Changeling This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 6, 2009
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My mother—the biological mother, the glamorous and manipulative one—called last night. I had no choice but to answer to her inquiries, and commiserate with her mundane misfortunes. “He insists on carpet. That’s fertile breeding grounds for dust mites. He can vacuum it, because I didn’t want the carpet in the first place. Do you need curtains? Curtains are expensive here…”

My father—the biological father, the stoic and vengeful one—never calls. Since his discovery of my scandalous love affair, his displeasure at my published work, we have not spoken. Our curt emails, once in a blue moon, are all business. We talk RESPs, we talk money. He doesn’t want me back, and I’m good with that.

The first time I left him, I was five. He had divorced his wife, the biological mother, and was living with the new wife, the surrogate mother. A five-year-old is taxing. I guzzled energy like air conditioning. Perhaps I was too much for them.

The discussion was brief, and very lacklustre, not the least dramatic. “Go to your mother’s apartment,” he said. I said nothing. He opened the door. I stepped out. He locked the door.

It was dark. The apartment corridor had no functioning light. Underneath my father’s door was a bright white line. I stared at it. Then I put my hands in my pockets and ran down the stairs.

My biological mother was surprised. Her plucked eyebrows disappeared into her bangs, and her pink lipstick made an O-shape. She offered me a bowl of raisins. I loved raisins. She put on Looney Tunes. I loved Looney Tunes. We were happy that night.

The happiness quickly degenerated, at least on her part. “Go back to your father,” she shrieked, two weeks later. I cried a lot, but I had no fight. I let her open the door, I willingly walked out, and I let her lock the door behind me.

Since I wasn’t about to be evicted again, I begged my babysitter for shelter. Mrs. W. didn’t know what to make of this. The hairy mole in her left eyebrow jerked up and down. Was this a game between my mother and me? What sort of mother would play such a game with her daughter? She could not understand, and neither could I.

Just then a knock came on the door. “I’m not here,” I mouthed to Mrs. W. Expertly, rapidly, and spurred by panic, I slid under the bed. Please, please, please, don’t let her find me.

My mother drags me out from under the bed. She’s not pleased. I’m terrified. Locking my wrist in an iron grip, she leads me to my father’s apartment building. As I crawl up the stairs, a miserable little maggot, she does not follow. I do not look back.

I am back in the dark corridor again, back in front of the bright white line. The light sears my retinas, but I am transfixed. I do not knock, I do not cry. My mother’s heels click, click, and fade.

Why didn’t I push back? Why did I let them close doors in my face? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? Say something, d*** it. You’re five. They’re your parents. Lonely nocturnal trips and bright white lines, those shouldn’t happen. Stand up for yourself. Fight.

I wasn’t a fighter, but I am now. When no one is looking out for you, look out for yourself. Happiness doesn’t fall out of the sky. You have to work for it. Squeeze out every drop of sweetness, because a lemon doesn’t juice itself.

The second time I left home, I was sixteen. Perhaps I was too much for them; perhaps they were too much for me. But this time, it was my choice, and on my terms. No bright white lines, no closing doors, and no fading heels. Just snow, wind, and a breath of lemon-scented air.

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This article has 35 comments. Post your own now!

thall13 said...
Sept. 24, 2015 at 1:30 pm
i loved this essay and i feel as if people don't write about real situations anymore. i want to read more of your material and learn more about you. I am 18 and a freshman in college and if you or anyone else would like to compare or even talk about poetry, reply to this post
artparisone said...
Jan. 11, 2015 at 9:19 am
This is one of the most beautifully written essays I have come across. Well done!
Anna41 said...
Jun. 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm
Really beautiful. I don't know what else to say.
XpurplemacaroniX This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm
This left me speechless. I just, have no words for this. I genuinely wish I could I was the one who wrote this piece. Your style is beautiful, your vocabulary is fantastic, and your ability to move people with your words is truly admirable. Please keep writing! (Looks like I found some words after all.)
iJustu said...
Sept. 14, 2012 at 9:48 am
Oh my heart aches while hanging on the words itself! It was beautfully done, most brilliant sad story I ever read. Keep up with it!
iJustu said...
Sept. 14, 2012 at 9:48 am
Oh my heart aches while hanging on the words itself! It was beautfully done, most brilliant sad story I ever read. Keep up with it!
irishlass317 said...
May 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm
Wow. Your essay is amazing! It inspires me!!! <3
DarkIsThyThought said...
Apr. 30, 2012 at 8:34 am
I really like how you used proper speech. I am sick of the whole text talk thing. It was a really good description of this incident, with lots of allusions and figurative language. Nice work!
TheDoubtMachine said...
Apr. 27, 2012 at 2:43 am
Wow! Its amazing to read about your struggle which you have emerged as a victor! Makes me rethink the times I've avoided this fight and how I should face my struggles with courage! Thanks for that! :)
khoibd12 said...
Apr. 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm
This is a great piece! Your vocabulary is awesome and not overused at all, you're super descriptive, and you use all these comparisons and I love especially have you described what you were thinking so well. Awesome job!
elizabethlong said...
Apr. 26, 2012 at 5:58 am
Very good, story had me totally amazed!!
elizabethlong said...
Apr. 26, 2012 at 5:58 am
Very good, story had me totally amazed!!
HaileyS This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 24, 2012 at 8:47 pm
Amazing. You know how to use words.
MissInkslinger said...
Apr. 24, 2012 at 5:06 pm
This is amazing, so vivid. I was completely engrossed, hanging on to every word. I love the ending especially, how she left on her own terms.
SilverSun said...
Apr. 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm
O was totally and completely engrossed in this. The story is so awfully sad, but it is delivered beautifully. Good. Job. Keep. Writing.
Lovely.. said...
Apr. 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm
This is extremely well written. Though the story behind this is absolutely horrid, it shows us the unglamourous side to life..and how good people- the brilliant ones always get hurt.
. said...
Apr. 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm
I love the ending. Its kind of fjll circle. Or at least thats how i see it
bearsfan654 said...
Apr. 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm
Whoa... this is very very vivid. I like it! Good job.
gottahaveadream said...
Apr. 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Wow... wonderful work. I enjoy the small details you used to make it filled with precise imagery.

Keep going!

SophiaCross said...
Apr. 16, 2012 at 7:21 pm
This is an incredibly written piece that is so real I could feel it myself. You should be proud, not only for this work, but for the strength acquired through the the experience. Good job and keep writing!
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