We lived in a double-wide rusted out hulk of what perhaps once was a pretty trailer. By the time Nick, my mom’s latest beau inherited it from his father it had pretty much succumbed to nature thanks to neglect and abuse. But it did have electricity for the most part, so long as someone had money to keep it turned on.
My mom wrote me a letter before she died, to be opened on my eighteenth birthday. Eleven years later I opened it and found within the wrinkled blue-lined pages of the thin student paper, her curvy cursive and even a faint trace of her cheap perfume remained. It was her opus to me and perhaps it will put into perceptive what happened the day I became an adult. My mom Diana’s story is a tragic tale of, loneliness, suffering, and love. It goes like this....
Bryleigh had been an accident, a few months after graduation, Diana and her old high school flame had hooked-up unprotected one too many times. Diana’s parents were livid, but abortion was out of the question given the small, gossipy backwater they lived in and their professed Evangelical faith in Jesus. Diana’s Father drove her to the Planned Parenthood in a county one hundred miles over for her irregular well-baby visits and vitamins. The only blessing in the disgrace was Diana had graduated before she was showing and while her pregnancy continued, her parents could keep her more-or-less sequestered on their small dirt farm.
“Get in the car girl,” Diana’s father would command, his eyes locked straight ahead out of the windshield.
Diana, in her last trimester, any hope of concealment of her humiliation now gone on her long thin frame, eased herself into the old pick-up and they drove-off in silence. The entire trip there and back went without a word uttered between father and daughter.
Bryleigh’s arrival happened at the house, a midwife attended along with Diana’s mom, the shame in her eyes all too apparent. A baby girl was born, over 7 pounds and healthy, sporting 10 toes and 10 fingers on the proper appendages. There was no joy in that stifling dark room. Just a large check cut quickly to the midwife’s outstretched hand and the baby was soon upstairs in Diana’s squeaky old cradle.
Diana named her daughter after watching a PBS show on TV. She liked the sound of the two syllables and the fact that it stood out. Diana desperately wanted her daughter to stand out, be someone, to have a real life and not follow in her miserable footsteps. Diana transferred all hope for herself on to her baby the first time she held her in her quivering arms. Bryleigh would rise above, she would count in this world, and she would have no shame. She would live with no regrets.
It was only a matter of months until the relationship with her parents forced Diana and Bryleigh out. The atmosphere in her childhood home was as dark and swirling as the heart of an intense thunderstorm and equally chaotic. Her series of dead-end fast food and convenience store jobs left Diana exhausted, broke and frequently harassed. Her mother’s growing resentment of caring for her daughter and granddaughter often erupted in shouting matches and hateful words that tore into the heart of Diana’s shattered soul. One fateful day, after returning exhausted following a 12-hour shift, enduring the taunts and pawing of unruly customers and fellow workers alike, Diana mentally broke. Her mother met her at the door with Bryleigh in her fat, flappy arms, the diaper clearly heavily soiled.
“I will not clean-up another mess again Diana! It was bad enough with you. Get in here and take care of your baby.” Her mother’s eyes were wild, almost diabolical.
Diana walked inside and immediately her mom thrust the smelly baby into Diana’s aching arms.
“Get out of my sight, both of you; I am so disgusted with this and tired. Leave now, I can’t take it anymore!”
Diana had no fight left in her; she just nodded like a zombie and headed up to her small room. She was done, her soul almost gone. So she left home. Diana and Bryleigh drifted for years from town to town, shelters, church and synagogue basements were home. Sometimes Diana would meet a guy, and so long as the sex was good, the dude would let the two crash in his place for a while, until he got tired of Diana and her growing daughter. Six long years, later mother and child were back in their hometown, Diana returning to one of her first fast-food jobs, Bryleigh in a hardscrabble public daycare run by the Jesuits. With the few dollars a month the government threw her way for WIC, they could eat a meal or two each day.
Diana met Nick at work one sunny late autumn afternoon; he was the new assistant manager at the local “Strutting Chicken” franchise. By the end of her shift, she and Nick soon had a date arranged. That first date led to Diana and Bryleigh moving into the shabby double-wide Nick inhabited out on the fringe of town. At first, things went well, so long as Diana was submissive, adoring and stoked Nick’s insatiable narcissism.
The bliss of their relationship’s honeymoon period lasted about five days. When Diana failed to arrive home with the six-pack of cold beer Nick had ordered, she endured her first beating. As he hit her and screamed at her Diana smiled from her bleeding mouth knowing his rage was directed at her and not Bryleigh. This pattern continued and for the most part, Nick left Byleigh alone, in fact ignoring her.
But as the holiday season approached and Diana was laid-off for insubordination, the reality being she refused the owner’s sexual overtures, Nick turned even worse. Following one severe beating Diana endured for buying her daughter a birthday present, she ran from the trailer. In her pants, she had a bag full of Hillbilly Heroin. She had no way of knowing her dealer had Fentanyl mixed in with the Oxycodone. She died in a weedy swale, about one hundred yards behind the trailer, a bottle of Jack Black half empty and most of the baggy gone. Her eyes were wide open as if she had seen an angel or perhaps a demon at the moment her heart stopped.
Now I’ll tell you the end of my story....
When Nick, high on opiates and liquor, found my mom’s body he went berserk. He ran into the trailer, terrifying me. I was crying, but I knew what had happened. Nick ran to the pantry and grabbed the handgun he kept there, his “Manhood” as he often told mom waving it around her face and mine. Then his mood changed, he looked long and hard at me, his eyes dark.
“It is your damn fault you little monster!” Nick screamed, “You killed your Mom and my woman! I’m going to make you pay you little rat!”
As he approached me I froze in fear but as he raised that gun I just charged him and rammed my right boot into his groin and my teeth into his side. The sudden unexpected attack dazed him and the gun dropped with a clatter to the vinyl tile floor.
I ran over and grabbed it aiming it at him as he tried to stand straight, “No you are the monster!” I yelled and I pulled the trigger with everything I had.
I soon met Detective Chuck Davis. He was nice and he told me to follow his instructions exactly. My mind was dead so I just nodded.
Davis took the gun and wiped it clean of my fingerprints. He then placed the weapon in the dead hand of the prone Nick.
“You have been through enough,” He said and he took my hand in his, “you are one brave little girl and I am going to see to it you never, ever, end-up like this. You will live with Michelle and me.”
It was then I smiled faintly and squeezed the detective’s large hand. Mom would be right in the end.