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I was turning ten years old. Seven friends were entering the door, bearing gifts for me. Today was my day. As the first guest entered the room, my brother came storming in and began screaming at Dad. Not good.
My brother was 15. He was in high school, and he loved being independent, and enjoyed being out in the world. His continence wasn’t a good one. It took him five minutes to decide right from wrong. Too bad he acted faster than he thought; so he got the drugs and started smoking who knows what. When Dad found out, nothing was the same. Fights broke out between them, and Mom and I are forced to be on the sidelines, waiting for the fighting to stop…everyday.
Mom always had faith that Brother and I would end up doing well in life, despite our decisions now. Father thought differently. Dad was a screamer, a pusher. He pushed Brother into going to this high school with a 100% graduation rate. He thought that it would push Brother into doing well in school. That didn’t go well, Brother got kicked out on his second day because the school thought that he’d ruin their reputation. Dad pushed me to being an angel, to think I lived in some kind of “heaven on earth.” This put a lot of pressure on me, forcing me to hold my tongue and never to speak my feelings. I was a bottle full of vinegar and baking soda. The bottle top holds fast, keeping the energy in side. So when I was at school, I was pushing myself to work overtime, hearing Dad’s approval in my mind. When I returned to my “heaven,” Dad and Brother were at it again. I was scared; they had hurt each other physically. It didn’t help the situation that Mom was scared too.
Mom was the kind one. I wanted to be just like her. She always seemed calm, or at least in control of her emotions. That was key in this family. Whenever Brother and Dad had a fight, she read me stories about the heroes and princesses in life, giving me hope in our little kingdom of ruins. This activity was reassuring to the both of us. Brother was always angry with mother, because she was on Dad’s side, but only because she wanted us to see them as a team. Her trick didn’t work. It gave Brother a reason to hate her, for sticking to Dad and everyone knew that they were not a team.
I had many times seen and heard Mom and Dad fight in their room in the middle of the night. They were screaming about their children’s futures, Dad sending out the blame. When I woke up to the fights, I cried. Then, Brother woke up and yelled at me for doing so, which only made me more upset. In a frantic search for comfort, I would run to my parents’ room, searching for Mom, to request a fairy tale to put me to sleep. But when I reached their room, Dad was there and yelled at me to go back to bed ? so much for my “heaven.” I saw Mom try to reason with him, backing me up but she was shaking; Dad silenced her, and I ran to my room and hid under the covers. I turned on my flashlight, grabbed a fair tale book and began to read. When I woke up, I immediately wished I hadn’t.
Especially today, this feeling loomed over me, on my birthday! Dad and Brother were still going at it, Mom in between them holding them back. The horrible smell of weed filled the air, coming from Brother’s room. It was on his clothes and as he and Dad were pacing and yelling, the stench clung to him. They were all yelling, shouting curse words into the room. I bit my nails, terrified. I looked over to the doorway and saw my friends, 9-10 year olds, simply watching as the fight exploded. Brother shoved Dad, “Stop constantly telling me what to do!”
“I wouldn’t have to if you did things correctly!” Dad pushed his son back. I looked back and forth from my friends to my family; I bit my tongue so hard, that I tasted blood. What would my friends think after this?
“STOP! PLEASE STOP!” I yelled. The bad words were a usual thing in this house but not today. Not March 31st! Not now! Mom tried to calm Dad down but brother pounced and said, “yeah Dad, calm yourself!” Dad pushed Mom out of the way too get to Brother, and the fight continued.
“Enough!” My cheeks were redder than my hair. I was a bottle of vinegar and baking soda, my top reached its limit, and I exploded. My vision blurred and I cried. I was a bottle of vinegar and baking soda, my top reached its limit, and I exploded. I couldn’t see very well but I knew that my friends were watching, holding their presents up like shields, their faces full of disbelief. I didn’t stop screaming. Mom’s loud and steady voice didn’t stop talking to Dad, trying to send her controlled energy to the room.
“Honey, our daughter’s friends are here,” Mom pointed to the door and my friends who weren’t daring to come in. I wiped my face with my arm, an inch happier now that the energy seemed a little better. “And it’s her birthday. Can’t we do this a different time? We don’t like to see ?” Mom’s quiet words were getting louder but they were cut off by a loud SLAP!
“Stay out of this Frances!” Dad’s voice thundered. His face was flushed, full of embarrassment and anger. It was as if everyone there was watching a horror film; someone just got killed, and there was silence afterwards, out of the fear. The tension in the air was palpable. The room became dank, and so did everyone’s faces as Mom lifted her hand to her cheek. She touched the skin where Dad’s hand imprinted a bright white mark. How could my family do this to me! How? I ran to Mom’s side but she put her hand up to make me stop in my tracks.
“Take your friends down stairs honey. I’ll meet you there,” she said. I could hear her voice wavering. I was afraid to leave her but there were my friends. The party was beginning and the fight ended. The fear was still in my friends’ voices as they sang me ‘happy birthday.” As they did, I turned around to see Dad’s face in the doorway. I could almost feel an apology coming, but as I turned back to my friends, I knew that it was an apology I wouldn’t have accepted.