Popping Sea Crystals

June 4, 2009
By Rhonda Strozier BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Rhonda Strozier BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I was nearly fifteen when it happened, I must have been going into the tenth grade that fall. I was rushing out the door to meet my friends who were waiting for me down the street and Mom and Dad were off to some fancy dinner downtown. We have a lot of money so my parents always get invited to anything that has to do with making town decisions.
Mom was a trust fund baby. She was born into “old money,” and she would tell anyone who would listen. I’m surprised she could even see Dad with her nose was so far in the air; but somehow she managed and they got married. A few months later she got pregnant so I’m sure I have something to do with my parent’s “happily after ever,” but that’s not the point.
Pap wouldn’t give Mom a cent early because he did hated Dad for marrying his only daughter at 19. So for the first two years of my life, Mom, Dad and I lived in a tiny apartment on the South Side. Of course I can’t remember any of this but that’s what Dad’s told me. But here I am, getting into the whole family history when this story is about one family member in particular, Molly.

Before I could get to the door there was a quiet knock, almost like a whisper. I swung it open to find a red haired girl looking back at me. The freckles on her face matched the freckles on my face. Everything about us was almost exactly the same. The red hair on my head stuck up untidily in every direction and hers hung down by her shoulders. I was about two inches taller than her but we shared the same slender frame. All I could do was stare at her. She glanced nervously back at the rusty blue car she had come in and a tiny gray haired woman gave her a warm smile from the passenger’s seat.

“Hi, I’m Molly Lowell,” she said in a soft voice. “You must be my brother.”

I stared back at her in a state of confusion, unable to form any letters into words, any words into sentences.
Dad spoke first. “Molly Lowell?” He looked at Mom. “Molly Lowell, Rebecca? Who is Molly Lowell?”

“I’m Molly Lowell,” Molly interjected.

“She’s…she’s Molly Lowell,” Mom replied faintly.

“We can all see that she’s Molly Lowell,” Dad said his voice rising, “but I’m asking you, who is Molly Lowell?”

“She’s…our daughter. Molly Lowell. She’s our daughter, okay?”
Dad couldn’t take it. He took one last look at Molly and fainted right there on the spot. Apparently, Dad hadn’t been there when I was born. I never thought to ask. He was on a business trip for his construction company when Mom suddenly went into labor. She never knew she was pregnant with twins so when another baby came out, she panicked. She knew Dad wanted a boy so she kept me and gave Molly up for adoption. Dad banged his head up pretty bad when he fainted. So they rushed him to the emergency room and he got 7 stitches. Molly visited Dad in the hospital and apologized over and over again for causing him to faint.

That’s the type of person Molly was. Always apologizing for things that weren’t her fault. Apologizing for making Dad faint, apologizing for Mom giving her up for adoption, apologizing for herself. Molly had a decent life with her foster parents in a little house in Waco about 80 miles away from our house in Austin, Texas. When Molly came to live with us, she said it was like walking into a TV show. I didn’t think so at all.
Me and Molly got along from the very first night. It was a little weird going from being an only child to having a sister, but Molly just grew on people. Before she lived with us, Molly had a regular family. She didn’t even know she was adopted. But when they died in a fire one night while Molly was staying at a friend’s house, the truth came out. After that, Molly had to go live with foster parents until her caseworker could find her new adoptive parents but not many people want to adopt a fourteen year old. Molly’s life was bad for the next year; she ended up only living with her foster parents for a few months. It turns out that her foster Mom had a lot of foster kids. She was taking in more and more children so she could live off the checks that the state gives to foster parents. I’m the only person Molly told about what happened that night, besides her caseworker.
Molly was sitting on the couch while her foster sister flipped through the channels looking for sometime to watch. Their Dad, Steve, came into the room with a tall can of beer in his hand. His strength was apparent from the indentions he had impressed into the sides of the can.
“Gimme the remote. The games on.”
“God, Steve! Can’t you see us watching something?” Molly’s sister, Rachel replied.
“Look Rachel, I don’t give a damn what you’re watching. I said the games on. Now gimme that damn remote.” Rachel was about to extend her hand and give Steve the remote when she changed her mind.
“My check pays this cable bill, so I’m gonna watch whatever I please!” Rachel went back to staring at the television, now ignoring Steve completely. Molly sat quietly this whole time, right in between Steve and Rachel. Steve reached over to grab the remote out of Rachel’s hand but she moved it quickly before he was even halfway there.
“Rachel gimme the remote before I smack your face off!” Steve yelled, while crushing the beer can in his hand to a piece of scrap metal and throwing it onto the table beside him. Rachel continued to ignore him, staring so hard at the TV screen that her eyes grew watery. Steve leapt up from the couch and grabbed Rachel by her hair swinging her to the floor forcefully. As he crouched down to smack Rachel, Molly could stay silent no more.
“Leave her alone!” she said picking up the remote and handing it to him. “Here, take your stupid remote and watch your stupid game. Just leave her alone.”
“Shut up!” Steve shouted, the effect of the alcohol taking complete control of his body. “Shut up!” He pulled his hand back and brought it across Molly’s face tearing the skin on her cheek. Molly grabbed Rachel and ran out of the room to call the cops who removed all the foster children from the house. That was as much as she had told me but I knew that there had to be more to the story because I sometimes caught glimpses of scars on her back when her shirt rose up or on her neck when she fixed her hair.
Eventually she ended up with another set of foster parents. They were nice people; they helped her to find her way back to us. Apparently, they make it a goal to reunite most of their foster children with their birth parents. So that’s the story of how Molly found us, but that’s not the end of this story. Actually, it’s the beginning.
When Dad got out of the hospital, he asked Molly if she would like to move in with us. She didn’t talk much with Mom, nothing more than polite conversation. So of course, they never discussed Mom giving her up for adoption. Molly didn’t hold grudges, she wasn’t that type and Mom wasn’t the apologizing type, so there was an unofficial taboo on the whole adoption thing.
Molly was like an angel. For the first few years she lived with us, Molly tiptoed through life. She tiptoed through the halls, she tiptoed up the steps, she tiptoed in her room. The only person she didn’t tiptoe around was me. She told me every detail of her life in my room after everyone was sleeping. We’d be sitting on the plush brown carpet Indian style and I’d ask her about her adoptive family.
“What was your little brother like?”
“Oh, he was wonderful,” she would say, while playing with her split ends. “His name was Joey. And I would always tease him and say that his name was Joey because he was a baby kangaroo.” She always reminded me of his name anytime I’d ask her about her brother and I’d pretend I didn’t know it. It was as if she liked the feel of his name coming off her tongue.
Molly never looked at me when she talked. She’d always clean the dirt from under her fingernails or stare at the floor. Molly never gave eye contact to anyone, which either pissed people off or gave them the impression that she wasn’t all there. She was all there though.
Molly’s smile gave strangers the impression that she was free from her past, but she never was and I saw through every beautifully plastic smile she flashed when she talked. Me and Molly’s fifteenth year was the best year of my life. I think that was the year that she was the most free, not totally free, never totally free, but the most free. Reilly noticed her in January of that year. Molly was sort of hard not to notice. She just gave off a vibe that said she didn’t care what you thought of her and everyone wanted to experience it. Before Reilly, Molly never paid much attention to boys. Molly didn’t pay much attention to anything.
She was a daydreamer, a doodler, but she still managed to somehow keep up with her schoolwork. She was imperfect in a way that deemed her perfect. You didn’t want to fix her but you somehow knew that if you had a conversation with Molly, a real conversation with Molly, she could fix you. Molly just radiated everything you wanted to be. She always had the expression that she was thinking about something profound, something beyond the daily childish thoughts of a fifteen year old. Something so much better. She sucked you into her world without you even fully knowing if you wanted to be there.
She started going out with Reilly a month after they met. She said she’d never met anyone like him. She told me that kissing Reilly was like opening the window to her soul. She’d never met anyone as deep. Two weeks into their relationship, he told her he loved her. Said, he didn’t usually do this but she was the one. She sucked up every one of his untruths and constantly came back for more. For three straight months he was with her everyday, calling and texting her, leaving little notes inside her locker, walking her to class. But then she started to see less of him. She dyed her hair dark brown that month in contrast to her pale face and her sea crystal blue eyes began to pop.
When I asked her about her relationship with Reilly, she would smile and tell me everything was all right, but I knew it wasn’t. She was becoming obsessed; wanting to know what he was doing, where he was going, who he was with. I couldn’t understand where all her sensibility had gone. And then one day Reilly wasn’t there anymore. All the pictures on her bulletin board had been erased as though the six months they shared was a dream. She put all her memories in a duffle bag in the back of the closet.
She had turned sixteen by then. Her hair became a series of even darker shades of brown that summer until finally it was black. Her mascara grew thicker and her eyeliner grew broader and her eyes popped and popped and popped.
I heard her cry for the first time after that. I wanted to ask what had happened, but I knew Molly and I knew I couldn’t do that. Her tears were as blue as her eyes and the mascara paraded down her face making a mockery of who she once was. I wiped it all away. I never imagined Molly falling in love. She seemed far too smart for that, far too deep. But she had stumbled, and she had fallen from grace and become human in my eyes. Molly fell asleep with a wet pillow that night, feeling pain from whatever it was that had happened to her that summer and I lay awake with wet eyes for that exact same reason. Molly wasn’t herself after that. We never talked about the night she cried herself to sleep. Molly never talked about anything she didn’t want to talk about.
As the end of the summer neared Molly grew distant from me. She didn’t come into my room anymore, she didn’t invite me into hers and she didn’t share any parts of her life with me anymore. She didn’t talk to me, she couldn’t even stand to look at me and I think it was because I’d seen her cry. I’d seen her at her weakest and Molly was sure to never make that mistake again. Everybody Molly ever knew had exploited her weaknesses, her caseworker, her foster dad, everyone, and she wasn’t going to let me be another one of those people. I figured she’d come around eventually and make like nothing at all had ever happened like Molly always did. She could pretend that she had skin as thick as an elephant, but I knew better, and she seemed to hate me for it.
Whenever I saw her in school, she still had that fake smile plastered on her face and it always made me want to cry. I could see the tears hiding deep within the wells of her eyes; like she was trapped deep down inside and yelling and screaming and crying and banging on the glass for me to just let her out. But I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
She was walking out the door at the exact time that I was walking in. I saw her extend her hand to turn the knob of the door and the sleeve of her shirt rose ever so slightly that I could see a scar etched across her wrist. I softly took her arm in my hand and pulled her sleeve back. She had dug the word “PAIN” in her forearm. It looked like every time it had healed, she ripped it back open with her razor.
“Let me go,” she said, softly. “I’m not your problem.”
I couldn’t take the whisper of her voice. I began to scream.
“Whose problem are you then?” My voice was shaking, her arm was shaking, the room was shaking.
“Don’t yell. It’s not a big deal really.” I couldn’t believe this was Molly speaking. The Molly I knew would have never spoken those ridiculous words aloud. Her eyes begin to form puddles on the surface. I let go of her arm and grabbed her by the shoulder. I started to shake her but there were enough things shaking already. Instead I pulled her into a hug, she melted into my embrace for no longer than a moment before she pushed me away.
“I said it’s not your problem. Okay?” She didn’t look at me again after that. She didn’t even bother to dry the raindrops in her eyes before she smiled and walked out the door. I watched her walk away through the glass, the sun ironically shining. Even still, she was beautiful. I watched until she was so far down the street that I couldn’t see her anymore and I could no longer hear the thud of her shoes on the pavement. I didn’t know what to do.
After that I noticed all the things that Molly wore to cover up her arms. I knew she must be ashamed of the pain she was in. Why else would she hide it from the world? I went through her drawers they were filled to the brim with shirtless sleeves, gloves that went all the way up to her shoulders. How could I never have noticed? I looked in the duffle bag in her closet full of pictures of Reilly and letters they had written to each other. The last one was from Reilly. He said he couldn’t stand seeing her in pain anymore. He told her that she needed help. Help. How could I not see that my sister needed help? I thought I could see through Molly better than anyone, but here was someone else staring through her like she was as clear as a glass on the table. I folded the letter back up and put it back in the bag the way I had found it. Then I saw them, in the midst of her messy dresser, I saw them. A tiny orange pill bottle staring innocently back at me. I looked at the label on the bottle. The words, Prozac, prescribed to Martha Johnson, take tablet by mouth once a week, if any problems please see your doctor. But Molly didn’t have a doctor. And Molly was not Martha Johnson. So where the hell had she gotten those pills?
I went back into my room, and got onto my computer. Staring at the start up page to Internet Explorer, I slowly prodded the keys with my index finger until I formed the word Prozac in my Google Toolbar. After blankly staring at the screen for a few minutes I let my finger drop onto the enter key. So many results came up. Depression, depression, depression was in everyone of them. My sister…was depressed. I sat in front of the screen with my mouth hanging open for who knows how long until my door suddenly flew open. It was Molly.
“Where are they?”
“Where are what?” I asked, forgetting that I had never put the pills back on her dresser.
“I can see them in your f******* hand. Now give them to me!” I had never seen Molly livid like this, never witnessed her lose control.
“What are you taking these for, Molly? Where did they come from?” She glanced at my computer screen before she answered and I could see her getting even angrier.
“What does it look like? You have it on your screen right in front of you. Read it! Go ahead and read it. I don’t care. Just give them back!” She lunged for the pills, startling me and snatched them out of my hand.
“Don’t you ever ever go in my room again, or you’ll be sorry.” She left the room slamming the door behind her. I cried all that night, and when it got really late and the house was silent I could hear Molly crying too. I wanted so bad to be able to go in and comfort her but it was too late for that. Her crying stopped suddenly and I assumed she went to sleep, so I followed suit. In the morning, I tried to make it up to her, so I crept down into the kitchen and made her favorite waffles in the waffle iron. I tiptoed up the steps and knocked quietly on her door. I wasn’t going to make the mistake of entering her room uninvited twice in a row. After knocking for about five minutes with no response I pushed her door open slightly. I dropped the waffles to the floor and ran over to Molly. Her blood was glistening in a puddle on the floor and her mascara had dried and stained her white washed face. She had carved “im sorry” into her arm but I couldn’t stop staring into her eyes. Even after death, they popped and popped and popped.

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