We hadn’t known what hell was until our mother had brought him to our doorstep. Mark. Mark was the devil’s name and would forever be burnt into my mind after everything he had put us through. Even as I lay here, I know deep down he cannot take the blame for the torture both my baby sister and I were enduring. I had somehow dragged her into this mess and allowed this devil to clasps his arms around her without a fight.
To even think we had experienced the worst. The men mother had brought around the house before Mark was beyond lower than low. But Mark was a new breed of bad. Completely different in all aspects and this was what had started the pain we now suffer. He wasn’t verbally abusive to us like how Kenny was. Neither was he as physical as Dean had been with my mother after a drink or two. It may seem surprising, but Mark was more of a father than I had ever had. Things turn into a blur when I try to remember how everything truly began.
- May 2012
It was late in the night and the last time me and Belle had saw mother was when she had stood just in front of the door claiming she’d be back in a few minutes. That was at 12’noon, it was now almost 9’oclock and she still hadn’t returned home. It wasn’t as though Belle and I weren’t used to it. It was normal for her to leave at early hours and return home late at night, smelling of alcohol and other things that always made my nose scrunch up whenever I got close enough to her to take her to bed.
Belle sat on the couch coloring Velma from her Scooby-Doo coloring book, whilst I began cooking lunch. Which normally meant anything that could be cooked and worked well was what I normally prepared.
At the age of sixteen I was a mother to my baby sister Belle. I had realized depending on my mother was wasted energy. She’d either be too intoxicated to care for either of us, or be too preoccupied with company to even remember she had daughters. Belle was only eight, so she wasn’t fully aware of how she was being neglected by our mother, but I was attentive to the way she failed to be a mother to us and I knew it wasn’t an epiphany I wanted Belle to go through just yet. So by any means I was trying to prolong this realization by shielding her like a protective older sister.
After rustling up and eating our ‘make-shift’ dinner, I tucked Belle into bed, not wanting her to see mother stumble into the house around midnight like she usually did. I didn’t want Belle to witness her older sister stripping her mother and taking her to bed, so when she woke up she was in her bed and not blacked out on the corridor floor. Belle looked up to me as I tucked her blanket around her.
“Dara where’s mum?”
Half of me wanted to shrug, because I truly didn’t know where she was and it was exhausting thinking about where she could be. But instead I gave her one of the many lies I told her during our childhood.
“She’s at a friends house, then she’s going to grab some groceries for us.”
Belle looked at me, long enough for me to wonder if she realized I was lying, then looked towards the ceiling. She grabbed a handful of her blanket and spoke without giving me eye contact.
“But she’s been gone for so long!” I gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead and moved stray hairs away that fell onto her face.
“Belle don’t you worry, she’ll be here soon. I’ll tell her to give you a kiss goodnight when she comes in, deal?”
Belle nodded, obviously not convinced with my explanation, but I hadn’t given her room to voice her doubt. I turned on her lamp and turned off the room light, blowing her a kiss before shutting her bedroom door. With a sigh, I trudged back downstairs, awaiting my mother’s arrival. Knowing eventually she’ll stroll in. It was only once when she’d left the house and hadn’t returned until the next day. I can vividly remember the way I worried, thinking she was face down in a ditch, or that she’d actually forgotten she had kids. It was always a dark joke between myself that mother had forgotten she had children. But during her absence that night, I remember thinking how she could have actually forgotten about Belle and me and if only I knew those personal jokes could have actually been a reality. She eventually stumbled in the following morning, claiming she wasn’t aware of the time. No apology, no sign of worry that her kids were alone for more than 24 hours. Instead she walked in the house nonchalantly and headed straight to bed. The anger that boiled within me that day was uncontrollable. She hadn’t even cared for our wellbeing. I was sure to take Belle and myself to a care home that day. However when she awoke, she’d given Belle a fluffy toy that Belle, till this very day, clings onto and had gotten me earrings. It was her way of apologizing and I had accepted it. It was rare for us to receive any gifts from our mother, so when one came around, I was sure not to throw it away.
But sitting here, watching the time go by reminds me that no matter how many small gifts she throws our way, will not excuse her lack of maternal skills. Midnight was around the corner and there was no sign of her return. I’d somehow dozed off a few times, awaking to the sound of the television and looking straight at the clock, sighing when I realized it was later than when I initially slept and that she still wasn’t back. Just as my patience began to wear thin, the locks on the door began to unlock slowly. A few giggles were heard on the other side of the door. I stood waiting to catch my drunken mother, when the door opened and a tall man had his arm around her waist. Frozen, we both stood watching each other. My mother’s head swung left to right as she grew limp. The man watched me stand before him in what seemed like horror, then gave me a small smile and closed the door behind him.
“Could you help me with her, she’s drank a little too much tonight.”
I ran to my mother’s side, putting her left arm around my neck as the man started walking towards the living room.
“It’s okay, I can handle it from here. Thanks mister for bringing her home.” With a startled look, he watched as I took my mother into the living room. I sat her down on the couch and pulled her shoes off. It must have startled him how a sixteen year old was caring for a more than able thirty eight year old woman, because even after her shoes were off, he still stood in the corridor with awe written all over his face.
“I said thanks mister, but you can leave now.”
“You’re a special girl to take care of your mum like this.”
“Well, I have to do what I have to do.”
“Hmm.” He nodded his head and watched as I did the routine check on mother. I made sure I didn’t remove any clothing off of her, as I couldn’t really understand why the man still hadn’t left.
“I respect what you’re doing for your mother. She’s a good lady, under all the drink and addictions. She wanted me to stay the night, but I wouldn’t want to intrude. Let her know she got home safe because of Mark and she got to bed in one piece because of you.”
With that he left my mother and me alone in the living room. The front door opened and then shut soon after. This was the first time I’d met Mark.
All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun