This story is by Sue Moreines and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
He became an angry bastard who directed his rage at me. Of course, no one would believe it if I said anything and Victor hinted if I breathed a word of what went on behind closed doors, I’d never see the light of day. I had no doubt he would kill me and make it look like a suicide.
Victor made sure everyone was aware he was the committed husband who would care for me “until death do us part,” despite claiming I had become mentally unstable. Sometimes I did feel crazy, and maybe I was. I tried hard not to think about the abuse and the devastating loss, but the worst scenarios came alive in my nightmares and I knew I’d be tormented forever.
“Hey! Anybody hungry in there?” yelled a guard. Then a metal flap opened and a plastic tray slid through the small space at the bottom of the steel door. “Hope you enjoy your first meal of the day. Nutraloaf is our specialty,” he added.
There’s nothing to do in solitary confinement except think, listen to people scream and feel the vibrations of helpless fists banging on walls and doors. By now you’ve probably realized I’ve been telling you my story from inside my head since talking aloud would only make me seem crazier.
Just before being moved from a cell to solitary confinement, I was being interviewed by the same detective for the third time. Instead of asking questions about my crime, he pinned me up against the wall and threatened to have me brutally attacked if I dared say another negative word about Victor. After all I had been through, I wasn’t going to have any part of that intimidation. Even handcuffed, I was able to reach around his arm and jam two fingers deep into his eye socket. I’m sure he won’t be seeing things the same way ever again. I suppose being crazy, or having people believe you are, has its benefits, since I only got two months in solitary instead of a year.
As soon as I was arrested, my lawyer started working on getting me transferred to a prison that had psychiatric services. I admit what I did was horribly wrong, but Victor became increasingly more abusive and controlled my every move. I didn’t see any other way to escape. Like I said, I’ve done my best to avoid thinking about things, but I love going over every detail of what I eventually did to him. The satisfaction I feel about that makes this all worthwhile.
When I knew my daughter Sarah would be spending the night with my mother, I waited until Victor left for work, then quickly found everything I needed in the basement, the garage and under the sink. Victor always expected me to have dinner ready for him when he got home, and that night was no different. Except, I knew he wouldn’t be getting up from the table.
The cuff-port slid open and a voice said, “Lucky you Robinson. Your lawyer got his way. You’re leaving for the loony bin in the morning.”
I smiled and danced around the 6 X 8 foot cell. Before closing the slot, I heard him mutter, “Crazy bitch.”
After typing the final word, Sarah got up and paced about. Writing stories from her mother’s point of view always agitated and upset her, but having a comfortable new bedroom helped ease her distress.
I wonder what my English teacher will think about this one. Everything I write is depressing, but I can’t help it. I’ve tried to come up with happy themes, but I always drift back into the darkness.
“Sarah! Are you ok up there?” Nana hollered from the foot of the stairs.
“Yes Nana! I’m fine. Just doing some extra studying for next week’s finals,” Sarah replied.
“OK. Dinner will be ready in an hour,” she shouted back.
Living with my Nana has been wonderful, but there are many things I keep to myself. Like my diary, and the stories I write and my bad dreams. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what would have happened to me.
Sarah flopped down on the bed and buried her face in the pillow, muffling an anguished cry. When she could finally sit up, she grabbed a tattered family photo album that was lying on her nightstand and thumbed through it slowly, focusing most of her attention on the pictures of her older sister Margaret. Their life in pictures revealed proud parents and two happy little girls.
Leaping from the bed, Sarah sat back down at the computer, but this time she wrote a few paragraphs from Margaret’s perspective.
I still blame myself for devastating our family. Why did I have to get cancer? Mom and Dad had to focus all of their time and attention on me, leaving Sarah to fend for herself. She was only 12 when I got sick and barely 14 when I died. Fortunately, Sarah was a good student, so going to school each day gave her a break from the incredible stress that was going on at home. Teachers encouraged her academic abilities and did what they could to help her cope with my steady decline and eventual death. Nana was always there for Sarah, and I’m so grateful to her for everything.
I know that Sarah had a terrible time dealing with my illness and generally appeared to be numb and distant. Our parents didn’t even seem to notice, and I was so sick there wasn’t much I could do to help her. Although they tried to hide it, it was obvious our parents started fighting a few months before I died. I can’t say exactly what was going on, but I could hear hollering and thumping when I was home and not in the hospital. Sarah stayed at Nana’s house a lot, and I can only hope she didn’t have to deal with Mom and Dad’s escalating conflicts.
“Sarah, dinner will be ready in 10 minutes,” Nana announced.
“I’ll be there,” Sarah answered pleasantly, even though she was annoyed about being distracted.
Leaning back in the chair, Sarah closed her eyes and allowed her own thoughts a chance to speak:
One day while walking home from school, I had a funny feeling that someone was following me. After looking around in all directions, checking behind every car and tree and even standing in the middle of an empty parking lot, I didn’t see anyone. I was sure it had to be my imagination. Or, maybe someone was really watching me.
I ran home as fast as I could and took refuge in my bedroom, trying hard not to listen to the arguing and crying downstairs. Margaret had died six months ago, and besides feeling empty and alone, I was sickened by my parents’ constant battles. My mother always lost, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Every day I thought about what I could do to help her, but never came up with anything.
Mom and I had a long talk later that night. She told me she had figured out a way to make things better and I would have to spend the following night at Nana’s. I had no idea what she was going to do, but she left me feeling anxious and afraid.
Then, for no apparent reason, I felt like I was supposed to get the photo album I had hidden in the back of the closet. As I pulled it toward me it slipped out of my hands, fell to the floor and opened to a page filled with pictures of Margaret. I stared at her, and I swear she stared right back at me. I walked toward my bed feeling overwhelmed by loss and grief but a comforting warmth surrounded me. I glanced over toward my nightstand and noticed the angel pin that Nana had given to me at Margaret’s funeral.
It took only a moment, but I received her message loud and clear. I fastened the pin to my shirt, looked back at Margaret and smiled. It wasn’t my imagination at all but my sister coming back to help me.
I never believed in guardian angels before, but there was no way to ignore the signs. No matter what happened, Margaret would always be near to protect and guide me.
Obviously, things with my parents didn’t end well, and that’s why I live with Nana.
“Sarah! Dinner’s ready,” yelled Nana.
“I’m on my way,” answered Sarah.