One Word This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   No one can imagine the effect one word can have on your entire life. Tears glistened, yet refused to fall, in the eight-year-old's huge mahogany eyes as she watched the beat-up Cadillac inch down the driveway, hesitating each second as if it knew it would never cross that way again. She whispered words that only she could hear as one lone tear finally fought its way free.

"Bye, Daddy, I'll love you always."

Throughout my childhood I was happy. I was my family's Mickey Mouse; no matter what happened a smile was always plastered on my face. I did not have many friends, but that was okay because I had everything I wanted: two parents who loved one another. My mother and father treated my older brother, sister and me as if we were antiques that should be treasured. My parents recognized we were different and honored our individuality.

Even in the dreary rundown schoolhouse, the teachers told me I was the light that shone through the darkness. They constantly told my parents of my incredible gift to see things differently. Everyone thought we had the perfect family, but things looked too good to be true. I never knew anything was wrong until the shouting matches began. The hushed discussions in my parents' room turned into bursts of outrage the whole neighborhood heard. I was caught in the middle of a never-ending debate. I felt betrayed and my heart was gradually ripped into two pulsating pieces. I painfully watched the two people I loved most look at each other with such hatred in eyes that had been filled with love. Being na've, I thought they were struggling through a brief thunderstorm. That's why it came as such a shock when my mother called a family meeting.

"Where is Daddy?" I asked dreading the answer. I knew something was wrong, especially when my mother told me I was going to have to be a big girl. I thought my mother was kidding. It was hard for my mother to tell us they were getting divorced. I wondered what divorce was, as my mother patiently tried to explain, but not even she could let me in on the pain I would later experience. How could they have expected me to understand that we wouldn't have as much money or that I would have to move away from my best friend and go to a school where I knew no one. Sure, my older brother and sister understood; they had nothing to lose, or so I thought, but when something like this occurs even the smallest things mean more to you than you realize.

Listening to my mother, the only words I comprehended were, "Daddy's not coming back home." Those simple words played over and over again in my head. When my mother finally finished, the room became deathly silent. All at once a shriek pierced the air. I wondered where the horrible sound was coming from, but everywhere I tried to go it followed me - the voice was mine.

"No, Mommy, no, why'd you make my daddy go away?"

My siblings stared as my mother tried to comfort me. My dad wouldn't be there anymore and I thought it was my mother's fault. My brain had become a jumble that refused to think logically.

"Allison, I promise you're going to see your father as much as you want. He just won't live in the same house with us." I actually believed this, maybe because I was na've or because I had never known my mother to lie. In the beginning they both tried to be supportive of my needs. Their divorce put a permanent scar on my life. Over the years it has begun to fade, but it's still there. Their choices challenged me to think about situations normal eight-year-olds should never have to worry about.

During one week I turned into my own version of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I changed from a happy little girl into an angry individual, mad at the world. The moments I should have been coloring, I sat contemplating why life was so unfair. My parents noticed my bitterness, but didn't understand. Instead of dealing with the problem themselves they sent their youngest to a child psychologist. I knew that child psychologist was just a polite way to describe a doctor for crazy, mixed up children. They tried to explain otherwise, but I knew I was going crazy. Instead of playing with Barbie dolls, I played with shoes. Every Monday for an entire month I was driven in silence to the crazy doctor - and every Monday I was dragged kicking and screaming to his office only to sit for one hour and get nothing accomplished. Why answer obvious questions, I wondered to myself as the psychologist went through the same questions week after week.

"Allison, why are you so angry. Do you blame your parents?" the counselor questioned.

I wanted to scream, "Well, who else is responsible? Who else's fault is it?" But just like Jesus, as he hung on the cross, I "never said a mumbling word." Realizing therapy wasn't helping and I was even angrier, my parents tried talking to me themselves.

To this day I sometimes cry because, although the pain has subsided somewhat during these nine years, it still lies inside me. I now realize it's not my mother's fault. My father abandoned her to raise three kids and care for her dying grandmother. I now realize she did her best to give us a good life. As I've gotten older, I've learned to accept his actions and I try not to let them get me down. One thing that keeps me going is my mother's strength to endure these years alone. Eventually all the pain will fade. As the seasons change and years wander by, I still think about how a simple seven-letter word changed my entire life ... Divorce. Just one word.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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