Once Apon a Night
They were shouting again, and that didn’t bode well. A sudden hush fell, and I sat upright, straining to hear through the walls, through the thick darkness which seemed to press against my small frame. Quietly slipping out of bed, I tiptoed out of my room and down the hall, hardly daring to breathe. The night enveloped me as I closed the door behind me noiselessly, pausing a moment to gaze up at the moon. It stared back at me, bearing witness to a small girl in a white nightgown with a purpose.
It seemed like hours before I reached the back of the house, though it probably took minutes. We live in Florida, but the night was cool, the windows were opened and through them I heard a whispering. Mom was crying and there was nothing that Dad could say, nothing that he could do, because it was his fault, all his fault. What was his fault? The moon looked on, giving no answers, just smiling down at me, bluish and serene. I pressed by back against the wall of our house, bringing my bony little girl’s knees up to my chest and pulling my nightgown over my legs, warding off the chill of the night. Another coldness crept through my bones, and young as I was, I knew that it had nothing to do with the crisp fall breezes that were rippling the water of the canal bordering our lot. The trees whispered sweet nothings to each other and the moon, ever watchful, kept it’s own council.
“Why, Bill? Tell me why…” It was my mother who had spoken and I ignored the night once more. The following conversation shocked and confused me. My Father, my perfect daddy had been caught doing many of the things that he always taught us never to do. He had attempted to smuggle an enormous amount of drugs into the country, using his brilliant and creative mind to think of a way to hide it so well that even the drug dogs could not have found it. An associate had been spotted at a port and Dad had been forced to tell them where it was hidden in hopes of a shorter sentence. My “honest” daddy had lied to us all, but what was worse was that he has destroyed my belief in him for nothing more than money.
I wrapped my arms around my legs, drawing them closer to myself as I sat listening numbly to mutterings and whispers concerning lawyers and court and other such words that used to mean nothing. I listened as my mother threatened divorce with a calm that turned my blood to ice. The moon remained beautiful and distant, almost scornful of me that I should ever have had such innocence to break. I wanted to shout at it, curse at it, shake my tiny fists and watch it’s blue face turn red with rage, but it was uncaring, unaffected.
My parents never did know that I listened that night, outside of their bedroom and as far as I’m concerned, they never will. Over the next five years that my father spent in prison, I became an adult and my beliefs changed. I learned what it meant to be a mother to my sibling who had ADD and an attitude problem. I learned how to cook because mom didn’t have time for anything except making enough money to keep us in the house. I learned how to iron and mop, trim trees and mow lawns, but most of all, I learned a lot about my own strength. I learned that my mom is made of tougher stuff than any of us could have imagined, because despite the threats, she stuck by him and made sure that we got to see him twice a month, even if we did have to drive eight hundred miles to see him.
He’s back now and after all is said and done, I know exactly what I now believe. I believe that when push comes to shove, there is no end to the strength of my family. I have a reputation of being too nice. Many of my friends tell me that I’m a pushover, and there are times that I believe them, but then I think back to those times and I know that there is a strength that can only be tested through just such situations. I believe in the bull dog determination of my mother. I believe in the love between my parents, against all odds. I believe in “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer”. I believe in the strength of family, this I believe.
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