In blue ball point pen she had written, "What happened??? Is everything OK?" I want to cry. I hate feeling like I have let my teacher down. She had just suggested I be moved up to accelerated history. How do I show appreciation for that recognition? I barely hit a low B.
It would be one of the only three times I could ever remember someone asking me in my life if there was something wrong. She never confronted me again about it. She never stopped me after class. I would never have to answer her. Even if she had asked, I would never have had the courage to say, "No. Everything is not OK. Can you help me?"
I've heard women carry on about the abuse they have suffered from men they knew. I'm ashamed to say I am always skeptical. I find it unusual to almost brag about being mistreated. In my experiences, one holds it in as a secret they keep close with a great fear someone could find out. What if people knew? What would they whisper behind my back? Would I be an outcast? Would I be a headline in our small local paper? Would I be removed from my home?
Out of that fear I will never answer Mrs. Boehning. I am not sure how serious her inquiry really was or if she wanted to stress her disappointment. I don't make the same mistake twice, and my next paper has the familiar triple digits of which I am accustom in her class. She always makes the zeros have dots for eyes and the enforcing line underneath the grade curves and smiles upward so that the 100 has a friendly and approving grin. When I have a goofey smiley face celebrating a perfect score I don't cause suspicion. Nothing can be wrong if my grades are good. No questions asked. But, Mrs. Boehning, everything is not OK. I am too timid and fearful to tell anyone the truth, and no one has taken the time or responsibility to notice.
5:00 pm. My mom gets off work at 5:00 pm. My stomach turns a little as I realize she is about to come to our neighbor's home to pick us up and take us home.
From about 3:30 pm to 5:15 pm, our neighbor Debbie watches us. She picks each of us up from school and somehow manages to get to each of three schools on time. She has two children of her own, as well. After school we act out our favorite video game, Mario Brothers, with her kids in Debbie's back yard. We pretend to smash bricks with our heads and run the outermost boundaries of her fenced yard. We follow the trail her dogs have already beaten down for us. I always get to be the princess. This is one of the few areas I tend to get my way. My younger sister always is stuck being King Koopa. Luckily for me, the boys seem annoyed with her, so they gladly equate her with the villain of the video game. In real life, I always considered her to be the princess. I am not sure if it is because she is the youngest or if my mother truly resents me, but Jessica always has had better favor with Mom. But before 5:15 pm, I am the Princess.
One day many years later, when I am 18 years old, my mother will have a moment where she is unable to control her anger. She will tell me why she hates me. She will tell me she could have aborted me when she got knocked up with me in the back seat of my Dad's car. She will tell me how she tried to make him stay by having two more children with him, but Dad wouldn't stay. She will look at me so coldly I will realize she blames me for the life she did not have and for the bad decisions she will not hold herself accountable for. I will begin to understand.
But for now, I am Princess Peach, a sixth-grader playing in the backyard of the house next door to the one that stole my joy.