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

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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

The Anatomy of Abuse and Forgiveness

Anyone who says it is impossible to love your abuser has never been abused by someone in authority. There are other ways to love an abuser but this is about being a little girl who loved her parents very much and was betrayed by all of them: this is about me.

In our house we were spanked. These spankings went by several names: whoopings, thrashing, beatings… they varied by what was used too. It could be a wooden spoon, a hand, my Dad’s belt buckle or my least favorite of all, the willow switch where we were forced to pick our own doom.

I would be sent out to pick a willow switch and cut it myself when I was a child when it was time for a thrashing. I remember it well. I would be sent out with a jack knife and usually there was no time limit on it. It didn’t matter how long I took, I found it was best to go out and pick one of the first ones I found and take it back. If you picked a brittle switch it would bruise a lot more and be damaging but if you picked a green one it would sting more and leave bigger welts on your naked butt and back and legs. If you picked a switch that was too thin and would break you would be sent out to pick a new one and your punishment would be doubled.

This is now considered terrible child abuse but for me, it was just life. I didn’t fear my Dad. There were rules and if you obeyed the rules you weren’t beat. If you disobeyed you were beaten. It was clear cut and easy to understand. Some of the rules would seem draconian and insane to anyone not raised with them but I was eager to please and to do well. I worked hard for the smiles my Dad gave me, for when he picked me up and held me on his shoulders, for when he picked me to go into town with him and I was the only one who got to go with him. The terror of the beatings were eclipsed by my joy at his joy and pride in me.

When he called my name in the morning I was up and dressed and full of smiles. When I hurt myself I would bravely continue and if he noticed after that I was hurt he would tell me, ‘that’s my girl’ and praise my bravery. I always brought home good grades, I worked diligently and hard at my chores and tried to take care of my mother and keep the house clean when she was ‘ill’. Before I was six, with the aid of a chair, I would do the laundry, make dinner and bathe and feed my little brother. I didn’t feel that this was unfair at the time, I was proud of myself.

When I was eight I told my Dad that I wanted to have a serious conversation with him. He came into the rec room with me. I wasn’t very scared to talk to him then, it was only after my stepmother came into the scene that I became actually afraid of him.

“What do you want to talk to me about?” He asked, he was smiling at my earnest and unusually serious tone. Nothing had happened lately, I hadn’t been in trouble, but I had been thinking about things very hard.

“Daddy, I think I’m too old to be spanked anymore.”

His eyebrows climbed and he leaned back in shock, “What?”

“I’ve been thinking about it and I am very reasonable. I think from now on you should have a talk to me about what you want me to change. I think that would work a lot better and it would also be less work for you.”

“You’re telling me not to spank you anymore?” He was still incredulous but I could tell he was thinking about what I said.

“I’m not telling you not to spank me, I’m asking you not to spank me,” I had to pause here. I knew it was important to keep it together at this point. If I started to get upset or cry he would laugh at me and the conversation would be over.

“You’re asking me,” He reiterated.

“Yes. Please, Daddy, I would really like it if you didn’t spank me anymore. I’m a good girl and I would rather talk to you about what I’m doing wrong than get hit for it.”

“What if I say no?” He asked.

“Then that’s your answer. I can only ask,” I didn’t dare say any more. He was thinking about things from every angle. He was never a stupid man and he knew that I was a very good little girl. I rarely ever complained and most of the beatings that I got were for waking him up by accident or for fighting with my older brother. It didn’t matter who started the fight, we were both beaten equally.

I held my breath, he gauged me, “Alright.”

“Really? No more spankings?” I asked.

He smiled and held out his hand to shake my tiny hand, “No more spankings.”

He broke a lot of his promises to me, but that was one he never broke. He let a lot of bad things happen to me, he abandoned me to a stepmother who did horrible things to me and a mother who was a pharmaceutical junky and needed more care taken of her than most toddlers.

My older brother was not immune from such beatings, in fact at that point his ‘thrashings’ got a lot worse. He was an arrogant boy who felt a need to challenge my Dad at every opportunity and he would say horrible things to our Mom. I recall a day not too long after our conversation with my Dad about spankings that I overheard a similar but very contrary one that he had with my brother.

He had my brother up against the wall, his feet dangling off the floor. They were nose to nose and my brother had his chin lifted but his eyes averted to the ground, “If you badmouth your mother, I mean one word out of line you little shit, I will punch your face in so good you’ll spend the next month home from school waiting for the bruises to heal”.

When I grew up and ran away from home I had a lot of time to think about the promises my Dad broke and the ones he kept. Of all the promises he made to me, this one was the most important to me. No matter how angry he was at me, he never spanked me again. Those days were behind us. It proved to me that he respected me and that he did think about me and love me.

My Dad was horribly abused by his Dad. He was beaten, he was thrown in a pit, he was starved. He ran away from home when he was the same age that I was when I ran away from home: 15. He was also abused by his mother and by other family members and casual friends of the family. His whole life he wanted to be better than his parents. He wanted to give me a better life than the one that he had and I watched him actively seek out good influences in his life and learn how to parent from them as best he could.

He had a long ways to go but he listened to me that day and he never went back on it. My life was better than his life was. His parents drank constantly and my parents never drank at all. In fact, I didn’t even know what a drunk person looked like until I met my stepmother.

He has learned in life and the truth of the matter is that other than learning from his mistakes there is nothing that he can do to fix the mistakes he made in raising me. He smashed something and it was only after my stepmother died that he even realized fully what he had done. How evil he had become. How much he had enjoyed humiliating me, working me like a slave and believing my stepmother’s lies about me. I ran away from home and he was sad, but when I came back nearly a decade later he let my stepmother pick up the abuse exactly where she had left off. He avoided responsibility for it and said there was nothing he could do and that I was the one who was the trouble maker.

After Judy died, he said he didn’t know what he had been thinking. That I had been a delight to raise and had never caused trouble in my life.

He looked at the smashed plate that he had thrown to the floor, the plate that was his beloved little girl, his princess and he cried. He wept for his many sins and I forgave him.

I will never be that plate again. I took the bits of myself, gathered up all that I could and I glued myself together. When I couldn’t figure out where the pieces went or found I had lost a piece of myself together, I went to my friends and my writing to find myself and repair the damage.

The ‘plate’ I have become is nothing like what I would have done if he hadn’t smashed me to the floor and if my Judy hadn’t smashed me and if my mother hadn’t smashed me. I have cracks and flaws, I have more dimensions than if I had been left whole. I can see the breaks in other plates and I have compassion for them, sometimes I can help heal some of those cracks or at least buy them a tube of superglue.

My Dad is the same. He too was thrown to the ground. He was smashed and unlike me, he didn’t have the capacity to fully patch himself together but I can see that he tried. I can see where he put a piece back and the glue that holds him together. I can see the chips where he never got that part of him back. I can see where his friends helped him to find pieces that are missing.

That is the anatomy of abuse and of forgiveness. Abuse is smashing and nothing heals that but part of putting ourselves back together is to admit we have been broken and then to find out how to heal ourselves by seeing how our abusers have been patched together too.

We don’t need to let them smash us again to discover this. You don’t even have to go close to them, but if you can find that compassion to see where they came from, the ways that they tried to do good and maybe even forgive them, you’ll find more pieces of yourself.

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…