Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Story: HOPE UNlimited

She stood with her hands resting on the rim of the bathroom basin. Her head was pounding, and there was the taste of bile in her mouth. Slowly she raised her head and stared at her reflection through a curtain of blond hair. The young lady hardly recognised the woman that was looking back at her.

The ‘monster’ in the mirror, had black smudges around her eyes, with streaks down her cheeks. Had she been crying? Her hair was greasy and the dark roots of her blond high-lighted hair were obvious. The reflection was dressed in a crumpled long sleeved top, and jeans that had degenerated to become small shorts. Was she getting fat?

The rag doll stared at her reflection and started crying, although she avoided moving her head too much.
“I don’t want this…” she said, as she bent over the tap to cup water in her hand to drink.

“Where have you been?”

The question startled her and sent shockwaves through her head and constricted her airway.

“Out” she replied to her mother’s question, as she turned to face her nemesis in the doorway to the bathroom.

“When I came home last night from my date with Brian, you weren’t home. That was just after midnight! I told you that you were grounded for disappearing last weekend, and that you had to baby sit your brother!”

The daughter retorted sarcastically, “Michael is fourteen! He doesn’t need a baby sitter, he needs a life! He locks himself away in his room and gets up to all kinds of things in there. I’ve been through his room and you’d be horrified at his choice of reading material. Then there’s his computer!”

“He’s not the problem! You are!” her mother spat, as she turned and slammed the bathroom door behind her

The young woman opened her mouth to say something, but couldn’t think of anything to say. She just turned to her reflection and mouthed,
“I hate you.”

There were flickering images of the previous night flashing like frames from a broken news reel. The pictures were of her…doing things…She wretched.
“Please tell me that was just a dream. A nightmare…” she whispered.

She felt sick. She felt so ashamed. Then there were the flashes of guilt, and self-loathing that came with the few snapshots of the previous night’s misadventure. She tried her best to escape the overwhelming desire to run.
To run, and run, and run!

During the course of the day the young lady had taken more paracetamol and aspirin than she should and had drunk loads of water. She felt half human again. Her friends had called her and told her that there was a party tonight at a nightclub and they had VIP tickets. Their only problem was transport. The almost rhetorical question had been asked if her mother was going out, and could they take her car. She asked herself the same questions that she had asked many times before: Were they really her friends? Why were they her friends? Did they actually care about her? These friends of hers only seemed to include her and accept her if she was ‘doing stuff’. She was always the one who had to drink more than the guys. She was always the one who had to ask guys to dance with her friends, while she sat alone. She always had to do the things they didn’t want to do. She felt like some kind of freaky experiment! Nobody understood, and nobody cared.

Anyway, her mother would be out all night. Michael would be holed up in his room, and the car would be available. She knew where the spare key was hidden (discovered on one of her raids into her mother’s make-up) and it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to take the car. Without a licence, she would just have to keep to the back roads, and sit on a cushion to make herself look older. Even as these thoughts went through her mind, she was already feeling twinges of guilt. This was really dishonest, and wasn’t the same as stealing gold coins from her mother’s purse.

Oh well! She would get the five of them to the VIP party, have a blast (she wouldn’t drink of course!) and have the car back by eleven. Too easy!

Later that evening, her mother left shouting for both Michael and her ‘not to wait up’. It was a familiar attempt at humour. The young woman stood brushing her hair, and looked completely different from the ‘monster’ that had been the reflection earlier that day. She was well turned out for a seventeen year old.
“I don’t look so bad” she told herself, as she regained some confidence in herself and her appearance. She turned around and went into her room which could only be described as ‘hectic’. She sat down heavily on the small spare corner of her bed and glanced over to the family portrait taken so many years ago. The photo was taken on Phillip Island looking out to Seal Rock. They looked so happy, so perfect. A real family! She smiled weakly as she looked at the five year old with pig-tails and toothless grin. Michael was squinting against the sunlight, as he sat in the crook of his mother’s arm. Her mother looked young and pretty. The picture was the last one of them together as a family. She vaguely remembered, her mother sitting her down, with Michael and saying;
“Daddy’s gone on a big airplane to do business in America! He’s only going for a short while and then he’ll be home with lots of presents for you!”

Anger welled up inside of her that bordered on hatred, as she recalled how they waited and waited. He never came home. Many years later, he would re-appear seeking separation and what would turn out to be an emotional long distance divorce. As the mystery unravelled, it became clear what had happened. He had ‘met’ somebody, and ‘things just went on from there…’ What kind of man…husband…father would just dump a family, and live a ‘normal’ life thousands of kilometres away, with different people, perhaps even a new family.

Her mother had struggled more than most. She never got closure in the early years of his disappearance. The man, who was supposed to be her father, discarded a woman and two young children. There was no real ‘family’ to speak of, and support came in the form of Welfare services, and occasional hampers from a local church. Then there were her mother’s boyfriends – a long stream of them. The nice ones never stayed, and her mother battled to rid herself of the bad ones. She remembered her mother saying to her and her brother, that they didn’t need a father. Men were bad news! They were good for nothing! Sadly, that didn’t extend to her social life.

The young lady’s eyes started burning, and her throat tightened as she remembered all the comments she endured at school. Her heart really went out to Michael who had been bullied and teased relentlessly. They were both misfits, outcasts. Many times they had been the kids without parents attending school concerts, and sports events. Their mother was always working; and as she always reminded her burdensome children, that she was “sacrificing everything to keep them out of foster homes”. Her whole life seemed to be a dark hole of loneliness, despair, and total helplessness. It seemed like a cycle of failure and disappointment. Nobody understood! Her mother didn’t care and her friends just used her to do crazy things they were too scared (or maybe too smart) to do.

She glanced at the bedside clock, it was eight thirty. Time to go! She took the spare key for the car in her hand and looked at it with some trepidation. She grabbed her handbag, walked out of her bedroom and closed the door. She hesitated in front of Michael’s door, and then thought against telling him she was going out. He wouldn’t care anyway. She walked towards the car nervously after locking the front door, and got in. The few driving lessons she’d had would come in useful. Here goes!

The night proved to be exciting, as the adrenalin rush from collecting her mates and driving them around in her mother’s car continued onto the dance floor. She felt on top of the world! However, as the night wore on she was convinced to ‘take the edge off’ and so anxiously she drank a couple of shooters. It went downhill from there…


There were a lot of unfamiliar sounds. People talking, a wheel of a trolley making a rattling noise as it was pushed. The bed in which she lay was at an unfamiliar angle. Her lower back itched from bunched sheets, and when she tried to adjust her position her arm seemed to be glued to her side. Her mouth was parched.

She gingerly opened eyes, and with a great deal of effort the young lady focussed on her surroundings while trying to moisten the inside of her mouth with her tongue. Strangely there were some familiar aspects to this experience. Slowly the woman turned her head.

Two realisations hit her simultaneously as her gaze came to rest on her mother’s anxious face. She was in a hospital ward, and her mother was very upset. The knot that had started forming in her stomach tightened, and she felt nausea rising up to sit at the back of her throat. Fighting down the shear terror she was feeling, she managed to croak;

Her mother’s green eyes were swollen, and one could tell she had been crying - a lot.
“What were you thinking?”

The young lady’s brain almost hurt when she unsuccessfully tried to remember what had happened. As she was battling through her shock, and disorientation her mother continued.

“I just don’t understand! Why would you do this?”

What had happened?

“Not only did you write my car off – drunk! – but you also got hurt and ended up in here! Then there’s the police!” her mother stated, and then asked, “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this?”

Absolute horror rushed through her body, followed by waves of shame, guilt, and remorse. She couldn’t speak…

The mother stood up shaking her head. Standing up straight, her mother tried in vain to wipe the dark smears away under her eyes. She turned around, and started to walk out the ward slowly.

“Mum...” the daughter called softly and hoarsely. All she received in reply was a raised hand as her mother walked away.
“I wish I had died”, she whispered as her mother brushed passed a middle aged man leaning against the doorway.
She just about to close her eyes and turn away, when she saw the man walking towards her.

He was holding a white rose in his hand. The young woman looked at him suspiciously. He was in his early forties. The man looked decent. He was clean shaven, short hair, and dressed with a collared shirt, a sports jacket, and jeans. He came and stood next to her bed. He had a soft smile, and a caring look about him. He lay the white rose down on the table beside her, and she noticed a card attached to the stem with a golden ribbon. Suddenly, the woman felt very self conscious. He spoke quietly, and gently;

“We are here for you. We want to help you.”

“Who are you?” she rasped.

“Hope Unlimited”.


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7:48 am  

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