It was his answer that made me realize that I was not on vacation at all. His answer:
I didn’t utter a word to anyone. I just got back into the car quietly. I felt exhausted and I didn’t want to think about what was happening. It was too stressful to acknowledge. Really, I didn’t even know for sure what my hunch, my instinct, that inner voice was telling me fully. I awoke the next morning in the backseat of the car in front of an older home in Texas. My stepdad and his wife were not in the car. I was alone. If I had known for certain what was about to happen, I would have ran at that very moment as far as I could from that place.
I had nowhere to run.
I sat up. I had to use the restroom. My back and legs hurt from lying awkwardly all night long. Outside, it was early morning and a very light fog hung in the air. Something smelled familiar about this neighborhood. You know, like when you go to a garage sale and examine someone’s old curtains and think to yourself, this smells like my grandmother’s home. That is how the neighborhood smelled—familiar. I knew I had been here before.
As I stretched and yawned, I looked at the home in front of where we were parked and tried to imagine where I could be. I scanned the neighborhood. I studied the camper in the driveway. Again, I gazed at the house. That’s when it dawned on me that we must be at my stepdad’s mother’s home. I had called her meemaw as a child just like my childhood cousins had, but she had never acknowledged me and my siblings as her grandchildren. I never received anything from her for Christmas except fruit and nuts, while the other cousins and my little brother who were all blood got presents each year. Maybe we were still on vacation, I vainly hoped.
I limped up the walkway to the front porch. I knocked on the door. Someone answered and led me inside to use the restroom. No one really conversed with me. I felt like the odd one out—like I didn’t belong. I sat on a cold, firm bench in the entry area. Soon, my childhood aunts and uncles began arriving one by one. I was so happy to see them; I really did miss them as they were family to me. One aunt sat next to me on the bench, and it seemed to me like she wanted to say something, but did not. Someone went to the kitchen and made a phone call. I heard talking and laughter. It was almost like old times. Almost.
Soon, my stepdad stood in front of me and said he needed to talk with me alone.
He had me sit on a bed in one of the bedrooms. That’s when he commenced telling me that his wife had some “disease” (really a big excuse) and just couldn’t handle me anymore. He cried–I wanted to punch the living daylights out of him. He made up all kinds of explanations of why we were in Texas. The final blow was when he told me I was going to live with my mother, and that he had already talked with her about it and made plans, and that he had packed all my belongings into the back of the car we had been traveling in. We weren’t on vacation–I was moving in with my mother just as soon as he could get me over to her house.
I was devastated. I felt betrayed. I had been lied to. I was crying. Not sobbing, but tears were streaming down my face. I wanted to be brave–I wanted to be strong. Strong girls don’t cry. Crying is a sign of weakness. Besides that, we weren’t permitted to cry in front of him. At that moment, I hated him and I loathed his wife even more. I never got the choice in these matters. No one ever asked for my input. If I had a way at that moment, I would have ended my life rather than lived with my mother.
However, I didn’t get to choose these things. Choices were left for the grown ups to decide. I was nothing.
To be continued…don’t want to wait for the next twenty installments? Order the book, Screwed Up: My Life at Blurb for just $12.95 plus shipping. A portion of the profits will be donated to charity.