There seems to be a shift taking place. The happiness is fading. Mom and Dad seem tired. Could it be baby Sister? I wonder if I helped more. I could do that. I can cook and do dishes. They seem to be having trouble with getting the baby to sleep. I know Mom and Dad get frustrated when Sister cries in her crib sometimes.
One evening, Mom and Dad tell us that we are going down to the W pastor’s house. I feel a little nervous. When we get there, Mom and Dad tell brother and I to go play in the kids’ rooms while they talk to the pastor and wife in the living room. I am uncomfortable. The house is not very big. The boys are not wearing shirts. They are all running around in shorts. But they seem okay with that. I don’t know where to look. Even though my brother and I share a bath, I don’t feel comfortable seeing that much of those boys’ bodies. All the kids seem happy that we are visiting. We play for a little while, and I start to get bored. I walk out to the living room to see what the adults are doing. Maybe I can ask how long we are planning to stay. It is dark outside. I saw the W pastor sitting on the couch, facing away from my parents, who were sitting on the couch that was against the perpendicular wall. Pastor is watching TV, holding my sister. It is strange the way he is holding her. Just her face in his hands while she sits on his lap. She is being forced to look at him while he watches TV. She looks unhappy. He says he is breaking her will. She is a strong willed baby and she needs to be broken. Sister is trying to turn her head and look at me, but all she can do is look out the corner of her eye. I am told to go back and play. As I start to walk down the hall, I hear Sister start to cry. I stop. I want to hold her. To tell her it’s okay. I don’t. Something inside tells me to keep walking. My first betrayal of my own family member.
It feels like hours go by. I can still hear her crying in the living room. I make up excuses: I have to go to the bathroom, I need a drink of water, can we get a snack? Each time, I check to see she is not being hurt. She’s not, just held against her will. Mom looks very very sad. Dad has a blank look. Finally, we get to go home. Sister’s will must have broken. Yet, it does not feel like a happy event.
The next night, the oldest W boy comes over. Jesse. Brother and I have always liked him because he is funny and fun. He seems serious tonight. Jesse asks Brother and I to go in the sun room with him. The room that Dad made out of windows so we could look out into the woods. It is dark now so we can’t see out. Us kids are sitting on the couch that looks into the dining room, which is right next to the kitchen. Mom and Dad start talking in the kitchen. Jesse starts talking to us, telling us that we may see things that we are uncomfortable with, but that it will be okay. That Dad needs to break Mom’s will. I am holding Sister with Brother on my left. Voices are escalating. Jesse keeps talking, I am not hearing what he is saying. I am only listening to my parents now. As their voices become still louder, I am thinking of Brother. He hates yelling. Is he going to run and hide under his bed? He would probably get in trouble for that. The yelling does not sound like it is going to stop. I put my arm around Brother while Sister is still on my lap. A mug flies out of the kitchen and breaks against the dining room wall. Mom and Dad are really upset. Jesse is trying to distract us. I hear nothing now. It is silent. Yet I know they are still yelling. I can feel it pulsating through my body. Then I see Mom appear from around the corner. She was pushed. She’s on the ground. Body looking crippled up and crying. Did Dad push her? Why did he push her? So many questions going through my head. I can see Mom crying, and I know Dad is yelling at her, but I hear nothing. Nothing but my own heartbeat. I want to shelter Brother and Sister from this. They can’t see this. Dad comes from around the corner toward Mom. I can’t look. I close my eyes. Then it all goes black. I don’t remember Jesse leaving. I don’t remember going to bed. I remember waking up and Mom is making breakfast. Mom looks up, but not smiling. She has bruises on her arms and legs. I feel very sad. This is when the darkness begins. I know everything will get better. Isn’t that what Jesse said? For now, no one is talking. It is still silent.
One thought on “Early 1994”
Powerful and brave stuff, Erica. I know you had to dig really deep to write this. Forever and always, much love and respect to you and your family.