A little flash fiction for this Sunday evening - enjoy (and there's a bit of a lesson at the end if you're into that sort of thing)
I dug my nails into my arm hard. I was hoping to draw blood. I wanted the physical pain. They were fighting again on the other side of the door. Daddy asked me to wait outside as things escalated. He knew I would be upset and he was trying to make things seem as normal as possible. Normal? Really? Even he didn't believe that anymore.
Tonight the fight began over the color of curtains. Mom asked Dad what color he thought would be nice. He chose blue and she responded by telling him how hideous blue would look. He threw his hands up in the air with a sigh "Why do you even ask? You know you couldn't care less what anyone else thinks anyway."
...and they were off...
She was upset because this and he was upset about that and they dredged up all the past fights and problems of the last few decades. Truth be told he gave her just about anything she wanted. He was a peace maker and she was best described as sad. Judging by the photographs, she had always been sad. No amount of love, attention, material possessions, or money seemed to cure whatever caused the sadness so deep inside. I know that now.
Back then, from the confines of the dark garage, all I could hear was the battle raging inside. I don't think she ever knew how much I had heard. I like to think she wouldn't have said it if she would have known. I heard her tell him she wanted a divorce. He asked what would happen to me...
"I don't really care. I never wanted kids to begin with."
"You know you don't mean that!"
"Of course I do - just get out and take her with you. She's nothing but trouble anyway."
I don't remember much else. I remember running, and my nails were still digging into my flesh. I craved the physical pain because the emotional pain was too hard to bear. I ran to my friends house. She wasn't home. I ran to the top of the hill by the woods near our house. I sat in the cool grass and prayed that the tears would stop. Dad was sick and not expected to live long and I was only in fourth grade. If she didn't want me, I just prayed that I could die. I knew the routine. They would make up and Dad would make excuses for her behavior.
"You know she can't help it. She didn't really mean it. She loves you. Chin up, you can forgive her."
If I protested too much, the lecture ended something like this:
"You know you need her and she needs you. After I'm gone, you've got to promise me you'll take care of her; you'll do that right?"
I wanted to holler back and remind him that she said I'm nothing but trouble. I wanted to remind him all the reasons why I was a good person. Of course, he knew. I did great in sports, played several instruments, went to church even when no one else would get out of bed...I'd get up and walk there by myself, I had lots of friends, I was pretty, I got good grades, and most people would tell my parents how mature I was. The well meaning compliments made things harder at home. People didn't realize she had always been jealous of me. The more nice things other people said, the more terrible things she would say when no one was around.
I didn't need a voice inside my head to tell me I wasn't good enough. I had someone reminding me every day that I was fat, had bad skin, was ugly, was stupid, would never amount to anything...and now...she didn't even want me. I promised over and over again to forgive her and take care of her and here she was, saying the words I had always felt...she didn't want me, she didn't love me, and she didn't want me around.
I must have wandered home after the tears stopped. I remember lying in bed and Dad came in. I asked if everything was going to be okay. He promised me it would be and said if things didn't work out, we would get a nice little place to live - just he and I. I tried hard to stay awake to hear what they were talking about. The muffled voices instead of the hollering was as sweet as a lullabye though - and I quickly fell asleep. They must have resolved things, because no one ever spoke of that dreadful night again.
No one knew that I had heard those words. The words were out there and can never be taken back. 25 years later, I hear them. I feel ten years old all over again - my heart braking - I choke back tears at the memory. I know I need to take that pain and turn it into something good. I need to take that lesson and remember as a wife and mother that I cannot lose my temper. I cannot say things I do not mean. I must must must let my friends and family know that I appreciate them, I value them, and I want them around. That will be the good that comes from the pain that still shatters my heart. I am not angry at Mom anymore. I don't think I ever really was - betrayal is a far deeper emotion than anger...and yet I forgive...because I promised...
May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and may you be shielded from betrayal and motivated by love.