Villains aren't born evil. Villains are the product of the final wrong choice that cannot be taken back. This isn't something I learned from my husband; it's something I picked up on my own as a child. This was the only true lesson my father ever taught me.
My parents fell in love and married right out of high school. My father was a writer with delusions of grandeur. I remember the old type writer he used-the sound of his fingers rapidly pressing on the keys. If his story was going well he would emerge from his study in a joyous mood; dancing with mom across our small living room, while she laughed, dipping her and then planting a kiss on her lips. "Daddy's going to buy you all the pretty dresses and toys you could ever want once he gets his book published!" He would say to me, scooping me up and spinning me around. I must have only been four but the memory to this day is still as vivid as if it had happened just the other day. You knew immediately when his book wasn't going well because stillness would descend upon the house –we held our breath as we waited for the sound of the type writer- then he would slowly emerge with downcast eyes. He wouldn't say anything, and then he would quietly make his way to his bedroom and close the door behind him. Mom would drop whatever she was in the middle of doing and join him. It could take hours before she was finally able to coax him out.
The mood in the Watson household was always influenced by my father's writing, but that was manageable because in the beginning, he took his defeat quietly. Then the bad writing days accumulated and he started to look for the solution at the bottom of a bottle. Then the yelling followed. Madeline! Shut those damn kids up! He would scream. "I can't hear myself think!" Any form of noise bothered him: the slamming of the front door, the creaking of the floor, laughter….just about anything. It got so bad that my older sister, Gayle, and I would be too afraid to talk above a whisper or god forbid, breathe too loudly.
Gayle was the lucky one because she had found her form of escape at an early age. Whenever mom and dad were yelling at each other –which was most of the time-she would go to the garage, turn up her music, and tirelessly work on some complicated dance step she had either learned from dance class or saw in one of those old musicals she loved so much. Gayle was an amazing dancer; graceful, elegant, and disciplined. She could dance anything but ballet was her favorite. When she would dance, this look of total serenity would across her face and she would become oblivious to the world around her-finally able to escape the arguing that existed in our daily lives. I remember wanting that sense of freedom so badly but I wasn't much of a dancer and hadn't yet discovered my niche. So instead, I watched a lot of movies, especially the old Hollywood classics, those were my favorite. I use to pretend that I was the sassy heroine of the film and mimic her every move. It's safe to say that that was where my love for acting began to develop.
Then daddy's violent behavior began to escalate. He would yank my mother by the wrist and yell in her face if she even dared to not look him in the eye when he was talking to her. I watched helplessly as he would push and even sometimes slap my mother, around. As horrible as that was, I think it was his degrading words that impacted her the most. Yet, she still chose to stay with him. I think part of her was still holding onto the hope that man she once loved was somewhere inside the monster he had become. I knew she blamed herself for his actions. "Things are going to get better, she use to tell us. Everything is just crazy right now but it'll soon be behind us. You'll see." I don't think she was trying to convince us as much as she was trying to convince herself. That was what my mother taught me: put a huge smile on your face and pretend that everything was great. The fake smile was an art I quickly mastered.
Then in Madeline's eyes, her husband finally went too far. I was around eight years old and Gayle must have been thirteen. Our parents were once again arguing over money and the two of us were sitting in the room we both shared. Then the door swung open and there daddy stood; red faced and furious. By the straps, he clutched a pair of Gayle's black dance shoes. Mom was right behind his heels, yelling at him to leave us alone. This overwhelming fear washed over me, leaving me paralyzed and unable to tear my eyes from his face. His sweeping gaze swiftly searched the room before it locked on its target: Gayle. He flung the shoes across the room, smacking against the wall and leaving behind black smudges.
He started yelling about how her dance classes were too expensive. He blamed her classes for the family's financial problems. Whenever daddy screamed like this, it was better to just stay quiet and take it. Gayle was always naturally quiet and soft spoken so I expected her to remain so-I was wrong. It must have been her love for dancing that caused her to do something so out of character. She yelled back at him. All the words she had been holding back finally erupted like a volcano. She called him a "drunk", a "bully", and to my horror, went as far as to insult his writing.
The next thing I remember is the sickening sound of an open palm meeting flesh. The impact was so hard that it nearly knocked her off her bed. Her blue eyes widened in shock and her hand instinctively flew to her cheek, which was already forming a handprint. I remember that my eyes kept flickering towards the door. I wanted to hide, to runaway from all the noise, to not even bother to look back at Gayle and my mother. The guilt of this thought would haunt me for years, even as I reached my teens. Was I really that selfish? Could I easily leave behind the people that loved me just to save my own skin? Yes I was.
Mom chose her children's safety over her husband; the man she once so desperately loved and swore she would stand beside "til death do us part." My father didn't try to stop us. He never bothered to even look for us or contact us-he washed his hands of us and said no more. We bounced around from relative to relative until we were finally taken in by a cousin. He was a recent widower with two kids and let us stay in return that mom took care of the housekeeping. Of all the years I lived with him, I don't think he said more than ten words to me but that didn't matter. I had long started to put into practice what my mother taught me: put a huge smile on your face and pretend that everything was great.
I took what my mother had taught me and used it to create a barrier. I painted a face of happiness and wore it every day of my life. The Mary Jane everyone saw was confident and happy. No one bothered to look closer-not that I would have even allowed them to if they had tried. This façade was bound to break and would have if I hadn't found some kind of release.
It wasn't until I was in high school that I had finally found my own form of escape. Acting was the only time I let myself show any vulnerability. During every performance I would lay my heart on the stage for everyone to see-the mask came off- I was free. I had fallen madly in love with acting as much as Gayle had fallen in love with dancing. But as I was beginning my relationship, she was ending hers.
She fell in love with Timmy-cute and popular football player-and in an instant her dream was long forgotten. They married right out of high school-not much younger than my parents were when they married-with every intention of finishing school. She turned down a scholarship to a prestigious dance school and decided to go to the local university Timmy would attend on a football scholarship. Then the baby came too soon and Timmy had to give up school to provide for his family. I'm forever haunted by his face when Gayle broke the news to mom. He looked like a wild animal that had been placed in a cage and was desperately seeking a way out. The cycle had continued and I watched as he slowly became my father and Gayle my mother.
I didn't cry when mom was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. I didn't cry when her hair began to fall out. I didn't cry when I had to quit drama in order to help take care of her. Crying would mean that there was a possibility of losing her and I refused to acknowledge it. She didn't get any better. I use to look out her hospital window and imagine that I was a bird; able to fly away from the confines of the hospital. In my head I was traveling through Europe. In my head I was a princess, looking down at her people from the balcony of her castle. I was a movie star waving to her millions of adoring fans. In my head I was anybody else but me.
There I stood at eighteen years old, before my mother's fresh grave, my sister beside me. Gayle was a few months pregnant with her second child while in the middle of an ugly divorce. She was holding down two jobs to just get by. "It's going to be okay", she said, giving my hand a reassuring squeeze. By that time I had cried so much that my whole body had finally grown numb. It was the sensation of being underwater with your eyes open; you were able to see and hear-though every sound was muddled- but every time you tried to speak, you just got a mouthful of water.
"You can move in with me and little Timmy", She continued. "With the new baby coming and everything considered, things aren't going to be easy but that's okay. We'll help each other, we'll manage. Everything is going to turn out great, you'll see."
"That's what mom said", I finally managed to blurt out.
"Mom use to say that about dad. Then she said the same thing when she found out about the cancer. She said that everything was going to be okay"….. My voice began to trail off.
In that instant, a vision of my future flashed before my eyes. The disastrous cycle that plagued the Watson women began to once again spin. I saw myself spending my days changing diapers and working at a dead end job I despised; married to a man who treated me like crap and who would eventually leave me. I would end up like Gayle; I would become my mother. I would have rather died than become like them.
"I can't stay here", I exclaimed, suddenly feeling the onset of a panic attack. "I have to get out of here!"
"Mary Jane, you're scaring me! What's wrong?" I couldn't catch my breath to answer her. "Oh god! Do you want to leave?" She asked. I managed to nod. "Okay, let's go back to the house-"
"No!" I shrieked, startling Gayle." I'm not going back there!"
"You're tired", she announced, tugging at my hand.
"Gayle-you're not listening to me!" I jerked my hand away. "I'm not staying in Pennsylvania. I'm not going home with you!" My words took my sister by surprise. For a moment the two of us just stood there, staring at each other. "Mary Jane", she finally said, "I know how you feel. I lost mom too, remember? But she wants us to keep going. We have to keep going. We can't just stop our lives-"
"I'll be stopping my life if I stay here with you!" I was exasperated. I don't want to end up just like you-like mom! I'd rather die." Gayle's eyes were wide, her mouth a gape before her expression suddenly became bank. I immediately regretted what I said.
"Gayle, I didn't mean-"
"Yes you did, Mary Jane." She said flatly. You never say anything you don't mean." Her expression remained blank. Even after all we've been through, you're still the same selfish brat you've always been." And with that she turned on her heel and walked away.
That's how I ended up in New York, on my Aunt Anna's front porch. I had no inkling just how much that decision would forever alter my future. No idea how it would change my perception of the world and the people that inhabited it. This is where my story officially begins. This is where I met Peter Parker.
As you can see, I am a huge fan of Mary Jane. This story is trickier than my Spider-Girl stories due to the fact that the character of Mary Jane has always been very close to my heart. And coincidentally, my life seems to mirror hers. Sorry if they chapter was too much exposition, but don't worry because for now on the story officially starts. Please take the time to go back and read the notes I added at the end of the prologue if you haven't done so already. And as always, comments are always an encouragement to keep writing!