Bad memories are like bodies in a shallow grave waiting for a shift of earth to reveal their rotting corpses. Putrid gases release into the air and painfully poison the mind of the bearer, chasing away any peace that there might have been.
A little girl sits on the stairs of her Brownstone. She is wearing a brown pair of Capri pants that show the bottom of a round bruise on her left leg when she sits down. Her long brunette hair is tied up with an elastic band. Her brown eyes quickly shift to the clock. 5:45, another hour and She would be home, if she doesn't stop at a bar on the way home. Most likely she would.
The great black clouds that had been threatening a powerful storm were finally starting to let loose. God she hated being alone on a stormy night.
She sat there a little while longer before standing up to stretch her thin body. Nervously she pushes at the yellow sleeves of her baseball t-shirt revealing more bruising on her arms. Looking down she notices the finger shaped marks. Self-consciously pulling her sleeves down she starts to survey the Brownstone. "Kitchen, clean. Living room, clean and dusted. Bathroom; scrubbed and polished. Laundry washed, folded and…." Her stomach lurches painfully. There is still a small pile of folded clothes on the dryer. She spares a panicked glance at the clock, 6:40. She could be home any minute and there was still dinner to think about.
Grabbing up the clothes, the little girl dashes upstairs and puts them away where they belong, finally ending up in her own bedroom.
To any outsider the room looked more like a forgotten guest room than a seven-year-old girl's bedroom. There are no posters or pictures on the white walls. There are no curtains or blinds on the window. Her room was on the second floor, what did she need curtains for? The comforter is a simple solid blue with no picture of the latest and greatest "girl fad" on it. The only indication that a child lived in the spotless room was a well-worn Braveheart Lion, a cousin of the Care Bears.
The little girl picks up a backpack off the floor and heads downstairs to the kitchen. She pulls a bag out of the freezer and dumps it into a fry pan. Fifteen minutes later the food is heated. She dishes out a small portion onto her plate and sits down at the table. After she is done she cleans up her mess and puts the leftovers in a plastic bowl with a lid. Mom was really going to need something to eat when she got home…if she made it home.
Despite the bruises, the lack of attention, the loneliness and the picking up the pieces of her drunken mother every night, the little girl loved her mother dearly. After all it really wasn't her mother's fault that she was like that. Somebody had done something very bad to her and that made her drink, "and it's my fault she is angry all the time because I remind her of that bad thing." She just knew if she was agood girl that eventually her mother would love her.
At least that's what she believed most of the time. Sometimes though, in the darkness of her room, she questions her life and the "fairness" of it. Why do others seem to have so much love when she had little to none? Why do they get parents who dote on their every word while her mother barely remembered what grade she was in? She is just a lonely little girl that never did anything bad to anyone. How could she be the cause of so much pain? She didn't ask to be born. She couldn't control how she came about. It wasn't fair! Why can't She just love me?
Turning her attention to the backpack, she pulled out her homework. Scanning her worksheets she decided on spelling to start. That was the hardest for her because no one was ever around to quiz her on her words. The second worksheet was counting money. That was easy; she had to know that for a while now. Her mother would send her to the bodega down the street to pick up things for her, and the girl knew Mommy would get very mad if she didn't bring home the right change. After she had completed all her assignments she looked up at the clock. 10:45. A sad sigh escaped her lips as she gathered up her backpack and went upstairs to get ready for bed.
She changes into her pajamas and goes into the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth. When she emerges she grabs her lion and crawls into bed. She doesn't say her prayers anymore. Prayers never helped her anyway. Things just continue to be bad.
Desperately clutching her stuffed animal, she fought back the threatening tears. Mommy always said to be strong because the world hated weak people. You must learn how to do everything yourself because if you don't no one will respect you, and most of all, don't ever cry. That's exactly what they want. They will use every weakness and tear against you.
See Mommy I am a big girl, I didn't cry even when the storm started. Slowly she drifted off to sleep.
Shortly before midnight a woman sways drunkenly in front of her door. She is 5'4" with short, light brown hair, green eyes and an average build, not very thin, not very heavy. She is only thirty years old but a lifetime of drinking has aged her far beyond that. With a comical look of concentration she eyes the lock of the door with one eye closed and the tip of her tongue sticking out. After several failed attempts she finally gets the key in the lock and slides the door open.
She goes to drop her purse and keys on a small end table and misses. Deciding not to pick them up she heads upstairs. She makes an attempt at being quiet when she opens her daughter's bedroom door but a barely audible "snap" brings the girl to full attention.
"Hi honey, I didn't mean to wake you." A lie. She needed to see her daughter and to have someone to listen to her.
"Hi Mom, did you need something?" The girl knows full well that her mother does.
"I'm hungry," she pouts, "and they cut me off tonight."
Mother and daughter reverse roles as the little girl gets out of bed and leads her mother by the hand down to the living room. "Now sit here and I will heat you up some dinner."
The woman just sits and nods pitifully. What would she do without this little person? She keeps the house clean, cooks, (ok well she can heat stuff up, but that's better than nothing.) She reminds her when it is time to pay bills and makes sure they get out to the mail carrier. She would be nothing but a barfly, half starved, living in filth. She'd own nothing and have no one to come home to and that would be sad. She looks forward to seeing that little face at the end of a day. "Whenever that is." A voice in her head scolds.
Guilt seizes the woman's thoughts hard. She hates feeling guilty. "If you look forward to seeing her as much as you say why don't you treat her better?" the voice continues.
"Shut up, I take care of her just fine. There's a roof over her head, food in the cupboards, and clothes on her back. Besides, she's never complained."
"Just look at what happened when she did."
"She has no right to make me feel guilty over how I treat her, it's her own fault anyway. She brought outsiders into our home. She shouldn't have said anything."
"It was her teacher who called in ACS because she saw bruises on your daughter."
"And just how did this woman see them? She had to have been shown the bruises."
"Well if they weren't there to begin with you would have nothing to worry about. You put the bruises there."
The woman's mood grew dark, "I'm thirsty!" She hollered out.
"Do you want milk or maybe a soda?"
The girl stood frozen in front of the refrigerator. This time an errant tear escaped down her cheek.
"Did you hear me?"
"Yes Momma." She replied hastily wiping away the evidence of her momentary lapse. Setting the food and the bottle of amber liquid on a tray, the little girl walked toward the living room.
"Did you go to a new place tonight or did they get a new bartender at…" her sentence was interrupted when she fell over her mother's purse. The tray went flying out of her hands and as she fell down she heard the bottle shattering on the hardwood floor.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, it was an accident!" The girl pleaded holding her right wrist.
"Oh, your sorry! That's just great, you're sorry!" The woman's voice rose with every syllable. Her bruised ego over the battle with guilt earlier and the alcohol pushed her into a fiery rage. "I'll show you sorry!" She snatched up the neck of the broken bottle with one hand and her daughter with another.
"No Mommy, No!" the little girl screamed.