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Under the Willows
Sitting under the humongous willow trees in my back yard, I had no idea what was going to become of my life in the next few days. In fact, I had no idea that anything at all was going to happen. I figured it would just be another typical school week. If I had known then what I know now, the coming week would have been a hell of a lot different.
But unfortunately, I didn’t know at the time, so I went on living my life. I argued with my sister, yelled at my dog, avoided talking to my parents, and did what any normal fifteen year old girl does, under appreciating everything that I had, everyone who loved me, no matter what happened in the end. You know the old saying; you never know what you’ve got it until it’s gone? It’s true. As true as my love for the blue Wisconsin skies that I’ll forever miss.
As I sat there, gazing up at the passing clouds, I thought about what my parents could be saying to each other. I had left the house at a run, wanting to get away from the threatening shouts my parents spat at each other, and sprinted to the place I knew the best. When I was little, my parents had fought a lot more than they do now. As I became tired of hearing their endless fights, one day, I just walked out of our house into the yard, clutching a journal, and decided to sit underneath the shady willows. I didn’t go there to pout or cry, just simply to get some peace and quiet. The weeping trees became my friends, calming me down with their rustling branches that swayed ever so gently in the seasonal breeze. The trees held so many deep memories.
Once, my mother had vanished from the house all night. When she snuck back into the house suspiciously the next morning, my father had struck her across the face when she looked back up from closing the front door behind her. Before an insult or accusation could be flown across the room, my ten-year-old self had crawled out of the room, journal in hand. I hid beneath the familiar willows, their shade shielding me from the sun and their comfortable warmth protecting me from the aggressive hostility that I was always avoiding back in the house. After a few hours, when the fight had calmed down a bit, I walked back into the house to find my mother had left. The living room was a mess; broken glass, flipped over chairs. It wasn't much different than usual.
My father was drunkenly standing at the door, staring, the evidence being bottles of beer fallen over on the kitchen counter. He explained, slurred, "Your mother's pissed. God knows where she's gone. To hell with her."
I remembered being the one to clean it all up, without any help, at ten years old. A tear ran down my face.
The sound of a crash filled the air. At first I thought I had imagined it, but after the piercing scream sounded, I was sure it was real. I ran back to the house, praying as I went that no one had gotten hurt. As the house grew nearer, more shouts of pain sounded. I threw the back door open, and then was disgusted by the sight that met my eyes; my mother, standing in a small pool of her own blood, stood pointing a shaky, accusing finger at my father. Shards of glass surrounded her feet, being the evidence that she had been cut. Just by looking at my mother, I knew what had happened. My father had poured himself a beer, drank it, got angry, and then threw the glass at my mother. It was all too predictable. I turned and glared at my father, hoping that my eyes were cutting into him like the glass had cut my mother. He stared right back, and then turned towards the kitchen, probably to get himself another beer.
“Do you see? Now, do you see why I hate this family?” I called after him, and stormed off to my room without listening for a reply. Once I was there, I grabbed a towel from my closet and slowly made my way back downstairs to help my mother.
I walked cautiously over to her, not sure if she was also drunk. She still wore the glassy stare she had minutes before.
“Mom?” I called to her. “Are you okay? Do you need any help?” I cooed softly. I took a few more steps forward, and then stopped, awaiting her answer.
“Get away from me, b***h. I don’t need your help. I don’t need anyone’s help. I don’t need anyone’s help at all!” she said, with a noticeable slur to her voice. My mother would never say anything like that to me if she hadn’t been drunk. She was possibly the best mom one could ask for, but lately, she had been drinking twice a week now, which increased the fighting greatly. I gently tossed the towel to her and then jumped back.
“I said to get away from me! I don’t need your help! Why can’t you people just leave me alone?!” she yelled, right in my face. It hurt, the way she talked to me when she was like this. It hurt even more to know that she was better than this pathetic display. I ran back to my room.
Tears tracked my cheeks. I sat at the head of my bed, knees to my chest, arms hugging my legs. I stared emptily at my willow trees through the window. The peace they bestowed on my mind and soul was truly amazing. They helped me think clearly. These trees were a part of me, my best friends, always there to comfort me when I was down.
As more salty tears streamed down my face, I began despising my family more and more. It was hard to remember times when my parents got along, when my sister and I loved each other, when there wasn't a care in the world for me. Now, I only dreamed of such a fantasy. I lived a hard life. And I just had to deal with every single damn day the best I could; standing tall, a straight face, and no complaints.
But this time, I couldn't find myself this type of tranquility. I loved my mother far too much for her to shout at me with such rage and still be able to hold back tears. One of the only people genetically programmed to love me hated me.
I picked up a pillow, pressed it against my face, and screamed at the top of my lungs. I choked my cries with the corner of the pillow in my mouth. I sobbed hard. It was much too overwhelming.
But over all the stress and tears, I could still hear voices in my head telling me to go to the willows. My instinct was usually right, so, I very quietly made my way down the steps. I slid through the hallway, making my way to the back door. When I rounded the corner, I couldn’t help but scream. My mother was lying there, motionless on the linoleum tile in the kitchen. The pool of blood was growing larger by the minute. I spotted the towel I had brought down earlier and rushed over to pick it up. Tears were flowing like a river as I pressed the towel against the cuts on her feet.
I was about to grab the phone, but then realized I couldn’t. If I called 911, my father would most likely end up in jail. I didn’t hate him enough to let that happen. But I couldn’t let my mother die, either. I got down on my knees and prayed. I sat there, waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. I finally got the courage to pick up the phone. I just held it in my hand, not sure what else to do.
“God? Do you hate me?” I whispered in a tone of despair. My mother meant so much to me, I couldn’t lose her. I looked out the kitchen window at the willows as if asking them to help me. Their branches swayed in the wind. I cried even more. As I looked on, I knew I had to do something. Fast.