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Struggle Against Willpower
The faces of the people swam before my eyes, shimmering in their formal business suits, eyes upturned...to me.
“Well? Ms. Rogers, a little faster would be nice.”
I picked out my mother’s face in the crowd. Only she and I knew the truth. The judge’s eyes bored a hole in the side of my face; they distracted me from my mother’s pleading eyes, her chestnut brown hair, the firm set of her cheekbones. She looked calm, innocent...beautiful. But I knew what she was like, inside.
“Anna, where are you?” Her scream jolted my heard. Had she been drinking again?
“Here,” I whispered, barely audibly, “yet not.”
Her footsteps pounded on the staircase, unrelenting. The door slammed open, the hinges shrieking in protest.
“Why didn’t you heat the soup, Anna? You knew I left instructions on the table!” My heard faltered in dismay. The soup. Seeing my look of horror, she advanced on me.
“No!” I cried, but her fist had already swung. Lights flickered before my eyes as she reached back to swing again.
Twenty-five minutes and 49 blows later, she was lying on my bed with my body in her arms, weeping warm, salty tears that dripped slowly on my bruised face.
“You know I love you, Anna.”
“I know,” I whispered, but my heart disagreed.
“Wait,” I choked, the emotions I’d felt from the memory threatening to overthrow me.
“Your decision must come now. Does your mother, Ms. Katherine Patterson, abuse you?”
A murmur rose from the crowd, angry at such blatant terms.
My mother caught my eye again, a sad, pitiful look on her face.
“I love you,” she mouthed. It took all my willpower to turn away. But I could still see her hurt expression as I moved to look at the wall.
It was hot in my classroom. I peeled off my sweatshirt, setting it down beside me.
“I’m coming around to collect the quizzes in about a minute,” Mrs. Radie whispered. Her curly brown hair bounced lightly on her delicate shoulder blades, her warm chocolate eyes wrinkled from smiling. For an absurd moment, I wished she were my mother. But I turned back to my quiz, chewing the tip of my eraser.
“Everyone, please, pencils down,” Mrs. Radie called softly, though audibly. As I reached out my hand to let her take the quiz, she paused, mouth agape, eyes downcast in concern, but closed it and walked on.
“Anna,” Mrs. Radie asked, as she set the quizzes on her desk, “could I have a word with you?”
Silently, I followed her into the hallway.
“Anna, you know, if there’s anything wrong, with friends, family, I’m here for you, you know that, right?” I nodded, my eyes looking anywhere but at her. She sighed at my reluctance.
“Anna, I noticed some bruises on your arms.” Against my will, I looked down at the line of trailing blue bruises. “How did that happen?”
My stomach churned.
“I fell,” I whispered, almost to myself. And I wished I could believe it.
“Anna, are your parents abusing you?” Her almond colored eyes stared deep into mine, penetrating the wall I had built against her.
I ripped my eyes away.
“No,” I murmured, my heart heavy.
“Ms. Rogers, a decision now, if you would, please,” the judge demanded.
“What?” I rasped; my throat was dry.
“Does your mother abuse you?”
I looked around at the faces that were upturned to me. My mother’s, begging. Mrs. Radie’s, sympathetic. The judge’s, hard as stone. But I had made my decision.
“Yes,” I said, and for the first time in my life, I felt free.