In my heart, I'm a writer. Words flow from my fingers and I can't stop. Writing is therapy to me and having this space gives me a place to share it. As I post the chapters to this story, loosely based on my childhood, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I enjoy sharing it!
Hannah sat under the huge, ancient looking oak tree in the darkest corner of her backyard with a peaceful look on her young face. She traced the lines in her small hand with her chipped painted fingernail and smiled to herself. As she drove the lines with her finger, she made her way up to the barely visible swirls in the fingertip that made up her fingerprint. Seeing the genetic make up of her skin reminded her that she was designed to be a unique person. She didn’t share the map on her hands or fingertips with her mother or sister or her bratty younger siblings. God had given everyone their own, no two alike. Just like snowflakes. She thought about how if He had taken the time to design each person in the world so special then they had to matter for something, each one of them. Those lines reminded her that she must have a purpose in her life and that made everything else okay, bearable somehow. It also reminded her, and this thought made her smile from ear to ear, that she was different from everyone else in her family.
She’d often find herself daydreaming, while gathering kindling by the woodshed or sitting in the old, broken down car that had made its home in her backyard. There were several situations that could present themselves to her at any time she assured herself daily.
Like the idea that she possibly was adopted. Except that daydream never held because she’d heard on the television that adoption cost a lot of money, and that definitely not something her family had a lot of. Also she had heard her mother complain so many times about those “half-assed, no good kids” of hers that there was no way that woman paid someone to give her another one. She was more likely to give one up for adoption than take one in! That theory was her favorite one to dream about, but she had the sense to know it pretty much stunk.
Being switched at birth was not impossible. At some point in her childhood, her real birth mother would discover she had the wrong child and be devastated. She would send her lawyer, who would be only the very best of course, to Hannah’s house, and he would demand that she leave with him to go to her real mother. She would run out the door and be reunited with this woman who was beautiful, patient, never said a swear word in her life, and bought her Northface jackets. A new one every winter. Her real mother would never complain that she was selfish for wanting the name brand version that was three times the amount of the thrift shop beauty.
Only she knew that this one wasn’t going to happen either. She was born in the next town over, only 20 minutes away, and was the only child born in the hospital that day. She had the nursery to herself, her mother had told her once. When you lived in the smallest town in the world with hardly any people in it, being switched at birth didn’t happen very often, and if it did it was probably done on purpose.
Even if she discounted the stories somewhat, she never did entirely. There was always a thread of hope in every situation, a story where the unusual happens and no one can believe it. Maybe that would happen to her and she would someday be reunited with a wonderful family that she wished for.
If someone could just tell her she didn’t have the same blood as the rest of them, then she knew she wouldn’t grow up to be angry, overweight, poor, selfish and mean. She knew she was destined for most of these traits, her damn mother had told her so many times.
“You just wait, you little princess. You’ll be fat like me someday.” her mother had screeched at her one day while Hannah was folding laundry, when she had asked her mother why her underwear were so big . Hannah held up a pair of the giant, nude-colored panties that had a gaping hole in the front and danced them around a bit at her mother. She had no intention of calling her mother fat, she knew better than that. She was genuinely curious about why a pair of undies would be so large.
“You think you’re so smart, making fun of me.” Her mother continued as she sat like a puddle on the couch, eating a can of Spam. “The older you get, the fatter you’ll get. You just watch and see.” As she said it, her eyes became snake-like slits and her nose wrinkled up funny. Her expression was full of scorn and hate. Hannah quickly put down her mother’s underwear in a pile far away from her own pile of clean clothes. She didn’t want them to touch hers. They might be contagious.
She giggled quietly as she recalled that moment, now sitting on her squeaky bed with the faded polka-dotted blanket, in the large, gray paneled wall room she shared with her older sister. It was one of her best spots to be because her little brother and sister weren’t allowed in there. Her mother didn’t like to climb the stairs very often, so she rarely came up there either. While she did have to share it with Trisha, her seventeen year old sister who was three years older than her, Trisha got to do a lot more and wasn’t home a lot. She was so lucky. The only reason her mother let Trisha do so much is because Trisha often threatened she move in with her father if mother didn’t let her go.
And she would too. Trisha had backbone, that was easy to see. It’s not like mother would miss Trisha one bit if she left to live with our dad. The real reason she didn’t want her to go is because her child support payments would be cut in half and mother relied on that money for her pull tabs and alcohol that she kept on the top shelf in the third cupboard in the kitchen. The one with the clear liquid that tasted like gasoline. Hannah knew because she had tried it once and it was so horrendously putrid tasting she had spit it immediately out of her mouth, shooting it straight onto her mother’s plastic covered lamp shade.
Yes her sister had the backbone and along with it, freedom, two things she sorely lacked herself. She was the second child, with Trisha being the oldest and she also had two younger siblings, a brother and a sister, that were only halves. Gordy, her step dad, was their real dad. Hannah shared her real dad with Trisha. Because Trisha was gone so much, a lot of the chores and watching the younger kids became Hannah’s job now. She became really good at doing what she was told and staying out of the room when things got hairy. Things got hairy quite a bit around their house. More than quite a bit even. She was beginning to realize that most families weren’t at all like hers, and that just made everything even harder.
She woke to sound of kids playing outside the window down below and a loud motor revving by the front of the house. Looking at the clock, she sprang out of bed without thinking twice, knowing how cranky her mom got if she slept past ten. Just once she wanted to sleep in and dream a little longer. Sometimes she felt like that was the only time she wasn't nervous or worrying.
Hannah looked at her reflection in the pink framed mirror that was tacked to the wall next to her dresser. She ran her fingers through her long, wavy brown hair and stuck out her chest to see if her boobs had gotten any bigger overnight. Trisha was always teasing her that she didn’t have any boobs, but mom had told her that she thinks someday hers were going to be a lot bigger than Trisha’s. Hannah didn’t really care about the boobs, but she did want Trisha to eat her words and therefore she prayed for them to grow every single night. She could tell it was working.
As soon as Hannah got downstairs each morning, she always discovered her mother doing the same thing-having a cigarette at the kitchen table with her hair matted on one side where she slept hard the night before. The big, brown bags under her eyes were always twice the size in the morning, reminding Hannah of a hound dog. Her younger sister and brother were usually outside playing or down the road at the neighbor’s house. She’d send Hannah out to check on them, telling her to come right back. When she did, there was always a chicken-scratched list of things that she needed to get at the store down the road. Today was no different and the list waited for her with a wrinkled wad of cash next it on the table. Her mother had gone back to bed, with her giant, holey underwear and matted hair and stinking cigarette mouth.
Get from store
pads-the long kind that say “overnight”
Hannah rolled her eyes and chewed a length of hair as she read the list. It was so embarrassing picking up those big packages of period pads for her mother. She usually had to get them for Trisha too and sometimes had to get two different kinds. She kicked the chair as she left the kitchen. “Damn stupid pads!” she muttered under her breath as she made her way outside.
She did like walking to the store. It was only a couple of blocks from her house, but it was a peaceful time of the day for her. She especially liked going by Mrs. Klockow’s place with the blue shutters and windows with the flowers. It always smelled like something good cooking and she wished she could go see what it was. Just down the road from Klockow’s place was a playground that she usually saw a few of her friends hanging at. .
Today there wasn’t anyone there and she was glad because the morning was so quiet and she wanted it to stay that way. The sun was shining bright, as it usually did on those mid-summer days in Wisconsin. A few cars slowly drove down the street, with nowhere special to go she was sure, but other than that only birds made any noise.
The grocery store was on the corner of the next block, right by the town’s river and bridge. It was a tiny store, with only 3 aisles and not a lot of selection, but the aisles weren’t what Hannah noticed there anyway. There was something a lot better than that to look at in Ted’s Corner Grocery. His name was Josh and he was the most beautiful boy she’d ever seen. He was the only reason she didn’t resist taking trips to the store, sometimes three times a day, because everyone else was too lazy!
She pulled on the hem of her jean shorts and brushed back her hair as she entered the store, the obnoxious bells jingling as it slammed shut behind her. She waved at Mary the clerk and made her way back to the canned goods aisle. She threw a big old can of Spam in the basket and peeked around the corner. Josh worked in the small meat department at the back of the store alongside his fat old man, Frank. He was a year older than her, but he acted so much cooler than any boy she’d ever talked to. He was nowhere in sight, but she could hear a machine running in the back so she knew someone was there.
Then she remembered that pads were on the list of things to get and swore under her breath. She made her way to the very back aisle where the big blue bags of them were. Of course they had to be blue and bright green so that everyone within five miles of the store could see her buying them. She quickly grabbed the box of “overnight” longs and threw them in her basket, hugging it closely to her to disguise the blue showing through. She walked quickly to the front of the store to the sole checkout lane and plopped the basket down, looking behind her to make sure no one was there. As she pulled the giant blue bag of pads out of the basket and slapped it on the crooked conveyer belt, she looked up and there he was. Josh.
“Good God!” she hissed under her breath. The heat ran up her neck and filled her entire head and she could just picture the beet-red color it had turned. Her ears were flaming hot, like they always got when she was embarrassed. She pulled the remaining ingredients out of the basket and piled them on top of the pads, so they were the last thing he or anyone would see.
Josh made a funny noise and she looked up to catch him smirking. “Hey Hannah, what’s new?” He was wearing a bloodied white butcher’s apron and a baseball cap covered his bushy dark hair. He had a cocky grin on his face as he rang up the purchases. One by one she watched him pull the cans and boxes off of the pad bag. She could actually hear the blood pumping into her head as her body realized the horror of the situation.
“Ah, hey, hi.” She managed to breathe out even though she could hear how odd she sounded. She looked down and saw that only one thing remained on the conveyer belt. The giant, bright blue box of pads that “Keep you dry even on your heaviest flow days!”
“You know those are NOT for me. They are for my mom and sister.” She tried to sound cool. She failed.
“What? Oh, these things?” He asked as he picked up the overnighters and tossed them in the air. “What are they anyhow?”
She stared at him in horror. His bushy eyebrows were practically touching his hairline he was so curious. How was she supposed to answer that? “Well, er, ummm, they are for, you know, that time of the month…”
“Huh? What time of the month?” She looked at his face to read whether or not a joke was there, but she didn‘t know him well enough to read his moods.
She coughed and grabbed the bag of groceries. “I can not possibly explain this to you. You really don’t want to know!“ She rushed out the heavy store door, slamming her bony knee on the side of it on the way out.
“MOTHER EFFER!” She yelled as she hit the sidewalk outside, hopping up and down and rubbing her knee. The top of the bag drooped over and out came the atrocious period pads. She dropped the entire bag on the ground and slumped in defeat. Josh came hurrying out the door. He helped to pull her up and picked up the pads and put them back in the bag.
“You forgot to pay” he said with a funny twist in his voice. Hannah looked up at him to identify why he sounded so different. He had a huge grin on his handsome face and she could tell he was doing everything he could to not burst out laughing. She looked deep into his eyes, her own narrowed in suspicion, silently pleading with God to make her disappear.
Good Lord, somehow, even though she was more embarrassed than she’d ever been in her life, she wanted to sit there all day and look into his pompous, beautiful eyes.
She dug a wad of bills from her pocket and ripped out a twenty, shoving it in his face. “Keep the change” she sputtered and flung the grocery bag off of the sidewalk and stormed off, limping back toward her house. The corner of the grocery bag was ripped open on the bottom and the contents threatened to spill out. She rolled her eyes so hard they felt like they’d come loose and cursed every swear word her mother had ever spoken. There were two things she knew: One-she was never EVER buying her mother and sister pads again! They could walk their lazy butts down to the store and get them themselves. She would flat out refuse no matter what her mother said. Two-Josh Masterson made her heart beat so hard inside of her she thought she just might die.