She couldn’t speak to me, in her final days. There were smiles, and hand gestures. Two thumbs down, for the botched dye job on my hair. I couldn’t hug her. There was no final goodbye. But two days before her untimely death, she grabbed my hand.  And placed it on her cheek. I should’ve known then that she knew she wouldn’t make it, because she had never done that before.

This woman, my best friend, my sister, my arch nemesis, my daughter (at times) was gone. My whole life had been spent worrying about her, and protecting her. I wanted to see her happy. And she was almost there. This woman, who had been beaten, and put down, and degraded by every single person she dated, was gone, without knowing true love. She never found peace, never found her safe place. And she died not knowing if I was going to become another domestic violence statistic. They said the cause was heart disease, but maybe her heart was just broken. Broken with worry for her daughters, broken because she was never loved properly. Broken because she never got to explain her story. But I’m still here to tell it. Be it a cautionary tale, or the ramblings of a daughter who misses her reason for being, I will tell it, and maybe give someone the courage to leave, before time runs out. Maybe that someone will be me.

The memories come back to me in flashes. There’s a ugly, burnt orange blanket on the couch. I remember screaming and crying, in harmony with my mother’s screams as my father beat her up and down the hallway. At that age, I was too young at 4 years old to comprehend the severity of what was taking place, but I knew it was wrong. And that feeling of helplessness haunts me to this day.

I remember pretending at school. Making honor roll, every single year. Thinking that if I just behaved more, if I made my father proud, maybe he would leave her alone. But he didn’t.

There was a time we were all eating dinner. Myself, my mother, and my three siblings. My sister was crying, and I could feel my father getting angry. I tried to placate him. Let him know that my Mom would keep my sister quiet. My mom took my sister upstairs, and the next there I heard was a loud crash. He had picked up her dinner plate, and slammed it on the table, breaking the plate, and ruining her food. It took her two hours to make that meal, and she hadn’t eaten all day. It was then I started hating him. It was then that I decided no man would ever treat me like that. It was then I decided in my little eight year old mind, that I would do what I could to protect my mother.

Over the years there were other incidents:

          My brother had stolen some dinosaurs from his kindergarten class. So instead of explaining why this was wrong, my father decided to beat him with a weight belt. He took him upstairs, and we’re all sitting at the table listening to my brother scream. My mother ran up those stairs so fast, I’d never seen anything like it. She kicked down that bedroom door, and all I heard was “Nooooo.” Then a loud thump against the wall. And silence. The silence stopped my heart. I ran to the phone and called the police despite my Dad yelling from the top of the stairs for me to put the phone down. The police did nothing.

          Another time my father forced me to go to a modeling audition. I cried, begged not to go, and when my mother stood up for me, he kicked her. While she was holding my baby sister.

He would hit her with extension cords from our keyboard. Her head was put in a toilet. He would have tantrums, and break things. Call her names. She was pushed down stairs. She had vases thrown at her. Then he would buy her magnificent presents from overseas. And I wondered if that was love.

Things were ok for a little while, and my family relocated. We moved in with other family member’s as our house was being built. In Florida, right before Hurricane Andrew destroyed it. But there were good times in that home. There were also awful times. There was so much tension in the home due to the fact that our entire family was sleeping in one room. My mom was in school. My dad was working. Things were stressful. One morning my Mom was getting ready to drop me off at school. My father just kept picking with her. She tells him to shut up. He jumps out of bed, pushes her against the wall and chokes her, with me standing right there. I told my school counselor that day. They did nothing and the same night, there was another argument. My mother said she was fed up, my father said “oh, yeah…get fed up with this” and he smacked the shit out of her. I ran out of the room, found my aunt, and when she left the room, I called the police. My father was arrested.

Finally. But the drama didn’t end there. My Aunt decided to scold me. And call me a little bitch. Telling me that children are never supposed to call the cops on their parents. My mom packed us up, and we left the next day.

I was so proud of her. I loved when my father was gone. But suddenly I started seeing random things around our new house. Whitney Houston and Tevin Campbell CD’s with love notes written on the covers with a Sharpie. Then my Mom tells us my father is coming to visit. Even at that young age I knew he was just weaseling his way back into our family. And I knew my mother was going to allow it. Things were good for a while. My Mom decided to go hang out with her best friend one night. So  my youngest brother stayed home, and my other siblings and I went out with my father.

When we returned home, my brother told my father that my Mom had been talking about him being with another girl. My brother was very young at the time, so I don’t blame him for what he did, but I’ve never forgotten it. My Dad handed my brother $1, for the information. One fucking dollar. He told us all to go upstairs, and that familiar dread rumbled in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t move. He told me to go upstairs again. I didn’t move. He physically pulled me up the stairs, into my brother’s room and closed the door. My brother’s sat around, playing Nintendo and I asked them how they could not care about what was going to happen. One of them looked at me and said “what are we supposed to do”. I opened the door and stood at the top of those stairs, while my father is screaming, and I heard the slap. I heard the thud. And I heard her crying. “you promised not to do this anymore, you promised”. I’m at the top of the stairs yelling “Moooom”. There’s a knock at the door. It’s the police. They ask my mom if everything is ok. She said no, he just slapped me. They looked at her and said “if we have to come back out here, someone is going to jail” and they left. The last thing I heard my father say before I went to sleep was “things were starting to calm down after the slap right?” I wanted to kill him. I woke up the next day, and saw my Mom’s black eye. I kept asking why don’t you leave. She had no answers, and that night, I heard them having sex. I confronted her. Ten yrs old, Im asking my mom how she can have sex with someone who hits her. I got grounded.

Over the next few years, my parents were separated, and there were no major incidents. But they remained in contact, and he must have charmed his way back in because he moved back in with us, when I was 13. There was one instance, I woke up in the middle of the night, to her saying ‘get off me, get off me. Stop kicking me.” He raped her that night.  I don’t think either one of them knew I was awake.

I had a really fantastic teacher in 8th gr. She encouraged us to write, and gave us all journals. She said we could write anything, and our words would be safe with her. I spilled it all. I wrote about how I slept with a baseball bat, waiting for the right opportunity to kill my father. I wrote about the things he did. About not understanding why my Mom wouldn’t leave. I begged for help in that journal. The next day social workers were at my home, and told my mother if she did not leave, they were taking us away. If she had any contact with my Dad, they were taking us away. So she left, finally. It was a tough time for us, because my brother’s felt like I had taken their father from them. My mom felt like I had taken her husband from her. We were homeless and living with friends for 2 months. Moving from house to house so my Dad couldn’t find us. Eventually my parents were divorced, and that was one of the happiest days of my life.

Few months after the divorce, my Mom married her high school Sweetheart. He sat all of us down and explained that he knew what we had been through, and just wanted to take care of us. But I had some questions. “How are you going to handle arguments with my mother? What if she gets in your face, will you hit her?” Emphatically, he tells me he would never do that. The fucking liar.

I had moved out by the time things got bad between my Mother and Stepfather. My sister called me one night telling me he had slammed my Mom’s face into a dishwasher, and was kicking her, fighting her. I left my newborn with his father, drove to my Mom’s house that night. When I saw her I lost it. She had black and blue bruises everywhere. Her legs, hands, and face. I destroyed every computer my stepfather had in that home. I wrote in permanent marker, on his desk, that if he tries to destroy what belongs to me, I will destroy everything that belongs to him. I took his clothes, and poured bleach on them. Then my mom had the audacity to call him and tell him what I was doing. He calls the police me. They arrive, look at my Mom, and don’t charge me with anything, which I was grateful for. But I left her house, that same night, feeling betrayed by her. I didn’t understand the psychological damage that she had suffered at the hands of these two men. She got to a point where she felt like being hit means she is being loved.

Eventually they divorced. She started dating a boy 20 yrs her junior. Who also put his hands on her several times. Needless to say, I confronted him countless times, beat his ass once, but she always went back to him.

My resolve as an adult was to never, ever allow a man to do that to me. My dream became to open up a women’s shelter. And anytime I see a man abusing a woman, I confront him. Yes, I know it could lead to bodily harm, but I can’t stand by and watch people get hurt. I’ve never been a coward.

Which is why, I will never understand how I ended up here. Living with an ex, who has no problem getting physical when his intellect is threatened. Or if he gets caught cheating. I’ve talked to his parents, friends, police, and nobody believes what happened, because they “know him”. They just don’t know him like I do.

Needless to say, my Mom was aware of what was going on, and on many occasions wanted to handle the problem herself. But I wouldn’t let her. I worry that she died scared for me. Scared the way I was when I heard silence, after the loud cracks of my father’s abusive smacks. I am in the process of moving out, but strangely, I don’t find myself scared of my ex. What scares me is that one of us is going to say the wrong thing, and I’m going to end up on an episode of Snapped. Killing him for me, for my mother, for my friends, and for my neighbor who was murdered by her husband. Killing him for all the women who couldn’t fight back, or all the women who stayed for financial reasons. Killing him for all the women who think they deserve this kind of treatment.

Disclaimer: I’m not REALLY killing anyone, these are only feelings.

There are times I just feel so stupid. I should’ve seen the signs. How could I, who has seen domestic violence since childhood, fall for his charm? Or is he really a good man, that I turned into a monster. My heart asks these questions. But logically, I know it’s time to go. So we’ll see how this story ends.