Authors: Addison Footit
CLOUDS THAT WERE
That I would
You were wrong.
My name is
Tenley Alexander, and this is my story. It’s a story that is going to be difficult for normal people to read. See, this is the story of my mother. If you are a child, you will hope that I am making this up or exaggerating. If you are a mother, you will not be able to grasp how anyone could treat another human being the way I am treated, much less how a mother could treat her own child like this.
It’s not entirely her fault. When she was about my age, only seventeen, she and my father had sex. It was the first time for both of them. They never expected to get pregnant. But they did. Faced with a pregnancy that neither of them wanted, they went to their parents. Her parents offered to adopt me. His parents offered to pay for the abortion. Her parents didn’t want any of their blood relatives running around somewhere that they didn’t know. So if they were going to give the baby up for adoption, my grandparents were going to adopt me. And his parents knew that neither of them was ready to have a child and didn’t think they would be able to give up a baby once it was born, so they thought abortion was the best option.
This was the first time my mother’s control issues came to light. She couldn’t bear the thought of her parents raising her child and having to relinquish control to them. She also wasn’t going to have an abortion just because someone else thought it was a good idea. She was going to have this baby and prove his parents wrong. So with no other choice at seventeen, she had the baby.
This baby, me, ruined her life. My dad left once he realized she wasn’t going to have an abortion. I guess he had his own issues, and having a child wasn’t one that he could face; so he bailed. Leaving her a single mother. She couldn’t do anything normal teenagers were doing and in the eighties, teenaged mothers were not as nearly as common as they are today. So everywhere she went she was looked down upon. She couldn’t have a serious relationship with anyone because no one wanted to be tied down with a kid. She was all alone.
In order for her to have any semblance of a life at all, she ended up letting my grandparents handle most of the hard stuff. Over the years I became too close to them, so when she finally did find someone to be with, and they got married, I was cut off from them and forced to live with two people(my mom and stepdad) who viewed me as an inconvenience at best, and at worst, someone to blame for any problems they had.
Eventually the man my mother had married left, cheated on her actually. And how did she find out? I was riding in the back of the car and found a woman’s driver’s license on the floor. I handed it to my mother, and all hell broke loose in the next few weeks. He said he couldn’t be married anymore because he “didn’t want a ready-made family”. So now, not only was I the reason he was leaving, but I was the one who figured out he was cheating. All of the blame fell on me.
At some point, she decided that since I was the reason that she couldn’t be happy, then there was no need for me to have any kind of happiness in my life either. I wasn’t allowed to go to friends’ houses, and they were not allowed to come to mine. No boyfriends, no video games, no nice toys, no bikes. Nothing. The older I got, the worse it got. She eventually even stopped letting me do homework because she didn’t want me to have any opportunities that she didn’t have, the opportunities she lost because of me.
Although I cannot even begin to understand what having a child would be like at my age, I do understand that if I were to have a child, that decision would be on me. And I, like any normal person, would try to make that child’s life better than mine in any way I could. Of course, when you are me, nothing could be worse.
oday is Friday.
Most people my age love Fridays. I hate them.
Friday for me means that everyone is out having fun, while I, on the other hand, am not allowed to leave the house until Monday morning when it’s once again time to go to school. My weekends are spent primarily in my room reading, as that is the only thing I’m generally allowed to do. Unless of course I turn the pages too loud or something, then I get my book taken away and I just sit, or lay, sometimes I lay.
This weekend is going to be harder than most. It’s homecoming weekend. Since I’m only a freshman, it’s not like it’s a huge deal; but still, everyone else is going, and it’s difficult, to say the least, for me to have to be home for no reason. Well, the actual reason is that my mother didn’t get to go anywhere when she was my age because she was pregnant, so since I am the reason she couldn’t go, she doesn’t let me go either.
However if you ask my mother why, the reason would be that I lied. I didn’t lie, but she thinks I did because she never can remember the way things really happen, so she kind of just, I don’t know, makes it up I guess. The truth is, though, that it wouldn’t matter. I can’t do anything right in her eyes, so by now I just live my life under the assumption that even if I haven’t done anything wrong yet, I will. So I don’t plan things.
That’s the worst part. I wouldn’t go to homecoming anyway. I don’t have any friends, and certainly not a boyfriend, all thanks to her. So why would I go? It would be nice if the choice could be mine though.
It’s difficult for me to understand the way the girls all carry on about dresses and shoes and who is doing their hair. I can’t even imagine a world where those would be the most important things on my mind. Instead, I think about what kind of mood my mother will be in when I get home. How many extra chores am I going to have to do this weekend because of some imaginary thing I did wrong? And most often my thoughts are consumed with simply surviving another day. I have never thought about shoes for more than the time it takes me to put them on in the morning, and even then, I have a hundred other more important things on my mind.
It takes everything I have, every day, just to make it through. I keep to myself, try to stay off of the radar. I used to try to fit in, be as normal as possible, but it was just pointless. If I got close to someone, my mother just looked at that as something else she could take away from me to make me miserable.
I played the flute for a while, and as soon as I started to get really good, she pulled me out of it because the rest of my grades were suffering, though they were not. The school counselors and my band director all called her and said that this was good for me and that they didn’t think it was a good idea to take it away, but she didn’t care: she does what she wants.
It was very shortly after that that I just gave up. The fewer things I am interested in, the less she has to control me with. That makes the situation easier to cope with somewhat. The problem is that I am lonely. I have no one to talk to.
My grandma and I are about as close as we can be, but my mother forbids me from talking to her. All that does is make it more difficult. I now have to call her from the pay phone at school, and that is only when I am able to dig up change from around the house. Even though I do a ton of chores every day, I don’t get an allowance; I do it because, according to her, it is the only thing that makes it worth having me around. So I usually have to rely on what I find in the laundry. Thank God she hasn’t caught on to that yet.
Sometimes, if I close my eyes really tight, and shut out everything, I can pretend that my life is normal. I can picture myself hanging out with the other girls, talking about my dress and my shoes, just like them. I can picture my mom taking pictures of me and my friends and helping me with my hair. I can picture it all. Until I open my eyes, and they adjust back to the dark cloud that seems to follow me around.
There is a new boy at school who started a few weeks ago. He fascinates me. I like to make up stories in my head about where he came from, what his life was like before, and what it’s like now. His name is Chad or Chase or something like that. And he is hot as hell. I know: I said I keep to myself, but that doesn’t mean I am blind. There is something mysterious about him. Like me, he never talks to anyone. He’s new, and maybe he’s shy, but it seems intentional to me. As if he has no desire to talk to anyone.
He is in a few of my classes, and I watch him sometimes. He does this thing when he is thinking where he puts his left hand in his hair and rubs his head. It is the single most adorable thing I have ever seen, and it makes me wish I was that hand. His hair is always messed up, on purpose I think, but it could be from him running his hand through it like that all day. This is what’s nice about me being invisible; I can watch him pretty much any time I want, and no one notices. Not even him.
The other bonus is that it kind of takes the stress out of being a teenaged girl. I can honestly say that I don’t spend any time at all really, thinking about what other people think of me. I just assume no one thinks about me at all. And I like it that way. Don’t get me wrong: there is a part of me that wishes the new guy would take a second look, or hell, even a first look, but it wouldn’t lead anywhere anyway. You can’t really have a relationship with someone you are not allowed to talk to or spend time with, although again, it would be nice to have the option.
Instead, I just go about my business alone. I get up, go to school, go home, every day. Weekends are spent doing chores like cleaning and yard work but rarely if ever, anything outside of that. Most of the time, as long as I don’t think about it too much, it’s not so bad.
Weekends in which there are big things going on at school are always harder. The bell to end my school day rings, and I just can’t bring myself to get on the bus and go home like I am supposed to. I can’t stand the thought of listening to everyone sit there and chatter about their plans. Home is far enough away that I shouldn’t walk, but I need to be alone today. Fridays. I hate them.
he second Friday
night at a new school. Still have no friends, still don’t really care.
My dad insists that I should make friends and go out and be young, but my senior year at a new school, I just don’t really see the point. I had plenty of friends at my old school, and I still talk to my really close friends. I just think my time is better spent working on my art at this point. I would like to have a pretty good-sized portfolio before I leave for college. I have already been accepted to the art school I want to go to, and I could graduate early; but since I’m not eighteen yet, I really don’t see the point. Graduating early was looking better every day—that is, until I saw this girl.
This girl is so beautiful, even though I really don’t know what she looks like, because she hides under a sweatshirt and behind a book all the time. I guess you could say she has an air of beauty. I still haven’t gotten up the courage to talk to her. She is always sitting in the same spot on the floor in the hall with her hood up and her book, clearly trying to be as invisible as possible. But she is far from invisible to me.
The few times I have seen her without that hood on her head, she looks incredibly sad. She never looks up; she watches the floor as if it’s about to cave in right in front of her. Just waiting for a chance to swallow her up. Something must be terribly wrong in her world to bring that much sadness.
In this case it would be handy to have friends so that I could find out more about her without actually talking to her myself. And even then, it’s not like you can just walk up to a complete stranger and say “Hi, why do you always look so sad?”
I have been watching her, however, for the last week, waiting for her to look up and make eye contact with me, or anyone else for that matter. I grabbed my sketchbook at lunch today and drew her sitting there all huddled in the corner, and she never looked up, not once. I would think that at some point the curiosity would get me and I would have to look up. Or don’t people say that you can sense when someone is looking at you, and if that is the case, wouldn’t you look up to see who it was and why that person was looking at you? Nope, not her; she kept her nose buried in the same book the entire hour I sat there drawing her.
Don’t get me wrong; I know what it looks like for someone to just sit and stare at someone and watch them all the time. But I have this feeling that she needs protecting. She never talks to anyone, doesn’t seem to have any friends or anything. She just walks from class to class, takes the bus to and from school, and goes home. I live right across the street from her, and occasionally I will see her outside doing yard work or whatever; but that’s about it. I actually stopped taking my truck to school so I could watch her on the bus to see if she would reveal anything about herself, but still nothing.
Other than her, my life for the last two weeks has been entirely uneventful. It’s just my dad and I now. My mom died about a year ago, and my dad thought it would be good for us to get a fresh start. He was right in a way; living in the house we shared with my mom was hard. Memories around every corner. Although those memories brought comfort at times too, making me feel like even though she was gone, she was still with me in some way. But she isn’t, and that is something my dad and I are both still getting used to.
I have always really been into art, but when my mom died, it was the only way I could stand to deal with her loss. I could draw pictures of her and make it seem like as though she were still here. Even when she was here physically, however, she was never really with us. She was never very happy. Always seemed to be struggling just to get through the day. She tried, though; she tried really hard, and for that I admire her. My mom is the strongest woman I have ever met. I miss her every day.
The good thing is that I have earned myself a full scholarship to art school and actually have a shot at being able to do it for a living. The art teacher at this school seems a lot more in tune with what is going on in the art world than my last art teacher, so that helps. Between the time I spend on art and the time I spend watching hoodie girl, I don’t have much time for anything else anyway. Probably best that I haven’t bothered to make any friends.
The Homecoming game is tonight, so all of the girls are fluttering around like butterflies, or, I guess buzzing like bees would be a better description. Of course the guys are doing the same thing they normally do with the exception of the football players who are actually mentally preparing for the game tonight.
There is a small part of me that wishes I were on the team like I was back home, but for the most part, I don’t really care. I have no loyalty to this school, so I probably wouldn’t play with my whole heart like I used to. I’m not going to risk my art scholarship throwing a ball for some school that I have gone to for two weeks. I have thought about at least going to the game, but I can’t decide for sure. I wish I knew what hoodie girl’s deal was; if she was going I would go for sure, but I doubt she is. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing she would go to.
It doesn’t make sense to me that in my head I feel like I have all of this insider knowledge about her. Really all I know is that she owns a green hoodie, she looks sad all the time, reads some book every day that I have never heard of, and lives across the street from me. That’s it. And knowing these three facts does not make me an expert, by any stretch of the imagination.
From my bedroom window I can see her bedroom window, and most of the time when I look over there, she is sitting in her window. I don’t sit there and watch her undress or anything like that. I just see her sitting there, not doing anything. She reminds me of that Disney movie with the princess up in the tower; I can’t remember the name of it. But it’s just like that, like she is trapped up in a tower and the only way she can come down is if a prince rescues her. Too bad I am not a prince.
Seeing her in the window as often as I do, though, just makes me want to find out more about her. Every other girl in this school is carrying on about the dance, but not her. What could make a girl be the complete opposite of every other teenage girl? Maybe a bad breakup? Girls are always being overly dramatic about things like that. Maybe her best friend betrayed her by doing something unforgivable like buying the same shoes or something? For some reason I think it’s something bigger than that. She doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would let something like that affect her whole life. But who knows? Girls are weird. Especially teenaged girls.
This is not something I make a habit of. Obsessing about girls I know next to nothing about. I don’t like to talk about it, but my mom didn’t just die. She killed herself. She lived for years trying to make the best of things, trying to be happy, but I guess she just couldn’t do it anymore. She was an amazing mom, however. She came to every game I played, football and baseball. She cooked for us, and cleaned for us. She always made sure we were well taken care of and that we knew she loved us. I think the issue was that she just didn’t love herself. And our love for her wasn’t enough.
Her death was very hard on me, but it was harder on my dad. He loved her more than I have ever seen someone love another person. She was his everything. For a short time after she died, I thought I was going to lose him, too. He just didn’t know how to live a life without her in it. Neither did I. Both of us felt responsible. That maybe if we had just loved her more, paid more attention to her, tried harder, she would still be here.
Once we had cried it all out, we both realized that there was nothing we could have done. She is gone, and no amount of guilt we feel will bring her back. But the sadness in her eyes is ingrained in my memory. Something about her sadness and the sadness of my hoodie girl is the same, and that’s what worries me. I don’t know her, but I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through that kind of loss. It’s weird, but I feel like I would be responsible for her death, too, if I don’t do something to at least try to help her.
One of these days, I will work up the courage to talk to her, knowing that when I do, I am getting involved. Yet I refuse to let anything happen to her. I couldn’t save my mom, but maybe I can save her.