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I grew up in a small town in Illinois. All there was there was corn fields. The high school even had a ‘Bring Your Tractor to School Day!’ every year. Half the high school kids were farm kids who basically lived in the FFA (Future Farmers of America) classroom. The other half were smoking in the parking lot. Unless you were super involved in everything, you didn’t get noticed at my school.
I was a typical dorky nerd. I loved books. They were my saving grace. I spent more time in the library than I did anywhere else. I loved losing myself into the words, anything to escape reality. At school, I was bullied relentlessly. Notes were shoved in my locker daily, telling me to kill myself, telling me how worthless I was. My things were stolen and destroyed often. I was shoved, had my hair pulled, and I would eat lunch in my car to avoid having it stolen. At home, my parents were useless. Our mother was addicted to whatever she could afford that day. Needles, pipes, and residue could be found everywhere in our home. I constantly following behind her, trying to keep the house safe and presentable for my three year old twin brothers, Darwin and Dakota. Dar and Dak for short. I was 17 at the time. They had essentially been my children since the day they were born.
Shortly after the boys were born, they had their hearing tested and were found to be profoundly deaf. They had at best ten-percent of their hearing. Our mother found this too tough to deal with, so she started using. Our father thought of them as disabled and decided they were of no use to him. He ran away to California with his new bride and her three perfect little children. We haven’t heard from him since. Once the boys were diagnosed, and our mother checked out, I took up a part time job at a cafe across the street from our house. I worked there after school every day until ten o’clock at night. I would then go home, bath the boys, put them to bed, and finish my homework. Many nights I would get no sleep at all before returning to school the following day. My mother’s addiction took over her life. She spent every dime of her savings, and blew every check she had from her minimum wage cashier job. Eventually she was caught stealing from her cash register to feed her addiction. They fired her and agreed not to press charges as she had gave the money back. We lost the only income we had. I couldn’t bare to watch my brothers suffer so I worked every chance I got. The popular girls from school agreed to babysit Dar and Dak at their houses in exchange for me doing their homework as well. It was exhausting but there they were bathed, fed, and had plenty of toys there. I never had to worry about them.
Our mother never cared for the boys. Three days after their hearing tests, she put them down in their cribs and walked away. She has not acknowledged them since. It is as if they do not exist. I am the only mother they have ever known. I am the only caregiver they have ever had, and the only person to truly love them. As they grew older, than began calling me mom. When they were two years old, I had graduated high school, worked full time at the local hospital as a housekeeper, and had saved enough money to rent an apartment of our own. Our mother had yet to clean up her act. She still was using everyday. I refused to give her money for anything. I knew it would just go to cocaine or meth. I caught her stealing from me on multiple occasions. I couldn’t yell at her for it or she threatened to run away, like a teenager. Without her, I would lose the boys. She still had legal custody and I was still in high school and unable to care for them full-time in the eyes of the law. I had to buy time. Finally, the day was here.
That morning I woke up early, around five. The boys were in their room across the hall, still fast asleep. Our bedrooms were the only thing at the top of our stairs. Shortly after I began working, I had a door installed at the base of the stairs. I had the only key to the door. I kept all of the boy’s things and mine in there. Nothing was to be taken downstairs, unless it stayed in their sight. Otherwise, Mother would take it and sell it. I went to the boy’s room and woke them up to get ready for the day. I quietly got them dressed and packed all of their clothing in one duffle bag, and all their toys and books in another. I had already packed their soaps and children’s dishes the night before and hid them in my car. I had bought my little car two weeks before for only $400. It was old and beaten up, but it moved. I bought car seats for both boys the same day.
After I had all their things packed and ready to go, I went to my own room and packed as much as I could. I did not own much so it only took a matter of minutes. I was extra careful to make no noise. We were finally leaving. We were leaving our horrible Illinois life for a better one in Nevada. I carried the sleepy boys down the stairs, one in each arm, and sat them in the hallway by the front door. I crept through the house searching for mother, hoping she was asleep, before I put the boys and bags in the car. I finally found her on the basement floor. She had a bag of heroin, a needle, a spoon, a lighter, and a half empty beer bottle circling her on the ground. I bent down and checked her for a pulse. She was still alive. I left her where she was and went to the boys.
I quickly opened the door and ran to my car in the driveway. I strapped the boys in faster than I ever have in my life. I sprinted back inside to retrieve our bags. As I reached the front door after getting our things, I heard my mother stirring. I could hear her stomps coming up the stairs.
“DELILAH! Hey, bitch! I need money!” she screeched at me.
I ignored her. It would take her minutes to get to the top of the stairs, let alone reach me at the door. I quietly closed the door behind me, bolted to my car, and shoved the bags in the passenger seat, praying I didn’t break anything. I threw the car in reverse, peeled out of the driveway, and left. The boys’ and I never looked back. For the first time in my life, I finally felt safe.