(Warning: Sad Stuff Ahead-come back when you're ready to get hit in the feels, Cringey Content, Toxic Parent, Self-hate, Eating Struggles)
I smile at the college acceptance letter in my hands, as I walk up to the car. I knock on the glass, waiting for the window to roll down. “Mom,” I start, beaming. “Guess what?”
She looks at my face curiously and then gasps, “You got accepted!” She guesses. I start laughing and crying a little at the same time. “Get in, get in my genius boy!” She hurries unlocking the door, “I’m calling your dad! I can’t wait, let’s go out to celebrate!” She taps the screen and it starts ringing my dad. I grab the door handle, unable to stop smiling and wipe away my tears as a weird noise causes me to hesitate. I look up as a truck crashes sideways into the parked vehicle.
“Mom!” I scream even as the car slides into me knocking me off balance and flips onto me. Everything goes dark for a second, I know I’m not dead I can hear the hubbub of people screaming and through it all my dad’s panicked voice over the phone.
As I sit in the hospital getting MRI’s and X-rays and recovering I go over the events in my head. ‘The same accident that killed my mom and blinded me was entirely preventable, if I had just gotten into the car and told her while we were on the way… It’s my fault, it’s entirely my fault. The curb saved my life, I was battered and bruised but not crushed, I just happened to get hit in the head the wrong way and boom, blind.’
I go to physical therapy and disability training or re-education as they put it to learn how to maneuver as a “vision challenged” person. Then I go home and everyday is a challenge to even get out of bed. I’m always crying, my dad’s always crying. Obviously I didn’t go to university. My spirit was crushed even if my body wasn’t. Every day I remind myself, “This is my fault. I’m a burden on my father.’ Because of this crippling guilt when he found a wife after only three years, I threw my all into making sure my dad was able to feel happiness again, and making my stepmom feel welcome. At least I’m an adult now and he can use my disability checks as well.
My alarm goes off and groaning, I open my eyes. I reach for the alarm, it’s moved. Growling I get up on one arm and pat my hand over my desk until I feel my knife. ‘That’s weird, it’s open, I never leave it open for obvious reasons.’ Closing it carefully I put it down near the edge of the desk. I lean further and finally smack the alarm.
The door bursts open, “Ready to go?!” My stepmom asks with pretend excitement, sounding a little forced. ‘Guess she’s still a little nervous around me,’
“Where are we going?” I ask nervously, I hate leaving the house.
“You’ll see!” She practically squeals and throws clothes at me, making me flinch.
I try not to get annoyed, “Mom, please, warn me.” I say quietly. She goes silent and I can only imagine she’s pouting.
“I’m sorry honey.” She says quietly. I move the blanket at an angle so I could find and fold it back down later. Grabbing the shirt I look for the tag, ‘Are you kidding me…’
“That’s the right way, honey.” Darlene says. I put on the shirt feeling the front for a design or a pocket, none that I could tell. I feel the back pretending I was scratching, a design is obviously there. I get up putting on my pants.
“Can you get me some breakfast?'” I ask hopefully.
“Oh, are you hungry today?” She asks and I tense.
“I’ve been able to eat almost normally for a while.” I whisper starting to feel a little sick.
“What do you want, bacon, egg, supreme egg muffins?”
I wince, “How about some fruit.?”
“That’s not a real breakfast,” she says.
“I’ll just get some myself.” I say quickly wanting to end the conversation before I taste bile.
“No, it’ll be faster if I get you some.” She sighs, “Just finish getting ready and get downstairs, your father is in the car already.” She turns to leave, “Try to not make us wait too long.” I listen to her walk away and fix my shirt the right way around, ‘What the heck?’ I pocket my knife and search for my cane, it’s always between my nightstand and bed and of course it’s not there. I start to panic, sitting down as my, already spiked blood pressure, rises further, I pant a little trying to calm down, ‘Why is she always moving my stuff?’ I get trying to be helpful by cleaning up but this has gone on for months. I've had to tell her and then have my dad tell her dozens of times that she can’t “tidy up” my room or move furniture otherwise I will trip on it. I’ll talk to my dad again but this time I’m going to tell him that if she doesn’t stop she’s not allowed in my room anymore.
I search under the bed and around the room for a minute then giving up I go to get my dad to help me find it. As I move out of my bedroom door I think to myself, ‘walk forward three steps past the opening of the stairs, then reach for the banister.’ I relax a little when I get a firm grip on it. Then step on a ball. I let out a panicked choking noise as I lose my balance, what feels like forever of falling in the dark and then…my arm protests as I catch myself.
I hug the railing, panicking, gasping as I listen to the ball bounce down the stairs. I can't believe I almost fell forward down the stairs. I couldn’t imagine how terrifying it would have been when falling for only a second made me feel like I was gonna die. I can’t take it anymore. I storm down the stairs, both hands on the railing. “Darlene?” I yell my stepmom’s name. No answer. I fumble with the shoes next to the door. Slipping mine on, I open the house door, feeling the sun on my face and smelling fresh air. I pause moving slowly to close it and reach for the railing to go down the porch steps. I can hear the car so, putting a hand out, I wait until I touch the metal, following it to the side door. I whip open the side door hearing their whispering cut off suddenly.
I can feel my face red with anger and as I take a deep breath to yell, I hear my dad say, “I’m so glad you decided to go with us.” I pause. “What’s wrong, are you okay?” he says suddenly. He must have just turned around to notice me. I can’t. I can’t ruin his mood like this, not when it would just result in him shutting down again like whenever I get mad at Darlene.
“I tripped on the stairs.” I croak, “It freaked me out so-” I take a shuddering breath.
“Are you okay? Did you get hurt?” Darlene cuts in, over my dad.
I shake my head no, “I managed to catch myself in time.” I mutter quietly. “Did you leave anything on the stairs?” I ask my dad specifically, hoping it was a rare accident on his part and not the growing, sickening thought in my mind.
“You know I would never,” he soothes, “I check the stairs every night and morning.” ‘Which means it was my stepmom. Is she trying to kill me?!’
“Darlene?” My dad whispers.
“I didn’t.” She whispers back as if I can’t hear her, “I checked them right before going down,” then even quieter, “What if he accidentally kicked something out of his own room?” I puff up with indignation.
“Okay that settles it” my dad says lightly trying to stop the fight he feels coming and come up with a response that makes both of us happy, “We are cleaning everything up as soon as we get home, no more accidents,” he turns back to me, “Ray I’m so glad you’re okay. Do you still want to go with us?”
“Of course he does, family time, right?!” Darlene cuts in excitedly.
“Yeah dad,” I say, “Where are we going?” “Well…” He says, probably glancing at my stepmom, putting the car in reverse, “Don’t worry we’ll be there the whole time and we’ll leave if it’s too much, but your mom wants it to be a surprise.” I turn to the window.
“Oh I almost forgot,” he says, “You left this in the car.” He hands me my cane. I extend my palm gripping it, a little calmer now that I felt it’s comforting weight in my hand, ‘I definitely did not leave this in here. I literally use it in the house now, thanks to you know who.’
“Did you find it?” I ask keeping my voice neutral.
“No, your stepmom did.” He says, “What?” He whispers something unintelligible to Darlene.
“I’m sorry baby I forgot. Okay let’s go!” He forces excitement.
The car ride is surprisingly long. I lay my head on the window listening to my parents talking and starting to piece together what my stepmother wanted. Did she actually like me or did she wish that she had my dad to herself? Why would she bully me like this. The thing with the stairs was extremely dangerous, did she not know that could kill someone.’ My stomach wrenches so hard that I touch it doubling over a bit, ‘Or did she actually want to kill me?’
“You okay bud?” My dad asks, hypersensitive to my movements.
“Uh…yeah I’m just hungry.” I only half-lie. “Here.” He says and then a second later a wrapper crinkles against my knee. I take the granola bar as he compliments himself, “I thought you might regret turning down breakfast later so, I snatched this. I have a bunch in the glovebox too for emergencies.”
“Wait what?” I ask, “I didn’t turn down breakfast, I asked for fruit.”
“Oh my goodness I completely forgot in the rush,” my stepmom says, “and I was so focused on getting your cane to your dad that it slipped my mind.” I gawk in disgust.
“Here have a few more granola bars, we’ll get you whatever you want to eat afterwards,” My dad is practically begging me to let it go. I sigh, taking the granola bars and then through gritted teeth act, “It’s okay, accidents happen,” I tilt my head, “And it sounds like we’re going out for burgers and root beer afterwards,” I say lightly despite it making my stomach churn violently.
“We’re going to have a good day it sounds like.” My dad smiles. I can hear it in his voice,
“Not to mention it’ll be good for you.” My stepmom says. I scrunch my eyebrows confused but don’t respond. I spend most of the rest of the ride in silence.