...Yet Martha Does

July 27, 2010
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Little one-year-old Martha stumbles innocently around the tan carpeted flooring, slowly picking up loose pieces of dog hair from off the floor. Her proud mother is nearby. These are Martha’s very first steps. Martha turns slowly around, smiling joyously as if pleased with herself. She watches as her grandmother and mother argue about something they won’t even remember tomorrow. Her grandmother’s screeching voice is now soothing to her tiny ears and her mother’s whiny response makes her feel at home. Martha watches a moment longer before swiftly being picked up from the floor by her mother’s gentle arms and taken from the house. The screen door swings noisily behind them as hurtful words spill out of each adult’s mouth. Martha falls silently to sleep perfectly at ease. Before her last eyelid completely droops, she nestles her head against her mother’s shoulder and hopes tomorrow will be just as fun.

Chapter 1

The clock enunciates each long and exaggerated tick-tock as if making the room feel even duller. The room is white with no decorations of any sort. There is a table, two chairs and two people, a man and a girl. The man looks to be around fifty, with a short gray mustache and a balding head. The girl is fifteen with dirty blonde ringlets falling to her shoulders. She sits still while the man looks through his papers; finally they speak.
“So, Martha, first time in therapy?” the balding asks with a polite smile.
“Yes,” Martha replies without looking away from the ticking clock.
“What made you choose therapy?”
She says nothing, just looks slowly at her red shoes.
He stares at her. He comes to the conclusion that she’s not going to answer that question quite yet. “What’s your family like?” he asks her.
The clock’s ticks start to play a pattern in Martha’s head. She starts to think quietly, thinking of a way this middle-aged balding man will be able understand that her family’s not normal.
“I guess my family’s just kinda different,” she says as her eyes starting to drift away from the clock’s vicious hands.
“I’m sorry Martha. I’m not sure I understand. Can you please explain why your family is different?”
Martha looks into her balding therapist’s brown eyes. Should I tell this man anything? Would he understand? At the beginning of the session he told her she was free to say anything and he wasn’t allowed to say a word unless she was to threaten her life or someone else’s. What else is a therapist good for?

Chapter 2: The Therapist Will Understand.

Martha starts to explain her insane family to her therapist, “Well it’s kinda like you’ve…” And just like that, her therapist is getting exactly what he asks for. Martha leans forward in her seat, excited to finally tell someone about her family. . . someone who can’t be prejudice.

Chapter 3: Martha’s Family

“You see the thing is, that you are awakened every morning by your mother’s angry yell and her boyfriend’s hurtful words. Every morning you hear this screaming and become accustomed to it. It’s something you’ve begun to feel quite comfortable with. Each one of your mother’s new boyfriends brings a different type of yell or a new way for your mom to become angry with him. Each day at school you know what you’ve heard in the morning, but you have to act like you had your alarm went off like everyone else’s. Like you ate your bowl of cheerios, hugged your parents good-bye and skipped off to the bus stop while your mom waved from the front door. You must act like you think people want you to act. Each day is a different personality and a different way of seeing things. Your true self sometimes threatens to show itself, but you’ve got the act down and the fake personality has to override it. One glimpse of reality and everything cracks.
Your father’s gone. You never met him. End of story.

No one in your family thinks there’s a reason to live. No one is happy. You are doomed to live your entire life in a small town with big dreams that amount to nothing. Your grandmother got close once; she was accepted to Washington University in St. Louis. She was offered a partial scholarship. She turned it down. She thought her teachers would be upset she only a partial scholarship. You think she was scared that she might actually succeed at something.
Your mother got close once too. She submitted her poems to publications around the country. A couple of them were published… then she found out she was pregnant with you and the only writing she did was on the welfare application forms.
Your aunt was an amazing dancer. She was even accepted at Julliard, but unfortunately her boyfriend at the time was abusive. When she told him she might leave for New York, he kidnapped her. She was found two days before Julliard sent her the acceptance letter in a ditch a few miles from her house. She never even knew how close she came to making it.
Each person in your family has a sad story of why they must stay in this town. An entire family with talent and all of it wasted on your pathetic family. Yet you want to be the one who breaks free of this curse and lets your talents soar. It is going to be hard to do.

There isn’t a day that goes by where there isn’t a fight between family members or threats of suicide. But when you go in public, no one would ever expect you of having this crazy life because you’re happy, charming Martha. You’re even a cheerleader.

“Do you understand how my family’s different now?” Martha asks with a rude smug smile planted on her face.

Chapter 4: Martha is an Observer

The therapist is silent for a moment as he thinks. Finally he looks down at his papers, clears his throat and then asks the next question. “What’s school like?”

“The work is easy…I don’t know? I guess you could say school for me is silence.”
“Can you explain it to me the same way you explained your family?” he asks tilting his head to try to seem innocent as if he didn’t know how hard it was for her to talk about this. She drops her head staring at the bland tiles. She doesn’t take her eyes off of the tiles.
“Seventh grade was the worst year in school for me.” He says nothing just looks at her with honest curiosity. She quickly begins to explain.
“You look quickly around the classroom. The mood is quiet and almost melancholy. No one looks up from his or her desk everyone is subdued and well behaved. As you look closer you start to see things you didn’t see before. Notes, hand gestures, lip synching words, all of this is done in secret. A casual onlooker would never take the time to survey the classroom as carefully as someone like you would. You are an observer. If you’re invisible you will learn more. This is something you’ve discovered through years of practice. In the one class period you learn the answer to number 18 on your test, why Seth went out with Linda, and how Meredith broke them up. You learn that everyone has flaws and that no one is immune to other people using them against them.
You thought Cindy Webber was perfect. In fact, you envied her in everyway: her hair, her clothes, her flawless smile, but especially for her boyfriend, Ethan Dunn. As you listen in class you hear things that have nothing to do with American History or algebra II. Secrets are spilled unknowingly, your gym and math teacher are having an affair, Amanda Martin thinks she pregnant and worst of all, Cindy Webber has an obsession with World of War Craft games.
You hear Cindy Webber’s secrets by staying quiet and listening as the World of War Craft kids talk at lunch. They have discovered Cindy’s secret, but can’t say a word because they would be brutalized. You could possibly mention Cindy’s secret to Ethan as he walks down the hall, or you could slip a note into Abby van der Newt locker. She could spread it around like a wildfire in California. You decide to slip the note into Abby’s locker. The next day Ethan and Cindy are broken up, but not for that reason… It turns out Ethan never really liked Cindy. After three months of dating her he realizes this. That day everyone also finds out about Cindy’s obsession. Cindy was never the same. A year or so later she was found dead . . . in her closet.
She killed herself and you are the reason for it. You feel ashamed. You know you are a murderer. You never knew it would end up like this… it was just a note. You didn’t think anything bad would come out of it. You are an observer. You don’t make things happen. You try to run, but even as you’re running you feel trapped. You have nowhere to go. Your feelings of remorse surround you until you fall down with depression and anger and even though the thoughts have won they keep going. They push, pull, and tear until all that’s left is you, disgusting, shameful, disappointing. You.
“You are not a murderer Martha,” the therapist says with an honest look in his eyes. Martha says nothing, just stares at the clock once more. The therapist looks at her with pity filling his middle-aged face.

Chapter 5: The Real Reason

“What made you choose therapy?” the question again.
“Besides being a murderer and having an insane family?” she asks. He nods, and then hesitates, “If there is anything else.”
“The only reason I’m in therapy is to try to become normal. So I can show Gabriella most of the world isn’t like us…”
“Who is Gabriella?”
“My baby sister. She grew up like me and I’m afraid she’ll end up like me too. She’s already use to the hatred.”
“Please explain.”
“You watch as adults scream and yell. You see them as they become insane and are completely absorbed in themselves. You know what this did to your childhood and to your already doomed future. You know you’re already destined to follow in their footsteps. You see someone you love deeply, your little sister, already subjected to this way of life but you know you can change this… you know you can make a difference and change the cycle of your family. You know no matter how hard it is, you have to be stable and strong to show your little sister that all families aren’t like this. You have to show her life isn’t all hatred and failure. You are the one who is responsible for changing the entire Willard family with just one normal, average little girl…it’s going to be hard. You watch them as they scream and the issue gets less and less important. You watch them until all that’s left is the shameful, worthless, pitiful cycle and broken shells of people you love and you know you must change this. You can think of only one way to become normal, therapy, so you do what you can.
“You’re doing this so you can learn ways to help your sister have a normal life?” the therapist questions her.
“That’s pretty brave of you.” She shrugs her shoulders as if she thinks nothing of it. A knock at the door interrupts the discussion.
“Yes?” the therapist says not taking his eyes off of Martha.
“The hour is up sir, your next patient is waiting outside. Martha honey, come with me and we’ll schedule your next appointment,” the secretary says as peeks around the door.
The therapist watches as Martha, a totally normal looking teenager, walks down the hallway with the secretary following right next to her chatting and smiling. He can’t believe anyone who’s gone through all of that can think of stopping it for anyone else. Yet Martha does.

Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

likeaboss47 said...
Aug. 7, 2010 at 11:09 am
I love this story. It's very contemporary and lends itself to different tastes. Keep up the good work.
Naomi0720 said...
Aug. 7, 2010 at 10:22 am
I love the use of second person. Very original and creative. It really puts the reader into the story. I feel bad for Martha, but admire her desire to make a change. I would like to see more from this author. 
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