From a discussion earlier it came up that what all I’m writing here, while the point of it being finding Christ and having religious overtones, is much more than that. There are lots of questions that everyone deals with on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis that at times makes us feel as though we are all alone. We search for connections where there are none and stick to situations that are bad just because they are there and they feel comfortable.
The book isn’t intended to be very long… I’m shooting for short novella length at best just because I don’t think it screams novel but rather a story that’s just burning to get out. In either case, it’s coming together pretty quick. Here is chapter two as it is of ‘More Than a Neighbor’.
What I Became
I then lived with my parents, again, for more than a year. I was starting over from scratch and doing it with a toddler to look after. I had no money, no furniture, no real clothes to speak of since he did his best not to let me get anything back. On a side note, I did keep a ring he thought a lot of. It had been his dads ring and he talked about it all the time and rarely took it off. Near the end though I had pocketed it for some reason and now I hang on to it. It sits in a dark place in my possession and in my soul forever reminding me of what he did.
I also had no job nor had I ever worked. Right out of high school Danny and I had gotten married and he went to work and I stayed home. That was how he had wanted it and that was the southern way I knew so well anyway.
Getting a job was hard. The economy wasn’t great in our area as it was and I had no experience and no college education. I ended up getting a job at McDonalds which barely paid for Kora’s necessities like diapers and food. Getting a car or a place of my own was out of the question at this point.
Mom tried to get me to go back to church. They went every Sunday and often took Kora but I could never bring myself to go back. The church was small, smaller even than when I was growing up, and everyone knew everyone and everyone knew everything about everyone. Going back would entail questions of ‘how are you doing?’ I’m horrible thanks. ‘It’s just such a tragedy what happened.’ Yes, that’s a word for it isn’t it. ‘Things will all get better, just have faith my dear.’ Faith? Faith? Where was God when I was getting beat or my daughter getting burned and I should have faith it will all get better?
I didn’t need to hear any of this. I didn’t WANT to hear any of it. Heck I heard enough of it from my mother saying fairly similar things and I’d just get mad and walk out of the room. Eventually she just talked about how much they loved Kora and how beautiful they all thought she was and oh how big she was getting.
I also started dating a lot around this time. I would leave Kora with her grandparents and go out to parties and socialize as best as I could. I was about to turn 21 but I still had never really gotten drunk and the idea continued to not appeal to me.
Ok, yes, I was raised a goody two shoes but I really didn’t and don’t have an issue with that label. I hung out with people who smoked, drank, did drugs and all that but it just didn’t appeal to me. Smokers coughed, drinkers got angry and acted foolish and people on drugs… well they were just off in their own little world.
I also would go out BECAUSE I was young. I was so angry not just at what Danny had done but that he had wasted my youth at the same time and I wanted it back. On the other hand, I was used to him being around and telling me what to do and that made me yearn for a man in my life. This was the catalyst behind my dating. I shouldn’t have been, really. I should have been a mother to my daughter at all hours but my parents were there and my mom was sure happy to watch her.
I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have but I still tried to be safe about it.
And then I turned 21.
One thing that my friends wanted to do on my 21st was take me out and get me drunk. ‘You never drink’ they said, ‘it will be fun.’ Of course I was going to go out anyway and now I could get into the bars without going to a shady one that doesn’t card so the thought had crossed my mind, maybe a drink or two.
My friend Sherry from work was the one who planned the whole thing I just told her places I DIDN’T want to go and she took it from there. We went to this trendy club where people danced and they played loud country music. I’m from the south and all, but country music normally isn’t my thing. At first I was pretty much ready to leave immediately but she convinced me, ‘TWO DRINKS JILLIAN! Just two then if you want to go we’ll bail.’ So I had two drinks. Well, sort of.
The first drink I had was just a mudslide and was a normal sized drink. I finished it pretty quickly because it tasted really good. I told her I’d have one more of those but she said no I needed to try something different. Well, my head was already spinning so I said OK and the next thing I knew I was sitting in front of this glass that looked bigger than my head. I don’t even remember what they called it but it was a fruity tasting drink. I told her I could never finish this myself and she said she’d help me so we both started drinking from two different straws.
She said, “Let’s see how fast we can drink it together,” so we started sucking it down really fast. Only later was I told that she had only pretended to drink.
The next thing I remember is just all these people being around us. A couple of them I knew from work but most of them I didn’t. Two guys in particular sat on either side of me and kept ordering drinks. I asked her who they were and she said ‘just some guys I know.’ As the night went on they got closer and closer and then started putting their hands all over me. I tried to stop them, at least in my head; I’m not sure how much of it communicated outwardly in my state. I don’t remember much more I just know I woke up in a motel room and they were there, laughing and getting dressed and talking about something stupid. I realized I was naked but luckily covered up and I just lay there, scared, trying to remember everything. Eventually they left and I got up, dressed, and called a cab home.
Luckily I didn’t get any diseases, but I did get pregnant.
I was devastated when I found out. It was bad enough being a young mother barely able to care for my daughter but now I would have a second one. This time I didn’t even know who the father was and I sure couldn’t tell my mother that it was one of two men that I don’t even know their names.
A month went by after finding out. I was doing my best to hide it and succeeding for the most part. My mom just thought I was sick a lot as did my manager at work. It had been a long time since I prayed for anything, but I prayed then. I prayed a very specific prayer, or so I thought.
I don’t remember all of it, of course, though I can tell you the gist of most of it. It started as any would if you haven’t prayed in a while by telling God it’s been awhile since you prayed, as though he were unaware or would take special notice, ‘Oh, she must really want something if she’s praying.’ It went on to say other obvious things like, ‘I’ve sinned’ and ‘I’ll be better’, three words you can’t ever promise because as soon as you do you’ll be worse. But then came the line that haunts me, I said, ‘Please take away the responsibility of me telling my mother I’m pregnant again. Let her find out on her own and be ok with it.’
Despite all that had happened and despite all my ill feelings towards God and the church I loved and respected my mother so much because she had always been there for me. I couldn’t imagine her disappointment in me for getting knocked up from a night of mistakes.
A week later I started hurting, really bad. I got a fever and could barely move. My mom rushed me to the hospital where they whisked me to the back and she was soon to follow after checking me in. Laying on the bed, staring at the lights the nurses came in and started poking and prodding and asking questions. One big nurse was matter of factly rechecking answers my mom had already given, as though already knowing the answers were wrong and she knew what I was going through.
“Miss… MISS, your mom said you’re not pregnant, I need to know 100% that you aren’t before we continue.” Her loud voice seemed to boom out the door and down the hallway into the prying and judging ears of all the other mothers. I looked over at my own mother who was staring at the machines go beep beep buzz.
“Miss, it’s VERY important that we get this right. ARE…YOU…PREGNANT?”
Now my mom looked over. “Of course she’s not pregnant, look at the girl she’s skin and bones.” My plan of not eating to conceal it had worked a little too well, I suppose.
Then a faint voice spoke up, quiet and weak and breaking to tears. “Yes.”
Who was that? That was me, I’m pretty sure *I* just said that. Why would I betray myself, had they dosed me up already? “Yes I’m pregnant.” There I went again. I could only see my mother out of the corner of my eye but I’m pretty sure she was staring at me with her mouth open in shock. I couldn’t speak to her.
“Right, that’s better then. Let’s get an ultrasound.”
“Why do you need an ultrasound if she told you she’s pregnant?” My mother, always coming to my rescue even when she’s unhappy with me, it’s sickening isn’t it?
“I’m afraid she may be having a miscarriage.” The matter of fact nurse said rather astutely and without pause.
Now all the feelings started welling up inside me and I started crying. I had just wanted my mother to know and now I may be losing the child I wasn’t sure I had wanted but now suddenly wanted very badly. Everything would be ok if this child would just be healthy I could get my life back on track. Everything would be ok and I’d be able to take care of my children.
But everything wasn’t OK. It was a miscarriage. Kora remained an only child.
My mother didn’t speak much of it and just told my father I was sick and they were running tests, needed to keep me overnight, I’d be home tomorrow. “Please give Kora a bath and feed her and put her to bed, won’t you dear?”
‘Like he wouldn’t feed his granddaughter and put her to bed,’ I said under my breath, my anger looking to lash out at anyone but myself. I mostly lashed out at God and told him he was a cruel God for teasing me and playing with me like I’m a toy and not taking my prayers seriously or something like that. I know I became more cynical about the whole subject and would find myself repeating words Danny had taught me when the subject came up and it didn’t matter who I was talking to.
Shortly after all of this Kora turned 2. She liked to talk a lot, thanks to my dad who had given up drinking when she came into his life and played with her constantly, often only handing her over to mom to be changed or fed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that man smile so much and it’s a stark difference from what he used to be. Further proof to me that alcohol was the root of all evil in my life. But of course I didn’t need it to be angry because I had learned from 2 of the best angry men I knew. Sometimes I’d get bitter towards my father and lash out at him. He wouldn’t really know why but I’d always run off and cry having lashed out because he never played with me the way he did with Kora.
So her birthday comes around and of course I don’t really know anyone to help me throw a party, Sherry wouldn’t have been a good candidate and I had long since stopped talking to her anyway. So my mother and some people at the church threw her this really big birthday party at one of those kids’ restaurants. You know the ones, right, with the loud games, overpriced food, and severe lack of aspirin on the menu?
Well boy weren’t they all just so excited to see ME! Just as I had figured everyone had SOMETHING to say.
‘Girl you look TOO THIN! Let’s get you a hamburger.’ No.
‘Are you feeling alright?’ No.
‘We sure do MISS you at church.’ Ohhhh and I miss all of YOU, TOO! Wait, was that too sarcastic?
‘When do you think you’ll be back?’ When does the Mayan Calendar say the world will end? Have pigs started to fly yet?
No, I didn’t say any of this other than no I don’t want a burger. They brought me one anyway and I picked at it as I did most of my food. Then they started talking about all of THEIR kids. Not to me, to my mom, of course. Then they started talking about OTHER people’s kids. Don’t adults have ANYTHING else to talk about?
‘Oh did you hear Vicky’s son is going to college.’
‘Oh good I had heard he might not get in.’
‘Well he did the Good Lord gave him a full scholarship.’
I think the state of Arkansas and its university gave him a full scholarship, but hey, who am I to know whether God is on their board of directors.
Then came the gifts. One lady gave Kora a set of DVD’s of her favorite show that I couldn’t stand. Another lady gave her a bunch of clothes that I couldn’t afford. The pastors wife gave her some ride a long toy that I couldn’t put together. And my mother got her this big princess play set.
I got her a teddy bear. That was all I could afford.
I cried that night. Ok wait, I cried almost every night but this night was different. There had been a time when I was getting beaten most every day yet still knew I would give my daughter everything she ever wanted and now I was only beating up myself and couldn’t give her anything.
I was failing as a mother, I was failing as a daughter, I was failing as a human being, and I had already failed as a wife. I was working at McDonalds, living with my parents, and my daughter would have nothing were it not for these sickeningly overly generous people. I had to change.
I now had clear goals in my head. I wanted my own place, my own car, my own money that could support my own family which meant a better job.