Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
Despite all attempts to keep us apart, Nate still came to my window at night, and I still snuck out as often as I could. Mom was off training every night to be a correctional officer, and her current live-in boyfriend was too incompetent to keep up with both my little brothers and me. I hid away in my room all night, so he just assumed I was always in there.
We snuck off to Gainesville one night to cruise in a low rider with one of Nate’s friends, and we planned a big birthday trip to Daytona.
“We can celebrate both our girls’ birthdays there,” Nate said to his friend, pulling me closer to him and farther away from his friend as we rode in the cab of the low-rider truck, music thumping so loud at times, people stopped to stare.
I was going to have to work some magic to get Mom to let me go. But, if nothing else, I would just run off with Nate and deal with the consequences later.
“Hell no,” Mom said when I asked nicely.
“Come on! It’s my birthday. I’ll be 14! You can’t lock me away forever. I’m practically grown!”
“I said you are not going out with him anymore, and I’ll be damned if you’re going to go off to Daytona to be alone with him.”
“It’s not like we haven’t already had sex. So you don’t have that to worry about,” I said, making what I was sure was a strong argument. “Besides, I’m on the pill and I haven’t gotten pregnant. What difference does it make?”
“You’re not going.”
“I will go!” I screamed. I ran to my room, slammed the door, and shoved the chair under the handle.
She beat on my door and pushed on it for a while, then gave up. “Tell you what. You sneak off with him and I’ll have him thrown in jail and you’ll go into a home. Is that what you want? Do you want your precious boyfriend sitting in jail for rape and kidnapping?”
I grabbed the chair and threw it across the room, yanking open the door.
“Don’t you dare threaten me. Or him. You’re nothing but a jealous bitch. You wish you had someone like I have. You’re jealous that he buys me things, and that he loves me enough to stay with me, unlike all the men who have used you. You are the whore, not me. You don’t even know who my father is, Whore!”
I always wondered what it meant when people say they were hit so hard they saw stars. After that, I never had to wonder again. I was on the floor dazed before I realized she had even hit me.
“You little bitch,” she snarled. “I’ll throw that bastard in jail. You just make one move and it’s done. I can tell you right now, he won’t last a second in jail. And it’ll be all your fault.”
My aunt came up from Clearwater a few days later, supposedly there for a visit, but ultimately to take me away for a while. My birthday was now just a few days away, and Nate was still planning to take me with him and his friends to Daytona, but the threat of jail for him and a home for me was enough to stop my plan of going anyway.
“You have to go with me,” he said. “It’s your birthday! And I’m not scared of that bitch. She ain’t gonna throw me in jail. She’d have done it already. And I’m not even 18 yet, so she can’t even cry statutory rape. She’s lying, baby. And she’d have to tell them about me living here anyway. And damn, she charged me rent. You know how that will look? You have to come with me.”
“My aunt wants me to go with her. I don’t want you to get arrested. I know Mom can be a bitch, but I really think she will do this. I’m scared. She said I’ll be a runaway if I go.”
“But it won’t be the same without you,” he said.
“Then don’t go. And I won’t go with my aunt. And we’ll have my birthday here.”
“No, I have to go. I already promised I would. But I’ll tell them we have to come back a day early so I can be here on your birthday. How about that?”
I didn’t want him to go without me. I either wanted to go, or I wanted him to stay.
“Just be here when I get back. Don’t go with your aunt. They’re just trying to keep us apart. Ok? Promise me you won’t go.”
“I promise I won’t go,” I said, knowing I was very well making a promise I’d have to break. I wanted to cry because he was going without me anyway. But at least he’d come back to be with me for my birthday. That would have to be enough.
As soon as Nate was gone, Mom informed me I was going to Clearwater anyway, that it wasn’t a choice. Promise officially broken.
“You need to get away from everything,” she said. “And we need a break from each other. You’ll spend your birthday there and have a good time with your cousins. This is just what you need to get back on track.”
What track? I wasn’t on any track? I just failed the eighth grade, so all I had to look forward to in the next few months was summer school and not going on to high school with all my friends. There was no track to get back on.
“I have to be here when Nate gets back,” I said. “We’re going to spend my birthday together whether you like it or not.”
“No, you’re going to Clearwater. You’re not welcome to stay here. Go for a couple weeks and then we’ll see where we stand.”
For all my fighting, I knew I didn’t have a choice. She had the upper hand, as usual. I reluctantly packed my stuff and then wrote a note for Nate to find when he got back. I told him to ask Mom for the phone number to call me, but I figured we wouldn’t get to talk until I came back anyway.
Once I got to Clearwater, I barely thought of Nate. I was having too much fun with my cousins, and they threw me a wonderful surprise birthday party. My cousin Jenny, only one year younger than me, and I clicked and bonded over music and big hair. It felt weird to check out cute boys at the mall and spend hours watching music videos and fixing each other’s hair without the stress that came with home.
By the end of the first week, I missed Nate, though. I called home to see if Mom had given him the phone number since he hadn’t called.
“I did, actually,” she said. I was sure she was lying, but I didn’t expect anything different.
“What did he say when he found out I was gone?”
“Not much. He had some shirt for you, but I haven’t seen him around. He moved in next door, but there’s something you need to know. Angie, honey, he’s cheating on you.”
Typical. Of course she would say that.
“Mom, would you please stop for one minute. We love each other. I know you don’t like it, but we do. And the more you try to lie and keep us apart, the more we’re going to be together. He loves me. He wouldn’t cheat on me.” Again anyway, I thought.
“Sweetheart, I know you love him. But I promise I am not lying. It’s some girl he works with. We saw him. He knows we know,” she said, using that syrupy fake voice I hated, as if she really cared. I knew if this was really true, I had probably interrupted her celebration party when I called.
“Come get me, then. I need to know for myself.”
“No, you stay there a few more weeks. I knew he was no good. I knew he would hurt you.”
“If you don’t come get me, I’ll start walking home, Mom. If you’re telling the truth, you’ll come get me so I can find out for myself. I don’t believe you.”
“Fine,” she said, her sweetness falling off the edge. “I’ll be there tomorrow and then you can find out for yourself just how much he loves you. You weren’t even gone for a week and he cheats on you. I don’t care if you believe me. Come home and see it for yourself. Come see with your own eyes the scum you love.”
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!