I do enjoy short stories as well as longer length ones. I feel short stories have an important place in my reading life. Days that are too busy to read a novel. Times when I want to feel I accomplished one thing. Haha. While waiting for an appointment, riding a bus, sitting in a park. Short stories can be wonderful. They reduce my stress and open my imagination just as much as a regular length book.
I have written a short story that I previously posted on the blog. Rather than link to it I will add it here. It is a contemporary piece involving domestic violence and sexual abuse. It may be difficult to read so please decide carefully if you want to read it. If you do read it I would love to hear from you. If you would rather contact me privately, please send me a message on Goodreads, (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2288988-frances).
My name is JoAnna. I am twenty five. I have brown hair and green eyes. My hair is curly but I take the time to straighten it. It falls to just past my shoulders when curly but nearly to my waist when straight. I am 5'5 and weigh 135 pounds. I watch what I eat and exercise but I am not obsessed. I have gone to college. I was a high school cheerleader. I was a babysitter, a cashier at McDonald's and throughout college, I was a waitress at Cracker Barrel. I now work for Children's Services. I like to dance, hike, and ride horses. I drive a jeep so I can go muddin' in it. I collect fairies. I wish upon stars and birthday candles. I have a boyfriend. He wants to marry me. I have a mom, a brother and a sister. I never really got to know my father. I had a stepfather. Now you know who I am. This is my story.
I don't have a lot of memories of my dad. He was there when I was little. He went away after Justin was born. When I was little I didn't know why. I do now. My dad wasn't really into kids. He liked them best when they belonged to another family. Don't take that wrong. He loved me when I was little. He just didn't think he should have a bunch of kids he would either work hard to support and never know or know them and watch them grow up poor. My mom, though, she thought having kids made a family. There more kids there were, the less chance anybody could walk away. I guess that came from her mom. My grandma had two kids when my grandpa found someone with no kids and left. I'm pretty sure it wasn't really like that. Honestly though, the only part that matters is how my mom perceived it to be. That perception was what influenced her. My mom was pregnant with me when they married. I have wondered if my dad would have married her if she wasn't.
I have been told my dad was happy when I was born. That he loved me and was proud to be a dad. My Aunt Margie said I was the only one he wanted.
“If only your mother would have listened to him and just had you, your father would be here today,” Aunt Margie would start.
She always made sure to say that she loved Jacelyn and Justin. I suppose she did. It's possible though she just loved Jacelyn and me.
“It was what happened with Justin. That was why we lost your daddy!” She would cry then.
She was usually drunk at this point. She was mad at my mom because when my dad left us, he left everyone. Her and her parents were included in that everyone. Her drinking and crying would loosen her tongue up. I was ten, when I learned Justin had a different daddy. I also knew that my dad knew that. The way Aunt Margie told it, my dad wasn't about to have another child after Jacelyn was born. He wasn't ready for her.
After I was a year old my mom started hinting that she was ready to give me a brother. My dad, so the story goes, kept telling her to wait until things were better. He wanted job security and a home he owned. Mom wanted a baby and husband security. Neither one really won that war.
So they had Jacelyn. Aunt Margie said my dad was proud and loving again. Unfortunately he was also worried about the future and all of us depending on him. When Jace was a year old, Mom started the hinting again. Dad told her no way. Then, without telling anybody, my dad took care of things himself.
He went to the doctor had a vasectomy done. Aunt Margie said when he came home, he told everyone he came down with a stomach virus at work and needed to go lie down. He took a couple sick days and then life returned to normal. He went to work and my mom kept seeking another baby.
Aunt Margie said the day mom told him she was pregnant was the darkest day in that marriage. Mom had left Jace and me downstairs with my dad's mom to go to the doctor. When she got back she was glowing and excited.
“Iris, could you keep the girls over tonight? I have some real happy news for Jackson. I'd like to make him a special dinner and have some alone time, please. Please, Iris? Just for tonight okay?” Mom pleaded.
Grandma was reluctant but gave in, “Fine Blue. But you come get the girls as soon as Jackson goes to work in the morning.”
Mom went upstairs. We could hear her in the kitchen. Grandma looked at Aunt Margie. “That gal is crazy! There's not going to be any happiness in that house tonight!” No one suspected just how bad the news was going to be though.
We were sitting at the dinner table eating a special dinner my grandma made us; fish sticks, macaroni and cheese and peas with carrots. Grandma even made biscuits. It was my favorite. Jace liked it too.
“Might as well make the girls a special meal too,” Grandma had told Aunt Margie. “If the news is what I think it is, no telling when things will settle down for them.” Aunt Margie replied, “I guess a peach cobbler would be nice. It will stretch that little bit of ice cream we have so that everybody can get some.” I don't think anyone got to eat that.
We were just getting ready for dessert when a roar like you can't imagine came through the ceiling. It was followed by breaking glass and a loud thud. Turned out the loud thud was the table hitting the floor. My dad turned it over when my mom gave him the happy news that somebody was going to be a daddy. I'll say this for her, she didn't lie. Somebody was, just not my dad.
Aunt Margie, eyes wide, asked my grandpa, “should we go up there?”
“Nope. Blue knew Jackson didn't want any more children. What the hell was that woman thinking?” Grandpa was a great believer in folks settling their own problems.
We could hear the yelling getting louder. Grandma was crying. She kept repeating, “Lord watch over my son. Help him accept this new baby.” I guess by then they knew what my mom's news was even though she didn't get to tell them. I guess, too, she should have been praying for my mom. Maybe grandma just figured Mom has her own mom to say prayers. We heard some more thuds, like Daddy was hitting the walls. Then there was running feet and screaming. The door upstairs opened but slammed shut right after. Then things went real quiet and everybody was looking at the ceiling. It's weird how you think you can determine what is happening by looking at a ceiling.
“I'm going up there!”, Aunt Margie insisted.
Grandma took us girls and knelt in front of the couch. “We need to pray real hard, girls, so God will hear us.” I don't know. Maybe God was busy or just mad at my mom.
The next thing we heard Aunt Margie scream to call an ambulance and Grandpa was yelling. I'm not sure at who. I don't even know what he was yelling. I just remember being scared there was a monster upstairs.
When the ambulance came they took my mom to the hospital and the police took my dad to jail. That was the last time I saw him.
The next day, Aunt Margie took Jace and me to my other grandmother's house. That was the last time I saw my dad's parents. Aunt Margie would come visit us but always alone.
Life moved along after we moved to my other grandma's house. It wasn't long until my mom and her mom started getting into arguments. After Justin was born, mom got a job at The Mercado and we moved to,”The Little Village”. I started school . We were poor but so was everyone else in the neighborhood. Then Mom met Rey and our lives changed again.
It seems like one moment it was Mom and us kids and the next we were, “the happy family.” Even after Rey began hitting Mom, she kept calling us the, “happy family.” It was like she believed we weren't a family if there wasn't a man. I guess that is really why I never told her about Rey. Oh, he definitely scared me. He would come in to use the bathroom when I was in the tub. The first time he did it, he just used the bathroom and then left. Before he opened the door he stopped a moment.
“I really had to pee, JoAnna. You know how it is when you can't wait.” He winked at me. “Don't go telling your mom. If she gets upset, I'll have to spank her.” Rey could spank pretty hard.
The next time he came in, he peed and then stood there. After a minute I heard him.
“Want to see what Daddies look like? I don't want you to be scared when you get married. It would upset your Mom if you were”
I thought quickly about that. I knew I was suppose to get married. That was the most important thing about being a mommy. I didn't want to be scared and I definitely didn't want Mom upset,so I said okay.
Things just got worse from there. Rey never did more than having some touching going on but it made me feel sick. I didn't understand why Rey wanted this. If all daddies did that, like he said, then why couldn't I talk about it? Why would Mom be upset? Why wouldn't we be a “happy family” anymore?
I know now that I should have told her. We ended up not being a “happy family” after all. Even today, as an adult with an education in child abuse, I still felt, deep down, it was my fault. Rey hurt Justin and Mom saw it. For a long time I thought he did to Justin what he did to me. I guess that is where the guilt comes from. Mom kicked Rey out and filed for divorce. Then Rey came back.
We had gone to the Christmas party at the shelter for battered women and children. It was so much fun. Since Rey left we went to the shelter a couple nights a week. Mom went into a room with other mom's. On Tuesday night Jace and I went into a room with art supplies and long tables. Justin went into a room filled with toys. Both rooms had other kids in them. Thursdays we went into a room with toys but it was just us three with a lady who watched us play. Sometimes she asked what we were playing. Sometimes she joined us. All the time she watched us. The party was different. It was like Tuesday night but better.
The art room was decorated with lights and a Christmas tree. There was a big chair by the tree. The long tables had red and green tablecloths and were laden with all kinds of food. I remember there was a big disposable pan filled with macaroni and cheese. It made me think about the last time I saw my dad. Mom asked if I wanted some but I said no. I haven't eaten mac and cheese, or fish sticks, since that day. I still don't. There was plenty of other food though. Things like ham slices, potatoes, candied carrots, sweet potatoes with a crunchy sweet topping, rolls and fun stuff, like pizza and hot dogs. One of the tables held nothing but cookies! I had never seen so many different cookies before. Mom fixed us all plates and then we went to sit with Kay.
Kay was one of the art teachers. I liked her a lot. She always had fun ideas and liked everyone's art work. She had given us a ride to the party and would take us home. We ate. We played. We ate cookies. Then the big moment came. Santa! He was there with a couple of bags of gifts. I couldn't believe it! We weren't even asleep! We sang songs with Santa and then everyone got a gift, even the mom's. After that we went home. We were only there a minute when there was a knock.
“Kay!” I screamed, running for the door. “Kay's back!”
I saw my mom coming out of the bedroom but I didn't wait for her. I flung open the door and there was Rey. He had a gun like cowboys use and he pointed it at me.
“Let's go in the house,” he said, calmly.
I was afraid to turn around so I backed into the room. I kept staring at that gun. I knew this was bad.
“Get Jacelyn. We're going in the kitchen with your mom.”
Mommy was in the kitchen standing with Justin. She was crying but I don't know if she knew it. She never wiped her eyes or her cheeks. I wondered if I was crying like that.
“Sit down.” Rey told Mommy pointing the gun at her and Justin. He waved the gun at me and Jace. “Stand next to your mom.” I didn't understand it. He was talking so softly, like he wasn't even mad. Except he had the gun. He threw a bunch of paper on the floor in front of Mommy.
“No divorce. I love you. I love the kids. We're a happy family.” Rey kept saying that over and over. He said it softly, with no anger. He said while he emptied the gun and then showed us each bullet.
“Blue.” One bullet in. “JoAnna.” Two bullets in. “Jacelyn.” “Justin.” Three and four. “Rey.” Five. “Just in case.” The remaining ones. “I love you, Blue.” “We're a happy family.” The gun went in Mommy's mouth.
“Please God. Please” I didn't know what else to say. Save us? Save Mommy? Don't let me puke? Don't let me pee? He might get mad. That's it! “Please God. Don't let him get mad.” He didn't sound mad. Maybe he needed to be mad to pull the trigger. “Oh God. What do I do? Help us. I'll be good. He can touch me God. All he wants. I'll never say no. I promise. I'll be a good girl. I'll never be a problem to anyone. I won't fight. I'll be quiet. I promise you God. I'll be the best.” Wait! What happened? Why is Mommy putting Justin on the floor?
“Go to bed. Take Justin and Jacelyn with you.” Rey is looking at me but Mommy is standing and he still has the gun in her mouth. What's happening now? Rey pushes Mommy toward her room.
“Let's go Blue. The kids are going to bed.” Rey tells Mommy like it is any normal night.
Except it's not. He isn't suppose to be here. Kay said he couldn't come back. What happened? Where are the police? Kay said the police would come. But they aren't here and Mommy is going to die. I don't know what to do. 'I want my Mommy, God. I told you I'll be a good girl'”
I can't leave Mommy alone. “Mommy will die if I leave. I have to be a big girl now. It's all my fault. I should have been a good girl. I'll be good now, God. I promise.”
I sit down next to Mommy's door. I put Justin in my lap and pull Jacelyn as close as I can.
“If we sit here quietly, then Mommy won't die.” I keep repeating it to them even though I know I'm lying. There is going to be a big boom and Mommy will be dead. Then we will die, too. I guess Rey will go last even though I wish he would go first. But I keep repeating it to Jace and Justin like a mantra of safety. We wait to hear the gun. I don't cry because I'm a big girl. I think I am though. My face feels hot and wet like when I get hurt and I cry. Please don't let us die. I'll never cry again. I'll be good. I'll do whatever he says. I won't cry. I'll be a good girl. I don't want to hear the gun, God.
I still don't know how my mouth can say one thing while my mind pleads another.
It feels like forever since I saw Mommy. I wonder if she is still alive. Did I miss the gun sound? It's getting light out.
Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Help us! The door is opening! Please be Mommy!
Rey comes out of the bedroom. He still has the gun but not my mommy! He doesn't even look at us. Maybe he thinks we are in bed? I watch him leave out the front door. I want to go see Mommy but I'm scared she will be bloody and asleep. Please God. Please God.
My mommy comes out the door! She isn't dead! Oh Thank You! Thank you! I remember. I'll be good.
“He's gone. We waited for the gun to go off.” I tell Mommy.
Mommy is holding us. It feels so good. I never want her to let go.
“I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry,” Now Mommy is repeating. Maybe she made a promise with God too.
“JoAnna, wash your face Honey. Mommy has to make some calls.”
I wash my face. The police come. So does Kay.
After that happened, it was always just Mom, Jace, Justin and me. If my mom had a boyfriend we never met him. We went to school, to art class and to play at the shelter. Time passed and we grew up. I never told Mom about Rey and me. I never told anyone until I told you. Jace, Justin and I never talk about that night. I don't know if Jace remembers. I am pretty sure Justin was too young.
I remember the promises I made that night. I keep them. I hold them tight. I am afraid that if I don't God will not keep us safe.
I am a good girl. I do what I'm told. If someone wants to touch me, I don't stop them. I don't feel it. I don't tell. I never say no. I don't cry. I don't argue. I don't fight. I keep us all safe.
I have a boyfriend. He wants to marry me. He doesn't know how damaged I am.
I want to tell him, “It's okay. You don't have to love me. I prefer that you don't.”
Softly, I say, “yes.”