Healing Amanda

January 21, 2011
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Chapter One: The Nightmare
Emily Johnson

The nostalgia of the warm summer air lifted my spirits and filled my being with child-like gaiety. A smile lifted the corners of my mouth as I watched young Amanda dance among the garden flowers. Her tiny fingers plucked at their stems and gathered in her clutching palm, forming a bouquet of yellow and white. She held daisies and dandelions, flowers that matched her dress and bouncing blonde curls.

“These are for Daddy,” she told me sweetly.

“Alright, honey. I’ll put them in a vase for you so that when Daddy comes home he’ll be able to see them,” I told her.
Amanda grinned, revealing the gap where her two front teeth had just fallen out. She was the epitome of innocence with a sparkle in her eye.

I left her to continue her dance as I prepared Ryan’s vase of flowers. Suddenly, I was startled by loud banging on the front screen door. In my frightened state I swung around, sending Ryan’s flowers crashing to the floor. The shards of glass smashed everywhere, including into my bare leg. The blood began to bead at my flesh. I cursed and stepped over the shards of broken glass towards the front door. A woman in uniform met my eyes. Her gold badge glinted in the sunlight, and I noticed her face was solemn.

“Hello, are you Mrs. Johnson?”

When I nodded my head, she continued.

“I’ve got some terrible news for you. Your husband was in a car accident earlier today. He passed away at the scene. I’m very sorry for your loss.”

The next words out of her mouth had no sound, and no meaning. Her lips formed syllables, but they only tumbled out into a pile of nothing. The phrases reverberated in my head. Her dry emotionless voice repeated “Car accident…passed away…your loss.” I became detached. There was a cry and a long moan.

“Ryan! No, no, nooo!”
My cry echoed through the neighborhood.

My broken sobbing overwhelmed me. The officer caught me before I collapsed on my knees. That was ten years ago today. Amanda is sixteen; it feels like yesterday.

I lost myself after that day in the faded memories and grief. I fell head first into an all-consuming depression. There would be times where hours would pass and it only felt like a few minutes; times that I lived behind a veil, in a foggy haze. I would not be able to recall anything that had happened earlier that day or after that morning. Not only had I lost days, but even as much as weeks at a time. Time became static. Amanda was the only thing that I had anymore. She was my life preserver, and my saving grace, and I failed her.

I hadn’t realized just how horribly I had failed my daughter until I happened to overhear a conversation at the grocery store. I stared blankly at canned vegetables, when a couple of female voices came to my ears. Only a few phrases of the conversation registered in my brain. It was apparent that they were teenagers gossiping about the previous weekend’s events. Then I heard her name…Amanda. My ears opened up.

“You wouldn’t believe what happened at Brad’s party. Did you hear about Amanda Johnson?” The girl with blonde hair asked the brunette girl with her. I studied them out of my peripheral vision.

Brunette girl gasped and whispered rather loudly, “No! What happened?”

“Well, I’m not one hundred percent sure about what happened, but this is what I heard. Amanda was drinking a lot at the party. She was completely smashed! She could barely stand on her own feet.”

The girls giggled, and then the blonde one continues.
“Yeah, I know right? Brad told me that Sam had wanted to get with her pretty badly. He helped him slip something into a drink then gave it to her.”

Brunette girl gasps again and leans in for more information. I lean with her.
“He said it wasn’t too much and that it wouldn’t hurt her. But the last that I saw of them was Sam practically dragging her upstairs to one of the rooms.”

As they start moving down the aisle, I casually walked down the aisle in order to follow the conversation, but without being too obvious in my eavesdropping.

Blonde girl continues talking. “This isn’t the first time that Sam has done this to a girl according to Brad. I don’t condone it, but Brad is my boyfriend and he’s his best friend. He raped a different girl this past summer. But don’t tell anyone, because I’m the only other person that knows this.”

Brunette girl nods with wide eyes, and I turn my head to watch them both walk around the corner into the next aisle. I can barely believe what had just reached my ears. My stomach became sick and my heart stopped. My Amanda….Her innocence had been so cruelly snatched from her. Her burning flame brutally snuffed out. The beautiful flower that she was, brutally destroyed ruined, broken. How could I have let this happen? She was my own flesh and my own blood. I looked up at the ceiling and closed my eyes. A tear rolled down my cheek, the first tear since Ryan.

Chapter Two: Living Alone
Amanda Johnson

Ever since the death of my father when I was six I have been on my own. My mother snapped shut like a clam the day of his funeral. She held my hand as we watched his coffin slowly lower in to the ground. I saw her tears splash on to her black silk gloves, then onto my fingers that were entwined with hers. With every inch that he lowered into the ground, the color and light drained from her, and went with him. At first it was hard for me to understand. Death was still a foreign concept to me at that young age.

“Mommy, when is Daddy coming home?” I had asked after the funeral.

My question triggered another fit of tears and sobs. After a few moments, my mother collected herself and looked at me with watery eyes and sad smile.

“Sweetie, Daddy isn’t going to come home,” she informed me gently.

My mouth turned down at the corners and my own eyes filled with tears and I started wailing. My mother took me in her arms, and pressed my head to her chest. We cried together.
As the years passed, I remembered my father less and less. When my memories faded, my mother faded with them. She became detached and gray. It was hard for me to understand at first, but as I grew older it made sense to me. But I would not accept the neglect, and I refused to sympathize.

It got to be inexcusable. My mother would sometimes forget to feed me. At first this occurred only occasionally. Then it started to happen sometimes three or four times a week. I would have to fend for myself. My mother’s trips for food became few and far apart. Food was a scarce item in the house. I was forced to have an empty stomach.

I would barely see my mother, for she became a recluse to her room. When she arrived home from work she’d drop her purse and coat to the floor with her thin pale arms. Then she’d trudge upstairs after mumbling a few words to me. She looked like the walking dead, and it frightened me. Soon I began to notice that my clothes hung loosely on my body. My arms and legs resembled thin twigs. It only worsened from there.

I was nine years old staying after class for a meeting my elementary school’s student leadership program was having. When the meeting ended, I watched all the other children being picked up by their mothers in the lobby. I wondered through the throng of children and mothers searching for the familiar face of my mother. I did not see her when my eyes scanned the room. I saw children running up to their parents into their open arms. There were smiles, love and a happiness that had been absent in my home for quite some time. A twinge of jealous resentment panged in my stomach. After another minute or so I took a seat on the bench by the window. The lobby cleared as the families disappeared out the door and I was left alone. I stared at the moving hands of the clock on the wall and watched the time pass. The seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes turned into an hour. My chest ached and my head started to swim as tears swelled out of my eyes. My vision blurred as they dripped onto my lap. All I could think was, “She forgot about me….” The tears continued to fall and I started sobbing. What did I expect? She couldn't even remember to feed her own daughter. Why would she remember to pick her up after school?

I glanced up from my lap when I saw one of the teachers, Mrs. Cohen, from my meeting come from around the corner. She looked concerned and came over to sit next to me. She put her hand on my shoulder and bent her head down to look at my face.

“What’s wrong Amanda? How come you’re still here?”

I didn’t look back at her; I stared at my lap.

“My mother forgot about me,” I mumbled to her.

Mrs. Cohen put her arm around my shoulder and squeezed me into a sideways hug. I stared back at my lap refusing to look at her as the tears continued dripping down my face.

“Aw, sweetie,” she replied gently. “I’m sure she’s just running late.”

I shook my head at her. Mrs. Cohen was willing to give my mother the benefit of the doubt. I, however, knew better than that. I didn’t answer her. She took my silence as assurance and squeezed my shoulders again. Mrs. Cohen sat with me for the next half an hour before my mom’s Neon finally pulled up to the school. She wished me a good night as I walked out into the dark. When I came up to the car, my mother looked sad and guilty. She apologized to me and hugged me when I sat down in the passenger seat. We sat in silence the entire way home.

The lack of parental influence in my life set my apart from the rest of my peers. I flat ironed all my blonde curls and dyed my hair jet black. I hid behind a mask of black eyeliner and smoky makeup. I wore dark dramatic clothing as well. At school people would look at me when I walked down the hall. The attention made me feel amazing, like I actually existed. When I entered into middle school I fell into a niche of other young teens with situations not so different from my own. There was a sense of belonging and understanding when I was with them. One boy in particular, Cody, I became close to.

His mom had passed away and he was left alone with his father, who was an alcoholic. When I felt alone or afraid, he would always be there for me. He would listen to me and seemed to know exactly what I was going through. I didn’t mind so much anymore when my mom forgot to pick me up from school. In fact, I began to count on it and spent my time with Cody. He walked me home from school and held my hand. He made my heart skip a beat when our hips bumped as we walked. It wasn’t long before he asked me to be with him.

It was one day after school when we were walking to my house that he stopped and pulled a lighter and a cigarette out of his pocket. He lit it and asked me if I wanted one.
I was reluctant at first, but I trusted him. He lit it and handed it to me. Inhaling deeply, I coughed and sputtered. I saw him smile at me and I beamed. This became our daily after school ritual. I was hooked, in more ways than one.

When Cody and I entered high school, we switched to more serious ways to escape our home lives. He found us pills and weed that I tried without a second thought. All that mattered was that Cody wanted me to. He showed me the love that I always wanted, that I hadn’t experienced since early childhood. I was addicted not only to the high of the drugs, but to the emotional high I got when I was with him. We ran around our town and wreaked havoc everywhere that we went. Keying cars and petty theft became two of our frequent activities. Cody didn’t care, so I didn’t care.
Then, without warning, my whole world shattered around me once more. He dumped me for an older girl. My heart cracked and I fell apart; I had no one to help me pick up the pieces. I became alone in my life again, because I made Cody my world, and my everything. Now I had nothing left.

My mother was trapped in her fog and I was living alone. I collapsed inside myself. I wondered if this is how my mother felt when my dad passed away. That weekend I heard that Cody was going to a boy named Brad’s party. I couldn’t resist, I had to go so that I could see him again. I wanted to talk to him, get him to take me back into the safe haven of his arms. I had no idea that was the day that my life would forever be shattered beyond repair.

Chapter 3: Guilty Conscience
Emily Johnson

If innocence is the blooming flower of childhood, Amanda was a dancing daisy. Her dainty petals had been brutally crushed and ripped apart. It was hard to believe this could happen to my daughter. The happy, singing little girl, whose bouncing blonde curls shone in the sun; the girl who picked up insects and ran her tiny fingers through grass like a comb. The same little girl who would always picked flowers for her daddy and smiled at the sight of me. That little girl had disappeared. She had become the ashes of fire that are swept up with the wind. Gone, forever.

My chest tightened and my eyes squeezed shut at the thought. I held back any more tears from flowing down my cheeks. But the very thought of her made the dam break. What had happened to my daughter?

The girl that I remember has become dark, cold, and indifferent. Her adolescence brought a metamorphosis; an exact contrast from the typical metamorphosis that comes to mind. She transformed from the stunning butterfly that she was into something barely recognizable.

Her thirsts for rebellion lead her to ruin her beautiful hair with dark striking dye. Her flowery, puffy dresses became skin tight shredded jeans, exposing way too much skin for a girl of her age. When I looked at her it was almost hard for me to take. Because under all the harsh caked on make-up were her father’s eyes; his sparkling sea green eyes.

I carried in the groceries three bags at a time. I had noticed that food had become sparse in our house lately, and I felt a pang of guilt in my stomach. I had been distracted and had not made a trip for groceries for over a month. I called Amanda’s name for some help putting food away. I wondered if my thoughts were written clear across my face. If when she walked into the room, they would scream out of my head, I know what happened.

I wanted to apologize, to hold her in my arms and tell her it would all be okay. Even if I could, the words just wouldn’t come out.

“Hey, mom,” she greeted me from the doorway.
I couldn’t bring myself to look up from the bags, and into her eyes. His eyes.

Chapter 4: The Transformation
Amanda Johnson
It was my fault. I had no one to blame but myself. If I hadn’t been so hurt, so weak, and desperate, it never would have happened.
I stood in front of my mirror, the only full length mirror in the entire house. I could recall my mother brushing my hair in front of this mirror. Carefully brushing, and lovingly running her fingers through it. I missed the feeling of that love and being touched. Every touch now is tainted. I am forever tainted. Any love that I may have now is spoiled.
I lifted my black t-shirt off up over my head, and let it fall to the floor. Then I stepped out of my jean shorts and left them at my feet. Purple-green bruises decorated my stomach and my thighs. The scratches contrasted scarlet to my creamy skin. I winced as I gingerly brushed my fingers over them.
The physical pain will eventually fade until I feel nothing at all. But the emotional pain will never fade, and neither will the scars.
The pair of shearers on my dresser glinted in the sunlight streaming through my window. I took them up in my hands and let the blade run against a lock of my hair. No pain. One snip, two snips, and all long hair cascaded to the floor. I was becoming numb. My dark hair was disappearing, along with any feeling I had. I smiled at the relief.
“Amanda!” my mother’s voice interrupted.
I dropped the blade from my hands, and followed the sound of her call downstairs.

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billet2289 said...
Jan. 23, 2011 at 11:56 am
It tears at your heart and you just want to read more and more.  I have to know how the story ends.
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