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The Dividing Line
“I can’t take this anymore! Maybe it would just be better if I left!” said my mom, teary-eyed at the dinner table.
“Maybe it would! At least you’d finally be doing something. You never do anything!” It was my dad’s turn to yell. My twin brother, Jeremy, watched expressionlessly next to me. I followed in suit, picking at the food on my plate. My mouth tasted so bitter it was like acid.
Later that night my mom packed up her suitcase. She passed by me and my brother, saying in her cracked voice, “I’m going to my mother’s.” My father looked at her — a bit smugly, I might add — as she left the house. He turned back to us, and said, “You know we both love you, but your mother has decided to leave.” Decided? I thought, You were practically pushing her out the door.
He left us alone. Jeremy ran over too me, seeing tears falling down my face, and hugged me. We had been going through this for months, now, and it finally came to this. In a way it was relieving, to know that the predicted had come to pass. We had both known one of our parents would leave, and we did have an idea that it would be our mother. But in another way, it was just as destructive.
“Jeremy…what are we going to do? I can’t…I can’t live here with Dad,” I said, wiping my eyes with my fingers.
“I know, Norma. If they get…divorced…” The word was like poison to us both. They had always promised that they’d wait until we were out of high school before divorcing, but though we were still in the eleventh grade, that promise had been broken that night. “…if they get divorced, we could always live with Mom and Grandma.”
“I can’t live with either of them! Even if they’re divorced, they’ll still find ways to attack each other.” Though Jeremy wanted to believe otherwise, I knew he felt the same way. The fighting and arguing over every small issue under our roof had made us hurt for far too long. We felt trapped…unable to move on from it, since our parents never bent on anything. They were too different, and though they say opposites attract, they have never seen my parents. My parents were negative and negative, and no matter how hard you tried to force them together, they’d twist apart.
At that point we had retreated to the bedroom that we shared, and were talking out of earshot from our Dad.
“I’m sick of it. And I know you are, too. They argue about us more than anything else,” I said, purposefully staring at the piercings in his ear, which had been the cause of a week’s worth of shouting matches.
He looked down at my scarred forearms, my battle scars from my own struggles with my inner turmoil. My mother had screamed when she saw them; my father had screamed, too, but at my mother. I still kept that razorblade in my bookcase, there if I ever needed it. I knew I was sick, but no matter how hard my parents tried, they couldn’t yell at me enough to fix the problem.
“We’ve hurt them, but no more than any other kid our age.”
“Jeremy…what are we going to do?” I whispered, mostly to myself. He put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “We could call Rick.”
“I know he could help me now, but right now I just want my brother. These are family wounds, and only family can heal them.” Rick, my boyfriend, could never understand the situation as well as my own twin brother.
“No, I mean, we could ask him if he…if he’d help us.” I looked up at him with a perturbed look, and said, “For months, since the fighting began, you’ve tried to keep me from doing just this. Why are you suddenly accepting?”
“I may not have shown it, but I’ve been living in my own personal hell ever since Mom stopped caring about me.” He claimed that he knew she had stopped caring the day she forgot to pick him up from art club at school. She had never forgotten before. And when she finally showed up after he called her, she looked like she was taking a murderer to the electric chair. But he wasn’t a murderer. He was a boy, her son, my brother.
My brother: the honor roll student, the gifted artist, the kid with more volunteer hours than anyone at River Rock High.
And his sister: the screw-up, the “emo” girl, the psycho, the freak. I was never popular, and the only reason I had a boyfriend was because we were both psychos. We’d laugh at the “normals” while we talked about how we could be insane together in our own little perfect world, somewhere in straitjackets and manacles.
I snapped out of my little dream-world when Jeremy started dialing his cell phone. After a moment, he said, “Hi, it’s Jeremy. And Norma. We need your help.”
He hung up.
Overjoyed for the first time in God-knows how long, I reached under my bed and pulled out a heavy pink backpack. Jeremy raises an eyebrow.
“You’re already prepared?”
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, Jeremy. I just couldn’t do it without you.” I opened the top pocket and turned to my dresser, taking a few other things. A mirror, a comb, a pot of eye shadow, and a tiny glass bottle of my mother’s Chanel perfume.
My bookcase. Goodkind. Clare. Jordan. Oates. Rand. I’d miss them all, as they would be left behind. They were my escape, my safe haven. Though it would be hard, it would be harder to continue living like this. I reached under a copy of Goodkind’s Naked Empire and reached my razorblade. I couldn’t forget it.
Jeremy emptied his bag of his school things, and stuffed his things into it, while I kept looking at the clock. Nine-thirty. Too long until midnight, I thought.
“I’m going to see Dad,” I said, leaving the room while Jeremy was deciding which of his sweatshirts fit him better.
He was sitting on his recliner, with a bottle of whiskey at his side, where my mother had once been. She had so easily been replaced by a bottle, I thought bitterly.
“Hi, Dad,” I said in a small voice. He didn’t respond, just stared. “I just wanted to see you before I go to bed.” He stood up and put his arms around me, and I thought I’d cry again.
But I was strong. I would make it, with Jeremy at my side. With whiskey on his breath, he said, “Your mother will be back tomorrow to get the rest of her things. Just wanted you to know. Goodnight, Norma.”
He pushed me away, then, and I dragged myself upstairs.
Jeremy was sitting on the bed, head in his hands, muttering incoherently.
“He says ‘goodnight’ and that Mom will be back tomorrow,” I said, knowing it meant little to us. I sat next to Jeremy, and held his hand like our mother used to do. He didn’t pull away, like he would have at any other time. Instead, he seemed reluctant to let it go.
The next two-and-a-half hours passed on, uneventful. We spoke little, mentally preparing ourselves for what was to come.
A flash of light illuminated our bedroom from the yard.
“Rick!” I gasped, wanting to break the window and wrap my arms around him. We stood up, looked at our bedroom for the last time, and opened the window. Rick was there, holding a flashlight and a paper fast-food bag.
“Thought you’d be hungry,” he whispered, holding it up for them to see. I was hungry, and I suspected Jeremy was too. We hadn’t eaten dinner at all, really.
“Rick,” I said again, reaching through the window to touch him, to make sure he was real. It was like some sort of beautiful dream. It couldn’t be real.
Jeremy took my hand again, and helped me on the sill. I slipped off, landing lightly on the lawn. Jeremy hopped down, making no noise when he hefted our backpacks through, too.
“The car’s parked a couple blocks down,” Rick said, pointing down the street. He looked back at us, and asked, “Did you leave a note?”
“No,” I said, “they don’t deserve it.”
“Then let’s go.” We followed him down the street, walking silently and quickly.
The car was on, the headlights off. Another guy was at the wheel. Jeremy sat in the front so I could sit with Rick.
“You’re free now. Both of you. I’m taking you somewhere you can stay safely for a while, and you can stay off your parents’ radar.”
“Rick…I don’t know what to say,” I said, crying on his shoulder.
“Don’t say anything, sis. We’re not…we’re not prisoners anymore,” said Jeremy, taking something out of the paper bag.
That’s right, I thought, no more parents, no more fighting. No more fear. No more guilt. We don’t have to worry about our parents’ marriage anymore. It’s been destroyed, among other things.
My only doubt about that night was this: I wish I had said that aloud.