble, and we won’t be able to brush it away as her being a child.”
My mother’s assertion was right, of course. My lack of filter wasn’t me just being a kid. I couldn’t keep secrets in, and I couldn’t ignore truths like those around me did.
I couldn’t listen to how upset my mother was anymore, so I wandered back upstairs, berating myself for speaking up. Aunt Tena died two weeks later. My mom didn’t speak to me for an entire week. That’s when I realized how much people despised hearing the truth, but I was never able to train myself to keep my mouth shut.
Twelve Years Later
The party rages on into the wee hours of the night. By wee, I mean it’s four in the morning. I’m dead on my spike-heeled feet, wishing I’d worn my flats instead. But Tyson likes the spiked heels and I like wearing what he likes. Or I did… at the beginning. There’s a lot I’m unsure of right now. This party has everything about my relationship with Tyson shining in a completely different, very dark light.
When I first started dating him a little over a year ago, things were fun, amazing. He treated me like every girl in the world wants to be treated; with single-minded adoration. At least, that’s what I thought then.
During our first year together, we came to parties like this every single night.
We still do. Every. Single. Night.
What I didn’t know then, was what Tyson used the parties for; what he had planned to use me for. If I’d known then what I know now, I’m not sure whether I would do anything different. What he didn’t know near the end of our first year together was that I’d planned on dropping out of Harvard, and in doing so, be shunned by my parents. I didn’t know how much Tyson was riding on my life funded by my parents.
What I now know, is that I’m stuck in this hellish hole of never-ending parties and being used. The only medicine I have for that at this very moment is hard alcohol, especially since I won’t use the other junk being passed around.
I finished my job hours ago. I’m ready to reward myself with a stiff drink. My feet scream in agony while I stumble toward the kitchen. I’m going to have to talk to Ty about wearing flats; my feet can’t do this much longer. Actually, I’m not sure if that’s me speculating my feet or the entire situation I’ve gotten myself into.
Right before I round the corner into the kitchen, I hear a woman’s voice saying, “She’s a fucking narc, Ty. That girl can’t keep one fucking thought in her head; you have her making rounds, hanging out at the shop. That shit’s going to ruin you.” I recognize the voice as Trudy, my boyfriend’s sister. My handler.
These words have me frozen in terror, my mind flying back to a time when I overheard my parents talking about my mouth. What’s different about this is what Tyson’s reaction will be. My mom never laid a hand on me, neither did my dad. I can’t say the same for Tyson.
You never imagine yourself being okay with a person treating you like the dirt beneath their shoes, not when you’re raised by good people who showed you love and affection. But sometimes the person who treats you poorly wooed you into that state with charm and fake love. Somehow, I’ve become the person I never wanted to be, right after I thought I had my life figured out. Seems fitting.
“She’ll keep her mouth shut about this,” Tyson growls and my knees wobble, my ankles almost give out. I’m barely able to catch myself with a hand on the wall before he says, “She knows better than to cross me. It’s been a year, Trudy. She’ll do anything I say now.”
This both makes my skin crawl and has me vibrating in fear… or maybe it’s anger. The heat rising and blooming over my neck tells me it is anger. It’s unadulterated rage. For the woman I’ve become, for what I’ve let him do to me.
Slipping my feet from the heels, I back away on shaking legs, praying I can find a way out of here, of the life I’m living. It won’t be easy getting out, but I have to find a way. For my sanity… my life.