Wake Up

Another drive moving toward a deceitful encounter. These have become commonplace over the last few months. Jess sighs as she stares out the window from the backseat watching the trees and signs go racing by. She learned to focus on the movement rather than the deafening silence. At least fast trees couldn’t provide disappointment.

These trips used to conjure excitement. A chance to get out of the loud house away from little sisters and a cruel older brother.; away from the shouting and unpredictability of a drunk father and nervous mother. “I’m her favorite”, Jess thought.

The quiet was welcoming. The regret was the mother-daughter bonding never took place as hoped. The saddest day in Jess’ life to that point was when she realized she was not a loved companion, but a pawn. An excuse.

The old brown Buick stopped in the usual place. A ride share lot covered under the shade of Georgia pine trees. The ground covered brown with their needles. Without a word the driver door slams shut leaving Jess to peer out the window and try to decipher what her mother and the strange man talked about. Or which man it was this time. After a while the faces, weird looks, and half-cocked smiles aimed toward her as mother’s back pressed against the window all ran together. At least mother made that effort to shield, to attempt some cover, but to no avail. I guess you learn the birds and bees somehow.

It was the same every time. The talking turned to kissing. The kissing turned to grabbing. All turned to the shame Jess felt on the way home as mother finally spoke. Jess would have loved a good conversation. The kind you have with friends about the meaningless details of life or exciting stories of adventure from friends gone for the summer. Alas this was the usual one-sided conversation. It was more of a guilty warning. Whatever you do don’t tell your father. You know he will be angry and if he’s drunken things will be bad for everyone. Mom was right, it would be awful.

Mom kept talking as Jess’ mind drifted to her nightly chores. Find clean clothes for the twins and make sure they brushed their teeth. Tuck them in bed and wish sweet dreams, after all that’s all Jess could hope for so the twins may as well share. Of course, there was always Jess’ homework to finish which was always a task late at night. The pages were blurry from her broken lenses. Fifth grade math and world geography are harder after long days of no rest.

“Is life this hard for every 10 year old?,”, Jess pondered as she drifted off to sleep on the cold surface of her desk.

“Wake up Jess!” Mrs. Jackson shouted from the lectern. No, it wasn’t a dream. The pain is real.