All posts by Dee Kelly

I'm a single mom who has gone through my share of struggles. As I work to improve my life I also hope to help others along the way. It hasn't been easy but it is always worth it.

Is This God’s Plan?

That night I lay awake on the lumpy mattress with the bar where the couch folds sticking into my back and my brother spread across most of the bed.  The sheets were tangled around him, as they usually were. I had given up fighting him for covers at least a year ago. I listened to a clock tick somewhere behind my head and watched the shadows move across the ceiling as cars passed, shining light through the thin white curtains.

Mama’s apartment didn’t seem so bad when I was here.  I wouldn’t even complain about going to church tomorrow if I could just go home.

I thought back to the last service I had attended with Mama.  She sat staring at the pastor like he was a teacher in school about to give away all the answers for the test.  He always said things like “God works for the good of those who love him.” I had tried to love him. I sat in those pews three times a week, praying Mama would stop yelling at me and Jack would stop throwing toys at me and Linda would stop hitting me and Daddy would just love me.  But it never happened. Nothing good ever happened, no matter how hard I prayed.

It’d be better to believe there isn’t a God than to think he didn’t love me enough to answer even one prayer.

God, I pleaded silently, if you really are there send me a sign.  Let Jack be nice just for a day. Or let Daddy give me a hug and tell me he loves me.  Something so I know.

I held my breath and waited.  Nothing happened. What did you expect dummy?  Jack and Daddy are both sleeping anyway.

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to think of a prayer God could answer in the middle of the night.  Just then a loud screech followed by a crash came from below the window. I jumped from the bed to see what was going on.

The street was dark except for one headlight from an SUV that was turned toward the sidewalk instead of the road.  It seemed the other light was buried in the side of a tiny car that was half its size. A bicycle lay bent and twisted across the double yellow line.  An man, or maybe a teenager, was sprawled on his back, his face dark with either shadows or blood. I shivered even though the apartment was warm.

I looked at the ceiling.  This isn’t the sign I was asking for, I thought as I dropped the curtain closed.

I turned back toward the bed.  Jack was still snoring softly. Suddenly I heard a door open, then click shut.  Daddy was making his way slowly down the hall, his soft shuffle easily distinguished from Linda’s heavier stomp.  Her walk was angry even when she wasn’t – or maybe she really was mad all the time.

Daddy emerged from the blackness of the hallway like a ghost coming out of the mist.  Maybe this is the sign!  I was still in shock from the scene out the window, but maybe God had a plan after all!  My heart raced with anticipation.

This is it!

“What are you doing up?  Get back to bed!” Daddy sounded angry but he always did when he was woken up in the middle of the night.

“But -”

“You heard me!”

I didn’t like the look in his eyes.  How could he be so mad? If he’d just look out the window he’d see that those people needed help.  I opened my mouth again, but as he approached I ducked my head and scurried to the bed like a mouse fleeing to the safety of a hole in the wall.

I guess I had my answer.

When Can I Go Home?

I stood at the chipped green laminate counter spreading peanut butter on two slices of soft white bread, attempting to make lunch the only way a 6 year old can.  Linda, the wicked witch of the living room, came in, her nose crinkled like she smelled something bad. I couldn’t tell if that was a special look just for me or if she always looked that way.

“Don’t leave a mess on the counter when you’re done,” she said.  “And make sure to empty the dishwasher and clean the dishes in the sink.  You were supposed to do that last night.”

I nodded as I dipped the knife into the purple ooze of grape jelly, peanut butter melting into the sticky goodness.

“Did you hear me?”  Her voice rose to a screech.

“Yes, ma’am.”  I replied.

“Answer me when I speak to you!”

I nodded again and she smacked the back of my head hard enough my chin hit my chest.  Tears stung my eyes but I wouldn’t let them fall.

“Yes, ma’am,” I repeated as she stomped out of the room.

I topped each gooey slice with another slice, then put the sandwiches on two plastic plates from the dishwasher.  Setting them on the kitchen counter I called, “Jack, lunch!”

Daddy popped his head in through the kitchen door.  “Not so loud, pumpkin. Linda has a headache.” I turned so he wouldn’t see me roll my eyes.  I had learned early on not to let him catch me being disrespectful.

I trudged into the living room where Jack was playing with a Transformer I had brought from Mama’s.  He was cross-legged on the foldout couch where we slept, the sheets tangled at the end of the bed. I never understood why Daddy couldn’t get a place big enough for us to have a bedroom.  Between him and Linda they had three cars and a fishing boat. Seemed to me he could have arranged something for us.

“Come eat so I can get the kitchen cleaned up before Cruella comes back,” I said.

Jack continued to play with the Transformer.  I grabbed for the doll – he hated when I called it that – and he pulled it away just before I could get it from him.  “Go eat your lunch,” i repeated.

He went back to twisting the Transformer into a car.  I reached for it again and he hit me with it hard on the back of my head, right where my skull meets my neck.  “Dad,” he called. “Katie hit me!”

He scooted off the bed right before I could make his accusation true.

I took off after Jack right as Daddy walked in.  He grabbed my shoulder and pulled me to a stop. “Leave your brother alone.  I told you Linda isn’t feeling well. Why can’t you just be quiet for once?”

I wanted to tell him it was all Jack’s fault.  He was the one who hit me.  But I knew he wouldn’t believe me.  Jack was everyone’s favorite and I was Cinderella – there to do chores but not really part of the family.  I dropped my head and mumbled, “Sorry,” before heading back to the kitchen.

Jack was sitting at the small glass-topped table, a wide grin splitting his face.  I snatched the plate off the counter, almost sending his sandwich to the floor in my haste.  As I put it in front of him I leaned in close and whispered, “I otta let you starve.” I wouldn’t have thought he’d be able to smile any more than he already was, but I was wrong.  He started swinging his leg as he took a bite of his sandwich.

“Try it,” he said around a mouthful of bread.

I sighed.  Even a 4-year-old knew I was bluffing.  How is it even my stupid brother is smarter than me?

I turned to start emptying the dishwasher.  I didn’t feel like eating anymore.

Linda waddled in as I was stretching up to put a couple of glasses into a cabinet just beyond my reach.  Her shriek almost caused me to drop them. I pushed them up on the shelf just before they toppled to the counter.

“Your Mama might let you live like pigs but here you’re expected to clean up after yourself Katherine.”  I cringed at the use of my name. No one but Linda called me that. I hated it, and I hated her for using it.

“I’m cleaning it up now,” I said.

She leaned in real close like I’d done to Jack.  “Don’t talk back to me little girl or I’ll have your Daddy wash that mouth out with soap.”

Oh how I wanted to spit in her face.  It was right there, begging for it. But I knew I’d pay if I did.  Instead I looked at the ground and said, “Yes, Ma’am.” As I turned to wipe the offending crumbs from the counter I glanced at the clock on the microwave.  When is Mama going to come take me home?

A Visit with Daddy

A knock on the door raised the hair on my arms.  We never had visitors. I looked at Mama who was smoothing her floral dress – the one she normally saved for church – as she headed to the door.  Pausing, she fluffed her hair before opening it. What’s up with her? I wondered.

Standing in the hallway was a bull of a man.  His bulky frame filled the doorway and made Mama look tiny and frail.  Aside from his pale skin, he reminded me of Mr. T from the A-Team. Except that I never imagined being afraid of Mr. T.  He was a hero, a protector. This man wore a black t-shirt spread tight across his solid chest, and jeans were pulled down over pointed cowboy boots.  His head was shaved almost bald and his angular chin was covered in black stubble. Tattoos covered both arms.

I sank deeper into the scratchy couch cushions, trying to make myself invisible.

“Let me get my purse,” Mama said as he stepped into the room.  Her voice sounded funny. Higher than normal. My heart raced and the sound of the ocean filled my ears.  I could barely breathe. I looked around for Jack, feeling protective of the little monster. He was nowhere in sight.

“Doug will be comin’ round here sometime.  Can’t never count on him but he said he was comin’ to get ‘em before bed,” Mama said to Granny.

Tears stung my eyes.  Not Daddy’s!  I put my hands over my ears, not that it would do any good.  Why hadn’t she told me we were going? I hated staying with my father and his wife.  I refused to call that witch Linda my stepmother.

Mama went backto the man without ever looking in my direction.  Maybe I really was invisible. She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek before saying, “Ready.”  As she shut the door he put his arm around her shoulders.

Granny didn’t leave me time to dwell on who this new person might be or why he was touching Mama.  She pushed herself from her chair at the kitchen table and shuffled into the living room. “You heard your Mama.  Your Daddy’ll be here before long. You better go pack a bag for your brother ‘n you. He’ll be mad as a hound dog if you ain’t ready when he gets here.”

I scrambled off the couch and into the bedroom where Jack was playing with his cars.  I stepped on a tiny truck and let out a cry of pain. It felt good to have a reason to scream.  I wanted to throw myself on the bed and sob until the hurt inside went away, but it probably never would.  I’d be crying til I was old as Granny.

“We’re going to Daddy’s,” I told Jack.  He kept playing like I wasn’t even there.  Maybe I’m still invisible, I thought. I pulled a bag from under the bed and threw clothes in it for both of us.  I also threw in a few toys for Jack and a book for me. I had no idea how long we’d be gone. Usually it was just a night or two but sometimes it was longer.

There was another knock on the door and I practically jumped out of my skin.  Granny opened the door and I heard Daddy’s low voice. I zipped the bag closed and it stuck on one of my shirts.  I pulled at it furiously, trying to get it unstuck. Daddy didn’t like waiting. My hands shook making it harder to get the fabric free.  I yanked hard and it ripped loose. I zipped the bag closed the turned to Jack.

“Clean up the toys.  Daddy’s here and we need to go.”

He ignored me and pushed two cars into each other, crashing them together over and over.  Boys!  Why are they so dumb? I wondered.  I scooped up the cars that were scattered around and threw them in the bin.

“Hey!” Jack yelled, then threw a tiny police car at me.  It hit me in the middle of my forehead with a thud.

That little….”Kids!”  Granny called.  “Yer Daddy’s here!”

“We gotta go,” I told Jack, pulling on his arm.

He moved with the speed of a sloth, but eventually got to his feet and followed me to the door.  I looked back over my shoulder and realized the police car and the red convertible he’d been crashing into it were still on the floor.  Mama would be furious if we left the room a mess so I ran back and threw them in bin. Taking one last look around I was content that the room was tidy.

“Kids!”  This time it was Daddy.  He didn’t sound happy. I scampered down the hall and into the living room.

“Sorry,” I said as I entered, my eyes on the floor.

“It’s about time,” he said.  “Linda’s waiting in the car.”  Without a word he stepped out into the hallway with Jack and me following behind.  Jack was moving so slowly I kept pushing his back to get him to keep up. As we reached the top of the stairs he glared back at me and stomped on my foot.

I swallowed a yelp then narrowed my eyes at him.  For just a minute I thought about pushing him down the stairs.  Looking back years later, there were times I wish I had.