“Girls, we need to talk.” Her face was red, and she looked more nervous than I had ever seen her.
“Are we in trouble?” my sister asked. Mom shook her head, and we waited for her to speak again. We must have looked like statues, unable to blink and fixed on each quiver of her lips. The words that came out of her mouth next would change not only her life forever, but ours as well.
In March of 2003, my sister and I were packing to go to Virginia when my mom told us there would be an extra person coming. Her friend wanted a vacation and had offered to pay his way. Two weeks later, we were confronted with the truth.
“Girls, we need to talk. Your father and I have grown to be like brother and sister over the past few years. We don’t love each other like we used to. We’re getting a divorce.” My sister and I stared at her, thinking this couldn’t be happening. A few nights later she told us she had met someone with whom she felt she could get serious.
“Get serious? It’s been two weeks. Serious is out of the question!” my sister and I screamed in horror. It turned out it was her friend from our Virginia trip. But, despite what we said, nothing was going to change.
Soon after, I left for two weeks in Spain with my soccer team. Going away was a good escape and gave me time to think about everything and do what I love most. Halfway through the trip, I called home to see what was new. When I asked my mom what she was doing, she said she was painting.
“Painting, what are you painting?” I asked. She was painting my sister’s new room. She had moved in with her “serious boyfriend,” whom I had met twice. My trip was officially ruined, and when I came home, I had to face moving in and painting my new room, too.
Our lives have totally changed and I have become more mature, independent, reliable and much more interested in succeeding in school and soccer. When I was first told about the divorce, my grades dropped, my level of soccer play went down, and I was depressed. Junior year began, and I wasn’t going to let anything keep me from getting into the college of my choice. I stayed in shape, going to the gym every day so my soccer would be at my previous level. I studied and did my homework every night, raising my GPA. I turned my life around because I wanted to succeed for me.
My sister took this change a lot harder because she had no escape. She was 13 when it happened, and she felt vulnerable and trapped. Nights when I wasn’t home with her, she would go to her room, close the door and only come out for food. She decided to take the path of rebellion and get in as much trouble as she could to show my mom how much she was hurting. It hurt me to see her pain. The nights I was home alone with her, I would make her dinner and make sure her homework was done. I had to become responsible for her and tell her right from wrong.
In the beginning, she didn’t want to listen. She went to her friend’s house, a friend who was caught up with an older, drug-addicted crowd. My sister didn’t have the strength to say no or stand up for herself. One of those Saturday nights when she called I could tell she had been drinking. She had gotten sick and wanted to come home, but she couldn’t call my parents because she would be in the worst trouble of her life. I picked her up and told her this was the last time this was going to happen. It took almost eight months but she finally realized her mistakes and moved in with my father, which might make her happier and willing to make better decisions.
My parents’ divorce was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. Sure, our family holidays and dinners will never be the same, but now instead of one family, I have two. In both families I’m a daughter, but I am also a responsible 16-year-old who has gotten past the initial pain and am ready to take whatever comes my way.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.