My mom and dad divorced when I was in Kindergarten. We lived in Columbus, MS. My mom was cheating on my dad, and decided to move on to Birmingham, AL. My sister and I stayed with my dad in Mississippi for a while before moving in with my mom when I entered first grade. Mom married a man named Donnie. He was an alcoholic, golfer, but most of all, he always treated my sister and I very well. He made sure we had what we needed financially, and he spent time with us when he wasn’t working at his golf store. Throughout their marriage, there were many, many nights Donnie wouldn’t come home. And when he didn’t come home, my mom was raging. She would drag us out in the middle of the night scouring the bars of Birmingham to find him. One night Leah and I were shaken and woken up, screamed at to get our pillows and blankets, and get in the van. When my mom would drink, she would slur her words so bad it was barely comprehensible. She was mean when she took pills and drank alcohol. As we gathered out stuff and scurried into the van, mom completely inebriated, I knew I had one job. Make sure my sister was safe. I always felt like I had to protect her from everything bad so she could be good. We put down our blankets into the backseat, buckled out seatbelts, and Leah put her pillow next to me. She laid her head down to go back to sleep with no mention of distress. We rode in the car about 10 minutes, then pulled up to a very nice hotel. Mom parked the van outside the lobby, turned off the main switch, and told us to stay in the van and not get out. She slammed the door, and I watched her storm into the hotel. At the time, I didn’t know Donnie was inside, or that there was even a bar inside. Leah was drifting off to sleep, and I laid beside her holding her hand. The radio was still on where mom had left the keys in the ignition. “Hold My Hand,” by Hootie and the Blowfish came on the radio. I will never forget it. I squeezed Leah’s hand a little tighter, and she said, “Why did you do that?” I responded, “ Because I want you to know I’m here, and I love you.” She just kind of smiled through her sleepy eyes and went back to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I was scared someone would try to take us. I was awake for hours, then woke Leah up after a while. I told her to get her shoes on, we had to go find mom. We were about 8 and 6 years old. We opened the van door, and the cold hit our legs and immediately gave us chills. We ran inside the hotel lobby. When we busted through the doors, the lobby attendant immediately came to our aid. She asked us where our parents were, and if we were ok. I told her we were ok, and we needed to find our mom. She asked us to describe her appearance, and what she was wearing. After a short conversation, the attendant abruptly went and found my mom and Donnie at the bar. 2 AM, me and Leah standing in the foyer, Leah began to cry. It’s almost like she knew we were in trouble. When my mom turned the corner into the lobby I saw the devil in her eyes. She was evil. She jerked my left arm so hard I thought it was broken. She threw us in the van and screamed at us about how bad she would beat us when we got home. The gut-wrenching feeling came over me from the thought of the pain I would soon endure. I thought about the song I had earlier heard in the van. Hold my hand. I grabbed Leah’s hand again, and told her to calm down, that I would make sure she was ok. She did stop crying some, but when r we got home, she was again inconsolable. Mom grabbed a fly swatter as soon as she walked through the door. Leah still crying, mom looked at her and said,” I’ll give you something to cry about!” I ran in front of Leah and screamed, “ No!! Hit me mom! Hit me, not her. She is too small.” And she did. She held the swatter part and beat me until I was bleeding and bruised from the wire handle slamming onto my 50 lb body. I remember tears gathering up in my eyes as I laid there and took the thrashing. When she was finished I could barely walk it hurt so much. Leah was still upset because I was now hurt, and mom still drunk, we just went upstairs. I cleaned myself up, and we went back to bed. I wore jeans the next day to school. Mom always made sure the marks could be covered. It wasn’t the bruises and cuts that hurt, it was the wounds of the heart, and the scars of the mind. But I saved my sister that day. I saved her from that beating. I held her hand, as she still holds mine today.
To my sister: Leah, I love you so much. I wanted you to be ok my whole life. I wanted to protect you from the bad so you could be good. And you are. You are so good. And I will hold your hand for the rest of our lives.
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