A Story of Forgiveness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of a broken family.

Submitted: November 25, 2007

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Submitted: November 25, 2007

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A A A


A Story of Forgiveness
 
The smell of Sunlight dish soap was overwhelming. I had learned a long time ago that when something was bothering me it helped to concentrate very hard on something… something that wouldn’t change. Tonight that something happened to be the dish soap. Mom stood to my left, washing a beige plate with blue trim. Her eyes seemed to be a bit out of focus and I noticed that she had been washing the same plate for at least three minutes. “Mom,” I said quietly. “Are you finished with that?” I gestured to the plate. A slight look of surprise crossed her face and she nodded. A single tear trickled from her right eye, a shimmering line trailing all the way down to her chin and dropping quickly into the sink, becoming lost in the bubbles.
 
* **
 
I’m five years old. It’s halfway through November and my sister, Ariel, refuses to put on her jacket. ‘Please put on your jacket,’ I think to myself and hope that she can somehow hear my thoughts. ‘Just please put it on. It’s so easy and I don’t want you to get in trouble. Please put it on.’ I never say these things out loud because she hates me. She hates the thought of me, her annoying little sister who always gets what she wants. It’s not true anyway- I don’t always get what I want. I wanted gymnastics lessons this year and swimming lessons like all of my friends but we can’t afford it. “I’m going to get your dad now! Put on your goddamn jacket!” Mom’s upset. I hope she’s kidding about getting dad. Please be kidding. I start to cry.
* **
 
Ariel didn’t go to school today. Dad had been gone two hours before she had even woken up. Mom’s only weapon was a dud because he wasn’t there. I woke up the boys and made them each a sandwich and got them ready for school. I left for school early because I didn’t want to hear the fight. I wiped the tears from my eyes before I got close enough to the bus stop that my friends could see my face. No one knows what it’s like.
 
* * *
 
I’m seven years old. Ariel got fed up today and kicked a hole in her door. Everyone’s yelling and dad isn’t even home yet. I go to the bathroom and turn on the tap in the sink and also the bath tub faucet so that no one can hear me cry.
 
* **
 
I put the dish towel down because Mom didn’t seem to be too keen on finishing the dishes. She gave me a hug and then pulled away to wipe up her face since she heard the boys coming home from daycare. It was 5:30 so Dad should be home soon. I thought that maybe if I cleaned up as much as I could before he got there, he would be in a really good mood. Maybe he would be in such a good mood that he would forget all about Ariel missing school today. I started by tidying the living room and then arranged all of the shoes nicely by the door so that he wouldn’t trip on them.
* * *
 
I’m eight years old. I’m excited because Mom made a new friend named Annette. Annette has three daughters named Kayla, Elizabeth, and Brandie. Maybe I’ll make some new friends too! They should be here any second. They’re here now and they seem pretty nice. We all get introduced, except for Dad, because he is not here. Now I’m grossed out because Mom and Annette are outside smoking cigarettes. I’m scared that Mom will get cancer and die. I’m so scared. I think it’s disgusting that they are smoking. I decide that I don’t like Annette.
 
* * *
 
The house was so eerily quiet; I felt like I was cleaning up for ghosts. Even the boys, as young as they were, could tell that something was wrong so they went and played downstairs. Mom went outside to smoke, and I went to cry in the privacy of my room. What would I do if my mom died? What would I do if ANY of my family died? I felt like walking across the street to my aunt’s, but then I thought better of it because she would be able to tell something was wrong and she would blame my mom. Everyone always blames my mom.
 
* * *
 
I’m still eight years old. Mom thinks it’ll be fun for me to go to Annette’s house to play with her daughter, Elizabeth. Mostly everyone calls her Lizzy. Annette gets a phone call. Her back straightens, and her eyes seem darker. “Yes… yeah… mhmm… I’ll deal with her, thanks for letting me know.” Click.
 
Five or ten minutes go by before Kayla returns home from the babysitter’s course. Annette starts yelling and swearing. She grabs Kayla by the arm and throws her on the ground, shouting at her, “Stealing is wrong! What would God think of that?! What would God think of that?! You do not steal! What kind of piece of crap did I raise for a daughter?”
 
Annette kicks Kayla in the leg. Kayla is crying and my heart is pounding faster than any other time in my life. I ask Annette in my head what God would think of the way she treats her kids.
 
* * *
 
Mom came back inside smelling of tobacco. I coughed and hacked and hoped that she got the message. I think she did. She gave me her worst look and told me that we needed to finish cleaning the dishes. It was getting closer to 6:00 and my Dad would be home soon.
 
* **
I’m nine years old. My best friend Natalie and her sister, Monica, are over for a sleepover. I haven’t seen them in a few years because they haven’t been allowed over since they live too far away. Ariel gets in trouble again tonight and Dad yells. Monica is worried about Ariel and starts to cry. I don’t get to see Natalie and Monica for another three years. Their parents refuse to let them over.
 
* * *
 
The door slammed and I knew right away that there was no hope of the clean house making a difference on his mood. I was rooted to the spot. Mom wasn’t moving either, but we heard him banging on Ariel’s door to let him in. There was no need for an invitation though, because he just opened it right up anyway.
 
* **
 
I’m still nine years old. Ariel will not do anything. She just won’t do what she’s told. I know that she’s going to get in trouble and there’s nothing that I can do about it. The yelling has started, and I don’t know what to do. I wish with every part of my brain that it was me who was in trouble for once instead. If it was me, I would be able to fix it. I get along with Dad, and I could talk to him until he wasn’t angry anymore. Why doesn’t Ariel understand that if she just stopped then he would stop? Why can’t she just do what he wants her to do? I think fast, and make a distraction. I open the hall closet and pull out every jacket and throw it on the floor. They both look at me like I’m nuts and I’m glad because it’s working. Ariel and I both get sent to our rooms and that’s it. I’m very proud of myself.
 
***
 
Within a few seconds the house was full of yelling and screaming. Mostly the yelling was my dad’s, and the screaming was Ariel’s. My hands started shaking uncontrollably and my knees started giving way. I burst into tears and fell to the floor, not knowing what to do. Mom turned to me and looked me in the eye. “If he starts hitting me too, I’m outta here.” she said to me.
 
She walked over to Ariel’s room to protect her while I ran downstairs to make sure the boys were okay and couldn’t hear anything. I was incredibly lucky to find two pairs of headphones and two walkmans. I put one pair on each of their heads so that they wouldn’t have to hear anything. Sadly I had to hear it all.
 
“Let go of her!”
“THIS IS YOUR FAULT, YOU KNOW! YOU CALL ME UP IN THE MIDDLE OF A MEETING TO TELL ME SHE’S NOT GOING TO SCHOOL. YOU COULDN’T DEAL WITH IT YOURSELF, ANITA! SHE’S DISOBEDIENT, AND SHE LIES CONSTANTLY!”
“I’m leaving.”
“Good, take this lying little bitch with you!”
 
That’s the last thing I heard before the door slammed. The boys and I bravely but stupidly walked upstairs to see our dad sitting on the floor in tears. I had never seen my dad cry before and it freaked me out. I sent the boys back downstairs and went to talk to my dad. I gave him a hug and he said “I’m so sorry. I am so sorry, Jayla. I’m so sorry.”
 
He kept repeating that until I said, “It’s okay Dad,” even though I knew that it wasn’t. Hitting someone was never okay...he was the one that taught us that.
 
I had wondered where my mom and Ariel had gone, but it wasn’t long before I found out. I found out in about ten minutes when the police showed up at the front door and took my dad away. The policeman explained that he had gotten a phone call from an Annette Braddon, telling him that my dad had sexually abused Ariel and killed my mom. Neither of which was true.
 
***
 
I’m three years old. We’re at the park; Ariel and I are on the merry-go-round and screaming for Dad to push us faster! Faster! We get off of the toy and Dad notices that I’m a bit wobbly. “Jayla, do you want a ride on my shoulders?”
“No, I can walk by myself!” I fall and hit the side of my head on the merry-go-round. Mom and Dad rush me to emergency and I get three stitches on the side of my eye. It’s one of the funniest days of my life so far because the doctor shows me a magic trick.
 
* * *
 
Mom and Ariel stayed at Annette’s for the night and after finding out that my dad did not do what he was accused of doing, he was sent to live with my aunt across the street for a few weeks. The next day, three social workers came to our house to examine all of us. I was asked many questions. For example, they asked if my dad had ever hit me, and I replied truthfully with a ‘no’. They checked us all for bruises and talked more with my mom.
 
* * *
 
I’m six years old and my mom is out of the house with her friends. Ariel and I want braids in our hair but there’s no one to do it for us and we don’t know how. Dad comes into the room and braids our hair as good as if Mom had done it.
 
* * *
 
Dad went to court a few days later and was put on probation for half of a year, meaning that he had to report to someone every day saying what he did that day, who he talked to, where he went, etcetera. He started attending anger management classes and we started seeing a huge change in him. No amount of change could fix Mom and Dad’s marriage though, and Dad moved out. That was the second time I saw him cry.
 
* * *
 
I’m eight now. Dad’s gone away on a business trip to Malaysia. At first I’m relieved because there’s no yelling. Then I start to miss him. I cry tears of happiness when he gets home with little presents for us all.
 
***
 
The only way my dad had ever learnt to deal with his problems was through violence. When he was young and did something wrong, he would get a belt to the backside. He lived in a house where yelling was normal, and people’s feelings were not considered. He plans to change this pattern now.
 
** *
 
I’m seventeen now. I live in the same old house with my dad and two brothers. After my dad moved out, my mom decided that she wanted him to have the house because she couldn’t afford to keep it, so she moved away and we stayed here. Ariel lives with Mom and we all get along so much better. Ariel doesn’t hate me anymore and we’ve even become friends. Mom and Dad have gotten to a place where they can act friendly towards each other for our benefit.
 
Mom had a “falling out” with Annette so we never see her anymore. That was the beginning of a life change for all of us. Mom has become much stronger and has turned her life around. She had been battling with alcoholism for a huge portion of her life and has now been sober for three years. Everyone who used to blame her for everything is getting better because we stood up to them finally and told them that it wasn’t okay.
 
Ariel has been doing alright. She is an amazingly talented person who deserves all of the happiness in the world. It is hard to find words to explain how much closer we have become and how our lives have improved.
 
The biggest change has been in my dad. We’re not scared of him coming home anymore- we’re not scared of him at all. Sure, he has his moments, as we all do. But for the most part, he’s great. We trust him fully with anything and we’re so glad that he’s in our lives. It took us a while to forgive, but we have. There’s no way that we will ever be able to forget, but it’s been a learning experience for all of us. Both Ariel and I had to grow up a little faster than most of our friends, but we’re both strong because of it, and I would not exchange my family for anything in the world.
 
I look back on my childhood because someone asks me what it was like. At first I think of all of the horrible family times but then I start to focus on the good stuff. I realize that there were so many more happy memories than I had thought, and all I need to do is concentrate more on them than on the bad times. Because after a lot of thought, I have decided that the sad times are not what has made me who I am today, but the happiness that followed after the worst had passed. I love my life, my family, and my friends, and that is all that matters to me.


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