October is not only the month of awareness for breast cancer. It is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The fictional story below is one that I wrote and posted awhile back. I’m posting it again as a reminder that domestic violence is very real and can leave a lifetime of scars. In some cases, the victims are not only the individuals who are physically assaulted, but also those who witness. In turn, some form mental or emotional issues that can affect relationships and interactions with people as a whole.
Unfortunately, I have been on both sides of the coin. With the help of God and professional and personal support systems, I have been able to overcome and work through these traumas. Everyone’s story may not be as successful, but that does not make it any less relevant. If you or someone you know is being abused, there is help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233.
Settled into bed after the hustle and bustle of a long workday, Penelope’s eyes closed. Shoulders relaxed. Breaths long, but deep. There was quietness, almost like peace – something she strived for.
Penelope was awakened by the loud noises. She sprang up in her bed – shaking like a leaf. She was scared. The house was silent, but her knees were knocking like a woodpecker on a tree.
Penelope slid from her bed onto the floor. She huddled upright in a fetal position, pulling her knees to her chest. She silently moaned as a rampage of thoughts went through her mind – was it an intruder or her father acting out?
She needed help. She felt around in the dark for her cell phone. It wasn’t there. Crap, where is it?
Penelope shuttered at the new noise. It sounded like glass shattering. Was someone…
Margaret couldn’t believe her eyes. Last time she saw him, the two were being taken away in separate patrol cars. Now the boy of her youth was standing in front of her as a grown man. She had mixed emotions – love for the person she used to know and happiness that he wasn’t dead. But the one emotion that overrode all the joyous ones was anger.
Margaret felt her face run hot thinking about how Chase somehow escaped the police, and didn’t bother to save her. “What are you doing here?”
“I want to get to know my son, Margaret. Well, and maybe repair our relationship.”
“You have got to be kidding!” Margaret folded her arms tightly across her chest, her jaws following suit. Jake stood between them, looking from one to the other not knowing what to think of the situation.
“No, I’m very serious. I’ve thought about you all these years and even tried to find you. I had to be careful to keep from getting caught.”
“Well you didn’t try hard enough. For goodness sake Chase, I’m in the same town.”
“Yeah, I know that now. But you weren’t always here. “
“That’s true. They locked me away. Felt like being in that group home again. The only bright spot was having Jake…and Mrs. Doyle”
Locked away…group home…Mrs. Doyle. Jake had never heard these things before about his mother. He was tired of being confused. It was obvious that his parents knew something that he was totally oblivious to. “Will somebody tell me what’s going on?”
Margaret looked at Chase hard. She had hoped she never had to talk about her past. But here it was in front of her. “Jake, honey, let’s sit on the sofa.” Margaret tried to figure out a way to tell the story without it sounding bad.
When she realized there was no way around it, she confessed. “When I was twenty, Chase and I broke into someone’s home and stole a lot of stuff. Unfortunately, a neighbor saw us and called the police. We were both carried away, but somehow your father escaped. Me, well, I spent eighteen months in jail. That’s where I gave birth to you. When I got out, I stayed in a halfway house and that’s how I met Mrs. Doyle. She’s the lady you call Grandma.”
“So, she’s not my real grandma?”
“Not biologically. But she’s been like a mother to me.”
Jake sat for a moment to consume the information given. He then diverted his attention towards Chase, “So, how did you get away?”
“They didn’t have the handcuffs on tight enough so I was able to slip my hands out. When they opened the car door, I kicked the one officer and the other tried to tackle me. We tussled for a while, but I managed to get in a few lucky punches that bewildered them. Then I ran.
“Why didn’t you go back to get Mom?”
“I couldn’t. They would have caught me and thrown me in jail.” Chase felt guilty. He couldn’t look Jake in the eye anymore let alone Margaret. Her angered appearance turned to hurt and disappointment. Chase noticed. In a somber voice, he looked up and met her eyes, “I regret it now. She’s the only woman I’ve ever loved.”
Margaret’s eyes welled with tears that she refused to let fall. “Well, we can’t change the past. It’s time for you to go.”
“Mom he can’t go. He’s still a criminal. Don’t we have to call the police?”
Margaret and Chase knew Jake was right. She didn’t want to be the bad guy in this situation, but she also was trying to raise her son to be honest and do the right thing. “He’s right Chase. We have to turn you in.” A single tear finally fell.
“I understand.” Chase’s shoulders slumped.
Margaret quickly wiped the tears from her eyes as she left the room to make the call.
Chase knelt in front of the sofa where Jake still sat, “I know what I did was wrong. There’s no excuse. It’s time to pay the piper.” He put his hand on Jake’s shoulder, “I’m proud of you for sticking to what’s right. You’re a smart kid, and I hope your mom will let you come see me. I meant what I said about wanting to get to know you.”
Jake nodded. He felt awkward and guilty. He had always wanted a father and here he was giving his away. But he also knew that crimes were meant to be punished.
The doorbell chimed and Margaret opened the door for the police. They cuffed Chase and led him out of the house towards the patrol car. As Chase was bent to fit inside the car, he took a last look at the woman he still loved and the son he wasn’t sure he’d get to know. He began to shed tears as the car pulled off.
Margaret’s tears were now coupled with moans. She hurried to her bedroom and slammed the door. Jake was left standing in the front yard, watching the patrol car until it was out of sight.
He ran into the house headed to his room. Jake grabbed all the pieces to the detective kit, and threw them in the trash. He thumped down on the bed crying. He had learned a valuable lesson – criminals weren’t the only ones punished.
On the way to school, Jake had concocted a plan on how to skip and go back home to work on his case. When his mother dropped him off, he entered the school doors – waiting on the inside for her to drive off. He then exited, ensuring that no teacher or parent saw him leave the premises.
Once home, Jake looked through the sheets of paper filled with prints. He separated the ones that belonged to him and his mother from those yet to be identified. He was smart enough to document the location of the door knobs, which made it easier for him to focus his investigation.
As he analyzed the locations, he noticed that the prints were on the bedroom doors, their corresponding closets, and the basement. Jake started to feel scared because this unknown person or thing had been in his private space.
He put on gloves, ensuring that he didn’t disturb the prints on the knob, and then eased his bedroom door open. Jake gulped in fear and anticipation on what he may find. Then he inched his way in, trying to remain calm by telling himself he was on a case and that finding the criminal would put him one step closer to his future career.
Jake walked around his room dusting this and that for further prints, when he found a long dark brown hair. It wouldn’t have been strange, except he and his mother have blonde hair. And it couldn’t be his grandmother’s because hers was gray and short.
Jake could feel the nerves in his stomach flap around like butterflies. It intensified when he heard a noise in the closet. He wanted to be the best detective he could be, but in this matter, he had to think smart.
Jake ran from the room to get his cell phone out of his backpack. As he was about to dial for help, a man with a dark brown ponytail in dirty denim was standing behind him. He placed a hand on Jake’s shoulder and turned him around.
Jake went stiff. His mouth was open in preparation to scream, but nothing came out. The man covered his mouth just in case some form of noise exited, then yanked the phone from Jake’s hands.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” the man removed his hand from Jake’s mouth. “I’m your father.”
Jake didn’t believe the man. “You’re not my dad. He’s dead.”
The man gave a slight chuckle, “So that’s what your mom is telling you. Well, I’m alive.”
“I don’t believe you. You could be anybody. Show me some proof.” Jake folded his arms, staring at the man as if a dare.
The man left the room heading towards the basement. Jake followed. Hidden behind boxes was a ratty-looking blue backpack. The man reached in and pulled out a picture. It was him and Margaret in an embrace. He handed it to Jake.
Jake looked at the picture. Then he cocked his head to one side, studying the scruffy-looking man. A flood of questions rushed from Jake’s brain and out his mouth, “So, what’s your name? Where have you been? Why are you here? Are you going to stay?”
“Whoa, whoa. Slow down,” the man leaned against the boxes. “My name is Chase. I’ve been all over, and I’m here because I want to get to know you. “
“I’m confused. So why would my mom tell me you were dead, if you’re really alive?”
“Not sure. But things between me and your mom, well that’s a complicated story. What I can tell you is, we parted ways a long time ago. In fact, I didn’t know she was pregnant with you. I put two and two together when I saw the both of you at the store.”
“Well, I’m going to call Mom.”
Chase grabbed Jake by the arm before he could make it to the stairs, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
There was a noise upstairs like someone opening a lock. Chase and Jake looked at each other puzzled and afraid. Then there were footsteps above that sounded hurried.
“Jake! Jake! Are you here?” It was Margaret. She was panicked, looking for her son.
Chase whispered, “Go upstairs! Don’t say a word about me being here. OK?”
Jake nodded in obedience and raced up the stairs. “I’m here Mom.”
“Jake!” Margaret was happy to see her son, but it quickly faded to anger. “You had me worried. Why did you come home? Did something happen at school?”
“No. I…I just wanted to find out about the prints.”
Margaret couldn’t believe her ears, “You’ve taken this detective thing too far. Where’s the kit?”
“In my room, but Mom!”
“Don’t ‘but Mom’ me. I’m putting an end to this right now.” Margaret walked towards Jake’s room with him continuing to plead behind. All he wanted to do was find out whose prints were in the house. But Margaret didn’t care.
Chase sat, listening in silence to the commotion upstairs. When he had had enough, he went up. “Margaret!”