I blink at the clock with bleary eyes surprised to see its nine fifteen. I’d slept for hours and Lord how I hurt. I feel like that same little girl again from all those years ago. All I want to do is crawl under my covers with my teddy bear and cry.
I hate feeling like this. Anger flares hot and hard. My mother—how, how could she leave us? How could she leave me? I’ll never get the chance to confront her now, to scream and yell. That is what my therapist at Compton was adamant about, that I need to confront her to deal with some of my abandonment issues. She’s gone and that chance is gone with her.
Do I love her? Yeah, I guess I do, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still hate her. Letting myself feel the pain I’ve bottled up for years doesn’t change that. I can’t forgive all the pain she’s caused. Maybe I never will.
I clean myself up in the bathroom. The girl in the mirror shocks me. I’m a mess—my face pale and tired. Black hollow eyes stare back at me. I pull out my phone, feeling it vibrate-Devon. It shut off before I can answer it. Three text messages from Morgan demand to know what is wrong.
How could he know something’s wrong? He always seems to know when I need him. How? I still have no answer to the puzzle that is Morgan Chandler. With a sigh I go downstairs.
I find my way down to Dad’s office. I bend and start a fire in the hearth. I’m cold. My eyes find the picture of Alecia Reed over the mantle. Always smiling. Every time I look at this picture I have the insane urge to smash it, to destroy her smile like she had mine. I still want to despite everything Emma told me. She is the reason I’m crazy, the reason for Compton.
Everything bad that has ever happened to me centers around the day my mom left us. The nightmares started the night she left and gradually got worse and then when I cracked, I remember seeing her face flash in and out of the glimpses of snarling, snapping teeth. When I first checked into Compton, they put me in the “infirmary.” It’s the smell that stays with me. It smells of antiseptic and sterile cleaning fluids. I almost choked on that smell for the first few days. The doctors couldn’t understand it. The scent overpowered everything else. They had to move me to a room that was free of the cloying scents. I started to breathe a bit normally after that.
They strapped me to the bed, to keep me from hurting myself they said, but it was more to keep them safe from me. I was only twelve and apparently I’d done some kind of damage to a few orderlies when they’d tried to help the nurses calm me down during my Night Terrors my first night there. I’d been strapped down every night for the first two years I was there. It wasn’t until they’d found the proper blend of meds to keep the nightmares away that they’d stopped with the restraints.
That is one of the most horrible feelings in the world, to wake up immobile, to not be able to move. It’s terrifying in and of itself, but if you added my fear into the equation, it was almost debilitating. I was so scared all the time, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t concentrate, felt abandoned by everyone. They hadn’t allowed me visitors for over a year. I needed to have time for my therapy to work.
It was during therapy that the doctor had determined that all my issues stemmed from what happened to me that day in the park and my mother leaving me the next day only compounded the issue. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to remember what happened and she is, was the only person who can tell me what happened. Now, I will never know, so does that mean I’ll never get better? Will I always live with this constant fear, this feeling of the walls closing in on me? Will I ever really be normal?
My worst fear is that I’ll end up back in the mental hospital. The kids I met, the ones I got to know, the few I’d called friends shared the same fear. We used to talk about it outside of group. We knew we were messed up, and the real question always was, can we be fixed? I still have no answer to that one, but deep down, I don’t think we can. Once you break as badly as we did, I’m not sure anyone can put the pieces back together.
My mother had caused me to end up in the mess I am. I can’t forgive her for that. I can’t.
“Hey,” Jason says from behind me and then falls on the rug in front of the fireplace.
I take a seat beside him.
“You okay?” he asks, his eyes way and concerned.
“You know me, Jase. I’m always fine.” I hold my hands out to the heat. “Did Emma tell you…”
“About why she left?” he nods. “Yeah, but…”
“It doesn’t matter,” I finish for him. “I still love her, Jase, but I can’t forgive her.”
“I know,” he whispers. “I hate her, but it hurts, Sis. It hurts so much. She’s our mama and she’s gone.”
Tears trail wet paths down his cheeks and I start crying myself. He pulls me close and we sit there for the longest time like that wrapped up in our memories. My brother and I are close, made so by the mother who walked out and left us. It made us harder, more determined to protect each other. No matter what we will always have each other. She can’t take that from us.
Some people’s memories of their loved ones fade as time goes by. Mine don’t. I can still remember the sound of her voice as she sang me to sleep or hear her laughter as she listened to a joke only a six year old would find funny. She always smelled like apples and cinnamon, claiming it was Dad’s fault for making her bake so many apple pies. The feel of her arms are imprinted into my skin. She used to crawl into bed with me when I’d had bad dreams and hold me until I went to sleep. She told me everyday how much she loved me. It hurt to remember those things. I locked them away in a box for so long, but now they were out, they ate at me.
She’s my mama and she’s gone. Just…gone. I’d never hear her tell me she loved me or feel her hug me again. I’d never get the chance to tell her good-bye. No matter what she’s done to us, I love her and losing her hurt. I can’t seem to breathe past the crushing pain in my chest. It just hurts.
A few hours later I crawl under my own covers. My bear, Gingi, is firmly grasped in my clutches. The poor little thing has seen so much wear and tear over the years. Dad said Uncle Sabien gave him to me for my third birthday. My rag tag little bear is my woobie. Always has been, always would be.
Jason and I talked for a long time. We both agreed on one thing. Even if she did leave because she thought she had no choice, how were we supposed to forgive her?
I don't think it's the leaving part that hurt so much. No, we could have lived with that, but she ignored us for years. Did we get so much as a birthday card or a phone call? No. Yet she found the time to talk to her own brother almost every day. What were we supposed to think? Parents put their children first and Alecia hadn't done that whether she meant to or not. Forgiveness isn't in the cards right now. The anger burns too hot, too fresh.
I pull Gingi close and go to sleep.