Katy’s Hate, How No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Katy’s Hate

or

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.)

katy wiebe novemeber 25 2015

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 stopped.

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.

katy wiebe and ugly

How My Dad Broke my Silence.

When I was run over this summer and spent the night in the hospital my husband was a long ways away and couldn’t be there with me. I called my Dad who got my message and got into his car and headed in the opposite direction because it was too upsetting for him that I had been hit by a car. I messaged my brother who lives in the town where I was in the hospital, he read my message and didn’t reply. I had to get myself home while I was still in massive shock because my family didn’t care enough to see me after I had been hit by a car. I could have died and they could have cared less.

Last night my Dad reported symptoms of congestive heart failure to me. He could barely talk he was in so much distress. My husband called one of his paramedic friends to borrow his jump kit, and drove an hour out of town to take his vitals and see if he was in immediate need of medical aid. The symptoms and my dad’s medical history made this a direct and immediate threat.
I called my Dad to let him know that Tony was coming and his response was that he didn’t want anyone to take his vitals, he’d hide if Tony came over. He acted frantic and edgy and weird about it. He was so upset I was concerned he would react violently if Tony showed up at the door.

Today I’m not sure if my Dad is alive or dead and today I don’t care anymore. I’m forgiving to a fault and now, after showing him concern and love when he showed none for me at all and to be rebuffed so harshly… well, if he won’t even let me love him then I really am stupid to keep trying. In spite of all the abuse and the horrors he put me through, up until today I still loved him.

As far as I’m concerned my dad died last night, or at least any lingering delusions I had that there was anything good or intelligent or kind about him. It’s one thing when you wouldn’t show love for me when I was hurt but not letting me show love for you is the line. I lost my father last night and the worst part is that every good thing I took from our relationship was tainted by that rebuff.

Moving along now, I’ve known the score since I was fifteen. It took me until last night to actually accept it and all its ramifications.

For the First Time

By Virginia Carraway Stark

Over the past couple of days I’ve had my life unravel.

After I ran away from home when I was a teenager it was many years before I came back into contact with any of my family. The first thing that happened when I saw my Dad and Stepmother were tearful apologies and pleas for forgiveness for the abuses they had committed willfully and maliciously to me. I forgave them both and re-entered the family.

But something was wrong.

My extended family seemed confused, hurt and puzzled by my absence. I asked my Dad about it and he said vague things that threw me off the scent of the deeper cover up going on, a cover up that I only recently discovered when my family found my blog and accused me of being insane and demanded I take it down. When that happened I was confounded because my Dad had said that everyone knew what had happened. Everyone had known why I had run away from home.

So, if everyone knew that he and Judy had been abusing me and that the police and social services had been called and that I had been emancipated because of the extreme abuse I as suffering: Then why was everyone calling me crazy and defending Judy and calling me a liar?

Something smelled funny.

Yesterday I called my Dad and I asked him why my Aunt Linda had called me a backstabbing liar. Why my nephew’s mother had vehemently defended Judy. Why so many relatives had attacked me when I had spoken out loud what he had previously assured me was common knowledge.

He didn’t have an answer for me.

He said all these things like: I’m not taking sides. Judy’s dead, why does it matter now what she did to you?

Finally I asked him: Did you ever tell anyone what you and Judy did to me to make me run away from home?

He refused to answer. He said it wasn’t his fault what Judy might or might not have done to me. I asked him if that was the case then why had he apologized and cried when he saw me again and I forgave them? I asked him why he thought that it wasn’t his responsibility to make sure his child wasn’t injured? I asked him why no one seemed to know the truth?

He had no answer for me.

I said to him, “Daddy, did Judy hurt me?”

He refused to answer.

I said, “Was she good to me or bad to me?”

He refused to answer.

And with that the conspiracy of silence he had kept on me all of these years was broken. I realized that I had been duped. He had been running around not letting anyone know, covering up for himself and Judy and throwing me under the bus. He sure got quiet when I reminded him that there are police and social services reports, reports that I have and more reports that I have ordered. He hung up on me when I asked him why he thought I had run away from home.

He said, “Boy, that sure was hard on me when you ran away from home.”

I was crying now and I said, “Fuck you, Daddy, everything is always about you.”

He hung up on me and I expect the next time I see him it will be under very different circumstances because he broke the bonds he had put on me my whole life. He stole my family from me by not telling them why I had run away. He had led them to believe that I was mentally unstable and that is why I ran away from home. I had been an honor student, I had a lot of friends had always been a good natured person.

I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so standoffish to me until yesterday when my Dad hung up on me for the last time.

We make a lot of mistakes in life and the biggest mistakes I ever made were about my Dad. Up until this very day I protected him, remembered the good and tried to block the bad from my mind. I put everything in a good light and tried tried tried to make sense of what he did and said and how he acted within a paradigm that would let me think that my dad was a good.

My Dad made me feel special, he made me make promises to keep his secrets and I kept most of his secrets, especially the big ones for many years but I’m done keeping his secrets.

I’m a dreamer and I want to believe the best of people. If someone tells me something I want to believe them. If they tell me that they are really and truly sorry for something then I tend to believe it.

I only recently realized that nobody knew what I was going through in high school except for the two people who put me through the most: my Dad and my Stepmother. When the social workers asked me questions I kept quiet about the big things. I didn’t want to get my Dad into trouble even then. But now that bond has been broken. He stole my childhood from me, he stole my family from me, he stole the last years of my mother’s life from me and now he wouldn’t even admit any of it.

You want to talk about backstabbing liars? Well, I know one of them.

My own mother didn’t know the extent of how bad things were for me, although she had experienced similar abuse when she was growing up herself. She tried to rescue me once and ran away with me to transition house. I was furious with her. I wanted my daddy. He made me feel special. He told me how pretty I was. He was the one who had baths with me. He was the one who rewarded me for being good.

I was furious with my mother for trying to rescue me. I was so deeply under his sway, my head was so turned my his manipulations that I wouldn’t say one word to the counselors. I refused to talk to the police then, years before I ran away from home. I refused to say anything and I knew all the things I wasn’t allowed to say or they would take Daddy away. I knew how to cover up for him and that was by keeping my mouth closed

I protected him but he never gave a thought to protecting me.

I was stupid about him. He is a sociopath. He told me that he had systematically worked to drive my mother insane so he wouldn’t have to pay alimony. He bragged about the tricks he had played on her. He bragged about a lot of things to me. I was his special little girl. I was the most important thing in his life and I would have done absolutely anything for him. I did do absolutely everything for him.

Today is the end of that. Today I am breaking the silence.

There is no statute of limitations on child abuse in Canada. I’m done protecting my abuser. I’ve done it for too many years.

I was shaken when my brother accused my Dad of molesting his children, but I stood by my Dad even then. It had only happened to me because I had been special. He promised he had only ever done those things to me, that we had something together that must never be spoken of. Part of me believed that my brother was lying. Wanted to believe it.

He won’t let my dad see his grandchildren. Well, I’m not close to my brother but I have no right to doubt his accusations. When a man will do those things to his own daughter there is no stopping them. They will do them for all time. The rest of my family turned on my brother and my brother kind of sort of backed down from things after threatening to press charges. The rest of my family has turned on me too, but I’m not going to be silent. This man has hurt too many people and I’ve protected him for too long. His true nature has been made apparent at long last and I won’t lie for him or cover up for him anymore.

You can call me a liar, you can call me insane but after a point the evidence builds against even the most charming of psychopaths and you would have to be willfully stupid to not ask a few questions. Go ahead, ask him why I ran away. Make sure you get details though. Ask him if he ever told people that he was worried from the day I was born that he would be able to not have sexual feelings for me. Ask him and watch his charismatic blue eyes carefully. It took me a long time to see through the gaslighting he was doing to me, he knows how to be clever. Ask him directly and see if you’re heart can believe his lies.

One final word: I had forgiven my Dad for everything but after finding out that he’s been covering up for himself and Judy ALL these years and his apology was just more manipulation I don’t forgive him anymore. There is nothing he could do now to make me every trust him again and forgiveness is something that I will have to work on anew.

 

We Learn from History, Not Silence!

We Learn from History, Not Silence!

By Virginia Carraway Stark.

How Silence Dooms the Generations. Tragedies can bring people together or tear them apart and it’s all down to the willingness of those who have been affected to share and talk and learn and love each other.

condemned to repeat history

I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support at my courage to tell my story. There have been some bizarre messages that are simply removed, people who aren’t willing to listen and at least consider the possibility that my story is true are not compassionate. They are not reasonable human beings. For example one girl told me that she knew for a fact that nothing I said was true because she played Sims with Katy and Katy was nice.

sims

Well, I’m sure both things are true. Those limited experiences however have absolutely no bearing on my experiences. Katy didn’t invite friends over when her mother was on a bender but most of her friends did know about a lot of her struggles.

When I wrote the blog about Katy I did not intend it as an ‘attack’ on her. I didn’t write it for her or for her friends, I wrote it for me. I wrote it about my observations, my thoughts and my feelings. One friend of Katy’s sent me ten copies of the same message saying that I clearly needed mental help as I couldn’t tell fact from fiction. That one was interesting because it is true that someone isn’t being able to tell fact from fiction. That was the whole point of the article is that Katy is delusional about the fact that her mother died from being an unrepentant alcoholic. That Judy wasn’t a wonderful woman and that the world, as far as anyone who experienced her violence and malice is concerned, her being out of it makes the world a better place. In fact, that was the title of the article: Katy’s Delusions. Gosh ma’am, your psychology is showing. Turning things around on people like that (or attempting to) is called displacement and you have it in spades.

displacement

Katy’s delusions and wishes to have the perfect mom and the perfect family are understanding and sympathetic but one day those delusions rise up and bite you in the ass.

To this day my Dad is still cleaning up her many messes that she left for him. From the fact that her life insurance wasn’t honored because she lied and said she wasn’t an alcoholic to all the unpaid bills and taxes that her addictions and feckless behavior left in its wake. Even my Dad was a victim of her abuse especially as his guilt about how he had treated me ate away at him and he became more and more at the mercy of the whims of Judy’s alcoholism. Would today be a day when he had to call the police? Would she kick him out of her second hand store and tell him it was hers and he was trespassing or would she kiss him on the cheek and ask him to watch the store for her while she ran to the bank? Nobody could ever say.

codependent triangle

My Dad is more honest about his feelings about losing Judy than Katy is by far. He admits that he misses her every day even though he knows that he was miserable with her and he’s also glad every day that he knows he won’t come home to find a horrible disaster on his hands. He told me that when he drove he would reach for the phone to call Judy and had even done so on a few occassions to tell her he would be home soon. He was with her and her abuse for so long that he doesn’t have a life of his own now that she is gone. His life hinged on Judy, keeping her sober, keeping Katy together and then one day he woke up and Judy was dead and life moved on.

alcohol abuse

He isn’t like Katy. He doesn’t tell me that Judy was a wonderful person. He tells me that she could be really good to him sometimes. He tells me that he misses her. He tells me that everyday he learns more things she did behind his back to ruin his life and he fought between his grief and his anger ever since she died. He tells me these things while wiping away an errant tear. He tells me how angry he still is at her for the things she did to me and then he tells me again that he still misses her every day. His conflict is so profound and he has so little left after she tore everything in his life into little pieces that all he can do is roam restlessly from place to place, a restless ghost himself.

The fact of the matter is that all families have things that go one behind closed doors and things can appear more or less normal to outsiders but the truth behind those doors can be very dark indeed. My mother was terribly abused by her father and years after her death I read in her diaries: ‘To everyone else we seemed like the perfect family but nobody heard me cry and nobody saw my blood stained nightgown except for my mother and she couldn’t protect me.’

bloody dress

My mother ran away and got married when she was only fifteen. I ran away from home when I was fifteen. My Dad ran away from home when he was fifteen. Every last one of us ran away because we were being abused. My Mom and my Dad both tried so hard to break the cycle of abuse and they did pretty good jobs of it until they divorced and new, abusive elements were brought into our lives.

When I was fifteen, I thought I was alone. I was alone for the most part in the physical sphere. Not a single aunt or uncle offered to help me. Now, when I speak out about it I had my own aunt call me a ‘vicious, back-stabbing liar’. Well, Aunt Linda, where were you when I needed your help? You’re quick to jump on the criticism but you never offered to help me. If you were really a relative with any love in your heart you would say things like: Are you okay? Do you need any help? Do you need to talk?

It was attitudes like that in my extended family that lead to me leaving the entire mess for good. They made me feel alone because that is another way to hold power over someone. I have talked to other friends of the family who have said things like: I had no idea what you were going through, I would have helped if I had known.

I didn’t tell them what I was going through because the family’s veil of silence was too profound for me to breach at that time. There were threats made. I was told that I was a bad girl for telling the school counselor that my mom didn’t buy food because she was too depressed and that I was hungry. I was punished anytime I reached out for help. Isolated like all the other victims who are taught that they can’t hurt anyone’s feelings. The past should stay in the past, all those other cliches that lead to the cycles off violence, alcoholism and neglect continuing generation after generation.

This is what I have to say today: You are not alone.

I obviously won’t publish the outpourings from people who have sent me their own stories of anguished childhoods, or a cryptic comment from one lady who said she would have to wait for a lot of people to die before she could share her story. This is what I have learned from working on this blog:

For every hundred people who read it only one of those might comment publicly on the ways it helped them or made them feel.

Five(ish) people will private message me and tell me that they read my story and often tell me how it affected them and how akin we are.

Most of the rest will be silent at first but later will drop a comment in passing about how good it is not to be alone.

The point is: People are listening and this is helping them with their own struggles. This is helping people to know they ARE NOT ALONE.

I write a lot of this with my own mother in mind. One of the last pieces of correspondence we exchanged before her death was a card she had made for me. Inside she had written: ‘Every day I hear of something new you write I am so happy for you. You have unlocked a power that I never had, to write about the good in life as well as the bad. I can only write out my pain and writing is pain for me. How happy I am that you have turned it into an act of joy!’

After my mother died everyone poured over her diaries. All those journals that she had written out her pain in. All her sorrows, her defeats, her angers and most of all her pain. My older brother, a preacher man, reviled her for sharing her pain, even in her secret diaries. After reading them he grew enraged. At her funeral he said: ‘She’s better off dead, now maybe she’ll finally be happy for once.’

She felt alone her whole life. She was alone. She didn’t feel safe sharing her secret feelings and abuses with anyone but what should have been the sacrosanct pages of her diary. Those diaries were later used against her in court by my Dad. They were used against her by my brother at her funeral. To this day I hear disparaging remarks about her from the outrage people had that she was in pain. I haven’t read all of her diaries. I have only read one or two and I thought that they were beautiful. Her words were in the language of pain but each one was poetry. How she struggled against the sorrows of being abandoned by her husband, how she tried to be a good mother but she couldn’t escape the darkness of her childhood. Now I can only tell her grave that after all these years I understand and that she wasn’t alone.

grave angel.jpeg

She was offered the chance to press charges against her father for rape years after the statute of limitations ran out and refused. She couldn’t do it, she couldn’t face that monster that had surrounded her as a little girl with a blackness that would pursue her her whole life. I wish so much that I had known about these things when I was a child. I would have been more forgiving of her lapses, I would have been able to have more empathy for her when she needed me to be a mother and she the child. She was silent and so she remained alone.

She was silent because she was afraid of being told she was a liar. She was silent because she was afraid people would say she was sick and no one had hurt her. She didn’t press charges because the monster her father was was too big of a monster for a woman who inside was still a raped eight year old girl.

darkness.jpg

Leave the past in the past. That’s what people will tell you when you tell your history. I call bullshit.

Learn from history or you will be doomed to repeat it. That is the real truth here. Those who try to silence history are no different than any other petty dictator. What I observe about my family isn’t written for them and their anger at my rending of the veil of silence implicates them all as those who held the veil in place.

I was driven from my family by the abuse of my stepmother and my father taking her side again and again. As a result I missed my mother’s funeral. I found a paper doll she had made. It was folded up in layers and on the body of the doll she had written her feelings. Each doll went a layer deeper into her feelings and how it made her body feel. On the innermost doll, written on the heart she had written, ‘Maybe Ginny will come home’.

paper dolls

Oh how these veils of silence hurt us all. She wasn’t there for me and I wasn’t there for her. I didn’t come home before her death, I didn’t even know about it for several years afterward.

I don’t want you to be a paper doll, I want you to be a speaking, living breathing powerful being. Every time we break the veil of silence we pull through another layer of truth and become more real and less of what the abuse we suffered made us into.

Learn from history and share it. I had no idea what my mother was going through, she was so silent, so hurt, so broken she had become a paper doll. Each layer filled with more pain. Unable to break through the two dimensionality of victim hood and find her voice.

For all the ‘family’ who have taken to stalking my every word and sending hate-filled innuendo my way, allow me to flip you the bird right now. You never helped me and I hope you read every word and you sting with its truth. Tell yourself that Judy was a wonderful human being and Katy’s inability to talk about the trauma her mother visited on her is a good and normal way of being. We all know you’re lying and the truth is driving you mad with rage.

If I were saying this out of some sort of ‘inability to tell fact from fiction’ as apparently some ‘family’ seems to think what being a writer is about, then why would it burn you so bad? Why would it bother you? The ravings of the mad don’t bother me, I feel pity for them but no anger. Enjoy the stalking and enjoy my tiny little finger flipping you off in defiance. Your attempts to bully me won’t work, they let me know I’m on the right track at clearing out all the monsters that my mother never had the courage to fight.

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Stay tuned for my next blog to hear how an accidental conspiracy to become enablers of my stepmother’s drinking was made by one errant promise by Dad made to Katy when she was still a little girl.

Wolfspiders and Vodka

Wolf Spiders and Vodka

By Virginia Carraway Stark

When I was very small I was terrified of spiders.

It was pretty classic little girl fear of the eight-legged monsters. I knew that they ate the bad bugs and all the rest of the things but I was still scared of them.

When I was about five years old I came down with the chicken pox. It wasn’t a regular run of chicken pox (yes, I had my vaccines), it was the sort of chicken pox that kills.

chicken pox

I was lying on my mother’s lap while she talked to some lady friends of hers. We had some pictures on the wall, blue mountains and lakes painted on thin slices of log. On the bottom of one of the logs there was a white spider. I don’t know if it was dead or just extremely stoic but I had seen that spider there for ages. I wasn’t very afraid of it because it didn’t move and it hadn’t moved since the first time I had seen it. I still watched it though, I didn’t trust it on general principles.

Then something strange happened, something that had never happened before, I noticed that the white spider had a couple of friends with it. These ones were moving and I told my mom about it. She shushed me and kept talking with her friends. I shushed and watched the spiders and then… There were more of them. At first there were only six or seven of them and then they were everywhere. I mean, everywhere. They were all over the walls, the ceiling, everywhere. I was terrified and started to cry and panic.

many spiders

My mom realized that something was wrong and called my Dad home from work. He had been working at a grain elevator at the time and it was only a few blocks for him to come home. He picked me up and at this point he noticed that I was burning up with a fever. He asked me about the spiders, trying to figure out what I was seeing, even trying to kill the spiders that I was having a fever dream about. There were fewer in the kitchen than in the living room. In my fever I saw the stippled ceiling of the living room as each stipple being a spider. Every nail hole, every blemish was a dancing, moving, threatening spider.

fever thermometer

I was crying and absolutely on fire at this point. They rushed me to the hospital which was nearly an hour away. When they took my temperature they found out it was 104 and I was slipping in and out of a coma. The last hallucination that I had was that they put my bed inside of what I saw to be a janitor’s closet and closing the door, leaving me in darkness.

closet

This darkness was actually a coma. I was in a coma for a couple of weeks and they thought I would never wake up. Both of my parents were prepared to lose me and then I woke up. Everyone was crying and holding me and I remember that the first thing they brought me to eat was cabbage rolls which were not appetizing in my state but my Dad loved them and ate them and gave me the jello which was all I could handle. Then we went home.

I was sick with the chicken pox for awhile after, all spots and sore throat and a fever but not a dangerous one any more. The spiders were all gone and I recalled how each imperfection in the wall had been a spider. I could remember them all and now I could see the reality, just specks, nothing else. The only ill result of my chicken pox adventure was that I couldn’t stand creamsicles after that. They tasted horrible to me and still do to this day. Ditto for orange floats, they just taste rotten.

The one positive result was that my mom was so deeply impacted by my form my fever hallucinations took and my fear of them that she took on a campaign to desensitize me to them. There was, of course, readings of Charlotte’s Web, which I had heard before, but then my mom did something very special. She took some pages of paper, folded them in half and stapled them into a booklet.

After that she wrote a story in her book. It was the story of a little girl who was afraid of spiders and then, rather predictably, was rescued by a spider who became her friend. She drew pictures on every page (something that didn’t come easy to her but that she drew each with only the love a mother can give.)

crude spider

She presented me with the book and we read it together. I knew what she was doing, of course. I knew that she was trying to make a miracle. She was trying to make me not afraid of spiders anymore. Her gesture had so much love in it, so much hope that I couldn’t stand to let her down. The story didn’t make me OK with spiders but I pretended for her sake that it had worked and over time, it did work. I was braver and braver about spiders and even playing with dandy long legs and letting them outside instead of squishing them. She had made the miracle real in the end and I was no longer afraid of spiders.

Fast forward about nine years round about.

I was living with my stepmother Judy and my Dad in Sicamous. My Dad was a long haul truck driver and he would leave me at home with Judy and Katy for weeks sometimes. Sometimes Judy wasn’t too bad. She even tried to help me with my homework a couple of times. She worked me hard but this was before they owned a restaurant and there was only so much work to be done. She mocked me for my weight frequently, and gave me a pair of jeans that were 24 inches at the waist. She said I could eat more food when I could easily fit into those jeans and I was sliding into anorexia and my cheekbones were more like jutting ledges than high cheekbones. I was gaunt and I ran everywhere to lose the weight she constantly assured me I had at ninety pounds.

One night things became very dark. None of the lights seemed to be working and Judy was sitting in my bed. She had collected quite a few very large wolf spiders and was letting them crawl on her arms. They were the size of my hand. I was horrified. This was NOT a hallucination and my fear of spiders came flooding back all at once.

wolf spider

“What are you doing?” I asked, terrified. She looked freakish, unnatural. She grinned at me like an evil clown.

“I’m playing with the little spiders,” She said. “Don’t you like the spiders?”

I shook my head and started to edge towards the door. She got off my bed and followed me, still holding two wolf spiders in each hand, “Come play with the spiders, you aren’t afraid are you? I’m not afraid,” She said.

I was afraid. In fact, I was terrified and bolted from the room she chased after me with the wolf spiders still in her hands. I had never imagined spiders so big, so hairy existing anywhere outside of the tropics and Judy was alternately petting them and trying to keep them from escaping her clutches as she chased me.

evil clown abuse

I ran down the hallway and she grabbed me by my nightgown and pulled me to the ground and tried to put the spiders on me. I was in a panic now. All my fear had returned. I kicked and writhed and screamed and got out from under her, brushing the wolf spiders off of me. I ran into the kitchen and turned around and she was gone.

I was terrified and alone and I didn’t know where she had gone but most of all I was hurt and sad that she hated me.

That was the only thing I could think of: that she hated me. She didn’t follow me into the living room and I went into the living room and held my legs and cried. I had done everything she had told me to do. I had happily worked to try to please her, I had bought her mother’s day presents, I had never imagined someone who could hate me like Judy did. The house was still dark, I later discovered that she had for some reason partially unscrewed all the light bulbs. I don’t know what her logic was except that she wanted to give me a scare.

It was at that moment that I heard the most wonderful sound in the world: The phone ringing. I brushed away my tears and answered it, “Daddy!” I cried, trying not to dissolve into tears.

“What’s wrong?” He asked, his voice was extremely concerned. I told him what happened and after a very long pause he sighed.

I know that the average child would have recognized that Judy was drunk but I had been raised by parent who never ever drank or stayed around people who drank. I had, to my knowledge, never seen someone drunk.

“Honey, I want you to go and see if Judy’s asleep now, just set the phone down. If she’s awake tell her I want to talk to her. If she’s asleep I want you to keep going down the hallway and go into our closet. Look under the shoes and tell me if you find anything there that shouldn’t be there.”

“You’ll stay on the phone?” I made him promise.

“Yes, honey, I’ll be right here,” He assured me but his voice sounded tinny and far away to me. It would be days before he would be back.

tacky shoes

I crept down the hallway, she had ‘fallen asleep’ in my bed. I closed the door and went to the end of the hallway where the master bedroom was. I was terrified that she would wake up and fly into a rage at me. I was not allowed in her room and I had never been in there before without her inviting me in. I opened the door and went to the closet.

Down the hallway I heard her sigh and mutter and turn in her sleep. I froze in place, my heart beating in my ears. She went silent again and I opened the closet. There were a lot of clothes in there and even more shoes. She had a ton of shoes and boots. I rummaged around in the mess of vinyl and patched leather and found something strange. This must be what Dad had meant when he had said to look for something that didn’t belong. It was a pickling jar, just a plain old one pint glass jar with a screwed on brass lid.

mason jar

It sloshed in my hands as I lifted it. In the other room I heard Judy moan again and froze in place. It looked like water, just plain old water. But why would she put it in a mason jar and why would she hide it under all her shoes in the very back of her closet?

darkened hallway vodka

I carried it out to the phone, running past my bedroom the way you run past a haunted house. There was no sign of the wolf spiders in the hallway. In retrospect they probably were worse off than I was.

I picked up the phone and right away Dad said, “Well?”

“I found a mason jar. I think it has water in it.” (Yes, I really was that naïve I am embarrassed to say.)

His breath caught and I could hear that his voice as a little choked, “Open it up.”

I unscrewed the lid. I was scared of the contents. I knew from his voice that it wasn’t water. Whatever was in that jar was liquid evil. As soon as I opened the lid a stench leapt out of the jar and bit my nostrils, “Uch, it smells gross, like paint thinner.”

It was he favorite at the time, Vodka. Easy to hide from little clueless girls who might tattle to Daddy.

He sighed loudly and I heard true sorrow in his voice. It was as though I had told him someone had died. Something had died, some of his trust and a lot of his pride. It was time for the truth.

“Daddy, are you coming home soon? I’m scare…” I started to choke up. It was an ironclad rule not to cry in our house because Dad said that women only ever cried to manipulate a man. He didn’t reprimand me though.

“I’ll be home as soon as I can,” He paused, calculating in his head. “Tomorrow night. Don’t tell her I’m coming though.”

“Daddy,” And I started to cry for real now, silent tears that streamed down my face. “Daddy, why does she hate me? Why can’t she love me? What did I do?”

I let go and sobbed, gasping for air and desperate for silence. I didn’t want to make my only ally turn against me and I didn’t want Judy to wake up and start chasing me again. There was yet another long pause, “Sweetheart, she doesn’t hate you. She’s just drunk.”

My head swam and then cleared. I knew about drunks. I knew about alcohol, I hadn’t recognized it but I knew about it. Dad had told me stories about his own parents and how they would beat him or humiliate him when they were drunk. That was why he never drank, that and because he learned at an early age that he was a mean drunk. He was a smart man and he never picked up the bottle.

vodka

I could breathe again a bit. This wasn’t about me. She didn’t hate me, she was just drunk and didn’t know any better.

“Pour the jar out into the sink and put it back where you found it,” He instructed. “Don’t say anything to her in the morning, act like everything is normal. When I get home, I’ll sort things out.”

Those last things that I thought and that he said to me were lies.

Judy did hate me. Unlike the rest of my family who she treated more or less decently when she was sober she treated me like crap all the time. She demeaned me and stole from me and even undercut my relationship with my own mother as best as she could.

The other lie was that he didn’t sort it out when he got home.

They got into a big fight. He yelled, things were thrown, she cried and begged him to forgive her. He yelled some more. In the morning there was a hole in the wall that Judy patched up primly. She avoided eye contact with me. It was the first time I had witnessed, albeit obliquely her being punished for her drunkenness. She was extra nice to me for a few days but I don’t bribe easily and a veil had been lifted for me. I could see the drunk nightmare clown chasing me with spiders in her nervous laughter and her shifting eyes. I knew now that she was dangerous. I knew that my Dad had made a huge mistake in bringing her into our lives and I knew that my road was about to become a steep one.I just had no idea how steep.

steep road

The Truth

The Truth

By Virginia Carraway Stark

After the last blog I published I had a roaring response from my family who were angered that I dared to talk about the abuse I had suffered. The responses fall into the chart of classic abuse to perfection.

abuse children

 

The minimized, denied and blamed me for the abuse. One member of my ‘family’ said that it wasn’t any wonder Katy shunned me because I dared to talk about the abuse. The messages sent to me by family who were suddenly made aware of my blog was phenomenal. They attempted to intimidate me, threaten me, call me names, abuse me emotionally and to shun me.

abuse intimidation

I don’t think they realized how that made me feel because it let something loose inside of me. It was like it was the midnight hour and someone called out, ‘Unmask, unmask’ and all their true monstrous faces were revealed. There was no more idea that these people were my friends or family. They uniformly seemed to think that I was mentally ill for talking about the abuse. They all claimed to know my family so well that they would know better than I, who lived in it and was horribly treated by the people who were supposed to love and protect me.

you have to stop child abuse

The rallying cry of those who would protect my drunken abusive stepmother was (briefly) deafening. Some of the people were so ashamed of themselves that they actually posted from accounts labelled as, ‘fakeemail’. Others used their real names and as I read their comments I smiled because they had unmasked. When I was little they had never helped me and now that I am speaking up they use all the tricks abusers use to silence their victims.

silence abuse

My half-sister ordered me to take down everyone of my blogs (as if she has any right to order me to do anything). She sent me the first message she had sent in years where she demanded that I not be allowed to speak any of these words. She claimed that they are defamation but there is only truth in every word. To every relative of mine who sent me intimidating, hateful messages all I have to say is: where were you when I needed you? Why did you protect my stepmother and why do you continue to do so?

how dare you abuse

 

The best thing I ever did was run away from all of my family. They were so angry with me, they made a big production of ‘forgiving’ me all the while knowing what they had done to me. Anyone who looked at me SHOULD have known what was going on and NO ONE offered to help me. No wonder they are so angry at me for speaking now. If they didn’t feel so guilty maybe they wouldn’t feel so angry.

help me abuse

 

How dare I speak The Truth? How dare I tell my story? I dare because I am strong. I dare because what was done to me was wrong. I dare because of all the messages I have received saying, ‘thank you for sharing, you are a sister to me. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone.’

Shame on all of you who see abuse and don’t stop it. Double shame on you when you hear about it and you blindly run to defend the abuser. You are no family of mine. You are very evil people to hear the truth and to not even for a minute say, “Could this be true?”. I know that you know how Judy behaved, how she would pass out on beds in the second hand store, how she would pass out on the street. You saw her drunken benders and you even have likely heard that she hit my dad and he had to call the police to stop her from hitting him. She was a monster and YOU KNEW IT.

You become monsters yourself for covering up for her. Trying to tell people I’m crazy when there are police reports, social services reports, witnesses, the list goes on and on. It’s intimidation and it shows you to be abusive. When Katy messaged me it was a threat plain and simple: take down your blog or I’ll start a war against you. She was metaphorically putting a gun to my head plain and simple, the same way her mother did when she would threaten me to stay quiet…or else.

girl with gun abuse

It’s midnight now and the monsters have unmasked. I’m grateful to you all for showing me your true natures. I won’t be silenced, I have memory and I will tell my story. Your insistence that I stop just tells me that I am doing the right thing and that you are as evil as she was in your own special way, even if that way was in being silent. Thanks to all of your anger at me for speaking the truth I feel so free. I feel free to tell even more of the truth, to go into even more of the details and to help other survivors of abuse in any way I can.

 

abuse freedom

Katy’s Delusion: Children of Alcoholics

 

truth

I saved my half sister’s life when she was a baby. I didn’t think twice about it, I grabbed her out of a bathtub of water that was spilling over the edge of the tub and flooding the hallway. She was face down in the water, her mother drunk and passed out on the couch.

What did I get for my troubles?

Well, my half sister Katy won’t talk to me now because I criticized her mother for being a bad person in the present.  In the past, my step mother punched me in the face when I told the drunken hag that she had almost let her baby die.

Yep. That’s the thanks that I got for saving a human life. My sister never said ‘thank you’, no one did. My older brother spread stories about me and said I ‘lived the wrong lifestyle’ and wouldn’t let me talk to my niece and nephew. I think he says that because I ran away from home when I was just about sixteen as a result of being punched in the face and telling social services and the police about it. I’m not sure of his real reasons. He’s never told me to my face, only whispers behind my back.

My half-sister is a big girl now and she thinks she is the only one who ever lost a mother. I lost my mother eight years ago while I was gone from my family to escape the abuse. My mother wasn’t perfect either but I still lost her. Why is my loss less important than Katy’s loss?

When Katy was about three or four the woman delivering the mail heard a baby screaming in the house. She looked in the window and saw that the house was filthy and could see my stepmother Judy passed out in the living room. I would imagine it was in about the same spot that she was passed out when I woke her up with the crying and recently resuscitated infant in my arms and got punched for saving her child’s life. She liked to swan dive onto the couch.

The mail carrier tried the doorknob and it was unlocked.  She came into the house and followed the sound of the screaming baby to the bathroom where Katy had become stuck behind the toilet and was covered in her own filth and waste. Nobody knows how long she was stuck there.

When my stepmother died last year around this time I posted a meme that said, ‘ding dong the witch is dead’. I was so relieved that the insanity was over. Judy would stalk me, drive around and around my block, park outside the house until the cops chased her away.  I worried for my safety and the safety of my family and pets. I found poison set out for my dogs. Hearing that she was dead was exactly like hearing the boogeyman wasn’t real and being able to truly believe it. She was truly the most wicked of witches that there ever was.

I wasn’t the only one who suffered from her abuse. I ran away and Katy lived with the abuse her whole life. When Judy was alive Katy would call her and yell and scream at Judy and alternately extort large sums of cash out of her as an ‘apology’ for something her mother did when she was drunk. She obviously had a lot of anger to do that. T

The thing that confounds me is that Katy defends her mother now that she is dead. Her mother died because her body was failing from the alcohol abuse and she fell over in a snowbank and didn’t wake up. She brought her fate upon herself and yet I am banished for speaking the truth about one of the most horrible mother figures in the world.

At first glance this seems to be another injustice visited upon me but I think it goes deeper than that.

Examining Katy from a neutral perspective it is easy to see that she hasn’t accepted her mother’s death. Her mother never tried to stop drinking. She could barely admit, even at the very end that she was an alcoholic. By extension, Katy since Katy never accepted her mother’s death, she also never really accepted that her mother was an alcoholic.

More and more I see her sliding into her mother’s patterns. The first of these patterns is in demonizing me in the same way that her mother did. The second way is by increasingly the rumors I hear about her becoming a ‘party’ girl. Just like her mother, her career comes before her family and is only interrupted by binge drinking and in Katy, an observer can see this leaning increasingly towards alcoholism.

Katy is not only embracing all the mistakes and evils of her mother, she is also glorifying them and putting her mother on a pedestal. If Mommy drank, Katy always got gifts and money afterward. Judy would do anything to make it up to her and my Dad. This set up a cycle of punishment and reward that resulted in a pattern of endless dramatics. By making her mother into a saint and me into a demon she negates the truth that her mother was abusive, not just when she was drunk but when she was sober as well.

This is a common trait in children of alcoholics and it is part of what perpetuates the cycle of abuse. If Katy admits for one minute that her mother hurt me, she will have to admit that Judy hurt her too. She will have to admit that if it wasn’t for Katy and my Dad enabling her behavior Judy would have died drunk and on the street the same as she did even after they put her through every counseling and rehab program available. Katy would have to admit that if I was right about her mother that she had been left behind the toilet for days covered in filth and screaming. She would have to admit all the times when her mom didn’t show up for important events because she was drinking. She would have to admit that the only reason her mother is dead is because she refused to stop drinking.

I don’t have much in common with Katy. She doesn’t have a sense of humor, she isn’t creative, she isn’t adventurous and most important of all, she isn’t a realist. I don’t want or need a friendship with her.

I am glad that I saved her from drowning that day. I’m glad I knew first aid and got her breathing, I’m glad she got to grow up and make mistakes. I forgive her for her treatment of me because she is bound in a world of delusion and she can’t even see me.

I forgive her for being Judy’s daughter. I forgive her for using that fact to get special treatment and rewards after mommy was drunk. I forgive her for everything. I won’t get a chance to say that to her face, at least I would be surprised if I ever did. She has a hate on for me that rivals her mother’s hate for me. What did I ever do to Katy?
Well, I told her the truth. Sometimes that’s too much, especially for children of alcoholics. I feel a deep pity for Katy and her inability to face her reality because I see her walking her mother’s path and I see no sign of her waking up and realizing that she is becoming the same as her mother.

I hear the things people say about her. That she says cruel things, that she has a ‘mean’ mouth on her and it’s the same thing as her mother… generation to generation. Unless you are very proactive, self-aware and willing to examine any delusion you may have the curse repeats again and again. I forgave Judy before her death and am at peace with my relationship with her. Katy never forgave her mother and without facing the reality of the situation, she never will.

I forgive Katy now. I forgive her for hating me. I forgive her for the horrible things she says about me. I forgive her for not loving me. I forgive her for following her mother’s path. Being the child of an alcoholic is a tragedy and forgiveness is the only cure. Forgiveness and bringing the wounds that were caused by it into the light of day.

white feather

Poisoned Fruit: The Antidote is Friends

Poison Fruit Part 2: The Antidote is Friends
By Virginia Carraway Stark

I had put up with no end of indignities and outright slavery in my life but I was getting fed up and I began to lash out.

The first victory that I had was the day that I refused to pour my Dad a cup of coffee.

I had been trained to jump up and get him coffee as soon as he needed it and to start a pot as soon as I saw him pull in the driveway. He would only accept coffee in pure white cups. He claimed that any other cup made the coffee taste ‘soapy’ and would throw a temper tantrum if his cup wasn’t clean and ready for him. It had been so my entire life.

One day, he raised his mug towards me, usually that was all that was required to make me jump up and get the pot of coffee. There were rules for getting the coffee pot too. I had to carry it in my left hand and balance the piping hot mouth of the pot on my right index finger. Always keeping my tread light of course and walking gracefully, I would pour the cup of coffee to the exact level he liked his cup poured to and then return the pot back to the coffee maker in the same way I had delivered it.

He waived his cup at me again and I refused to acknowledge it. Finally he used my name, a hint of irritation in his voice.

I lifted my chin and looked him straight in the eyes and said the hardest word I had ever said or would ever say in my entire life.

“No.”

His jaw dropped and he looked at me as a red flush crept up from his neck and onto his face, he rose to his feet, “What did you say to me?”

I was shaking all over but I kept my spine straight and my chin up and repeated in a clear voice that only trembled around the edges, “I said, ‘no’, Daddy.”

We stood there for a moment, our eyes gauging each other. I knew one thing and one thing only in that moment: I was NOT going to get him his coffee. He wasn’t a stupid man and he saw the resolve in my eyes. With a grunt he went to the kitchen and poured himself a coffee. My heart was pounding and I was shaking like a leaf. I forced myself to continue sitting with him and Judy for the rest of whatever television we had been watching before excusing myself and going to my room.

He didn’t say anything about that day to me for many years. We both knew that something had changed between us at that moment. He had pushed his abuse too far and I had stood up to him. Most amazingly of all, I had stood up to him and I wasn’t punished for it.

By the time I was fifteen and had been worked into exhaustion, starved and diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer I decided that I couldn’t take a lot more from him or Judy. I knew that something was building, it was an event that would push me too far but I didn’t know what it was. All I could do was sit and wait.

There had already been more incidents of a similar nature to the refusal to pour coffee episode. One of them was about my writing. I was writing essentially fan fiction about the X-Files, Law and Order and some original creative things that I lost when I ran away. Judy went through the pages of my writing and then showed them to my nearly illiterate father, ‘read’ them to him and convinced him that this proved that I was involved in a cult and also probably insane.

I refused to explain myself, I told them I wasn’t in a cult (who has time to be in a cult when you’re being worked to death by your parents?). There was nothing to explain, it was early creative works. If Ms. Watts had been there she would have understood.

Ms. Watts was not there. Judy and Dad were. They were screaming at me, shoving my the pages of my writing in my face and demanding answer. I grabbed the pages from them and threw them out the window and then tried to jump out after them. Judy yelled, “Grab her, quick!”

My Dad grabbed me but I wiggled free and bolted for the front door. My Dad roared with rage and ran after me, catching me in front porch. My Dad grabbed me by the hair and pulled me away from the front door. He grabbed me by my throat and bent me backwards over the deep freezer and lifted up his arm to punch me in the face. Judy grabbed him by the arm and whispered fiercely, “Don’t do it, she wants you to so she can tell on us.”

My Dad dropped his hold on my neck for a second and I wiggled away and ran out the front door.

I didn’t know where I was running to. I glanced behind me, the door had bounced open and I could see my Dad and Judy frantically arguing over what to do. I had precious moments granted to me by their indecision. Without a plan or thought I ran to a trailer directly across from our place and pounded on the door.

I was desperate, frantic and I cried and begged for someone to please please please open the door. I was sobbing and a beautiful old lady answered the door. She saw the state I was in and without a word took me into her house and locked the door behind us. Weeping, I told her about what had happened, she saw red welts on my neck and called the police. She put on a pot of tea and when my Dad came to the door and asked in a completely civil and normal tone to have me returned to him, she told him ‘no’ and closed the door on his face. She hid me in her spare room until the police arrived. When the police finally showed up it was several hours later and I was much calmer. The police called me a liar to my face and returned me to my father’s custody. My Dad walked me across the street with a firm hand on my shoulder and a grim but smug look on his face.

That was when I was still barely fifteen. It would be almost a year before the big incident and the last time I would talk to my Dad for years.

The clouds were building as were the cruelties.

It was another late night in the restaurant and my Dad was out of town until later that night. I didn’t live in the trailer anymore but I went over to ask Judy a question about where something or other was.

When I got to the trailer it was oddly quiet except for the sound of the bathtub running. The trailer had the strange smell to it that I had come to identify with Judy on a bender. I walked to the bathroom, the door was open. Water was starting to pour out into the hallway.

The bathroom was a big room with a large corner jet tub, it was from here that the water was overflowing. My half-sister Katy was floating face first in the overflowing tub. Her eyes, large and blue, were bobbing up and down in the water. Her mouth was submerged and she couldn’t cry for help but her eyes had all the appeal I needed to see. I grabbed her naked toddler body out of the water and wrapped her in a towel, clearing her lungs with the CPR training I learned back in Dawson Creek for babysitting.

A dam had burst inside me. I was finished. This was utter bullshit.

For once in her life, Katy wasn’t crying or screaming. I, however, was in an ice cold rage. It didn’t take me long to find Judy. She was passed out, half on and half off the couch. I stood over her with her dripping wet precious daughter in my arms, pure hatred oozing from my every pore. Groggily she opened her eyes and gave her stupid drunkard’s smile.

“You almost killed your daughter, you stupid waste of life,” I said coldly.

Her face turned angry, “You’re a liar! You lie! You’re a liar!” She screeched at me and staggered to my feet.

I pushed Katy into Judy’s arms, and Judy fell backward onto the couch. She let Katy roll out of her arms and got back to her feet. I was already walking towards the door, “Where are you going?” She demanded.

“Fuck this. Fuck you all. I’m done. I’m leaving and I’m never coming back,” I said the words calmly and with profound certainty. I was speaking the truth.

That was the first time I had ever sworn at an adult in my life. Judy bounded after me with the sudden speed drunks have. My hand was on the door knob. I could feel the cold metal slide away from my fingers as she grabbed me by the neck and pulled me away. She pushed me against the wall, her strength was such that she lifted my feet off the ground. No one was there to stop her fist from impacting my face.

After, she seemed stunned for a moment, she stood there with her hands limply at her side. I grabbed the doorknob and ran down the stairs. It was my final year of school and I wanted to run to the basement of the Sternwheeler to grab my homework. I went through the back door of the restaurant and my Dad was there. He was already in a rage. The rage was not about Judy, or Katy, but about what I had decided to do.

He knew. Somehow he knew I was leaving. We stared at each other for a moment, it was that same moment as when I had refused to pour the coffee. I was determined to leave. No violence, no threats, no promises could keep me. I was older now, nearly sixteen, I was more resolved than I had ever been in my entire life.

“I’m leaving. Don’t try to stop me.”

“But- but- I bought you a computer,” He said in possibly the lamest retort ever in the history of retorts.

“Your wife punched me. She’s drunk and she would have killed the baby if I hadn’t been here to rescue her. So fuck you. Fuck your computer. And don’t even think of touching me because if you lay a finger on me I swear to God that I will fucking kill you.”

His hands dropped and he took several steps away from be. I called to the cook who had been watching all this, “Bob, I’m going to get my homework from downstairs. If Dad follows me or anything else happens, please, call the police immediately.”

Bob nodded. He was my friend, another person who was sent by the universe to make me smile at my darkest moments and laugh when all was lost. He was my ally and if he hadn’t been there that night I’m not certain if my Dad would have backed off. I don’t know if I would still be alive. How much was my will and how much was my Dad’s fear of being caught out?

Friends. Thank all the gods that be for friends. I walked to my friend Amanda’s house. Her Dad was a big huge biker and he knew when my Dad showed up at his door what the score was. When the police came I had friends who filled in the blanks when I lost my ability to express the insanity I was living in. It was too bad. Too crazy. Who would ever believe it?

Well, Amanda and her Mom and Dad believed it. They protected me, they gave me sanctuary and they gave me their acceptance. They helped me work with social services and I sued for emancipation. I won it. Before I was sixteen I was my own guardian.

I thanked the family who had adopted me into their home and told them that it was time for me to find my own way. Amanda’s mom cried a little and told me I was always welcome to stay with them.

I had learned something though, I had learned that I was wild and free. I learned that I deserved more than to be a victim. The price for these truths was that I had to make my own way. I had learned that anything short of total freedom is slavery.

I got a job working at the local diner. The people who ran it were good to me, more friends that universe put in my path. They worked me hard and they paid me. They paid me real money for each and every hour I worked for them. It seemed like heaven in front of that greasy grill.

Bob, the cook, gave me the only bedroom in his tiny apartment. I paid my half of the rent when I started to get paid and Bob was not only a friend but a gentleman as well. He never laid a finger on me, never made a move on me, never. Nothing. He was a big brother to me and I was his baby sister. He just loved me and helped me when I need it most.

Bob used to live in the basement of the Sternwheeler with me. He had a room and I had a hastily erected wall without a door that was supposed to give me ‘privacy’. He had moved out only a few days after I had and found the place. It didn’t have anything in it. He gave me the mattress and he took a sleeping bag into the living room.

I was still going to school but I got to go home everyday at closing time. I could be doing my homework by ten or at worst eleven at night and most amazingly of all: I didn’t have to work every day. I went to the secondhand store and bought a wok and a spatula that I used as a combination frying pan and soup pot. I saved every penny I had. I kept going to school, I stayed on the honor role and graduated in the top of my class.

There was one piece of revenge I took on my father at this point.

All my life he had talked about how it was his dream to see his children’s graduation ceremonies. He said nothing meant more to him in life than that. I refused to go to my own graduation. Even after my Dad swore he wouldn’t show up for it when I told my teachers I wouldn’t be attending I refused to go. I knew he would find a way to sneak a glimpse and he didn’t deserve to feel proud. He had in no way contributed to me finishing school or to the grades I had got. The ceremony meant something to him but nothing to me.

The only thing it meant to me was that my time near him was at an end. I was not only emancipated, I was free from school, free to do whatever I wanted in this huge, amazing world. I took all my savings and moved to Ontario. I had been accepted to the University of Toronto with a scholarship and with my advanced placement courses I already had the start of a degree.

When I left Sicamous with yet another friend and we drove across the country together, I left all of this behind me.

My life changed once and for all. I had refused to be a victim and I had emancipated myself. That is when the adventures of my life would begin in earnest. All the rest was just a prelude. The symphony of my life would be something that I composed… with a lot of help from my friends.

Poisoned Fruit: My Life with an Evil Stepmother

Poisoned Fruit: My Life with an Evil Stepmother
By Virginia Carraway Stark

Part 1

I have heard rumors and legends of people who have perfectly lovely step-parents but I have never had the pleasure of experiencing a pleasant step family.

I met my step-mother one summer afternoon in a Chinese food restaurant. I was determined not to be selfish when I met her. I was determined to put both of my parents happiness before my own sad hurt feelings after the divorce and the loneliness that comes from seeing what was once whole become broken. I knew that I was emotional and overwrought and I put all of those feelings aside in the hope that both of my parents could find the happiness that they were seeking.

I was always a romantic and I believed in love and trusted my parents fundamentally. I should have looked deeper into my romantic heart and to the stories of the wicked step-mother because it wasn’t love that drove their relationship and it was a child’s mistake to believe the best of the grown ups in the world.

I was at the restaurant before my Dad and my to-be stepmother. There was a little artificial stream that ran most of the length of the restaurant and I put my finger tips in the water and let the koi that lived in it nibble my fingers and admired their golden and opalescent scales. I don’t know what I was expecting to see when I met here, but the reality was nothing like what I thought.

They walked in, not touching each other, Judy following along behind. My first impulse was to feel badly for her. She was capering, insecure, nervous and unbelievably unattractive.

Her skin was like wrinkled leather from her compulsive sunbathing, her dull brown eyes were stained yellow from her alcoholism and her fingernails were clubbed from her self-abuse and general ill health even then. Her hair was thin and fluffy at the same time that it was curly and unruly. When she smiled it looked like it was plastered and forced on her face. She laughed nervously and loudly nearly constantly, spraying it across the nearly deserted restaurant like an incontinent house pet. She was abrupt and lacked any sort of social graces whatsoever. She was, in short, a used up party girl with an severe alcohol problem and absolutely nothing going for her except a history of working in restaurants.

She was dreadful. Instead of listening to my gut though, I pushed through with my resolve to support my Dad’s pursuit of love.

I wonder, in retrospect, what would have happened if I had told him what I thought of her then. If I could have found the words to express how distasteful and nasty she was. I think the truth of the matter is that I never would have told him that because I trusted him so deeply that I didn’t believe my own senses over what he told me to think and feel.

I was a really well behaved child. I hated getting into trouble and I loved to make people happy. My Dad told me, “I can’t express to you what a delight you were to raise. You never caused problems, you were always full of smiles and laughter. There wasn’t a moment raising you that wasn’t a pleasure.”

Perhaps his recollections of me are a little bit of high praise. When I was little I would throw temper tantrums from time to time and when I was a teenager I ran away from home to escape the abuse that would stem from this first meeting by a koi pond.

Judy was very nice to me on that first meeting. In fact, she was kind to me for the first few months I knew her. It gradually changed and I was so bewildered and so hopelessly naïve that I didn’t even understand that Judy was my worst enemy.

My Dad and Judy moved into a four-plex together. It was after they were already living together that my Dad confessed that Judy was a waitress he had met at a truck stop. He had said he was heading to Mexico and she asked if she could come. He said, “Sure, but I’m leaving right now”. She jumped into the truck with him and left whatever sort of life she had been living to hang out in my Dad’s big-rig with him and then to insert herself into my life.

At this point I was in junior high school and I was an honor student. I was a devout reader and I wrote poems and stories. I loved school and I was excellent at it even through the events that followed, the cruel punishments, the starvations, the humiliations that were about to occur. Even after I ran away from home, I kept up my grades and stayed on the honor roll until the day I graduated from high school.

My life wasn’t only this, I also spent time living with my Mom who was a pharmaceutical junky and she asked me on more than one occasion to, ‘take care of her now’ after my Dad left her. She was less there for me as she was another burden with bipolar episodes that included holding a knife to my baby brother’s throat before being taken away to the psychiatric hospital.

My older brother completely abandoned me. He went to live with some friends of his the day he found out about our parents separating and he never came home after that. I was suddenly the eldest child with my mother as one of my youngest and most troubled siblings. I did my best to take care of my little brother but I was just a kid myself and all the adults in my life had flipped the rules on me and descended into utter chaos. Making matters even more confounding was the variation between the two households.

When I was with my Mom there were no rules. I could come and go as I pleased, stay up as late as I pleased. There were no consequences but there was a big trade off. My Mom had never been a good housekeeper but now she didn’t clean at all. The house was disgusting. There were bowls and plates with food everywhere covered in mold or left in a grease laden sink half full of cold water. Her room was filthy and about once a month I would go through her room and clean it from top to bottom. She didn’t change her sheets and her bed stank. I would have to clean her nails and help her with her hair and other hygiene issues. She rarely if ever bought groceries and if we did get food it would be because she gave me a twenty and I would walk or ride my bike to the store and buy what I could.

She hoarded crap she found at garage sales and I would wait until she was out and get rid of as much of it as I humanly could, being only 12 and 13 years old. I cleaned that house with bleach and Lysol as often as I could but my mother’s slothful behavior and her bouts between mania and depression ensured that I always had a lot of work to do if I didn’t want to live in filth. I didn’t like either life with my mother or father and bounced between the two extremes of homes.

In Judy’s home, the rules of the house were new and rigidly strict. I wasn’t allowed to ever go into the fridge for any reason. I wasn’t even allowed to have a glass of milk unless Judy said I could. I wasn’t allowed to go into any of the other food cupboards. I wasn’t allowed anything except what Judy left on the counter for me for breakfast and she would leave a bag lunch for me to take to school. After school I wasn’t allowed anything to eat until dinner.

As soon as I came home I had to vacuum every room in the fourplex. I had to do the dishes and heaven forbid if I was to leave a water spot on the sink or taps. I had to polish the wood with pledge and after that, set the table for dinner. Judy always made dinner and afterward I would clean up and then do my homework.

Believe it or not, this was a light workload for what would be inflicted on me in the future.

The rules were insane and I struggled to stay a ‘good’ girl and keep up as Judy put me through my paces. If I forgot a light turned on I was made to run up and down the stairs fifty times, turning the light at the top on and off each time I did so. If Judy perceived that the floor wasn’t vacuumed well enough I had to do the whole thing all over again under her watchful eye. If I complained about any of this to my Dad he threw up his hands and told me I had better learn to be more obedient.

So, I would try to be more obedient. I would try to make my new stepmother love me, or at least see I was a good little girl and maybe like me, even just a little.

Judy wasn’t ever going to like me. Proving that I was good and obedient only made her hate me more. She soon upped her tortures of me.

It started with the bag lunches she left out for me. They weren’t very good at all, but I was starving and so I made the best of them. It would be all I would get until dinner and sometimes dinner wasn’t until eight at night depending on when my Dad would get home. Judy started to put ‘surprises’ in my lunches for me. It was usually something in my sandwiches, one rotten anchovy right in the middle of my sandwich, or a pocket of jalapenos, once it was four quarters. I stopped eating her lunches and would open up the sandwich enough to see what her ‘surprise’ was (also for the chance that she had maybe put more quarters in one) and then throw the whole bag in the garbage. My friends were what got me through that time. They fed me from their lunches or sometimes bought be lunch. They held me when I cried, completely confused by why and how anyone would be so cruel to me. I didn’t tell them all the indignities I suffered, when I was with them I wanted to escape from my failures in both homes and get back to the business of being a teenager.

It got worse and it wasn’t just Judy picking on me. Under her constant belittling of me, my Dad would join in on her tortures of me. They would both laugh at me when Judy would ask me what I thought of my lunch that day. They would both nitpick over whether I had vacuumed the stairs properly.

I got into trouble for everything I did. My Dad said I went up the stairs too loudly, that I shouldn’t sound like an elephant when I went up and down the stairs. He made me practice going up and down until I was nearly silent. He would do ‘snap inspections’ of the lintels of doorways and I would be punished if anything was ever found to be dusty. Corners were checked to make sure I had been careful enough to vacuum everywhere.

Then one day they called me into the kitchen. They wanted to talk to me about my weight. I was a scrawny little thing even though I had started to develop breasts and hips at an early age. They made be stand sideways in front of the mirror in the hutch in the kitchen and they pointed out every flaw in me. They told me that I was too fat. They made me stand facing the mirror and pointed to my thighs and told me that until they could see daylight between my legs that they would be keeping me on a strict diet.

What did I think of this? I cried in private. Tears were forbidden in front of my Dad. He said they were only used as a way to manipulate people and so crying was another thing that was punished. I cried but not because I thought it was unfair, I cried because I thought I was fat. I cried because I thought I was weak.

I told my friend Cindy that I just had to learn that my father’s love was more important that food. The worst thing was that I believed it when I said it. I believed that I had done wrong, terrible wrong in feeling hunger and in not meeting the new guidelines that had been laid out for me.

There were so many people in my life who didn’t understand the full extent of what was happening to me but nevertheless they did little things that I attribute my (relative) sanity and much of my survival at the time as well.

I had my friends, who, as I mentioned fed me and loved me. They seemed to understand me on a deep level that had no limits. We loved each other. They were mostly older than me and they also drove me places and let me stay at their houses on many occasions. Cindy’s mom in particular was amazing to me. She let me pretty much live with them and always made me feel like I was a welcome addition to their family. She was also the first person I ever watched Mr. Bean with and something that I never forgot.

I lost track of many of the people who I knew in that dark and confusing time but Cindy and I would always reconnect. She was as much of a bookworm as I was. Most of our time together was spent in her bedroom reading books together and occasionally stopping to run to the story for a candy or soda fix. We played role playing games when we got a bit older and fed each other on creativity and unconditional acceptance. She was a pillar of stability of my life but she wasn’t the only good influence on me at the time.

A huge influence on me at the time was a brand new teacher named Ms. Watts. Ms. Watts was a brand new teacher fresh out of college and she wore long skirts and witch boots and she was the first person I ever met who was a vegetarian. She had a pointy long nose and sparkling eyes and she believed in me. With my friends all older than me they were soon on to high school while I languished in grade 8. It was with these ideas in mind that I talked to Ms. Watts about skipping a grade of school. She was inspired by the idea and proceeded with a battery of tests to see if I was ready to be bumped into grade 10 the following year.

I aced all the tests (after polishing up my math skills, especially geometry) and was zoomed through into grade 10.

Meanwhile, back at my other home, Judy was only getting started with me.

At this point, I didn’t know that she was an alcoholic. I just knew that sometimes my Dad would get a phone call when Judy wasn’t there and he would curse and swear and order me to go to my room and not come out until the morning. One time when he did this I disobeyed him and I crept to the top of the stairs when they came through the front door. Judy was wearing a tight leather skirt, stiletto heels and a halter top. My Dad had thrown her over his shoulder and carried her into the house while she gibbered and laughed to herself.

I ran back to my room and sat on my mattress on the floor. I couldn’t figure out what I had just seen. Why was Judy acting like that? Was she insane? My parents had never drank my entire life. I had never knowingly seen anyone drunk before and the tableau that I saw at the bottom of the stair was a mystery to me.

It was shortly after that that it was announced that Judy was pregnant.

I was told that I was going to have a sister or a brother and that this was certainly cause for celebration. Judy barely showed during her pregnancy. She had always been emaciated, but now she had the slightest little bump of a belly. She didn’t buy maternity clothing, she just undid the top button of her skinny jeans and wore a baggy t-shirt.

I continued to do my best to be a good daughter not just to my Dad but to my stepmother as well. I made a stain glass piece of art of a stork with a baby hanging down in a fold of cloth to be delivered to its new family. Judy got rid of it, I never saw it again after I gave it to her.

Unsurprisingly with Judy’s lifestyle, the baby was born early- she was only four pounds. It was soon discovered that the baby also had cancer. Judy exploded with ‘grief’ and demanded that my Dad marry her so that her poor darling baby wouldn’t be a bastard. The fact that the baby was born already and it was too late to technically legitimize Katy was overlooked as Judy fussed over her houseboat wedding.

My Dad agreed to all this and Judy made sure that I was nowhere to be seen for the entire wedding ceremony. I was dressed in one of her cast-off dresses while she bought new dresses and shoes and even gifts of jewelry for everyone in her entourage, including the ‘flower baby’, my half-sister, Katy.

The baby was cured of her cancer and life went on. For Judy, life meant drinking.

Judy and my Dad moved to the Okanagan. They never said why, but later I learned that Judy’s drunken ways had embarrassed them both so much in Dawson Creek that they had tried to get a clean start somewhere completely different.

Judy started a restaurant at this point and my life of chores now extended to not only keeping the house clean and taking care of the baby, but also to working in the restaurant everyday after school until after close. I was no longer given anything for lunch and if I foolishly came back home for lunch I would be forced to do dishes over the lunch hour. They fired the dishwasher and left all the dishes for me to do after I was done school. I was exhausted and struggled to stay on the honor roll. Sometimes I wouldn’t get all the dishes done until 2 or 3 in the morning. If people came to the restaurant just before closing Judy and Dad would go to the house and leave me to serve drinks and waitress as well as finishing the dishes.

At fifteen I was told that I pulled the best beer they had ever had. Apparently I had a knack for it.

Pulling beer in the wee hours of the morning by edict of my Judy and my Dad took precedence over my homework. They never once gave me a break to study for a test or do a report. I soldiered through but I was reaching my breaking point.

I was falling asleep in class and my math scores were suffering. One day I looked at a math test and I didn’t write a thing on it except my name and the date and then I walked out of the class and to the counselor’s office. I told her how tired I was and about the work and about how I was sleeping in the unfinished basement of the restaurant and working morning to night. She took me to the nurse’s station and let me sleep on the cot in there. I dropped a peer tutoring advanced placement course and French and used the two periods to sleep. I kept my advanced placement English and Social Studies courses that counted as first year university level courses and I still got A’s.

I was never paid a penny for any of this work. The only thing I ever got for it was that unfinished room in the basement of the restaurant and a second hand computer.

Something was changing in me. I was growing rebellious and angry. I had begun to wake up to the realization that I deserved a lot more in life than what I was getting.

To Be Continued…

How I Became a Real Life Cinderella

Photo by Virginia Carraway Stark

Photo by Virginia Carraway Stark

By Virginia Carraway Stark

This is the short version of how I became a real life Cinderella. It started with infidelity, fights, accusations and divorce, but that part is the prologue in the story of Cinderella.

The true story of Cinderella starts with the introduction to the evil stepmother who pretends in front of the father to be kind and loving while poisoning his heart against his only daughter.

This story is a little different from the fairy tale because Judy, my stepmother, didn’t have children when she showed up. The only things she had to her name was the monkey on her back known as alcoholism and a grudge against her pretty, young stepdaughter who had no clue of the hell that was awaiting her.

The story got bad when Judy got pregnant.

My half-sister was a screaming, sick baby who recovered from having cancer at birth to become a hellish toddler.

Katy had been sick when she was a baby and this was the excuse that was always given for her bad behavior. My Dad and my step-mother refused to discipline her because ‘she had been through so much’, or, even more absurd, ‘she could get sick and die again at any time’.

She’s an adult now. She didn’t die and she’s still completely and totally insufferable.

I tried really hard to get to know her now that we are both adults but it went extremely badly. She’s competitive, stodgy and lacks any and all sense of humor.

I suspected our ‘getting to know each other’ experiment was about to go down the crapper when we went Christmas shopping together. She didn’t have a lot of money and I regretted going shopping with her immediately. It didn’t bother me that she was buying fewer and less expensive gifts from me but she made it abundantly clear that it was bothering her. I decided to cut the shopping trip short and finish on my own another day. It was supposed to be fun but it wasn’t fun.

We stopped for coffee at a used bookshop called, ‘Faking Sanity’. One of my best friends owns it and she and I started to visit and chat. Cindy and I have been the sort of friends who can lose track of each other for years and years and then pick up right where we left off. We’ve also never had a fight or even a major disagreement even though we’ve known each other since elementary school. Cindy and I were chatting about our years of friendship and I guess that made Katy more insecure because she started talking about how her mom was her best friend.

Now, her mom was my stepmother. My horribly abusive stepmother who, drunk or sober worked her skinny ass off to make my life as miserable as she could and to sabotage my relationship with the rest of my family as well. That isn’t speculation, that’s something she told me when she apologized once only to resume her old behavior within the month.

Judy was NOT my friend. In fact, it would be much more the truth to say that she was the enemy, someone who consciously and actively worked against me to sabotage me. Some examples: My Dad was incredibly proud of my long hair. At one point I cut it short and my Dad flipped out. He said that if I ever cut my hair again I would see consequence worse than any I had ever seen before. Bear in mind that some of the consequences my Dad doled out were pretty damn severe. Judy, the capering demon from hell that she was, heard his words and within the week left bits of hair in the sink and pointed them out to my Dad as proof that I had defied him.

1. Why would I cut my hair AGAIN by only about a half inch within the week of cutting it into a just-below-my-ears bob.
2. Why would I be so stupid as to cut my hair and then go to school and leave it there the whole day?
3. Why was it the same dark color as my stepmother’s hair which was also curly and almost impossible to mistake for anything like my hair?
Such was my Father’s deep and idiotic stupor that he believed my stepmother and raged at me until I finally calmed him down long enough to prove it wasn’t my hair.

Okay, what else? She chased me around the house with giant wolf spiders, read my diary and my writings and caused a huge amount of trouble by saying that writing stories made me crazy (yes, he did believe her and there was hell to pay over that as well), she covered my fair skin with baby oil and forced me to lie in the sun for hours until I was covered in blisters and burns to ‘improve my health’.

The list goes on and on. She was a quintessential evil stepmother. She was an ugly hag who made me clean the house from top to bottom every single day and take care of her spoiled and completely indulged daughter: Katy.

This is just a small portion of why, when my half-sister asserted that her mother was the bestest mother and friend anyone could ever have I had to disagree.

I very gently told Katy that I had had a different experience with Judy than she had. Guess what? She started to act exactly like an evil stepsister out of a story. It was her being a toddler all over again. She started to talk loudly enough about how wrong I was and how good Judy was that people stopped what they were doing and turned to stare. Isn’t it weird how Cinderella is never entitled to have her own views on life or people?

Embarrassed, I placated her as best as I could and got her out of the store, deeply regretting bringing her around anyone who knew me. Katy had calmed down but then she asked me the worst question she could have asked at that juncture: “What was I like when I was a baby?”

We were walking along the slushy street and I froze in place for a moment, frantically scanning my mind for one nice thing I could say about her as a child. What did I come up with? Ummmm, absolutely nothing. After a too long pause I laughed a little, “I’m sorry, but you weren’t a good baby at all… in fact you were nearly impossible… but you grew up, so that’s okay.”

I tried to distract, it didn’t work, she wanted more information, “Well, how wasn’t I good? Did I cry a lot?”

“Cry a lot? You screamed constantly,” I said. She did cry constantly. It was horrible. At first it was because she had been sick and then it was because she been spoiled.

“Why did I cry?” She asked, I could tell she was irritated with my answers. It was understandable, if I had behaved the way she had as a child I would be embarrassed too.

“At first because you were sick, I guess. But you never stopped. You screamed and screamed. Sometimes if I sang and walked you and walked you after an hour or so you would finally stop crying. Your mother would leave you with me for days while she was drunk and you wouldn’t stop screaming and you pulled my hair and threw your food at me and if complained everyone reminded me that you had been sick. You had had cancer, it could come back so we couldn’t discipline you. You got every toy you wanted, every bit of clothes Judy thought looked cute on you while I got nothing and you used every chance to rub that in from the first time you learned how to talk. You were the most dreadful baby and child that I have ever encountered in my entire life.”

It was horrible and it was all true. That was more or less the last time we really did anything together. I tried to mitigate my words a bit, but honestly, there was little I could say about her that was nice. When she learned to talk she would run up to complete strangers and tell them she had had cancer and demand candy from them. Her first words anytime she was introduced to someone when she got older was that she had cancer when she was a baby, you know.

Should I have lied to her? Should I have refused to answer? That’s not who I am. Ask me a question at your own peril, I will likely tell you the truth.

After Judy died Katy did get sick again. It wasn’t anything terminal, she had sprouted some tumors that had to be removed but there was nothing malignant about her physically and life went on.

Our friendship, however, did not go on.
To this day nobody except Katy is allowed to be traumatized by her mother’s alcoholism. I knew her mother since before Katy was born, she abused me for more years than she abused Katy for and yet my experience is completely invalidated by her. Why?

I think it’s a sort of evil stepsister thing. I know that sounds a little… out there, but I think it’s true. Katy always had the advantage because she was the only one with a mother and father in the same house. Judy saved the best of everything for Katy, gave the dregs to my brothers and gave me the role of Cinderella. I was starved, worked constantly, yelled at all the time and punished excessively for real or imagined infractions. By the time I ran away from home I barely weighed 90 lb and had been sleep deprived so that they could force me to work after school and into the wee hours of the night. Meanwhile, Katy was treated like a princess, the sort of way I had been treated before the divorce and before Judy.

What happens to the evil stepsisters in Cinderella’s story after Cinderella she runs away with her prince charming and starts a life of her own? What bitter resentments fester in the hearts of such people who enjoyed the benefits of oppressing someone who doesn’t have both parents in the house?

It’s hard to say, but I can tell you that this Cinderella refuses to recant and say that nothing bad happened.

Katy was technically a half-sister rather than a stepsister but due to Judy’s blatant favoritism of her and abuse of me we might as well have been living in the first half of a fairy tale, the really bad half.

Coming next time, Poisoned Fruit: Life with an Evil Stepmother