To start from the beginning, please go here.
I couldn’t believe it! We were actually going on a vacation together! My stepdad and his wife enjoyed traveling and I was excited to get to with them. I wasn’t allowed to go with them hardly anywhere. My stepdad’s wife constantly complained that I spent too much time at home and that she needed her space. She would make her point by telling me that I needed to have more friends and spend time with them, rather than spend time at home. I always felt uncomfortable around her, and yet I also desired to please her and make her proud of me.
Being accepted and loved by my family, whether it was my stepdad and wife or my mother, was a persistent desire. At times I acted out to gain their attention. Once, at school, I acted like I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake. This fakery backfired when the school nurse suggested to my stepdad’s wife that I was using drugs when I actually was clean. Other times, I told them I wanted to be adopted by them. I thought that if I told them this, they would accept me as one of their own and spend more time with me. Although I was never adopted by anyone, the notion of adoption was also a way for me to feel like I was accepted into a family.
It was during those months that I lived with my stepdad and his wife that I became obsessed with a family in my church ward that I looked up to and I thought of as the perfect family. I habitually thought of them, went out of my way to befriend their daughters and sit with them at church, and I wrote down comments they made of me in my journal. I compulsively looked forward to seeing them at church on Sundays and Mutual activities on Wednesdays. When I was invited to a sleepover with their daughters at this family’s home, all I could think of was how much I wanted to live with them. When their dad told me he liked my fingernail polish, I wrote it down in my journal. They were the perfect family in my eyes and they sure beat my stepdad’s and his wife’s quarrelling.
My stepdad, his wife, and I headed out from Indianapolis going west. I tried to guess where we were going, “Are we going to Nauvoo?” I thought perhaps we were vacationing in Nauvoo as I had just gotten back from a church Young Womens trip there and I had talked so much about my experiences that I was sure they wanted to go also. No, we weren’t traveling to Nauvoo. My stepdad and his wife kept telling me “it is a surprise” and to “quit guessing.” We drove south once we got to Illinois. After asking what probably felt like to them a million times, I drifted off to sleep.
I awoke around midnight when we pulled in to purchase fuel at a travel center. I had to use the restroom because I had been drinking cokes the entire trip, and since I knew my stepdad and his wife probably wouldn’t stop again for awhile, I decided to use the restroom inside. When I stepped outside the car, I immediately felt that the air was warm and muggy, much different from the weather patterns we were experiencing in Indiana. I really thought we were on vacation. Perhaps we are in Illinois or Missouri somewhere, I thought. After all, there are other Mormon Church historical sites in those states. I just knew my stepdad and his wife wanted to visit a church historical site as much as I did. However, something just didn’t feel right.
After I finished using the restroom, I walked up to the clerk. An inner voice kept telling me that I really had to find out where I was. I could feel my stepdad and his wife weren’t going to be honest if I asked. The clerk gave me a puzzled and concerned look when I asked him what state I was in.
It was his answer that made me realize that I was not on vacation at all. His answer:
To be continued…