Missing Pieces of Me – Part 3

Trigger Warning – I really hate those words but please use wisdom reading this. Pray first, and if necessary either read with someone you trust, or do not read it. Some of this is necessarily more explicit than I wish it to be; I have spared the reader most of what I remember.

Cate


In 1964 we moved down to the California desert so my father could be near his mother (my Nana). We went from riches to rags, and my father tried a few jobs while he was running from his cancer. He became a deputy sheriff, and we were fairly settled for a little while in a small town called Desert Hot Springs, California.

One day I was outside, standing in the desert alone, and I remember that God spoke to me. He told me that I would have three children, and I would heal people. I didn’t know God at the time, and since my family didn’t have a religion, I didn’t know that Jesus was God’s Son, either. However, I implicitly believed that what God told me was true. These words helped to carry me through some of the darkest days of my life, and no matter where I have been, I have always kept them hidden in my heart.

When I was in the second grade, we began moving around a lot. We moved all over the Mojave Desert – Palm Springs, North Palm Springs, Yucca Valley, Desert Hot Springs and other places. I do remember that we even tried Prescott, Arizona and South Pasadena, California for a brief time. I went to five different schools in the second grade. After that I have no memory for several years.

We eventually moved back to the high desert, and settled down in Morongo Valley, California for a while, and that was the beginning of supernatural occurrences that were to plague my life for years.

My mother had decided to take up with a Metaphysical group (Ding Le Mei) in the high desert, and eventually got mixed up with Transcendental Meditation, Sant Mat (The Path of the Saints) – Ascended Masters (I call those demons descended bastards now), and was forcing us kids to be vegetarians. My father wasn’t keen on it, and there were a lot of fights between the two of them.

One Thanksgiving in defiance of my mother, Daddy let Cameron eat as much turkey breast as he wanted to, since Cammy was the only one brave enough to take Daddy up on the offer. He was so full he couldn’t poop or puke – he just rolled in agony on the couch for a while until he could finally digest some of it.

It was shortly after that I was awakened one night by my father. He had been drinking, and they had been fighting; he told me he was leaving my mother and asked me if I wanted to come with him. I wanted to desperately, but I was so afraid of my mother that I said no. It was a terrible choice, and I cried all night after he left. And though my father came home the next day, a great big crack began to form in my trust of him and what little sense of well-being I had.

I had to be eleven or twelve by this time, because there were six of us kids now –Christi, Cameron, Clifton, Clayton, Carlyn, and me. The boys had one bedroom and the girls had another. My parents slept on a sofa-bed in the living room.

My sister, Christi, and I shared a double bed, and my baby sister, Carlyn, slept in a playpen. One night, Christi was already sleeping, but I laid awake listening to the sounds of “Laugh-In” on the television, when suddenly at the foot of my bed Satan appeared. I knew he was bad, though I didn’t know who he was at that time. He was wearing a top hat and a tuxedo coat and tails – kind of like Fred Astaire – but he appeared in photo-negative image, and he was laughing at me. So his body was all black and his tuxedo appeared white, even though I could tell that it was the opposite.  I was frozen with fear and could not move until he had had his laugh and finally left me alone. Then like a shot I was up and out of my bed, running into the living room and climbing, sobbing, into my daddy’s lap. I told him what I saw, and he didn’t believe me, but he tried to comfort me by telling me that it was just a bad dream. I don’t know where in the house my mother was at the time, but there was always this sense of her disapproval that hovered over us like a bad angel and forced us to separate before we could incur her wrath. I stayed up for a few minutes, sitting on Daddy’s lap with my arms around his neck, watching Goldie Hawn’s foolishness on the television screen, and then Daddy sent me back to bed.

When my mother punished me, there was anger, rage, disgust, inconvenience, resentment and even hatred but never, ever love. But I can’t remember my father ever hitting me. When my father disciplined me, there was love in it. Even if I was punished for something dangerous or irresponsible, it seemed clear that he had fear of harm being done to me, or other genuine concern mixed with love.

But he did some things that didn’t make sense, especially as I look back on them. I had a horror of spiders, and a fact of living in the desert: there are spiders everywhere. Each morning after we got up and had breakfast, if it wasn’t a school day we all went out to play except the littlest sister. One time Daddy was already outside sitting in a chair and he called me over to him to come give him a kiss. I happily went to say good morning and he brought out a mason jar with a live tarantula inside. I screamed, and he made me come near to see it. I don’t know what he was thinking, but it certainly solidified my terror of spiders and robbed me of sleep for many nights afterward.

We had a goat pen down below our house, and Daddy also had a cage with homing pigeons and a kinkajou he had bartered with the landlord to get (the pic at the top of this page is a kinkajou). The kinkajou was nocturnal, and I thought it was beautiful, but I was afraid of it. Daddy called me into the cage to sit with him while he held it. He wanted me to touch it and hold it, but I was afraid. I asked him if it could bite me, and he said yes. I asked if it would hurt, and he said yes, but not very much and that after it had bit me once I would be satisfied and understand not to be afraid. I just couldn’t do it. Not long after, the kinkajou escaped into the desert and we never found it.

There was one day I came home from school in the fourth grade and handed my dad a note. It was permission to attend a class telling about human reproduction. He called it “sex education” and I nearly fell through the floor. I never said that word, and couldn’t believe Daddy said it to me. I was so embarrassed, and my mother called me a prude back then. It was a different time in our country, when the Miss America and all lesser pageants were promoting the sex goddesses but everyone else was supposed to be normal and modest. Of course, teenagers in high school were given a certain amount of latitude and the beach party movies were forbidden to me.

One day we were locked out of the house – all six of us kids. My brother Cameron was very rebellious and he found a way to break into the house. After that, my dad called us all into the house and had a talk with us. Apparently my brother had found my parents having sex. Daddy said, “Your mother and I were doing what’s called ‘fucking’.” He must have thought my brother would come out with some story to tell that would have been frightening or confusing, so he decided to clear it up for us. Looking back I realized that there were many other euphemisms or descriptions he could have used, but given the state of their relationship, that is the one that most closely fit his feelings for our mother.

***

We had to move from that house and I guess we sold the goats and gave the homing pigeons back to the landlord. We moved to a dilapidated place called Morris Ranch in Morongo Valley. Apparently this was the site of a feud at one time, and in the barn Daddy discovered a hidden cache of guns and ammo. He was worried about booby traps and animal traps on the property possibly hurting one of us kids, so he carefully went over the areas that we were allowed to play in, and he forbade us to go anywhere else.

That was the house where little Clifton pulled the boiling hot coffee percolator off the counter and had to be rushed to the hospital miles away. He came home bandaged from head to his waist and some on his legs. It was just awful.

Our mother picked up a couple of hippies and invited them to stay with us at that house. I don’t know where she met them, but they seemed to be involved in the same metaphysical stuff she was into. Daddy privately told me they were worthless bums just sponging off of us, and he didn’t want them staying there.

I don’t remember leaving Morris Ranch, and I don’t know where we lived in between, but eventually we moved to Pine Cove, California, where Nana and Don (my step-grandpa) had bought a duplex (upper and lower units). We moved in, with Nana and Don living upstairs and us downstairs. It was a two bedroom house, so Daddy set up three sets of double bunk beds in one room for us kids, and he and our mother had the other room. It was tight.

My dad had a pet rat named Buffy, and she was really cute. She was pretty young, but she was very friendly and we loved her. I remember at the end of a school year my science teacher asked if someone would take home the class pet rat, and I volunteered. My mother was mad at me for bringing him home, but I was allowed to keep him there for a while. One day I wanted to let Buffy play with him, and so I let them into the same cage. My mother came out and slapped my face and called me a slut, and it was only later that I found out that she thought I meant for them to mate. How that would have made me a slut (I didn’t yet know the meaning of the word), I have no idea. The visiting rat was removed from our home, and I assume he was returned to the teacher.

I remember going to the store for my dad once. He had given me a $20 bill and a note to buy cigarettes for him, and I had to get milk and something else. The people who owned the store also ran it. Mr. K rang me up and it wasn’t until I got home that I found out that he short-changed me $10. Daddy asked me what happened, and so I went back and told Mr. K that he didn’t give me my ten dollars. He denied it and treated me like a stupid little child. I had to go home and tell Daddy that he wouldn’t give me back the money. I guess this was supposed to be a lesson in responsibility. But to my mind, it was unjust, and this was one situation where I decided I would take exactly ten dollars’ worth of merchandise from that store if they wouldn’t give me the money back. So I did. I never got caught. My conscience bothered me a little bit because I didn’t steal stuff for the family, knowing I would get in big trouble. I took cookies and candy and stuff like that, and stashed it where nobody could find me eating it. I was always hungry, and my conscience didn’t hurt me all that much.

We eventually found a bigger house several miles away in Idyllwild and moved. Then the boys had their own bedroom and so did us girls, and we shared a wall with our parents, whose bedroom was on the other side. There was a big living room and dining area and a small galley kitchen. There was a shop/garage area and soon after, another goat pen. This house was down on Tollgate Road, and we lived there through my eighth grade.

One day I got kicked between the legs at school. There was blood. My mother took me to a doctor and I didn’t know why. He wasn’t our family doctor, and I had never met him before. I had to be forced onto that exam table in front of him, and had to “ride the stirrups” as my mother crudely put it; I think that was the first time I truly felt like I wanted to die. Nothing prepared me for what he was going to do to me, and my mother was grim and unhelpful. All I could understand from her talk was that the girl who kicked me might get sued for ruining something inside of me – much later I learned that it was my hymen – and apparently the doctor confirmed that the blood came from surface lacerations. On that day I had an odd mixture of feelings. Aside from wanting to die, my mother had taken interest in me and hadn’t made me go back to school. It was the closest thing to positive attention I had received from her in a long time. But I didn’t know her personal, selfish reasons for that whole thing. For her pride was everything. Appearances were everything. It didn’t matter what went on privately as long as it wasn’t made public knowledge. How anyone would have known if I was still a virgin was not the important thing, and it was entirely possible that I had already had reconstructive surgery to restore virginity that had been taken from me by then, and she was checking on her investment, or making sure her slave was still intact. It certainly wasn’t because she cared about me or did the things that normal mothers did for and with their daughters.

Daddy took me to buy my first brassiere – my mother was far too jealous of me to do that. I remember pulling up to the store in a strip mall that my Nana recommended, and Daddy was singing a little song: “zeer, zeer, zeer we’re going to buy Cate a brassiere”. I saw a boy from school in the parking lot; I was mortified so I begged Daddy not to sing that song. He stopped singing the words, but kept humming the little tune as we walked into the store. It was a store that only sold women’s foundation items. A lady helped me find the proper bra and a girdle, since that was my Nana’s recommendation. I was somewhere around 12 years old, and I have no idea why I needed a girdle. I was a beanpole, tall and lanky and I guess it was just what someone from my Nana’s generation would do so she thought it was appropriate. Anyway, I got a bra and girdle that fit and Daddy bought it for me. We went to Nana’s house, and I was made to model it in front of Daddy and Nana. I was mortified. But my relief over not having to go with my mother outweighed my embarrassment, so I counted myself lucky.

I didn’t get another bra until a year or so later when a box of clothes came to us. They were hand-me-downs from a family we were friends with. They had a teenage daughter who was older than I. I found two lovely flower-patterned bras that I just fell in love with – one turquoise and one pink. I sneaked them out of the box, and ran to try them on in the bathroom. They were 32B and they fit me perfectly. I had quit wearing my other bra because it was too small and tight on me; I was happy because now I could go to school without embarrassment over what showed through my shirt. Then to my horror my mother asked me what happened to the bras: I didn’t know she knew about them. I swallowed hard and told her I took them. She said; “Did they fit?” I said yes. She just said “Oh” and walked away. Inside I was doing a happy dance because she didn’t beat me or slap me and she let me keep them!!

I think it was a natural reaction for me to shut my mind to all things sexual about my mother, because she made me feel so humiliated. Her attitudes toward me being a prude and a puritan, alternating with calling me a slut and a vixen, and anything else insulting she could say to me or about me to strangers, told me that sex was something I didn’t want any part of and I was mortified to even discuss it. Somehow I had developed modesty, and I considered sex and sexuality to be a very private matter – one I didn’t suppose I really would want to experience, except perhaps with Bobby Sherman or Davey Jones from the Monkees, and that was only in my fantasies that we would kiss and hug. I had no erotic ideas, I simply wanted love.

When I was 12 years old or maybe 13, I was allowed to go sing in the choir at the local Community Presbyterian Church. Nana was the church organist and she also ran the choir. One day after coming out of church after choir rehearsal, a man approached me and said I was quite the lovely young lady, and he noticed my chest and asked me if that was all me. I was shocked. I must have nodded my head and then he said well why don’t we go behind the church and you can prove it to me. I felt like a target, and by the grace of God I was able to get away from him. I was mortified by this incident and when I got home I told my mother about it. She said whatever you do don’t tell your father because he would go and kill the man. She did not try to comfort me or reassure me in any way, but instead gave me the impression that it would be a punishable offense if I disobeyed her. But the problem ate away at me until finally one day I decided to tell Daddy about it. He told me that my mother had already told him about it. He was sick in bed that day and he did not have much in the way of reassurance for me, but I did not hold it against him. However, I felt betrayed by her. It was just another way for her to maintain control of the narrative. She thrived on controlling information; information was power.

The one time my mother seemed to take an interest in me was for my 14th birthday. But the way she did it was so sadistic that it scarred me. She conspired with my last period teacher to keep me after school for detention, and I was told my mother would be coming in. I was made to wait out in the hallway, and when my mother showed up she had a big paper bag in her hands and she told me to stay in the hallway and went into the class. I nearly vomited from fear. After about 30 minutes I was told to come inside. It was a surprise party and there were about half a dozen girls there – most of whom couldn’t stand me because I was so “weird”. I received my first pair of panty hose, in public, and the whole thing was the worst humiliation I could remember having received from her up to that point.

***

I was 14 years old the summer that Daddy left us.

I had just come back from a summer retreat – conservation camp in Idyllwild, a week hiking and camping with a bunch of other girls, compliments of an anonymous donor. It was summer, and school was going to start shortly. I had a wonderful time learning how to short-sheet beds, telling ghost stories, cooking, and gaining some insight from kind and friendly adults who were not busy dying, or finding ways to punish me. Of course, the fun I had was so all-consuming, and the week blew by before I knew it. I even developed a relationship with a “boyfriend” – forever in my memory he is GI Joe – he taught me how to play Cribbage.

My mother was even more vicious once I returned. It was probably because her cook, housekeeper and babysitter was not available and she had to do something besides sit on her can and draw pictures of her dream farm, eat candy, smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and mete out punishment to my siblings.

One night shortly after my return, I heard a commotion in my daddy’s room, and since it wasn’t yet bedtime, I came out of my bedroom (shared with two sisters) and my mother told me that she had just beaten Daddy up in bed. I was horrified, but she had a wild look in her eyes, as she huffed and puffed, and was clearly proud of what she had done. I was mortified. I couldn’t understand it. Why beat up Daddy? He was already so sick he couldn’t eat, and what little he tried to drink always came back up. I was ashamed and afraid, and I went to my room and got in bed and covered my head so nobody would see me cry.

Daddy started telling my mother he had a lot of pain in his guts, and she told him it was all psychosomatic – a word she had learned and felt she was qualified to dispense. Of course, I boiled the syringes and needles that he needed for daily injections of Demerol for pain, so I knew that at least one doctor thought my daddy’s pain was real. A few more days and Daddy said he suddenly felt something burst and the pain wasn’t nearly as bad. He went to the hospital but they couldn’t figure it out, so they sent him home. While he was gone I went to his bedroom to get something and stumbled upon an envelope with a list scrawled on it. It looked like a will – parting out his possessions to the six of us kids. I asked him about it and that was the first time I realized he was really going to die. I had no place to put this information, nothing in me could accept it. I simply watched and worried.

He dropped so much weight he looked like a frame with little flesh on, and he was getting sicker and sicker. The last time I laid eyes on him, he was gaunt and almost as grey as stone, wearing his maroon bathrobe and some old slippers, climbing into the back seat of his mom’s maroon Cadillac so he could lie down. Nana was taking him to Loma Linda University Hospital near San Bernardino. It was going to take more than an hour to get there.

Days passed and I asked if I could see Daddy. Mother said no, that children weren’t allowed. Then one day my Uncle Rob (Nana’s brother) came to pick me up and take me to San Berdoo to stay with him and Aunt Doris for a few days. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew it couldn’t be good. Everything seemed so far away, and I felt like I was sleepwalking. I often went for walks by myself in the neighborhood. One day I came back to find my mother waiting for me. She took me to the room I was using, and sat me down to tell me a story. It was a convoluted fairy tale about reincarnation and Descended Bastards, and as she waxed eloquent with a gleam in her eye, I cut her short, bluntly asking if she was trying to tell me that my Daddy was dead. She was displeased but chose not to slap me this time. She said yes, he was dead. Then she said that Daddy saw Jesus and (her ascended) Master before he died. I didn’t even know what to do. Everything began to recede from my view, and I caught myself before I fainted. I said not one word to her as I left her sitting on my bed.

Uncle Rob and Aunt Doris were sitting in the living room with stunned worry marking their faces. I said, “Did you think I was going to scream and throw a fit?” And I walked out the door.

I didn’t know God yet.  After years of my mother forcing all of us to be vegetarians while she pursued her “Descended Bastards”, I still knew nothing of God. Metaphysical and dark spiritual teaching clouded my mind, and as I walked and cried out to the sky, I found that I had no hope left.

Back home, it was forbidden for us kids to cry. We were not to show our grief because our mother didn’t want the pity of strangers. Nana came to visit us when she could, though our mother didn’t like her, and now had the power to keep her away. On one of her rare visits, I learned that Daddy had asked for me to come and visit in the hospital. It wasn’t against the rules after all, but my mother had the power to prevent me, and so she did. That afternoon my sister Christi, my brother Cameron and I went out to the garage and stood in a sort of circle and just wailed our pain. There were no words that could express our devastation. We weren’t safe even out there. Our mother opened the door and savagely ordered us to stop crying and get to the house.

Our neighbor, Mrs. Reppe, cooked up a giant pan of stuffed cabbage and sent it over for us to eat. Our mother wasn’t at home, so we went ahead and started eating. There was meat in it, and we knew we’d get in trouble for it, but we were so hungry we ate it anyway. When she returned, she was really angry, and told me to take the pot of food back to our neighbor. I don’t know what she thought when she found that we had eaten part of it. I only know that we got away with eating it, even though there was meat in it, and we truly wished we could have eaten the rest of it.

I realized early on that Barbara (mother) could order us not to grieve because she had no grief herself! I knew about her affairs, and she had already had a man into our home, into my father’s bed, and later she came up with some insane story that she was pregnant and that it was Daddy’s baby, and that this child would be the reincarnation of my father. She must not have known that Nana had told me Daddy had a vasectomy some time back because he was afraid he would pass down his sickness to a baby, and was already worried about my littlest sister and brother. Because of what Nana told me, I knew that the child could not be Daddy’s, and I didn’t believe for one moment my mother’s stupid story about reincarnation. But if she was being nice for the moment, I figured I didn’t want to press my luck, so I stayed quiet about it and decided to wait and see what happened.

At school I had heard rumors about the man who came to see my mother and sleep with her; he was married. I knew his kids. In fact there were rumors that his two youngest were caught simulating sex with each other because he had sex with his wife in front of his kids; at least that was the story. I was mystified by all of this, and very worried. It was very awkward for me on the night all six of us kids and our mother went to spend the night at his house with his family. I kept feeling guilty, like we shouldn’t be there, because I knew my mother was sleeping with the husband and father of this family. She didn’t have the good sense to be ashamed, but I was embarrassed for all of us.

A few weeks later I asked her about the baby. She said oh it was a false alarm, and there was no baby. I couldn’t believe how blithely she said it, as if she had just reported the weather forecast. The teeny tiny hope I had that a baby would make life better got dashed to the ground, along with the rest of my trust. That day the newly formed icicles in my heart grew to stalactite proportions, and I think that was the first time I wished my mother had died in place of my daddy.

***

After Daddy died, I constantly dreamed that he was really still alive and that this was just a conspiracy to get him away from my mother. In my dreams he was sick and I was going to find him and heal him; this went on for 17 or 18 years, and it was a form of torture. Every time I would dream about him, I would wake up crying. I cried out that I couldn’t take it anymore.

School started and I was grieving terribly. I had to keep it inside, and it made it hard for me to keep up my grades. One day my music teacher asked to speak to me as I was on my way to lunch. He said he was worried, he could see I wasn’t doing well. I panicked and told him everything was fine, just fine! I begged him not to say anything to anyone else about it because I didn’t want to get in trouble with my mom. I was sweating it all night, and the next morning I came to school dressed in the most ridiculous costume, almost like a clown, and as I entered his classroom, I walked up to his desk and told him I was fine – just fine. He told me I didn’t have to pretend, and he commented on my silly clothes. Once more I insisted that I was fine, and there was no need to speak to my mother. My terror of her was so complete, I was sure that if he asked to speak to her, that she might beat me or do something worse. As far as I know, he let it rest.

For me, the “truth” I desperately clung to was that Daddy would never have allowed me to marry that guy that was seven years older than me when I was 17 (more on that later). He would never have allowed my mother to do the things she did. Since it wasn’t his fault that he was sick and dying for seven years, then it meant that if he was healthy he would not have allowed me to continue to be used as a slave by my mother, and he would have allowed me to have friends. He would have encouraged me when I got straight “A” grades in school instead of allowing my mother to threaten me and telling me that my accomplishments didn’t mean as much because it was easy for me. He wouldn’t have allowed her to compare me unfavorably to my sister who got C and D grades. He would have somehow made my mother be a real mother. He would not have found it necessary to take me into his room and pretend to beat the bed instead of me to pacify her, and he wouldn’t have to tell me to cry out so the lie wouldn’t be discovered. He would have been allowed to spend as much time with me as he wished without apology, and somehow she wouldn’t be allowed to degrade and humiliate me, call me ugly, tell me I was an accident, and do all the sneaky, mean things she did to me on a regular basis.

I had no privacy where my mother was concerned. When I started my period she went behind me and checked to see if there was really menstrual blood on my sanitary napkin after I had already disposed of it. I was humiliated. It seemed like I was denied the dignity of every feminine rite of passage. I compared my plight to that of my sister, who had supposedly started her period before me. My mother made such a big deal out of her, and said she was becoming a woman. I think it was her way of covering her eyes to the rape that her boyfriend had perpetrated on my sister.

Barbara was good at lying, even to herself, and believing those lies as a way of self-preservation. She suffered from delusions of grandeur. She sincerely felt my dad held her down after we moved to California – that he had gotten in her way of succeeding as , having the nerve to be dying and requiring assistance that she was entirely unwilling to provide. She hated him even more after he was dead and spoke bitterly to us about him, trying to poison his memory for us.

She fancied herself a teacher, and her students were men. She had some nasty books that illustrated sexual positions that had something to do with chakras, and after Daddy died, her boyfriend (the married man with several kids) would come over and they would do embarrassing yoga positions in the living room. I suppose that was their foreplay because us kids were sent to bed, and they ended up thrashing around on my father’s bed – on the other side of the wall I shared with them in my bedroom.

***

Sometimes I wish I had my Nana here to answer my hard questions. I would have a lot to say, too. I know we were descendants of the House of Hohenzollern, of the Kaiser Wilhelm, and also of Swedish nobility. I would ask her to tell me much more about our (now obvious Illuminati) bloodlines. I would ask her to tell me about Daddy’s time in parochial school, and why he even attended when neither of them was Catholic. I’d ask about her genealogy and I’d have a lot to ask her about her father and her mother. I’d ask her how my dad met my mother, and what exactly were the facts about my birth? What were the events leading up to my abuse? To the deaths of my brothers and the disappearance of my sister.

If my Dad were here, I would have many questions for him as well. He whom I have always seen as my protector and champion, yet I cannot see many instances when he successfully saved me from my mother’s abuse. And he did put me in the closet on more than occasion. And what about her British/English bloodlines and the crazy stuff in her family?? Shock treatments for Grandpa Jimmy? His early death?

This is out of sequence, but my head still tilts over the Orange Story, and it has bothered me all of my life: how is that the compassionate thing to do, to teach your daughter, who shared her orange with her sister while they were locked together in the closet, that you didn’t tell her to share as you give her sister another whole orange?

And why were we in the closet anyway – on multiple occasions? I recall being there by myself. I also recall being there with my sister, Christi, and then I remember being there with Christi and Cameron and Clifton, all four of us, with Clifton on the floor crawling around in his nightgown at our feet, and the three of us standing there. We were hungry so we started eating dog food out of the 50 pound bag that sat next to the water heater. What was going on? Why weren’t we allowed to be in our bedrooms? It makes no sense.

During my lifetime as these things would occasionally come to my mind, I would try to make up fantasies to explain it in such a way that it would make my dad innocent of any wrongdoing. My mom was a raging psychopath who controlled everything. My dad was clearly afraid of her, and it was her fault we moved so many times it was impossible to remember all the cities, so I had to resort to remembering what states we lived in. He couldn’t control her and he tried to run interference only if it wouldn’t incur her wrath. He was sickly and weak and she would have hurt him. He tried to keep her busy so she didn’t have time to think of hurting me. He was keeping us in the closet for our own good. He was using the lesson of the oranges to toughen me up, to learn to trust him.

And on it went, but as I grew older, the cracks in the armor grew into chasms, and lacking the proper defenses, eventually I found a chasm I couldn’t cross over and I fell in.

Cate