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“Anastasia! Wake up!”
Groggily, I peeled my eyelids apart. My vision was blurred from heavy sleep, so the most I saw was a fuzzy image of what only could be my mother standing beside my bed.
“Get up! Now! How long do I have to stand here?” She ripped off my comforter, which was the only source of warmth I had in the frosty room. We never had agreed on what temperature to set the thermostat at, and I long ago learned that arguing with Her was never worth my while. She was many things, but agreeable was not one of Her many outstanding qualities.
I sat up and tried to rub the sleep from my eyes while mumbling something that was supposed to be “I’m sorry, I’m awake now” but came out as a fancy form of Pig Latin. Still not seeing quite clearly, I forced some enthusiasm into hopping out of bed because God only knew what She’d pick to complain about next, and grumpiness would not be one of them. I literally tripped over some shoes on my floor in my haste to get to my closet. I scarcely avoided smashing my face into what had to be my dresser.
“If it’s not one thing, then it’s something else,” I muttered as I successfully reached my closet without further incident. I was partially aware of my mother screaming behind me, but I didn’t bother to tune in. Within sixteen years, I’d heard it all, and I knew Her so well that I could probably recite the speech along with Her. It was always the same. Besides, as long as I acknowledged Her every few minutes, She didn’t notice my lack of attention.
“Yeah, I’m sorry,” I automatically replied as I tugged on a hoodie. In my haze I put it on backwards, and found my face almost completely buried beneath the fabric of the hood. Grumbling to myself, I fixed it. I was immediately grateful for the warmth of it. My soccer hoodie was well-worn from a year of constant use, but even the thin cotton made a tremendous difference when you were standing in sub-degree temperatures.
“Are you even listening to me? God, it’s like talking to a deaf child! Why do I even bother?” She snarled. I turned to face Her glare, complete with Her infamous evil eye that could make grown men s*** their pants. Well, so much for my apparently less-than-foolproof system.
“Yeah, I am,” I quickly replied, trying to mask my desperation to appease Her. It was a fruitless attempt, I already knew, but there wasn’t anything else to do and I always prayed for a miracle. I had yet to actually have one, though.
“Sure you are. God, Anastasia, after all that I do for you, you don’t even do the few things that I ask of you. You don’t even listen to me! I can’t believe how disrespectful and ungrateful you are!” She was screaming even louder now, Her eyes practically bugging out of Her head. She was being dramatic, slipping into the hackneyed role of Abused Mother. I watched Her act with barely-disguised irritation. I wanted so badly to tell Her off, to shout in Her face If anyone is those things, it’s you! You’re a worthless, hateful b**** who is the biggest waste of oxygen I know! However, telling Mother off was never a good idea; at best, I could hope for a good ol’ slap across the face for my troubles. Arguing never made things better, only worse. I’d learned that the hard way, and by learning from my mistakes, I’d slipped into the role of Her scapegoat, Her punching bag, Her allegedly worthless daughter that She constantly admitted to being ashamed of.
“I’m sorry. I?” I broke off because of the damned lump that began to form in my throat. I willed myself to calm down, to fight the breakdown that followed most of these disputes, if you could really call them that. I didn’t want to give Her the satisfaction of seeing that She’d gotten to me, and even more than that, I was embarrassed with myself for crying because of this.
“Bulls***. I’m so sick of hearing that. I’m so sick of you constantly bulls****ing me,” She snapped before She turned and stormed out, making a point to slam my door as loudly as She could. I listened to Her stomp to Her room, where She slammed the door equally as loud.
Slowly, I sagged to the ground, trying to drown out the noise coming from Her room. She was a violent woman, the type of person who liked to physically express Her anger by destroying everything in Her path. There were many things wrong with Her, many reasons why I’d come to hate the woman who’d given birth to me.
I was shaking, and I was nearly hyperventilating in a weak attempt to keep the breakdown at bay. Most people would expect me to be stronger, to be able to handle this far better than I did. After all, this was a regular thing, these “incidents.” As normal as the sun rising in the morning, and far more frequent. However, every single one still shook me, even if it didn’t cause this strong of a reaction. I had learned to expect them, but I still couldn’t deal with them. How pathetic was that? I was too damned weak. I was not a little girl anymore. I could take care of myself.
I didn’t move until I heard the front door slam shut as She headed off to work. It made me sick to think about Her. In front of other people, She was a beautiful, successful, smart, driven, lively, happy therapist, of all things. She played the role of a perfect woman, and everyone ate it up. Nobody could see the other side of Her, the side She brought home every day. She was an entirely different person in front of everyone else, and that person was about as plastic as they come. She was a fake. She used people, and they were too blind to notice because of Her incredible acting skills.
Only when I heard Her car drive off did I dare to leave my room. I went to the bathroom of our modest house that was decorated as well as my mother could afford. After all, She liked to have people over, and what would they think if our house wasn’t as perfect as She was? I showered, brushed my teeth, and dressed. She’d woken me up far earlier than I’d needed to be to make it to school. I glanced at the clock and considered just skipping. I was a good student, but there were plenty of times that I felt like there was no point to even trying. I didn’t see myself ever escaping this hell. As a kid, I’d prayed for a miracle that would never come, and I fantasized about escaping a million different ways. I’d spent my whole life hoping that something would change, but my hope had died a little bit every day until I’d reached this point. On good days, I was capable of being optimistic? maybe I’d get a scholarship for school; maybe I’d find a job and a place to live with a friend; maybe I’d win the lottery. Who knew? However, there were too many dark days for me. More often than not, my basic line of thought was, If it hasn’t gotten better by now, it’s never going to. What’s the point? Life is just a b**** and then you die. Why even bother trying to get through it? I felt like the world had let me down, and even more so, that my mother had let me down.
There had been no decline. My life had been pretty consistent with its problems. As a kid, She’d ignored me part of the time. Sometimes She’d send me away to my aunts’ houses or my grandparents’ because I was “too much to deal with,” although most of the time she just left me home alone. She used to give me NyQuil if not something stronger to sedate me so that I’d be “more manageable.” She’d expected to me to clean up after Her, to keep Her house spotless, and on more than one occasion, to cook meals for myself because She “didn’t have the time.” The worst parts had been when I was younger, and had expected motherly love and received none. Whenever I’d gotten hurt, She’d yell at me for crying about any and every injury I’d endured, and refuse to help me because I was “too much of a baby, and needed to grow up.” Whenever I made Her a present for a special occasion like Christmas or Mother’s Day, She’d smash it up and toss it out in front of me and accuse me of purposely doing a s***** job because I was ungrateful for everything She did for me.
As I got older, She expected more of me. She wanted me to take care of every chore that you can imagine- raking, mowing, gardening, cleaning, cooking, the works. She gave me deadlines that were impossible to meet, and reprimanded me when I fell short of Her expectations. She expected flawless work done in an impossible amount of time. Furthermore, She critiqued every action I made, everything I said, all of my grades, absolutely every little thing that was in some way linked to me. She had a negative opinion about every bit of life, and She made sure I heard them all, especially when they were related to me.
I’d tried to talk to people over the years, primarily teachers and school staff. I’d heard about teachers reporting parents to Child Services and saving students who were the subject of abuse. However, every time I said something or they found something unusual to report, my mother would swoop in and very smoothly explain away any concern that they had. In addition, She’d discredit me by saying that I was a notorious liar and was not be trusted.
In the end, I decided to go to school. There was a bus that picked up kids from my neighborhood, but the high school was so close that it was just better to walk. I slipped through the day, not feeling like really talking or participating and desperately just wanting to get away from people. The second school was over, I hightailed it out of there. I walked past our house and saw that Her car was in the driveway already. She was home early. I knew why; I wasn’t as ignorant as my mother thought. She had been screwing Her boss for a promotion for the last few months. He was married to a young, attractive woman that loved him, and as far as she knew, he was the perfect, doting, faithful husband. Little did she know that he was screwing my mother, the w****.
I didn’t want to listen to them going at it, so I walked around the neighborhood for a few hours until my legs wanted to fall off. When I got to my house, the driveway was empty. It was safe.
I cleaned until it was late and I was too exhausted to continue, and then I went to bed. Between the physical and emotional exhaustion, I passed out before my head hit the pillow.
I woke up to a crash that instantly shook me from my sleep. My dark bedroom was flooded with light from the doorway. My door was hanging awkwardly, and it took me a second to realize why: one of the hinges had snapped. My mother was leaning against the doorframe to support herself in a clumsy manner that told me all I needed to know. She was drunk. Again. Normally, she only binged once or twice a month, but lately it had seemed to happen more frequently.
She stumbled into the room and collapsed on my bed. She moved like every limb weighed a thousand pounds, much like how I’d imagined a zombie to move. She turned to face me, and I got a good look at her red eyes and blotchy skin.
“Annie? Why do you hate me?” Her eyes began to well up with tears as she stared at me pathetically. Oh, s***. It was one of those moods.
“I don’t?” I began, but she cut off my lie.
“Yes you do!” she screeched, tossing her head and hands in a wide gesture, the point of which being a complete mystery. “I can see it, Annie. Why? Why do you hate me? After everything that I’ve done… Do you even know how hard all of this has been for me? I have done everything I could to make you happy, and nothing has been good enough for you, has it? Hmm? Am I just not good enough, Annie?”
I shook my head, not knowing quite what to say. At this point, I couldn’t think of either a lie to smooth things over or a truthful response that I know she didn’t want. I normally fudged these conversations, saying anything that came to mind to get me out of it. Oh, how badly I wanted to be honest with her. Was she good enough? No. She was the worst mother I could imagine. She was a million things, not a damn one of them good. I wished she had just given me away or died while I was baby, because frankly, no memory of her was far better than knowing the bitter truth. Ignorance really would have been bliss. Unfortunately, I could not say a word of that, nor any of the thoughts buzzing through my head. I don’t know if it was a curse or a blessing, but she began to talk again before I had to come up with something.
“Do you know what I did, Annie? Do you know all that I did for you? Do you remember what your father used to do to you? Well, I do. You know how many mothers would just ignore that? Just look the other way? I didn’t. Do you know how hard that was? Do you know all that I did? I went through hell because of you, and you don’t even care…” She continued to ramble on, her tangents becoming random rants about pretty much anything she could think of. It didn’t matter. I was already clocked out, absorbed in my thoughts.
My father… Ah, that is a difficult topic on its own. Who was my father? Somebody that I have little memory of, somebody that I hadn’t seen in what I consider to be forever. And no, he wasn’t the type of father to just walk out on his family. He wasn’t an insensitive, selfish creep. He wasn’t even malicious or abusive like my mother insists he was. He was none of the things she proclaimed him to be. Through my eyes, he had been the perfect dad. My personal savior. He was fun, laidback, someone who loved being with me and thought I was the most precious thing in the world. He was my father and my friend and my main escape from this hell. Whenever he came to get me, it was like sunshine on a rainy day. Cheesy, but that’s how I saw it. It was pure, uncontained joy in the midst of a dark, hateful hell.
Rumor has it that she was jealous. Jealous that he loved me more. Jealous that he gave me more attention. Jealous that he wanted nothing to do with her but would die for me. Anyways, whatever happened, I found myself without a father. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. It never is, particularly not in my life. He didn’t just go away, he was forced away by my mother. And the kicker? I helped. And that was why it was a difficult topic. Not because he was a bad father, or something sappy like he died when I was just a young one; it was because he was amazing and he was gone because of me.
I waited for my mother to stop. Of course, she was nowhere near done when I finally decided to block out my thoughts and memories. She was hopping between crying and yelling, between Abused Mother and Angry B**** mode. Finally, with one last parting jab? “Why do I even waste my time trying to reach out to you since you don’t give a flying f*** about me?”?she was gone.
It took me a long time to fall asleep after that. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. I tried reading, and every time I began to feel drowsy and tried to sleep, my godforsaken thoughts would parade through my mind and jolt me with more emotion than I could stand. At that point, I would ball my eyes out, feeling sorry for myself, hating the world for putting me here, and wishing to God that I could be set free. I went through that vicious cycle several times before sleep finally embraced me.