No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
By Virginia Carraway Stark
I was horribly abused, neglected and treated badly in a plethora of ways when I was growing up, that’s why I tried to always give my all to my kid brother and my half sister, Katy-May, then Katy and more recently, ‘Kat’. Unlike our older brother, I did everything I could to be a safety net for them while working without any safety net of my own. I never did anything to Katy and yet she hates me with a frightening passion. The only other thing she is more passionate about is defending her dead mother as a saint. Me disagreeing with this is the number one reason why Katy hates me.
When I was just about sixteen I emancipated myself after I ran away from home and never looked back. I had the help of a former Hell’s Angel who blocked the door and didn’t fall for my dad’s ‘look at how charming’ line and told him with the threat of deadly force to stay the hell away from me. That was what it took to make my dad let me go, that and the constant knowledge that at any time, if he refused to let me go, I might stop keeping his secrets. The really bad secrets. The secrets that could have gotten him put in jail if I had wanted to hurt him.
I didn’t want to hurt him, I just wanted away from him. I just wanted him and my stepmother to stop hurting me. I just wanted a little bit of safety and quiet and rest. I was so tired from being worked in their restaurant from the minute I got up to when I went to school and then started again the second I got home and often worked until three in the morning but always until after midnight. It was after that that I started on my homework. I fell asleep in class and had to drop one of my classes and they let me sleep in the school infirmary. I was so, so tired.
I still graduated with honors. I still graduated on the principal’s list along with only two other students. After I ran away from home I worked as many hours as I could get at a little place called ‘Maggie’s Diner’ and I was SO happy to be treated with respect and to even get paid for my work.
I wasn’t paid anything except my stepmother’s second hand computer for all those hours that I worked. I also had to take care of my half sister and she was a handful and a half to take care of.
She was spoiled. She had had cancer when she was a baby. She was born with it. She was a sickly thing that cried constantly, pulled my hair and hit me and was given first go at any food before I was allowed to eat her scraps. She screamed and screamed and hit me and hit me until she got her way. She was a dreadful child and my dad and stepmother’s answer to everything was, ‘she once had cancer, she could die at any time so do whatever she wants.’.
I very ironically pointed out that I could get hit by a car at any time and die and my dad said that that didn’t seem too likely.
I guess he was right because I didn’t die when I got hit by the car.
I ran away from home in the end because I saved Katy’s life. My reward was that my stepmother punched me in the face and called me a lying bitch.
Let me explain to you what happened if you haven’t heard it before.
I didn’t live in the house, I lived in the basement of the restaurant along with the mice, rats and bugs. I didn’t care though, I was happy to not live in the house with my ‘family’. My stepmother, knowing I was asthmatic and allergic to cats would actually blow smoke on my pillow and wipe the cat repeatedly on my pillow case.
“She was so loving and such a good person,” (this is what everyone of my biological family and their friends has informed me since I started to speak out publicly.)
Judy was such a good mother to Katy that, on this particular evening when the restaurant was hopping and the cook and I were the only ones working, when I went over to the house to tell Judy we needed help, that it was too busy for me to waitress, prep-cook and dishwash, I was surprised to see water streaming out from the bathroom door.
I went down to the door, looked inside and saw my sister, face first in the water. Her eyes closed for the last time as I ran to her. She had stopped breathing. I knew pediatric CPR and quickly got her airway clear of water and got her breathing again. I wrapped the naked, terrified child in a big soft towel after I turned off the water that was still overflowing the large jet tub.
I went back to the living room with Katy in my arms. Judy was just starting to return to consciousness. I pushed Katy into her arms and I said, “There you go, you almost killed her again, I hope you’re happy.”
She dropped Katy and came after me. “Just where do you think you’re going?” She demanded as she ran in front of me and blocked my access to the door.
“I’m leaving. I’ve had it. I can’t take any more from any of you.”
She grabbed me by the throat and pushed me against the wall. “Oh, you aren’t going anywhere,” she said. Then her voice raised to a shrill, hysteric scream, “And it was you who almost killed Katy. Not me, I’m a good Mommy, it was you!”
She pulled back her hand and punched me, it was meant to be a center on punch but her aim wasn’t very good and she mostly got me in the head and ear.
I ducked away while she was off balance and ran for the door. I still had to escape from my father, I only took my schoolbooks and homework with me. I wasn’t very sentimentally attached to anything my family had any association with at that point.
This wasn’t the first time I had saved Katy’s life. One night Judy got drunk and decided to take me and Katy out for dinner. Judy routinely made me breathe in the breathalyzer that had been installed in her car at this point. On this night, she was going to take me and the toddler Katy out for steak and lobster dinner. It was the off season in the Okanagan and the restaurant was eerie and quiet except for the raucous commentary that Judy kept up and her shamelessly embarrassing flirting with the waiter.
I had a hard time eating. I had gotten used to not eating and Katy was screaming and crying and Judy was laughing and making lewd jokes. Finally she decided it was time to go home. We got into the car and Judy drove most of the way home swerving from lane to lane in the slush and sleet. She had us pointed directly at an on-coming semi. She was laughing and hooting like the headlights coming at us and the horn blaring was the funniest thing in the world. The truck tried to swerve but it was clear there wasn’t enough room or time for her to get out of the lane, assuming she realized or cared about the danger that me and the ever-screaming Katy were in, let alone herself.
She didn’t care and I grabbed the wheel and pulled us into our own lane with inches to spare. Judy got mad at me and told me that I wasn’t old enough to drive and that she was going to tell my dad on me. She did and I got into trouble. Not for grabbing the wheel but for blowing in the breathalyzer for Judy. What choice did I have? I had been ordered to obey Judy in everything and she would have hurt me (more wolf spider chasing, more sharp things in my sandwiches, more work and slaps) if I hadn’t done it. What choice did I have? Just more pain. I went into my bare cellar, it was cold down there and the restaurant was closed so there wasn’t any heat at all.
So there, two times when I saved Katy’s life.
Two times when I was punished for it.
Before that, when she had had cancer, I had spent every minute with her. I spent my pennies on presents for her, anything that might make her smile.
Before that, before we knew about the cancer and she cried all the time, screaming from the pain she was in, I held her, I rocked her, I sang to her, I carried her around the house for hours singing to her. When I stopped singing she would wake up and start to cry again and so I would sing until my throat was raw.
Everything was for Katy. Presents, food, clothing, shelter, respect, a bed (I slept on a mat on the floor) even though Katy had a bunk bed.
The top bunk was for Katy’s stuffed animals.
It didn’t matter to me. I just wanted out. I didn’t want their love, I didn’t expect anything to ever be fair, I wanted escape.
So, I escaped.
Years later Katy found me on Facebook and sent me a heart-rending message about how badly she wanted a big sister and had wanted to know me all her life.
I replied to her and that’s how I got entangled with my bio-fam again.
She and I talked on the phone and she callously told me that my mother was dead before changing the subject back to herself and her mom and her dad. I had the news of my mother’s death dropped on my head by this grown Katy with such thoughtless cruelty that I didn’t even get a chance to process it.
Things went badly.
That’s another story. Judy got violent with me, tried to frame me for stealing from her second hand shop, didn’t pay wages… it was exactly the same as when I had left. It was like a time lapse photo without the lapse. I took Judy to a tribunal for lost wages and got them back; again having to push she and my ‘I’m letting the courts decide’ dad up against the wall of the government before they would pay. It was like I had just traveled back through time.
And Katy? Well, Katy got her secondary schooling paid for, she got her car paid for and another one paid for when she crashed the first, she got everything. She wanted her hair dyed the same red as mine is and daddy paid for it. She’s short on the rent, mommy paid for it.
Meanwhile Judy was still drinking and now she was in the end stages of alcoholism.
Judy died alone, drunk, wandering through the snow.
Katy, for her part, went ape-shit.
Somehow, I was expected to be sad about this.
Ding-dong, the witch is dead!!
The woman who had tortured me brutally, starved me, physically beat me, worked me as child slave labor and forced me to serve Katy like she was a princess.
I never held that against Katy. I never held it against her that she had everything handed to her on a silver platter while I had to work for every penny and make my own way in the world without any family. I treated her with love when I saw her and didn’t tell her about how I was treated until she finally asked.
I took her to the Aquarium and paid for her entire day of fun. I took her shopping, I took her out for ice cream, my husband took time off of work to drive her to the ferry and back because her boyfriend didn’t want her to take her own car. Yep. I’m a meanie. I did nice things for her, supported her in her art and actively sought venues for her to show it and tried to get other people to buy it. I didn’t dwell on the past and didn’t talk about all the things that had happened until she asked me one day what sort of a child she was.
Well, I didn’t lie to her. That started her off screaming at me in Faking Sanity in what would be our last truly civil exchange.
This is the thing: my dad never told anyone how I was treated. He told people I ran away from home because I was insane. He kept everything a secret and painted me as unbalanced. Meanwhile he had been arrested multiple times for beating Judy, neglecting Katy etc etc etc. I ran away and that was the right move.
Now Katy makes remarks about how, ‘even though she doesn’t have a sister that’s any good she’s got her family’. She mounted a campaign to see me driven from the family (I was already cutting communications with them so at least this wasn’t a big deal.)
Save her life at least twice and it’s not nearly enough to be counted as a ‘decent’ sister. I wonder what it takes? I’m thinking she only counts abuse as love because she’s twisted by what she went through. I’ll just go on being a ‘bad’ and ‘crazy’ sister, I’m not up for giving her the sort of ‘love’ that leaves a little baby to drown or wedged behind the toilet until the post woman hears her screams and calls the police.
I was talking to my therapist the other day and we were talking about this particular experience and how Katy treats me now. I told my therapist how Katy (now ‘Kat’) says horrible things about me- how she jumped on the bandwagon when I came back and Judy and my dad started abusing me again.
I said, “That’s some thank you for saving someone’s life.”
Then I thought about it for a minute or two and said, “Oh, to have a time machine.”
I thought of those blue eyes submerging for the last time. She was just a little kid. Her going down for the last time, the sound of water pouring off the edge of the jaccuzzi bathtub and onto the floor…
With tears of frustration in my eyes I said, “I would do the exact same thing. If I had the chance to do it all over again and known everything that happened afterward and how she would hate me, I would have grabbed her little body out of the water and got her airway open. Because how could I do anything else?”
Some cultures believe that if someone saves your life that you owe your life to them, I didn’t ever expect or want that. All I wanted was to save a child’s life and even if that child had been baby Adolph Hitler I wouldn’t have hesitated. I couldn’t. She was just a child whose life I saved. Just a child I had soothed to sleep again and again while her mother screamed abuse and fed me off Katy’s scraps. All that should have been shared or mine was given to her and I still couldn’t stop myself from saving her if I was sent back in time. All her hatred and vitriol and I would still save her. Because that’s what you do. Because we’re supposed to love each other. I wouldn’t, couldn’t let someone just die, there was a deep instinct that impelled me without thought to pull her out and take that punch for a reward. And I’m happy to say that, after all of the abuses the grown Katy has done to me, that there is still that instinct.
There was a deep force in me that never held it against her what I endured for her. But Katy hates me and she always will because her mother was a drunk. An abusive drunk who abused Katy her whole life as well as me and my brothers and even my dad.
Lets also take one second to say that Katy had nothing but bad to say about my mother and that she heartlessly told me in one breath that my own mother was dead and buried by two years. Katy’s family is the only one that mattered, ever.
She hates me more than anything else because I can’t feed her lies and I never will. Her mother was bad. As close to all bad as you can get and still wear a human skin. Katy is now carefully, worshipfully, donning the same skin as her mother. She has peeled it back from Judy’s bones with her adoration and now she wears her hands like gloves, her face like a mask, Judy’s thirsty lips are now Katy’s lips.
Her hatred is absolute because she knows that if she admits that her mother was a bad person that all the rest of the the bad things that happened to her might have to be faced. Blotting me out is the best way for her to blot out the pain. I’m the only one willing to face the past and she won’t stop until she drowns in the past once and for all.