Housekeeping: Make sure you vote for Last Week\’s Stories!
Megan Sayer is not only from Australia…she’s from Tasmania! We met through the Novel Matters blog (a whole bevy of novel writers discussing the writing life). Well, Megan and I became fast friends. Megan is curious. And she has a whole load of questions about USA culture and food (which is always a fun discussion). I love learning more about Tassie, too. I feel like I’ve found the Australian version of me. She’s a writer, a mum, a wife and friend. And it’s really great to have her for a good friend…even if she’s over 2,000 miles away! I wish you could all get to know Megan. So…how about in the comments of this post, you ask a question about Australia/Tasmania! I’m sure she would love that! And she just might ask a question back about peanut butter baking chips (seriously, Megan…you would love them).
Here’s Megan’s idea…
“As a child in a foster family, Gracie longed for the two-hours-per-fortnight (two weeks) she spent with her mother. Now as an adult she has a strong desire to provide the love and care she felt she missed to other kids who need it, always saying that when her little kids are a little older she’ll start fostering.
Then the phone call came.
Her young half-sister Ella, the baby who was allowed to stay with their mum while Gracie and her older brothers were removed, is sixteen, and is in need of care. Gracie welcomes her, but instead of the loving nurturing feelings she expects to feel, she’s overwhelmed by jealousy of the time Ella had with their mother, and an irrational desire to hurt her.”
Gracie laid on her back in bed. The room was still dark. Sunrise was nearly half an hour away. And, yet, Gracie was awake, thinking. She hadn’t slept all night. Her doctor wanted to give her something for “that”. Something that would put her right to sleep, with a chaser of drug to make her feel happy. Or at least to help her stop the anxiety.
Your mother never loved you, her thoughts told her. She never wanted you. Her life was more important than you. You were worthless to her.
And, of course, the thoughts were right. They flipped her into memory. So many years backwards into recollection that she wished she could change. But all she could do was remember.
Being pulled out of her mother’s track marked arms. Her baby brothers, twins, put in one car. She was in another. Foster home. Dark bedroom. No affection. But slaps, kicks, angry shouts.
Every other week, Gracie would see her mother. She’d pick her up in an old, beat up truck. They’d get ice cream, watch a movie, play at the park. Gracie remembered the visits as great adventures.
As she let the pillow hold her head, so many years later, she knew that they’d been visits between a broken hearted little girl and a strung out, pregnant mother. A mother who probably only showed up to fulfill her parole.
But as soon as she had the baby, she stopped visiting Gracie. That was it. Gracie was replaced by little Ella.
Life didn’t get easier for Gracie with the absence of her mother. She never stayed in a family for long. It was hard to place a ten year old.
You just weren’t cute enough. You were too fat, the thoughts started back up. You just weren’t as good as a newborn.
Her husband, Jake, rolled over. Lines from the pillow case marked up his face. He smiled at her with his eyes still closed.
“Hey, Honey?” she asked. “Are you awake?”
“Yup. Kind of,” he answered. “Did you sleep at all?”
“You were up so much last night.”
“I just can’t stop thinking about that call we got yesterday.”
“About your sister?”
“Yeah. I mean, she isn’t really a sister to me. I’ve never met her.”
“Are you thinking about having her stay with us?”
“I don’t want to. That must make me sound evil. Right?”
“Not really. We kind of have our hands full with the munchkins.”
“They are pretty young still.” Gracie thought of her 3 year old and the year old. Both boys. “And I know we talked about waiting to do the foster thing until they were a little older.”
“But this is your sister. Biologically.”
“So, should we have her come?”
“It’s probably the right thing to do.”
A week later, and after a lot of cleaning, Ella arrived. She brought with her several boxes and totes and a whole lot of attitude. Gracie tried to hide her surprise that Ella was so overweight. She took over their guest room.
Your mother loves her more than she loves you. The thoughts haunted Gracie again. See all the things your mother lavished on Ella? And, remember how you mother forgot to feed you? How she made you steal from the grocery store for your lunches? Well, that obviously wasn’t a problem for Ella.
Gracie shoved down the feelings of envy.
“Ella, how’s everything going?” Gracie asked, walking into the room. “Are you getting things set?”
“I guess.” Ella’s voice was flat and quiet. “So, you’re like my sister or something?”
“I am. We never met, though.”
“Why not? Mom said you left because you wanted to live with somebody else.”
“That’s not exactly what happened.”
“Right. So, I don’t get why I had to move out of Mom’s house.”
“Well, sweetie, she made some bad choices.”
“She fell off the wagon. Started doing drugs again.”
“Yeah. I guess.” Ella looked at Gracie with indifference. “Hey, who’s gonna pay for my cell phone?”
As the weeks passed, Gracie tried to build a relationship with Ella. Took her to the mall. Asked her to go for walks. But the more time she spent with her, the more envy crept into her soul.
Your mother loved her. Gave her time. Went to her choir concerts. Watched her in the marching band. Bought her a trumpet. Your mother was her Mommy. You never had a mommy.
Gracie watched Ella picking at her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Her face scrunched.
“Is something wrong with that?” Gracie asked, not hiding her annoyance. Ella hadn’t displayed gratitude for anything.
“You used crunchy peanut butter. I like smooth.”
“Then don’t eat it.”
“But I’m hungry.”
She could do without a few meals, couldn’t she? Maybe if your mother hadn’t overfed her so much she wouldn’t be such a spoiled brat.
Ella refused to do her homework. She was failing all her classes. She skipped school.
“You’re going to get kicked out,” Gracie said. “Don’t you care?”
“Mom never made me do any of it. She said it didn’t really matter in real life.”
“It’s made a difference in my life.”
“Yeah. And you do what, stay at home all day?”
This girl has never had to work for anything. Every single thing she’s ever had was handed to her, shoved at her. She needs to be taught a lesson. She should have been spanked when she was small. Next time she’s sassy, you are going to smack her in the face.
“No,” Gracie said. She didn’t realize that she said it out loud. “No, I’m not going to do that.”
“You aren’t going to stay home?” Ella was confused.
Gracie shook her head to regain herself. She’d never wanted to hurt anyone before. Never tempted to smack or slap or spank. But in that moment she wanted to cause harm to her sister.
“How about you go do your homework before dinner.”
That night Gracie wandered her home. Everyone else was sleeping. She sat on the couch, pulling her bathrobe closer around her.
You’re sinking into that depression, Gracie. And there isn’t anything you can do about it. Just sink deep into it. It’s normal, considering your childhood. And how you’ve been cheated. And how she’d gotten everything that you deserved from your mother. Do you remember what your mother would do when you’d make her angry?
“She burned me with a cigarette once.” Gracie touched her upper leg where all the circular scars were. “She locked me in the bathroom.”
And you turned into a very good young lady. A caring mother. Ella needs to learn. It will help her. It will help you. You will feel better.
“No. I would feel horrible. She doesn’t need that.”
“Who are you talking to?” Ella asked, walking in.
“Why are you up? You have school in the morning.”
“No. We got an in-service day.”
“Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep.”
“Me too.” Gracie patted the couch. “How about you have a seat.”
Ella lumbered over. Her pajamas were far too tight. “Do you like these slippers?” She showed her hot pink covered feet.
“Mom bought them for me. She was mean to me sometimes. So, she’d get me stuff to say ‘sorry’.”
“How was she mean?”
“She’d tell me I was fat and dumb.” Ella sniffed. “I don’t think she really loved me at all.”
Gracie looked at her sister, surprised. “Why would you think that?”
“You know, she was always giving me stuff. But it was all because she felt bad. She’d hit me sometimes. One time she was really mad. I think I was five or six. And she did this.” Ella rolled up her sleeve. Shiny pink, raised circles on her arm. “It hurt so bad. But she didn’t want me to tell anybody. She was scared they’d take me away.”
Gracie looked into the eyes of her sister. They were a honey color with chocolate chip flecks. And they were so sad.
“I’m so sorry you were alone with her.”
She put her arm around Ella’s neck. For the very first time she hugged her sister. For the very first time, she loved her.
The abuse happens in so many families across our country and the world. It breaks my heart and it encourages me to do what I can as one person to change my little corner of the world. Working with The Refuge here in Roswell, New Mexico is my start. There is lots we can do if we just reach out to organizations and offer an hour or two at a time to volenteer.
It’s amazing how much empathy and mercy can do in our lives.
Susie well done, I really enjoyed this, and love the ending. Funny, I had to throw out the characters my mind created when I sent you the original idea – didn’t think it would be so tricky!!!
And I did laugh at their peanut butter and jelly sandwich argument. And also at your lovely description of me. Curious is the one verb that pretty much sums me up!
Thank you for the idea, Megan! I really liked writing this one. Well, as much as I could for the subject.
I smirked when writing the PB & J bit. 🙂
Happy Writing to you, too, friend!
I have one thing in common with you. My best friend is Megan Sayer!
She is inspirational and a great encouragement for us writer folk.
Hi, Sally! Megan is amazing, isn’t she? And she is very gifted in encouragement! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
Yesterday I went to Megans house and guess what she was eating? A peanut butter and marmalade sandwich. She didnt have any jelly – ha ha ha. She dumped our favourite Vegemite (the weird stuff we put in our sandwiches) for peanut butter and jam. Even Kevin Rudd our ex Prime Minister had some Vegemite in the US this week. Airport security thought Vegemite was a dangerous substance. We eat tones of it.
Now I know where Megans inspiration is coming from. Next thing you know she’ll be backing cookies(biscuits) and eating candy (lollies).
Ha! Yes, the peanut butter and jelly discussion has been cracking me up! What cultural differences. I’ve been told that Vegemite is sold at an imports store not too far from my house (in Michigan, US). I promise that I will soon try it. My bet is that I’ll like it…especially with cheese.
Megan and I have been having so much fun writing about the differences in our nations. And yet, she is so much like me…despite all our cultural differences!
HAHAHA!!! Oh I’m glad you two have met. How funny! Susie, Sally is an incredible woman, and has a truly amazing book she’s about to start sending round. Oh, and she’s from Burnie, so she might even know your other Tassie friends…which would be quite funny : )
I’m collecting Australian friends! And what a menagerie of lovely people it’s turning out to be!