I dreamed last night that I lived in a beautiful place with very friendly people. I knew instantly that I was dreaming, because this concept was so far from my reality. I woke from the dream to the screams of my mother. This was no rare sound when she was with a man. I worry for her but have given up trying to help since it just earns me a harsh beating. After the house fell quiet again, I wondered how my brain could invent such a nice place since I’d actually never known one. I concluded that I had probably seen something like it on T.V. No matter how hard I try, I can’t dream about that place again. That foreign feeling of being safe, even just in a dream, is one I miss very much.
When the bright streaks of sunshine come through my windows, I know I must get up and start the day ahead. I must do my chores to my mother’s specification before school or I will be punished. Before she is awake, I must make sure that our house is clean, make everyone’s breakfast, get my two younger sisters, Jenna and Macy, ready for school, and take care of my baby brother, John. I try to make my brother eat a lot of food in the morning because I know he won’t eat again until I get home, even though my mom is here all day. My mom doesn’t like babies. I wonder why she had four children when she never even wanted one. I pray he won’t cry and make her mad but he is only seven months old and can’t understand. While eating breakfast with my sisters, I pray that I won’t have to talk to my latest “step-dad” (he is the fifth) when he comes to our small kitchen for some coffee. Luckily, he is still sleeping when I tell my mom “We are headed to the bus stop.” She says “Get the hell out of my room!” and I do.
I am always happy when I get to school because I don’t have to think about the awful place called home. But today is Friday and I will have to go back in seven hours. I am tormented by the thought. The last bell of the day rings too soon, and as always, I whisper a quick prayer that this weekend won’t mean new bruises. Jenna, Macy and I walk to the bus stop, slowly. The rest of the day is normal – I make dinner and my mother finds something wrong with it. Or one of my siblings does something “bad” that none of us can figure out. She is so angry and that’s why she burns, and beats and chokes us.
When I wake up on Sunday morning, something feels weird. Quickly, I get myself and the kids dressed so that we can go to the park and get out of the house. We have a good time but, too soon, it’s time to go home. When we get there, I see that my mother has been drinking. She growls at me, “You didn’t set my coffee.” I know what’s coming and am terrified.
Violently, she rips John from my arms and throws him to the floor. She hisses cuss words at my sisters and me. She drags Macy to the stove and forces her hand onto a lit burner. She spits on Jenna. She punches me over and over again. She kicks me, throws dishes at me and finally cuts me with a knife. I am unconscious all night. In the morning she asks me, “Why do you have to make me so angry?”. I tell her I am sorry and do my chores, painfully.
I still have to go to school and when my teachers see me they immediately call child protective services. I am so scared to tell them the story. I don’t want to but I know I have to for John, Macy and Jenna. That night we move to a “temporary” foster home.
Today is our seventh day here. Jenna still wakes up crying every night. My nightmares have not gone away. Macy can’t stop throwing up. But just this morning, I heard John laugh – actually laugh! And for a minute I felt something I had only dreamt about. After 13 years, I finally felt safe.