Holidays weren’t always this hard. I used to have fun with them, but this Christmas was different. Usually, both my parents were here. we’d gather around the table while we opened presents and laughed as my dog ran around, attempting to eat the wrapping paper as it fell from our laps. After the divorce, my whole life changed. I was happy; I thought our whole family was. That is until the shouting coming from my parent's room grew louder and more often. As I smoothed down my new, green satin dress, I knew this Christmas would be much different than the rest. I redid the bow in my hair, which I didn’t want to wear. I was thirteen, not ten but since my stepfather had gotten it for me, I was forced to wear it. I took a long deep breath and started down the hall.
“Wow, Kelsie, you look beautiful,” Chad, my stepfather, said as I walked into the room. I forced I fake smile on my lips. I had promised momma that I would try and be nice to Chad, but it was harder than I had expected. He was the reason my real dad wasn’t here. He was the reason I couldn’t have a real Christmas, with a real family and real happiness. The past months had been filled with fake smiles and fake “I’m fine’s”. I sat down at the dinner table and started preparing to eat the honey-roasted ham that sat on my plate.
“I’d like to raise a toast,” Chad spoke, “To my wife, Trina, and my beautiful daughter, Kelsie.” He turned toward me and flashed a pearly smile my way.
“Step-daughter,” I mumbled. I smiled back, then turned around so he couldn’t see me and rolled my eyes while making a fake-gagging noise. My mom glared at me. The phrase “if looks could kill” popped into my head. Instead of filling my plate full and stuffing as much food as I could in my mouth, I swirled my fork around on my plate and stared in disgust as my momma looked deep into Chad’s eyes and laughed at something he had said. After I finished eating, I set my plate up and made my way to the fireplace where we played musical chairs as usual. When I had got there no chairs were set up. Strange. I was halfway through setting chairs in a circle when momma cleared her throat. “Kelsie, honey,” she said, “I thought we would play charades this year. It’s a tradition in Chad’s family.” She smiled hopefully as if she expected me to be alright with it.
“What? No, we always play musical chairs. This is OUR tradition.” I blasted back
“Well I know that, but since Chad is new to the family, I figured we would try charades this year.”
“Fine!” I threw my hands in the air and angrily sat down. Chad offered to go first. I groaned as he bounced around on all fours acting like a reindeer. A few of Chad’s family members, whom he had invited, guessed incorrectly multiple times. I rolled my eyes and sighed.
“He’s a reindeer!” I shouted
“Well yes, my daughter got it right,” he smiled. I had taken enough. He had crossed the line. Now he was going to hear just how I felt.
“I’m not your daughter!” I screamed “I never was, I never will be, and NOTHING you do will change my mind. I’ve had it!” Tears that I had been holding in ever since the divorce, rushed out, despite all my efforts to keep them in. Soon, my vision was blurred and the concerned mumbles of Chad’s family and friends faded out.
“Kelsey I- “he started to say, but I was already running to my room. I buried my face in my pillow and cried for what felt like hours. When the pillow had soaked all of my bitter tears, I heard a soft knock on the door. “Kelsey, it’s me,” I heard Chad say. I ignored him but heard the soft turning of the doorknob seconds later. “Look, I’m sorry that I upset you. I guess I was just excited about having a family that I got carried away,” he explained, “I realize that I can’t ever replace your father, and I don’t intend to.” I didn’t say anything and kept my back pointed to the wall. Chad sighed and after hearing a small thump on the bed I heard him exit the room. I turned around to see what had been left in the bed. I was surprised to see a music box lying on my purple comforter. Another cheap gift to woo me, I thought. I winded up the music box anyway. A tune I recognized floated out. As the small ballerinas danced in a circle, my favorite song played. The song was “Never tear us apart”. It was one my father and I used to listen to over the radio. I smiled as I remembered him trying to impersonate the instruments. Maybe Chad wasn’t so bad. I glanced at the door and sighed, knowing that I had to apologize to him. I opened up the door silently and started down the hall. I stopped when I heard momma and Chad’s voices in the kitchen.
“I gave her the box,” I heard Chad say. “Stupid kid,” he chuckled “Ha! Now she won’t expect anything about us sending her to the orphanage.” Momma gave a deep hearty laugh.
“Not even her father caught on. Now with him over fifty miles away, he won’t hear anything about it." I gasped. I felt myself growing faint. I grasped onto the wall to steady myself. Slowly, I backed into my room. What was I going to do? I didn’t quite know the answer to my question. All I knew is that I had to get out.
I started packing my most important things in a backpack. It wasn’t quite packing; more like, tossing things from too and fro into my bag as fast as I could. I felt my pulse and breathing quicken. I had been having anxiety since my dad moved out and had been given special pills from my doctor to help. I popped one of them in my mouth and tried to steady my breathing. As soon as I had finished, I heard thudding footsteps coming towards me down the hall.
“Kelsey!” My momma called “We’re going to go on a little trip, okay?” They were coming for me.
“Um, momma, actually I don’t feel good,” I said trying to control the pounding of my heart.
“Kelsey, come here,” she called. I didn’t answer. “Kelsey!” She screamed, “I said now!” I heard the sound of feet running down the hall. I started hyperventilating. How can I escape? How can I get out? Why was my momma doing this? The answer to my last question came into my mind before I could shut the thought down: my mom was a psychopath. I couldn’t believe that I was even thinking that. My momma had raised me my whole life. Chad has changed her. I looked around trying to find any way that I could break free from my room. My eye caught on the window in my bedroom. It had been stuck for years; I knew it wouldn’t budge. I stared at my rock collection, then back at the window. I knew what I had to do. I grabbed a rock from my shelf and smashed the window open. I heard the clicking of the doorknob and jumped out of the window. I landed, luckily, on the soft grass of our front lawn. I looked up and saw my momma and Chad glaring down at me. That look was the last I would ever see on my momma and stepdad’s face. I scrambled to my feet and ran as fast as my feet would carry me. Blood poured from my head as a result of the sharp glass cutting it and blurred my vision. I didn’t know where I was going or how I would get there, but I knew I had to run, run faster than the wind. Fast enough to outrun my momma and stepdad. That’s when a thought hit me: my dad. He was only about an hour or two away. I could take a bus. I sprinted to the bus station and, through labored breaths asked for one ticket to L.A. As soon as I entered the train, I felt safe. I had escaped my divorce dangers.