Personalities Can Change

I stretched my short arms as high above my head as I could reach, hands intertwined, my brain slowly coming out of the foggy realms that I traveled to every night. I brought my hands back down, yawning, now mostly awake. As I was slowly climbing out from under the covers stubby legs hitting the floor, my mother burst into my room singing loudly, and off-key I might add, her personal version of "Happy Birthday". She stopped singing abruptly, a bemused, quizzical grin on her face. "Oh," she said loudly. "So, you're awake already, eh?" I groaned. "Yeah Mommy, I'm awake already." Almost as soon as I'd said the words, I wished I could've taken them back. My mother's face darkened like a thundercloud, looming over me and threatening to rain. "What did you say?" She asked from between gritted teeth. "Umm," I said not-too intelligently. "I said, "Yes ma'am, I'm awake?" Just as quickly as it came, the thundercloud that was her mood dissipated. "That's better!" she said with a bright smile. "Now, come see your cake!"

I got out of bed and followed my mother into the kitchen, almost dreading what I knew I'd see. Now, to many children, any cake is a good cake, but for some reason, I HATED yellow cake, which was my mom's favorite. I had asked specifically for a white cake for my birthday, even though, in my eight-year-old mind, I knew she would get what she wanted to get. I walked into the pale yellow kitchen with it's blindingly white furniture, to see a hideous cake with that NASTY looking bright red and orange icing on it. My mom watched my reaction closely with a peculiar look in her eyes. I forced a smile while looking at the hideous concoction. "Yum." I said weakly. "It looks…. delicious, Mum." I knew from previous experience that if I said anything, my birthday would be a disaster. "Good." She said with another bright smile. "Now, come see your presents." I went into the living room, summoning yet another pathetic smile at the sight of a thin package on the floor. I knew what it was. It was the same thing my mother bought every year. I peeled the cheap wrapping paper from last Christmas off the box to reveal a case like you get rings in. I opened it to reveal yet another elaborate piece of jewelery. I gave a tremulous grin, saying "Thank you mommy!" She searched my eyes to find any hint of sarcasm, and, failing to find any, resumed her blindingly fake smile. "I'll just take care of this until you're old enough." She said with a happy smile, hooking the necklace around her neck. "Now dear, I'm having a few people over to celebrate your birthday." Internally I groaned. Every year I could remember, she had a "few friends over" and every time it ended up as what the local policemen called "Disturbing the Peace" and "Drunk Driving" whatever that meant. I smiled again, planning to slip out the back door as soon as the party got too rough. Yes, it was just going to be a GREAT birthday.

I slipped out the back door to the pulsing sound of 80's music. I ran softly to the nearby grove of trees to escape the smell of alcohol and the sounds of grown-ups doing whatever grownups do at night. I wiped my mouth, and looked through tear-filled eyes at the thick smear of blood that covered the back of my hand. This was the result of my mother's discipline. I just didn't understand what I'd done. I'd walked into the pantry to find some food, and I found mommy kissing one of her friends. She said that she was just thanking him, but when I asked her why she didn't kiss daddy like that, she hit me with her hand, and started yelling, the cloying scent of beer heavy on her breath. I ran out of the house, hearing mommy close the door behind me. So now, I was just standing in the yard. I switched directions and headed instead to the shed where daddy went hide whenever mommy brought friends over.

I opened the door slowly, and the smell of fresh shaved wood smacked me in the face, instantly soothing away the flood of tears that had threatened to spill out. I walked slowly in asking "Daddy, can I talk to you?"

"Sure sweetie.", he said in his gentle voice. I hesitated to come into the light, doing so slowly. My daddy frowned when he saw my face. He sighed, and brought out the medicine we hid here for when mommy got angry. "What was it this time?" he asked slowly, as if hesitant to find out. I told him all that had happened, and asked him with a sob "Why does mommy do thing like that?" He sighed yet again, and looked into the distance as if seeing another time. He rocked me in his arms almost automatically. "She's always been like this darlin'. I just didn't see it until you came along." I sobbed in his arms, too tired to hold them back. "But why does she do it Daddy?" He gave a sad smile, and said slowly "She just does honey, it's her nature." I thought about this slowly as sleep crept over me. It's in her nature, Daddy had said. I wondered if natures ever change?