𝙸 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚖𝚢 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚢 𝚒𝚗 𝟸𝟶𝟷𝟹… 𝚂𝚒𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚗, 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚍 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎 𝚊 𝚋𝚘𝚘𝚔. 𝙸 𝚍𝚛𝚞𝚐 𝚖𝚢 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚝, 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝. 𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝙸 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 “𝚍𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚏𝚎𝚌𝚝”. 𝙾𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚢𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚜, 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚢, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝙰𝙻𝙻 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚜. 𝚃𝚘 𝚞𝚜, 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚜 𝚍𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚜. 𝚃𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐.
I’ve been reading Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall & it inspired me to start writing a collection of stories from my life so that when I’m ready, I can self-publish the book that I’ve been encouraged to write for the past 6 years.
On the afternoon of December 14, 1996, a 15-year old girl waltzed in the doors of Pizza Factory, sporting a purple & hot pink work shirt with a backpack slung over one shoulder.
She was in the best mood. The entire night she wore a huge smile on her face as she took orders, delivered pizzas, cleaned off tables and spun empty pizza pans between her thumb and index finger before flinging them into the stainless steel sink like a frisbee.
She hadn’t been this excited since she was 8, when her grandparents took her to Disneyland.
That 15-year old girl was me.
Once you find out what I was so excited about you will most likely wonder how & why something so small & commonplace could mean so much to me.
Y’all, you’d think I had scored front row tickets to Alannis Morrissette or thought I was Alannis herself.
I phoned friends from the phone at work & told all of my friends at work “I am going to be at the dance tonight! Will you be there?!”
You see, this was the first dance I WOULD have ever attended.
I was 15 & had never been to one single school event.
I had been yanked out of public school & was being homeschooled, which meant I sat at home all day long. The only contact I had with the outside world was when I would go to work or the 6 hours a week we’d attend church “meetings” at the Kingdom Hall.
I wasn’t allowed to do anything. My parents didn’t approve of anyone I wanted to be friends with until I made friends with 2 sisters, Rachel and Robin who were new to town and new to the church. I envied them. Their Mom was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses just like my parents, but she actually let them make their own choices. They were allowed to do all the things I was not allowed to do … totally harmless kid shit, like go to school dances, football games, attend public school and have non-church friends.
I was able to convince my parents to let me stay the night at their house for the second time that night. We had a plan. The plan was, they would pick me up after work and then we’d head to dance together. They would bring me to work the next afternoon and my parents would be none the wiser. Seemed like a solid fool-proof plan.
The thought of being able to be a “normal” teenager for just a few hours that one night had me hyped up. I was so excited. Nothing could bring me down.
As soon as the last dish was done, I marched my ass to the bathroom, stripped off my work clothes as fast as I could and then slipped into the cutest dress and boots that I had borrowed from my best friends sister, a dress that was entirely too short by my parents standards (only a couple inches above my knee).
From the moment I hopped into Rachel’s tan Jeep Cherokee & threw my backpack on the floorboard, my stomach did flips until we pulled into the Dana Gray Elementary parking lot, where the dance was being held.
I remember strutting up the sidewalk with Rachel and Robin, grinning from ear to ear, waving at friends who were approaching at the same time. I could not believe this was happening. I couldn’t wait to get inside & see what went on behind those doors. It hadn’t even dawned on me that I didn’t know how to dance.
The euphoria was short-lived.
I heard my name being called. The voice was familiar. It stopped me dead in my tracks. My heart sank & then immediately started racing.
I slowly turned my head towards the voice and there sat both of my parents parked right in front of the entry to the school.
The window was rolled down, my father was leaning over my mother, who just sitting there being the good, obedient, submissive wife that she always has been. I honestly don’t remember what he said other than to get in the car. I think I said “Shit! FUCK!” a million times as Rachel walked with me back to her SUV to collect my things.
It was by far one of the most mortifying moments of my life, but as embarrassing as it was, I was filled with fear. I was terrified of what would happen when we got home. No one knew what went on behind closed doors. I had been enduring years of control as well as mental, emotional and physical abuse. Disobedience and going against “Jehovah’s will” was the ultimate sin. I knew I was in BIG trouble for being deceptive & disobedient.
The ride home would have been in complete silence, had it not been for my mothers incessant sighs. (To this day, I cannot stand the sound of someone sighing.) The 5-minute ride home was agonizingly long.
For the life of me, I could not figure out how they knew I was going to be at the dance. Who had told them?? All I knew was, whoever it was, I was going to kill them once I found out!!!
When we arrived home, I was asked where I got the dress that I was wearing & was told to set my backpack on the kitchen table. I watched my father rifle through the contents of my backpack. He shoved everything back in with the exception of the cash I had (approximately $200 … $200 that was never returned to me, along with all of the money I had in my checking & savings account). I believe I asked why it was being taken, but I can’t be 100% certain.
Much to my surprise he didn’t lay a hand on me this time, but I knew it was coming or at the very least, my life would be made even more of a living hell.
I laid in bed, mind racing, heart pounding, hands sweating, feeling like I was going to throw up. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know what was going to happen. At this point, I’d spent several years hating life, wondering why they’d even adopted me. My father had threatened to send me to a Foster Home and I actually hoped that it’d come true.
As I laid in my double bed that night I realized that NO ONE was coming to rescue me. So right then and there, I decided to be my own hero.
I slowly eased my way out of my bed, crouched down on the floor, stuck my head slightly out of the doorway and peered down our long dark hallway. I could see the flicker of the TV, but couldn’t hear any voices. I scurried around & fumbled in the dark, gathering up clothes, moving quickly and quietly, silently launching myself back into bed every time I thought I heard one of them coming down the hallway, but it was just my mind playing tricks on me. Next, I braved the hallway. I tiptoed into the bathroom to gather up my shampoo, conditioner, brush, makeup and toothbrush. Before I knew it, I had 2 pairs of clothes and the “necessities”, stuffed into my backpack which I shoved to the back of my closet.
That night they stayed up unusually late. I laid in bed waiting. My heart and mind were racing.
I kept waiting for the right time. Every minute that went by felt like an hour. Sometime after 1 A.M. I slid out of bed, crept over to my closet, grabbed my backpack, then slowly opened my window. The screen was already off because it wasn’t uncommon to find me sitting in my windowsill at night, staring up at the sky, wondering if anyone was out there thinking about me, praying to God to save me.
I had already taken the time to slide everything over the left of my dresser in preparation for my getaway. I stepped up on my dresser. As I sat on my windowsill, I paused for a moment — It was NOW or NEVER. I let myself down as carefully as I could. Then I gently pushed my window closed.
I didn’t have a plan. I had to think quickly. I could go straight, which would take me across my the deck attached to my parents bedroom and right by their open window. Or I could go right and take the long way, which meant I would walk in between my parents & grandparents house, by the dog kennel and in front of the house. Or I could veer off to the left across a yard full of twigs and leaves.
To this day, I have never been more scared than I was at that moment & the following half hour. My heart was beating so hard that it felt like it was going to fly out of my chest.
As I crept through the yard in the dark, towards the side gate that opened up to the driveway, I swear I stepped on every twig & leaf on the left side of the house. I wondered if I was making the right decision. I kept thinking, “What if he wakes up? What will he do to me?” There was no turning back now.
I finally reached the end of my driveway. I was (and still am) absolutely terrified of being in the dark. I remember standing where our driveway meets the highway, trying to find the nerve to take the first step. I remember staring down that dark highway. I had never been brave, but that early December morning I found courage I never knew I possessed. As soon as my feet hit the asphalt I started running. I ran as fast as I could.
The air was cold and thin that morning. It stung my face. The only thing could hear was the sound of me breathing, as I struggled to breath as the cold air pierced my lungs with each breath. My feet stung as they hit the asphalt. My throat was on fire, but I couldn’t stop now. It was just me vs. the dark, running as fast I could toward the faint glow at the bottom of the hill. I kept telling myself that I was almost there. I didn’t stop until I made it to the payphone that sat at the entrance of the RV Parks. By the time I made it there I was drenched with sweat, despite it being 40º. I sat in the seat of the wooden phone booth trying to catch my breath, still scared out of my mind. I fumbled for the change in my pocket and pulled out a quarter. With shaky hands I lifted the receiver, inserted the quarter and started dialing as soon I heard it hit the bottom.
𝗧𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗺𝘆 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗻𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗳𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗼𝗺, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗜 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗳𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻.