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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Wednesday
Aug012007

My Emotions Wrapped In Vines Reaching For The Sun That Shines

A continuation of this story

I land heavily. The fresh snow coating the grass doesn't soften the blow as much as I would have liked. My mom's voice slices hotly through the cold night air.
"MONICA!"
I leap to my feet and scrabble through the snow toward the sidewalk. A look back confirms Mom has discovered my absence. I can see her silhouette peering out the window from which I just bailed. Headlights from an approaching car startle me into action. I jog down the sidewalk toward the only place that comes to my 15-year old mind.

It's so cold I keep jogging for warmth despite the biting cramp in my left side. My bare feet are so numb the hurting has gone away. I've lost all sensation. It feels like I'm hobbling along on two stumps, the sensation so strange I keep looking down to confirm feet are still attached to my ankles. I realize I must look insane and despite fearing frost bite I slow my pace to a casual speedwalk, hoping passersby mistake me for a nice, athletic girl out for some fresh air and exercise. In a snow storm. At night.

Fifteen minutes later I stumble tiredly up Natalie's driveway, edge along the front window of her parent's modest rambler home, back scraping brick and peer inside. I can see the spectral affect of the T.V. tubes, glowing ghostly white and blue, flashing across the faces of my best friend's Mom and Dad as they watch the evening news. I continue inching forward until I get to Natalie's bedroom window. Thank God it's only a one-story home. Natalie's bedroom light blazes a welcoming pool of orange-y happiness onto the snow, although I can't see inside because her vanilla colored blinds are tightly drawn.

Thick, scratchy bushes prevent me from getting within knocking distance so I place my hands to the dirt beneath the scrubs, desperately feeling around for some rocks to throw. My clawing fingers find nothing but dirt. Damn! After coming all this way...

My mind must be as numb as my feet because I realize there are mounds of ammunition at my disposal. I scoop up a handful of snow and with frozen hands shape it into a loose snowball and toss it gently at Natalie's window. Immediately her blinds snap upwards and like an angel of mercy she appears, blonde hair framed in a buttery halo of warm lamplight.

Natalie anxiously peers into the dark night but seems to see nothing save for her own reflection in the glass. I lurch around like a drunken loon, waving my arms in an effort to draw her attention. She cups her hands around her eyes and presses her forehead to the glass. Recognition spreads across her face and when she registers what I'm wearing her mouth drops open. She slides open her window.
"What are you doing?" She hisses.
"Hi. Do you think you can hide me in your shed tonight?" Embarrassment over my dramatic situation forces me to speak as casually as one can through violently chattering teeth, as if dropping in to visit Natalie at night, in a snow storm, in my pajamas, without shoes is akin to heading out to cruise the mall.
"The shed? What? Monica! Your face!"
"What about my fa-" But she is already gone.

Seconds later the porch light clicks on, illuminating my shame. Natalie and both parents are racing down the steps toward me.
"What's going on?" Her dad is shouting.
"Oh honey, come inside" Her mom is already cooing, beckoning me to her.

Immediately upon hearing a note of sympathy I burst into tears. I held it in when Mom was screaming at me as I curled into a fetal position on the kitchen floor. I held it in when my brother was choking me and I pissed myself. I held it in during the mind and body-numbing jog to Natalie's, comforting myself by singing songs I had learned in church as a child... But now, hearing this lovely woman's sympathetic coos, I begin to sob like a baby. Heaving, snotty, ugly sobs.

The Hauzen family escorts me inside and sits me on the couch. Janice, Natalie's mom, pulls my head into her lap and begins to smooth back the hair from my face. "There, there.." I marvel at the fact that people really do say "there there" to comfort someone. I'd thought it was only in the books I read to escape my life, had never had someone say it to me.

Natalie's dad Joe is pacing around the house muttering, frothing and generally working himself into a testosterone-filled lather. "Son-of-a-bitch. I am going to kill someone. Son-of-a-bitch. God DAMN son-of-a-bitch!"
"Joe! Sit down. Natalie, go get me the first aid kit." A maternal drill sergeant, diminutive Janice calmly orders her family into action.
Joe stops the muttering but continues pacing.

It's only a week until Christmas. From my spot in Janice's lap I can see my face reflected in the fragile, metallic red balls adorning the festive Hauzen family Christmas tree. The curvature of the ornament distorting my features; giant Snoopy-like nose, small forehead and chin.

Natalie returns with a first aid kit and Janice forces me to sit up.
"We need to clean your face off honey."
"Why? What's on my face?" I sniffle.
"Oh dear. Sweetheart, your lip is swollen and you have blood all over your mouth." I stand up and walk to the big mirror that stretches above the couch. My top lip has ballooned to twice its size and blood is caked around my lips, my teeth and is dripping down my chin.
"Who did this to you? I'm calling the police!" Joe finally explodes.
"Joe, SIT DOWN!" Janice snaps in a razor-sharp tone that belies her soft exterior. "Tell us what happened." She says soothingly.

I recount the story of what led up to my arrival on their doorstep.
"He punched you? I am calling the police." Joe leaves for the kitchen. Natalie is shaken. She has made herself appear very small, almost disappearing into the couch, listening quietly with her hands clenched together. I press my head back into Janice's lap and continue to sob.

"Don't clean her face." Joe announces when he returns from the kitchen. They want to take photographs."
Crap. This wasn't what I wanted. Too much drama. Too much attention. I wanted to hide in Natalie's shed until the storm blew over. The snow and the one inside my house. Tomorrow, after school, I would go home and everyone would be over it. I would slip back into my routine of trying not to be noticed so as not to draw fire from my older brother. Now.. this.. police. We don't need the police. Doesn't every family fight like this, I wonder naively. I mean, really. What are the police going to do?

Turns out, they want to arrest my brother. For assault. I refuse.
"Like, I have to live with him. If I press charges for assault he'll really assault me."
"That's your prerogative." The cop is disappointed with me, I can tell. Also, he makes it obvious that I am an idiot. A stupid girl. But he's the idiot. He doesn't get it. I know what will happen if I press charges. And so I decline.