American Contemporary Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of sexual violence.


Chicago, summer of '73:

Lorna McKenzie got home late from work that day, a dark cold sky threatened snow, it was late February 2024. She pulled off her heavy coat, hung it up on her coat rack by the doorway and kicked off her boots - her feet were cold, toes numb from walking home ten blocks. As soon as she got into the kitchen she pulled out a pre-made dinner and popped it in the microwave. She pulled out a diet soda, ice and a glass, and sat down at her designer table next to the kitchen. It was Friday night, Valentine's Day. Alone, hungry, and just wanting to crawl into her comfy bed with her I-pad was where she wanted to be. Her designer apartment was freshly renovated. Nice view, laminated floors, state of the art bathroom fully loaded with soft lighting and heat fans made it feel like a sauna.

A big deep tub equipped with shower spray was added, her absolute favorite item and she loved it all here. A 24/hour security guard was always available in the lobby. She enjoyed the safety and particularly the comfort of her suite here. She worked hard to have the lifestyle. No one would ever make her feel violated or uncomfortable ever again. No family photos sat around either. She kept her room tidy and neat. That's just how it was for Lorna. A suite that was more of a hotel than a home. Modern.

"Hi ma, no I am at home tonight. No, not going out with anyone special. Okay, that's great, did you get your heart monitor set up? How's the new nurse what's her name? Rachael? That's nice glad you like her. blah blah blah." She then dialled Kathy's number. Not on her top ten for friendship besties but Kathy was fun to chat with occasionally. Kathy was a blond bomber when they were in HS, married a trophy husband and enjoyed her matieralistic world. Lorna found her tiring usually - not her go to cheering up kind of friend exactly.

"Brad and I are going out for steak at Harford's later. Yummy, getting ready. Naw, just jeans tonight, its' too cold to dress fancy. What're you doing?" She asked Lorna, whom she thought was often moody. She figured her friend was lonely, but she didnt want to say anything to hurt her feelings. After 37 years of marriage she had no clue what dating would be like today, and, probably not safe with all the scammers and creepers out there. Lorna was a long legged looker. Those big blue doe eyes that sometimes revealed sadness. Kath had a good idea of what happened to her. Lorna confided once in awhile but wouldn't go into detail. She didnt have to.

"Enjoy your linguine and Netflix night, go grab yourself a glass of wine don't forget." Kathy drawled yawning. She did that a lot, always seeming sleepy. Kath stayed up late playing software games, Lorna knew that. Her upbeat tone cheered Lorna up this time. She smiled as she picked at her acrylic nail. "I still think you could do with some fun. A date night kind of fun. You hardly ever go out you know." Kathy's worried voice lowered on speaker phone.

"OMG, yea - I do have that vintage Pinot noit from last Christmas still. Maybe a good night to crack that open." She was already up and getting out her glass and the bottle. After finishing a stressful few months wrapping up a project for a firm doing their tech setups and IT work she felt gratified and felt like celebrating her efforts leading the team to do a great job.


It was 1978 end of a hot Chicago sultry summer that year, kids had been out swimming, or playing basketball or just hanging around bored talking about starting the new school year in their hippie style clothes and the boys with their long hair and pimpled greasy faces. Lorna wasn't much into dating even back then she studied hard and graduated with A's. Her parents were nonchalant about her achievemtns leaving her feeling disappointed but WhateveRR. She wanted a career, and not babies, or a husband to cater to. She had dreams to move away as soon as she got herself a job that could afford to pay rent.

L.A. was full of things and expressive was a way of describing her first few months there. It was hot, sunny, busy everywhere and colorful. 'I am not here to express my creative style or artistic anything.' She often had to remind herself as she worked and did her degree. She had a full schedule, with no time for socializing or going out to parties. "Work, study, eat, sleep, repeat" She'd written on a poster in her dorm room. Even her family had no clue of her address. She sent them emails and called but that was all. And the first year the darkness came. Panic attacks - dreams - night sweats.

"Yes, sure I can recommend a good counsellor for you. It's included in your program if your stressed and need someone to talk to." Her lab prof Derek gave her the connection, and she began to take advantage of the one hour weekly sessions with Dr. Norma Bell. "Thanks. Oh, here's the last run of algorithms, took me a week to work them. Glad this semester is done, but I will miss your expertise." She added as she gave him the file. "Lorna, your a bright, quiet and artistic student. I wish you all the best." He smiled at her fondly. She left the lab to make the phone call cluthing the card in her hand.

"You have PTSD, that's trauma caused by what your father did. We won't talk about it not being your fault. What we want is for you to feel whole, free and able to cope." She got told, as they sat in the doctor's office on the campus. A nicely cozy decor with soft tranquil music and small candles lit to make her feel relaxed, it was a nice room. "I felt numb for years. I wouldnt allow myself to feel anything." Lorna spoke low-voiced. The doctor knew well enough what Lorna and most of her other patients were going through. She closed her eyes, as if she were taking a nap. She was remembering her own past. Only with her neighbour's son, a left-alone teen with nothing to do when school was out for the summer.

"And how is that possible when I have to live with the memories, every second of my life?" Lorna cried often. Dr. Bell helped her more than she imagined it would. Releasing all those fears and the stress inside of her was relieving and comforting.

"You are not alone, Many children and women have been through what you had to endure. It's more common than you think. You are all survivors. We have group therapy as well if your interested." Her doctor wanted to help her. Lorna was special, talented and had a future ahead of her. She didnt turn to drugs or other things women did that went through the horrific ordeal of those awful things. Lorna was lucky to get out at a young age too, she had courage and strength. If only Lorna could believe in herself spiritually, emotionally Dr. Bell pondered wishfully.


Prince Charming and carriages were not part of the plan for her. Lorna knew that and self-talked herself as a survival technique to get out. 'I know I did something bad, he hates me.' She'd cried herself to sleep so many nights she had to hide her tear-stained pillowcases under the bottom of the dirty laundry pile so noone would find them. 'I will get out of here. Hell won't last forever?? I am going as far away from this town as possible and him.' She would continue to remind herself of that promise. Note to self.


Her parents home back then was filled with the usual stuff most people had, a red wall phone that you actually had to dial with your fingers. A floor model RCA tv set that one had to get off the sofa to change the chanels or volume. She had a small record player in her room and collected single's. Loretta Lynn, David Cassidy, a few Beatle's and others that were popular back then. She loved to read teen novels, and listen to her records. Her goldfish bowl sat on her dresser, which by now would be an antique. She kept a little box in the last drawer with a key on it. Inside some cash and her diary. Every day she wrote about her day, and her dreams. Her family and her few friends. She wrote about daddy too, but it wasn't kind and often scratched out words. Internal fear. Cash was collected by doing odd jobs, babysitting, dog walking, or sweeping leaves for Mrs. Cabash two houses down North 21st street, and paper routes. She had saved enough to leave and then some.

Her brothers often teased her about the way she began to dress, calling her a prude or prissy missy. She made sure to carefully, no, cautiously select her clothing. Nothing showed, and short shorts that were so popular then were not part of her attire at all.

"What's up missy prissy, kind of hot to wear jeans today and long sleeves." Her brothers would taunt her as they left the house in mid-July when temps soared.

"Leave your sister alone and be home by dark. We're having a bbq tonight." Her mother would scold them. And turn her back the other way after that. Lorna only had herself to defend. She never did want anything from that house.

Lorna finally did leave after she got accepted into Berkley to do her Computer Science degree and then her first job at a fairly reputable software company. The work was challenging, fun, her colleagues decent and her boss lady ruled the empire of high tech. Lorna had gotten herself a fantastic apartment with a view in L.A., and she loved her life just the way it was.

"Thanks Sid, just me and my Netflix tonight, just had dinner sorry." She spoke to one of her neighbours. Sid always liked her but knew she was aloof and not interested in guys. Such a pretty gal too, he thought admiring her long legs in the summer when she wore her shorts.

"Can't blame a guy for trying. You should go out more often, it would do you good." He set the pace for friendship more than a hit on. No point in pressuring the lady.

"Sure, I will keep that in mind. Thanks Sid, see ya." And she lay back into her soft bed as the wind outside picked up and she searched for something. Anything but romance films.


Lorna hid under her covers after he left her room late that night, sneaking around and watching her always she felt back then. His eyes bore down on her tiny body making her feel uneasy and scared. Even when she was littler and had to have her baths she would never want him there, only her mom. "No, mummy, he has to leave." She would not even look at him then as he stood in the doorway of the bathroom while the tub was running and bubbles were foaming. Her mother played dumb-ass, or she didnt care. Lorna wanted her to know how scared she was of him but could never tell her. She'd hoped her signals and fear of being alone with him was enough but Mryta never said a word then. Willy, Sam and Paul, her brothers just did their own thing and were clue less. She was the baby after all. Her mom acted like nothing was ever wrong with their perfect American middle-class working family. Morning would arrive and life would carry on as usual. Lorna kept her secrets and fears to herself and tried to stay away from him as much as possible, and she learned how to hide. Closets became her refuge - going outside as much as possible was escape from hell. Self-concsience was a way of life her body became her enemy, and she was only 10. She knew more than should have then and now. But she got smarter than him. Eventually. Her dark demons were always nearby - she learned to put them aside.


The boys had built a treehouse out of some old planks. It was shabby, but solid up in the maple on the side of the yard. She often would climb up there when they were not home and sit quietly, and felt safe there. The birds would chirp around the top of that tree and the wind would rustle the leaves in the fall. She brought up an old blanket to wrap herself in when it got colder. It was her haven then - that treehouse was one of the only memories she loved growing up.

Lorna left home after graduation and happy to do so. Myrta cried her eyes out, her brothers wished her the best and saw her off at the bus station with her one suitcase. He hung back from them, shuffling his feet in the dust not even waving goodbye. "I hope you rot someday in hell." She'd thought to herself, then hating herself for even thinking those thoughts. Always the same old argument with her soul, she tried to bury them deep down, and keep them there. She eventually got to hate that house. She hated the lifestyle there back then now. So, after carving herself a whole new life in this modern world of technology and, doing very well for herself with designer clothes, a kick-ass designer apartment and a nicely paced lifestyle she was free.


He came into her room late in the night sometimes. She had begun to grow into puberty now, taller and slim. Lorna was quiet most of the time, and he knew she never mentioned what he wanted. He crept up to her bed and sat down halfway from where her lay away from him, facing the other wall. She felt sick to her stomach, the probing would begin. Light, feather touches at first. Then more aggressive rubbing on her legs and back. She stopped breathing while he carried on.....and after he left she would throw up in her small beach bucket she hid under her bed. You know, the ones kids brought to make sandcastles with that were all those pretty pastel colors. Her giant stuffed green bunny that he'd given her when she was three sat on her pillows. She threw it face down and hit the bed with it over and over again and cried herself to sleep. She was 8 then.

He died four years ago from cancer. Lorna flew back to Chicago to go to the funeral and left not long after, two days. People came and went bringing food, and offering condolences. Willy pulled her over the next morning to talk to her.

"Sis, what happened with you and daddy?" He came right out. He could hear things going on back then and he didnt like it. Not one bit. He swore he would kill him if he touched his sister again. But he never said a word. He knew Lorna was leaving anyway.

"Nothing. Just leave it alone." She turned away to look for something else to do. This was not a conversation she wanted ot have. Her own world was safe. Her "now" world was good. She didnt want to go back to 1979. Ever.

"Fine, but I know something went down. I hated him after you left and I will always hate him." Willie lowered his voice as he spoke - with so much compassion Lorna felt sad leaving. He was her favorite breau. He would always have her back, then and now.

"I am leaving in the morning, love you tons." She hugged him long and hard. She couldn't look at the tears that slipped down his cheeks.......


Myrta passed away from heart failure the year after she moved to L.A. Her mother's heart finally gave in, and she no longer had the strength. She died peacefully in her home. Lorna went back to help her brothers pack things up, and put the house up for sale. She had lived so long now burying her past deep inside of her. Even going back now was not as hard as she thought it would be. All the furniture was the same, except a new phone, and a new TV set. Air conditioning had been put in later as well. New carpets. But basically everything stayed the same. Her room had been re done too but same bed, same dresser. Same curtains hung with the frilly tops and square hemmed edged bottoms in pink and white cotton flowers. She used to love how the sunshine seeped in during summer, and the familiar sounds of traffic outside, and dogs barking in the distance. Those years of past memories didnt last long however, and when she endured him sneaking around into her room that oversaw any nostalgia. Lorna only lived to forget him and that house.

Lorna had gone through her mom's photo albums, hardly even knowing who her relatives were from their side. They rarely came to visit or called. She wondered why all of a sudden why her mom never spoke of them. Her grandfather stood taller than the family did, he had dark creepy eyes that seemed to stare back at her. Lorna shivered as she closed the photo album. If nobody wanted it she would toss it.

**** EPILOGUE ****

She planned on taking a road trip to Mexico for a month after the house was sold. She bought a camper and invited Sid to go with her for companionship.

"Well, I guess I could go, why not. Never been myself, just too busy working and doing whatever." And so, plans were made. Lorna was grateful for his kindness. Her little diary was full of course, but she still kept it locked in the safe that once held her running away money.

But she no longer wrote that way now. She no longer felt the need. The house was sold within months after the sign was out front. It was a cozy home in a quiet suburb area. It still held the charm of the 50s, with some of the fences still in tact and well kept lawns. Lorna never went back there. She forgave her family for their ignorance, her mother for her lack of protecting her when she should have. Her brothers for being themselves, and lastly, without further adieu - her daddy. Who hurt her, made her feel unsafe, dirty and violated. The anger she consumed encrusted inside her like a filthy shroud, and it was time she had learned to let it go.

She began to pack as her I-phone playlist pulled up the blues music with her built in blue-tooth speaker system making it sound like a theatre. She danced around getting her passport out and her personal items. "Mexico, here I come", She happily told her empty suite.


February 02, 2024 19:37

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Alexis Araneta
16:09 Feb 13, 2024

A beautiful take on discussing a difficult subject. Great job!


M. M.
20:13 Feb 13, 2024

Thank you so much - I enjoyed writing it as well,


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Tom Skye
12:56 Feb 10, 2024

This was a great take on a very tough subject matter. I felt proud of the MC at the end. Great work. Thanks for sharing.


M. M.
19:37 Feb 10, 2024

Thanks so much!!! I wanted the reader's to feel the progress she had made; i was totally absorbed in this story -- but i wanted a nice outcome and change for her. Thanks again. It never happened to me (thankfully) but many have gone through it. Its a topic i often wanted to try writing about.


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