Trigger warning: This story contains non-explicit depictions of physical and emotional abuse.
How did we get here?
My brother and sister are playing with the other two younger boys. The view of the beach is amazing from here! The boys and their father live here and we were all invited to come over to enjoy their huge beach house. The father was a friend of our mothers in high-school.
I let myself in the front door to hear the kids all having a blast and I am excited to join in, even though they are all much younger.
I see our mother walking down the staircase in nothing but a robe and the boy's father right behind her.
The kids, innocently playing together. Constantly running in and out of the large glass doors that spill onto the beach.
Me, standing in the doorway, confused as to why they are coming down the stairs together barely dressed and acting like nothing is wrong.
My dad, getting off of work, heading over to this man's house where he later makes us all fresh key lime pie.
Her, selfishly reliving a teenage dream. Not knowing what it will do to her future.
How did it even get to this point?
Her robe always seems to be falling off of her body now. It can never stay belted together and we often have to apologize to our friends about the awkward and unfortunate flash of a mostly unconscious mothers body.
My little brother and sister are both with me, taking turns throwing rocks at her bedroom window. Not only are we locked out of our home but is it possible that she has overdosed?
It’s a weird feeling being so close. I mean so close that the only thing separating us is a glass window and our backpacks that have been thrown in the ground at our feet. We are so close to her but at the same time we are worlds away.
Sweaty, frizzy hair frames each of our faces from the bus ride home. It’s about one hundred degrees here in Florida. Sweat was also starting to show through our t-shirts now.
Us, outside and throwing rocks at the window to try and wake her up, because maybe she is just sleeping. Maybe she can't hear us because she is just sleeping.
Her, in her robe, her entire body spread across her bed with a melting tub of ice cream on her nightstand.
The melting tub of ice cream hides the pill bottles just behind it.
Maybe she is dreaming. Maybe the small rocks hitting the window sound just like rain and maybe she feels peaceful.
“Call Grandpa”, I tell my brother.
The old man with leathered skin who is like a father to us rushes up to the door and begins to pound on it until it finally opens.
This is not his first time coming to our rescue like this.
We are finally let into our home. Our backpacks now reside on the terracotta colored tile floor and we are all so relieved for the air conditioning.
The robe is inevitably falling down her shoulders as she stumbles back to bed with Grandpa shouting at her all the way down until he has the door slammed in his face and she sleeps again.
We knew it would come to this.
Remember the boy's father with the beach house? He threw a paper weight at her face tonight.
She is crying, bleeding and her robe is hanging by a thread.
The police were called and he isn’t staying at her condo with us anymore, thankfully.
I never thought I’d have to do that.
My siblings are still at her new boyfriend's house where they all live now. I have had to sneak over in the middle of the night to tap on their windows to make sure they were okay and safe.
Them, stuck in their rooms with their phones and computers taken away so they wouldn't be able to contact us.
Me, crawling on the grass and crouching inside the bushes to tap on their windows.
Her, locked in her bedroom with a melting tub of ice cream on her nightstand hiding other things.
Her boyfriend, out in the yard now with a flashlight getting closer.
“Call child protective services”, I told my dad later that night.
Maybe this will change things?
“I’m calling Grandpa”, I say. Standing in her doorway while the woman is spread out on her bed, crying, sweating, taking pills and complaining about her neck.
Her neck has bruises wrapped around it from the angry boyfriend and he has been taken to jail. The room is a mess and her robe is now hanging from her waist.
The moment Grandpa arrives he tells her how ashamed he is of her and that he wishes she was never his daughter.
He takes me away from the situation and now things are changing.
Grandpa, wrapping me in his arms telling me he finally believes me.
Her, falling back asleep through tears and melted ice cream sticking to her lips.
Me, held in Grandpa's arms, walking away from someone I no longer recognize.
I can’t believe this is happening.
Grandma just died. We are all in disbelief and simultaneously we know exactly who to blame. Grandpa is coming with us tonight and we are never letting him back in what once was his own home. Now it is the place that the woman in the robe and the same angry boyfriend have created their lair.
The next day we print off bank statements. Within 24 hours of Grandma's death, her credit cards have all been spent by the woman in the robe. It’s all gone.
“Call the police”, I say to anyone who will listen.
Me, delivering a handwritten letter delicately explaining my separation from a monster who was once a mother.
Her, throwing it back at me.
My little brother and sister, following my footsteps.
My dad, taking us in.
Her, retreating herself back into her robe. Never knowing her children from this moment on.