I think she was 15. I cannot recall exactly. I know she was a freshman in high school. And she was pregnant.
She had walked into my life as a happy 7th grader but the following years were not kind to her. Her grandmother who had raised her passed away, her druggie parents were nowhere to be seen, and the state placed her with her alcoholic/abusive aunt and uncle. And she became a fixture in my home and in my life. I picked her up and took her home for all school events. I checked in on her on long weekends. In the summer, I’d take her swimming or to the park or just let her hang out at my home with my children as a reprieve from her miserable home life. I loved on her with all I could spare but what I could spare was becoming less and less as my home life crushed in on me.
She was 15. And she was pregnant.
Through hours of talking, she decided she was going to have the baby. Through even more hours of talking, she agreed that giving her baby up for adoption was the best option. And then she asked me to please be present at the hospital when the time came. Of course, sweet girl, of course.
I remember thinking that she would need me most in the hours leading up to her delivery. To hold her hand or tell her to breathe. To remind her that the pain meant something good was happening. And though she did need me then, it wasn’t when she needed someone the most. No. It was the hours after she gave birth. The hours when there was no baby. I remember watching her curled up in that hospital bed with her arms wrapped around herself. She was lonely. She was devastated. She was hurting. And I could not fix it for her.
In the days she was in that hospital, no one came to be with her from her family. Her aunt and uncle stopped by to drop off some extra items I had asked them for and then left. No “thank you”. No concern. No cares at all. I was disgusted by them.
I had expected to be with her for the delivery. Instead I was with her for days. I would leave to go home and kiss my babies and check in on my household. I would maybe grab some food, try to catch a couple hours of sleep, and then head back to the hospital. My sister had surprised me with visit from states away and instead of a lovely visit, she graciously was helping me by watching my children and taking on the demands of the home. My school district was understanding and giving me the time off as I was helping one of it’s students. My husband was livid.
These days leaked into Spring Break. We had no vacation set up but had plans to go spend a majority of the week at my parents with the kids as we often did on long breaks. My husband/monster had to work so wouldn’t be coming for the whole time. My sister had everything set up to load the kids in her car the next morning and go on ahead of us. This would leave my husband and I a couple of days together to rest and rekindle and then I would follow.
I knew he was angry and had been. I knew we were deep into one of our cycles that I did not understand at the time. The week before my student went into labor had been one of the busiest weeks of the entire school year. Months of planning culminating in a giant show choir festival in which we would host 30+ choirs from all over for a competition. It was massive! And it demanded so much of me. And despite his growing anger and arrogance, despite his refusal to help more with the kids and the home, despite his “sudden” work trips that left me struggling to juggle all the plates and find daycare, despite his tactics to tear me down, I put on one helluva show. He was angry.
While I was at the hospital, he was sending scathing texts. While I was at the hospital, he was terrorizing my sister. While I was at the hospital, all the plans changed.
That night he showed up at the hospital. He called and said he was outside and demanded my company. I remember the dread that filled my belly. And I remember how I felt sitting beside him in the car. I had at first refused to get inside of it but he was insistent that we didn’t “air our dirty laundry” for all to hear. I was so exhausted. So confused. And so I complied. It was pitch black out. I could barely see him but at the same time, I can recall with clarity how his face looked contorted. His eyes bugging out. His body emitting fury. It made me cringe. It made me hunch inward. It made me want to crawl within myself. I imagine I looked a lot like that girl laying in the hospital bed inside. Both of us cradling ourselves for very different reasons.
He raged at me. Words upon words. He accused me of things I couldn’t understand. He was angry for reasons I couldn’t comprehend. He hit the steering wheel. He reared his body back in the seat. His arms flying in all direction as he berated me. I tried making sense of it. I tried talking him down. I tried asking him what he would have me do. I tried becoming angry. I tried becoming indignant. I tried to stand up for myself. I failed. The hot tears were threatening to fall but would not. They were stubborn. In retrospect, I think my tears knew I did not deserve any of this and so they refused to fall to appease him. So many words. So many I’ll never recall save one sentence.
“If you do not step it up and fix this family then I will destroy it.”
My face drained of all color and my brain exploded into a million pieces of “what the fuck!?” How does that make any sense? In what universe did it make any sense to destroy something you claim you want fixed if someone else cannot do it for you? In what universe is it okay to put that kind of pressure on another human being? I reached for the door handle. His hand shot out and wrapped around my forearm like a vise and he repeated his words, slow and steady and with menace as his black eyes stared into mine…
“If… you… do… not… fix… this… family… I… will… destroy… it.”
I ripped my arm from him and struggled to reach for the door handle again. I jerked my body away from him. I pushed and he pulled. The terror gripped me. I threatened to scream. I don’t remember how but I broke free and stumbled out of the car. I backed away from him towards the hospital. He got out and began to stalk towards me. I told him not to follow me. My saving grace was another person emerging from somewhere into the parking lot and I fled inside.
The next day my sister left frightened without me or my children.
The next day I had to go home to face my monster.
The next day that little girl went home to her monsters without her baby.
What a pair we made.