I wonder how long she has been waiting for me to knock on her door. To those who would listen, I’m sure she will lament a lifetime of loss and martyrdom but to those that know, they will say she had it coming.
She is much smaller than I remember her to be – sad and shrunken from a life she never wanted to live. A heart broken from too many lies with a spirit dead without ever having lived. The sparkle of life I remember in her eyes has been replaced with wages of a game played once too often and lost; her once bright smile seems like a grimace of defeat.
“Welcome” she beckons with a voice cracked in sarcasm laced with fear, yet I know that is just one more untruth. I know I’m not welcome. Not any more, not now that I know the truth – and have come to speak to her about it. Her hopes of this being a joyous reunion vanished the moment she opened the door.
Gone was the broken hearted, vulnerable, tortured, easily manipulated young girl she had created. Replaced by a strong, healthy woman full of spirit and integrity – a woman she does not know, despite that is all she herself ever wanted to be. This realization stabbing her heart much farther than any knife could go.
Part of me almost felt bad for her in that moment but I refuse to be bitten by this dog one more time. I’ve fallen prey to her manipulations for years and am wise to her tricks, all of them and steady my resolve.
I followed her into the living room that holds memories of many years of my life. The flowered wallpaper has dimmed with age and the smell of cat spray still pervades the room. There don’t seem to be as many as there used to be and for that I am grateful. I take my familiar seat, slightly amazed it is still there after almost 20 years away.
Although my heart is beating a million miles a minute and my hands would rather be coiled into fists wrapped around her skinny wrinkled throat, I am the picture of decorum while I wait, patiently, for her to speak.
“How long did it take for you figure it all out?” she said uncomfortably, her eyes unable to meet my direct gaze. “Honestly, I hadn’t let myself think of anything for years. So it has only been a few weeks since I put it all together.” For one split second I thought I saw a glint of flame in those dead eyes, but before it could fan itself into a flame I made myself very clear. “However, don’t think for one moment, that now that I know, I wouldn’t like to kill you as a small token of my appreciation for your lies and the effect of them on my life for the last 20 years. If you have any illusion of trying to continue your façade here today, I’m happy enough just walking out the door, having seen your defeat, face to face, once and for all.”
Considering her mortality carefully, tailoring her response to elicit the least amount of bile rising in her throat she offered me a deal, the truth for her life and a few more moments with me, the daughter she always wanted but threw so carelessly away.
“I loved him once, just as I loved you – albeit I will concede that upon reflection I did have an odd way of showing it.” Just about choking on my tongue, yet keeping it in check, I said nothing while she went on.
“When I met your father I thought all of my dreams had come true. Being unable to have children of my own, knowing you were part of the package, made it seem too good to be true. As you know, we had our time together before you came to live with us, and it was magical. Yes there were the typical relationship and growing pains, but no red flags of any kind and at 27 I felt as if my life was really starting.
We moved into this place so we would have enough room for you to join us and I decorated with such care, hoping you would be pleased. It took me a long time to realize now that the home I was decorating was actually the one I wanted to grow up in and the bedroom I set up for you, was my own dream. I used to be so angry at you for not understanding what I had put into this house for you, but how could you?
You were ten years old and had no idea and I guess it wasn’t something you should have ever been aware of, much less grateful for. I just didn’t know, do you believe me when I say that?” Struggling to find the right response, clasping my hands together and placing them tightly on my lap I managed to get the words out. ‘I do believe that on some things you were unaware of the reasons for your reactions, yes I find that to be true.”
After clearing her throat she began again, checking to see if I was watching this grand performance, one she had been waiting a lifetime to play. “At my age, I won’t be here too much longer, even without your kindly offered assistance, so in an attempt to ease my own conscience with an opportunity I prayed I would never receive, I will continue without mincing my words.
First know that if you are expecting an apology, you won’t get one because you hurt me too. What I will give you is at least an explanation. You can like it or not, but it will be the truth as I know it to be, or at least what I remember it to be.”
Shifting in my chair, forcing myself to sit still I managed to breath out words sounding something like “I can live with that and the explanation is what I came for. I’ve never allowed myself to even hope for an apology from you and would have been greatly surprised to have received one.”
“Lets’ both be honest dear, you were a pain in the ass and I didn’t want you around. Yes initially I thought I did, but once you arrived I realized I was far too selfish and more importantly didn’t want to share your dad with anybody, much less you. Knowing that you moving here was the first time the two of you had reconnected in many years – I thought it would be easy to stay his number one. For a while it was. He thought he needed me to get close to you and I convinced you that you needed my help to get to know your father. From then on it was pretty easy to manipulate the situation for my own benefit.”
“Oh I know that makes me sound like a real bitch and I know it now, well I knew it back then too, I was. Probably still am, just don’t have anybody to be a bitch too anymore” she managed to chuckle at that one.
On another day I might have joined her, but I was too busy trying to manage the multitude of emotions I was feeling. I could feel that tightness in my chest and throat, the heat in my face, the water behind my eyes – so I silently closed them for a moment and prayed for a moments grace to remain present and in control of my emotions and my faculties while she continued as if remembering a day at the circus.
“As I mentioned before, I had my own dreams and when you arrived they got trampled on and the only way I knew was to corrupt, hurt, lie and manipulate both of you. I was scared of losing your father and when I opened the dryer that day and found his “fishing clothes” while he was supposed to be away fishing, something in me snapped.
I felt it and from then on, the downward spiral began. Physically I felt like I was going to go crazy but told myself as long as I stayed in control of the situation I would be fine. Something in my mind told me that more than any other woman, you were my competition for your father and I just couldn’t let you have him. At the time I knew I was being horrible but I just couldn’t stop myself and the more things I did - the more I stretched the boundaries of what was right and wrong, until I could no longer see any boundaries of any kind.”
I watched with amazement as she stopped to take a drink of water and adjust what was left of her brownish grey hair. I found it curious that someone with no reflection would be so concerned with vanity, I wanted to assure her that where she was going, nobody would be worried about her hair. As much as I wanted to hate this woman, I couldn’t. I hate what she did and I hate the words she is saying, but more than anything I am thankful, perhaps even grateful. For her to be this honest is a gift. Definitely a rose with its thorns; but a gift none the less.
She would not like to know that, but with what she is saying I am able to heal parts of myself that I have despised for the last 30+ years or even longer. With a softening in my heart, I sat back into my chair and waited for another opportunity to find peace.
“What just happened there? You’re smiling. There must be something wrong with you that you are smiling at all of this. Maybe you aren’t the goody two shoes you think you are.” Her Cheshire grin almost exploded off of her face as she smiled.
“Where was I, oh yes.. boundaries. I suppose you remember your 12th birthday and everything that followed. Perhaps that is one of the first places I went off track, but from what I remember you paraded yourself around half naked in front of that poor man, what on earth was he supposed to do? You did ask for that my dear. I had so much explaining to do to Joyce, she was my best friend and you go sleeping with her husband. Its’ not like I could deny the affair now could I?
That poor girl – I lost count of how many times I had to take her out to get her drunk and find her another man that would love her and not cheat on her. You don’t need to answer to me for that one but if you do believe in God or Allah or someone, you had best be ready to explain that one.”
Nothing could have prevented me from speaking at that point and it is only by the grace of God that I didn’t choke the bitch right there. So much for forgiveness and being grateful. “How can you sit there and saying being raped for my 12th birthday by one of your friends husband’s is my fault??? How can you possibly say that it was an affair??? What on earth do you think happened to me every time you took “poor Joyce” out to find her a new man, while I was at home trying to babysit their daughter?? Do you know how that changed my life? No, I guess you would have no idea, having no soul or conscience, no heart and no capacity for love –how could you understanding losing them along with your sense of self worth, esteem, value, honesty and integrity – your very entitlement to still being allowed on the planet?
I’ve struggled for 30 years with what he did, what he changed, what he broke inside of me – and you blame me? I was 11 years old when he started and 15 when he stopped and you let it happen. I don’t know how you can live with yourself for that. Well yes I do, from hearing you – the only way you can is by turning it around into something you can live with. But before I let you continue – that was not alright, not something that any person should allow to be done to another – and definitely not for someone who says they are my mother.”
Suddenly exhausted I leaned back in my chair and let out the breath I didn’t even know I was holding.
Seemingly non plussed she continued on as if I had never even spoken. “Then it came to me, this would be a perfect way to finish things between you and your father, you wouldn’t be number one any longer. I found your pathetic little diary with all of your anguishes and accusations and read them to your father. Your mitherings about being hurt and how you just wanted to die, wanted to cut yourself so the pain could bleed out. Yes I added a lot to it when I “read” it to your father as well as the part where I told him you said he was doing those things to you. I’ve never seen him so mad, but I knew when you walked in the room and he belted you I had broken your spirit and won. But that wasn’t enough – I was still fuelled by the knowledge he was still having an affair and was planning on leaving and I just couldn’t sit by and let that happen. First I tried to find the other woman, but since I didn’t know her name or anything about her, I had to go back to his weakness – you.”
“He told me he was going to take you with him when he left and I just couldn’t let that happen. I convinced you that he didn’t love you and was going to leave you again and that I would love you, stay with you – be the mother you had always wanted. I tricked you into saying you would stay for your school year – and yes, I just about killed you when you said yes to him first. He almost won there, for a brief moment and then you came to my rescue. I knew you loved me and he had lost when you said you were going to stay with me. Just the look on his face as he walked out the door was enough for me to justify everything I had done. If I couldn’t have him, neither could you – and what anybody else would get when I was through, would be nothing but a weakened, broken, self pitying man.”
“Even then I still wasn’t done was I? I had already worked on replacing your mother by then, but with nothing else to focus on, I put all of my energies into that. I’ll bet you didn’t know she lived just down the street for a few years. I think she and her husband had to come back for business – stayed a few years then went back to Italy. I knew the entire time and I knew but didn’t tell either you or your father. Your Aunt told me about it years ago – before you came to live with me actually. I’ve even gone to her building. All those times you wanted to look for her, did you ever get in touch with her? Not that I really care, but she was such a mess. I guess I should be sorry that I lied and that I have ruined your life, but I’m not. Someone ruined mine first and that is all I knew how to do. You don’t have them and they don’t have you – but you are here with me now, so I won.”
I sat there amazed, stunned, angry & hurt yet stronger than I had ever felt in my life. As I stood up I looked at this sad sorry excuse for a woman I once loved. “You’ve never been my mother or my father. You’ve never been my heart or my soul. Even though both of my parents are dead and I will never have the chance to tell them how this all happened, they still have more of me than you will ever have. I would rather live alone forever knowing they are dead than to continue to pay your debts with you.”