Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Visit to the Past- fictional short story

It had been at least 20 years since Karen had visited the small house where she had grown up. Walking through the rooms in the ram shackled old house, the quiet that abided there now, contrasted sharply with the angry screams and violence of her memories of this place. With a white-knuckled grip on her purse Karen took one last look at her past before walking quickly out into the bright sunshine of the day.
“Was it as bad as you thought it’d be?” asked her husband of ten years, looking at her with loving concern.
“No, …no it wasn’t. It’s over. I can finally put in the past ,” she stated through clenched teeth willing herself not to cry. As they drove away from her childhood home, Karen wondered if she had been truthful with Joe. Before they had arrived she really did believe that she had overcome her past. Coming back to that house was her final step in letting go of the painful memories. Her therapist had warned her that it would be difficult but for some reason she just needed to see it one more time before she felt she could bring closure to what was a bitter and damaging time in her life.

Memories of her step father’s abuse flashed through her mind as they headed away from the house. Using the skills she had learned over the years she wouldn’t allow the obsessive cycle of memories she used to endure to even start, except for the night they had escaped. She had been eleven years old when the argument had taken place. It had started out like so many arguments had between her mother and step-father but apparently he had finally pushed her mother one step to far. Karen had no idea after all the years of abuse why this night was different. That night events, even after 20 years, were still crystal clear in her mind as if it had taken place only yesterday. They had started fighting again. She still could hear the screaming, feel the fear, and finally see as she and her sister in the doorway of their bedroom screaming at their mother, trying to warn her about the knife that he carried. Her mom screamed for them to leave. While they were outside Karen remembered hearing the sound of a gun firing. Her mom must have been able to call a neighbor for help because he arrived just in time to hear the gunshot. He ordered the girls to stay where we were and left them outside while he went in to see if anyone was hurt. Karen remembered how numb she felt after hearing that shot knowing that she would never see her mother ever again. By then both girls were so emotionally damaged by living with daily violence that they no longer had the capacity to react as a normal child would. They just stood outside quietly watching to see what direction their life would now take. Would the state finally intervene and take him away or would he come out and shoot them too? Neither choice excited or scared them. This was just the way life for them was lived…one minute to the next….never knowing. When Karen’s mom came out of the front door she quickly bundled the two girls inside the car. She told them they no longer had to fear their stepfather because she was going to take them to live with their grandma, neither girl spoke, not yet ready to believe that it was over.

Now, 20 year later with a husband and children of her own, once again she was silent on the car ride away from that house. This time was different though. This time she knew in her heart of hearts that this really was the last time. Fifteen minutes into the car ride home she looked over at her husband and smiled thinking of the peaceful wonderful life she now led. It had taken a lot of work and a lot of hours in a therapist’s office, but she felt finally free. Free to enjoy the fruits of her labors and to finally relax knowing the past was finally over for her. She could finally let down the guard she had held for fear of the past repeating itself. Since that night her life had changed. On the outside at least she had become an outgoing confident over achiever and made her way into a challenging fulfilling career that she could rightly be proud of. But until this day on the inside was that frightened little girl still living in fear with the memories of the past just waiting below the surface to re-emerge when she turned 20 and began to remember. At first, the memories came in just small bits and pieces that made no sense but as they continued they finally became troubling enough for her to seek therapy. It had been a long hard road but she had kept working at it and finally she felt she had arrived at a place she could leave all those memories and that scared little girl behind and walk forward as the strong woman she had always known she was.

Kay L. Schlagel