The Story of Sledge


#81

Melinda is the grandmother on my father’s side. She is Reuben’s mother. Vito and Ellen are from my mother’s side, however it is a little complicated here. My “grandparents” I lived with were technically not grandparents, as in they did not have my mother as their child. They were actually childless, and took in another family member’s child (Cara). I don’t learn this until later in life, however, so it hasn’t come up yet in the story.

For a period of 6 months, Cara legally kidnapped me away from my grandparents.


#82

Continued…


It didn’t take long for Reuben to snatch Vanessa away from Cara. There was nothing she could do, as he would not be dissuaded, and she was alone with Jamie. His temper was one she recalled plastered all over her face, even on her belly while pregnant carrying his very daughter. She would not dare resist him.

Vanessa heard none of the heated conversation that took place, only that she only had time to grab her Cuddle Puppy…and even her little red plush man, despite the name it had. She didn’t know she was leaving for good when she looked out the car window and waved goodbye to her sister.

_ _

When Vanessa saw her grandparents again it was like a scene out of a movie. She rushed back into their arms and back into her former, clean home like it was Disneyworld. Everything in her room was just the way she had left it. Her prayers had been answered, her dreams come true…when they said she would be staying forever.

Reuben wanted to leave as soon as he had dropped his daughter off, but Vito took him aside.

“I just came to drop off Vanessa,” Reuben shrugged, nonchalant.

Vito didn’t wish to extend the stay of this man he distasted any further than he had to, but there was more he needed from him. “You did a good thing, Reuben, bringing her here. I think you know we all want what’s best for her.”

A bit of a sneer squeezed through his words. “She is better off with you high class people anyway.”

Although he caught the tone, Vito let it roll off his ears and continued to speak in a placating manner. “Reuben, will you sign your parental rights over to me? I have it written up.”

The thought burned Reuben inside, and yet he knew he was not the one to raise his daughter, and certainly neither was Cara…Vanessa really was better off with these people he thought would forever look down on him and his race. They had the funds he didn’t, where she could get educated unlike his family could, and she’d have anything she wanted, including a good future.

“This means you won’t be able to see her anymore, you understand?

After a few moments debating letting his anger fly, Reuben reigned it in, relenting if just this once for the better of his daughter. If this was the only good thing he would ever do for her… “I’ll sign.”


#83

A happy ending yay!!! But I still feel bad for your sister, at least you taught her some survival skills


#84

I’m going to be gone from the 25th until about the 7th…going on vacation/land seeking down in Texas. I’ll mostly be offline but will continue the story when I can.


#85

Enjoy your vacation! :smiley:


#86

Safe travels and steer clear from Mercedes


#87

Have fun and stay safe!

(and if you end up in Waco, you have to go meet Chip and Joanna Gaines for me lol)


#88

Wow, have always seen you around here but never really got to know you. interesting read here, and a Real one. i will take some time to read all the posts you’ve made.

Btw, enjoy and have a great vacation :wink:


#89

THIS ENTRY CENSORED.

  • To view the content of this next installment, please send me a PM to be part of the private message group (unless you are already part of said group). A few entries, including this one, are too explicit for the open forum.
  • Please note that this entry is graphic and may not be easy to read.

#CE3


#90

Continued…


Returning to the fifth grade, Vanessa’s classmates seemed pleased to have her back. Many she didn’t expect, even some of the boys, said they were glad to see she was back in school with them. It was a warm feeling. She had grown up with all of the same kids and they all knew each other by name…almost like a family. It felt good to be among familiar people.

With some of the fresh bad memories being repressed, Vanessa started to get back into the normal swing of things. She hated mathematics and found history boring, and wasn’t much for PE either…but she did what was expected of her, to a point. In gym class it was sometimes required that they shower, which meant having to get naked in front of the other girls. Many protested but the gym teacher often stood watch to make sure everyone was getting in there. The girls often joked about this instructor liking to watch, but the male instructor did the same with the boys in their locker room. Vanessa though, found a way around this. When the teacher was distracted, prodding at some other student like a frustrated mother at the obstinance of her children to get clean, she wet her hair in a shower tap and promptly vanished into a bathroom stall. She changed out of her gym clothes and stepped out, assuring the teacher if asked that oh yes, she had been in the shower, and had the wet hair to prove it. If she could help it, she wasn’t about to get naked in front of anyone, no matter what.

She had become quieter, overall…she was no longer something of the class clown she used to be, and didn’t require being sent to the principal’s office for talking too much or passing notes during the monotonous classes. Instead, she turned back to her first love of drawing, and spent much of her time doodling in her notebooks to herself. She had had a decent number of friends, but now they were starting to grow apart as she found them to be a little more immature than herself. She only kept a couple who were close, but never spoke a word to them about much of her past. She still despised her name, and her heritage, and the fact that she was growing up without her biological parents anywhere in the picture now, and a sister she didn’t see either…but tried to avoid these topics as much as possible.

_ _

A pencil rolled down her desk one day. The desk was slightly tilted. She placed it back at the top and it rolled down the slope yet again along its flank. She replaced it. Having it roll down a third time she again replaced it at the top, but there remained a feeling…a need…to do this in even numbers. The compulsion to have things happen in even intervals started to increase. If she stepped on cracks in the sidewalk she might have to re-trace her steps and be sure to step on the same crack again. If the floor was checkered she would try to remain on just the squares and not the lines, or have to back-step to do it again. She locked and unlocked doors in even succession, and often had to repeat the process even though she knew she had just locked or unlocked the door.

This had to be done…her nerves wouldn’t allow for it not to be. Even if she resisted and held out against it, her body would quiver and her mind be unsettled as if every fiber in her being was telling her she couldn’t continue with life until the pattern was complete.

As if by instinct she kept these habits secret, except when it came to washing her hands. She often had to have the water burning to the degree she couldn’t keep her fingers under the water for long, and she would wash her hands once, and then twice, picking up the soap bar separate times. She washed them so often that others noticed…but at least they only thought she was trying to be overly clean. She could tell others that it was more healthy to wash before and after eating; didn’t want to contaminate her hands with germs after touching railings or door handles, and sought out to wash them is all. Her friends laughed, her grandparents thought it was overkill, but she got away with it. She was just a clean-freak.

It was harder to hide the other desires, however. If she dropped a pen she might have to re-drop it again in secret to be able to pick it up for a second time. Tapping a pencil on her desk likewise had to be counted to make sure it happened in even numbers. It became difficult to focus. Even in her artwork, if she had to erase a line she had newly drawn, sometimes she would have to re-draw to re-erase it, blowing the rubber leavings away twice and not once.

As part of school they would test the eyes of the children, making them look into strange telescope-like boxes to read the letters inside. For some reason most of these letters were all “E’s” pointed in different directions. When it was Vanessa’s turn and she looked into the box, she couldn’t tell which directions the “E’s” faced this time. She looked up at the person running the machine and told her that she couldn’t tell. Maybe the letters were foggy in this machine?

The woman behind the box gave her an annoyed look, as if she was trying to hold up the line or couldn’t understand basic instructions. Why was this child being difficult?

“Just say which direction the “E’s” are facing…up, down, left, or right.”

Vanessa tried again but the yellow letters were all a blur. She tried to squint but it didn’t help much, so she nervously said, “Uh…the first one is…facing…up?”

“You really can’t tell?” the woman leaned in closer to her, as if trying to discern if this was a lie coming out of the girl or not just by reading her face.

“No.” Vanessa looked away. Eye contact was not her thing anymore. It was easier to deal with people when she didn’t have to look them square in the face.

The woman sighed and wrote something down on a sheet.

Not long after, her grandparents had taken her to a vision center. She was made to sit in a chair in a dark office, with the eye doctor sitting dangerously close to her. She could feel him breathing on her as he wielded an ungainly machine that looked like two huge old time theater movie reels, making her press her face against them to look through two small holes. As she did so he would flip some hidden switch and say “Is this better or worse?” as lenses inside them shifted and changed, her vision clearing or fogging at the behest of his fingertips. She strained to see yet another row of letters from a poster on the wall in front of her, having to read them off. Anxiety set in when she made the doctor swap back and forth…she knew she couldn’t fail this test.

In the end she ended up with glasses, just like her grandparents had to wear. Her classmates at school now would call her “four eyes” or a “geek,” and she started to feel more and more like an outsider among them…when she just so recently was welcomed by them. How soon the good feelings of being accepted waned.

It was annoying having glasses…even though she could actually see what the teachers wrote on the blackboards now. It was amazing to see the details of leaves from far away and not just a glob of green. She could see blades of grass and the dandelions creeping among them, rather than see the fields like some impressionistic painting of green with yellow dots. She could read the letters on road signs that were far away. She could tell who people were if they were half a block away instead of directly in front of her. On TV she could tell who was male or female without them having to speak first.

Even so, when she removed them for bed at night, she felt lesser than the other kids that weren’t impaired, and often dreamed about never having to wear glasses again. She wouldn’t have to constantly clean them from sweat and have the grease smear over the lenses, requiring her to clean them over and over to get to true spotlessness like her obsessive compulsiveness required. And she grew to hate it when it rained since she’d likewise have to clean them yet again. In the heat they would fog when she entered a building, blinding her during the moments it took for the glasses to grow accustomed to the new air temperature. Any trickle of water or a stray oily hair slicking against the glass would cause her to have to repeat the cleaning cycle over again…which had to be done at least twice every time.

_ _

A couple years went by…it became too much to continue the repetitions. She sought to break her own habits by brute force. She would do things in odd numbered intervals and subject her body to the inner turmoil such a thing caused. Vanessa knew she could subjugate her own body through will if she could just get past the initial urgency. She wanted to be in control. Over time, she was able to eliminate the OCD simply because she wouldn’t feed the need of it…all of the habits, that is, save for the hand washing. This remained with her no matter how she tried to resist. At least she managed to get it down to a single hand washing at a time and in not skin-scalding temperatures. She considered that a win.


#91

Continued…


The once extroverted girl, like a switch flipped, turned introvert. Devoting more time into her artwork, and less time socializing, Vanessa’s grades in school improved while she cultivated her talent for drawing all manner of creatures…though with a focus on dinosaurs and dragons. She didn’t desire drawing little kittens, rainbows, and horses like other girls tended to scribble sloppily in the corners of their school notebooks. Pink cupcakes, flower hearts, and sparkle ponies were not her bill-of-fare. Fantasy, animals, and fantasy-animals were subjects she enjoyed most, and applying science to the things she drew to make them as realistic as possible. Even though she was young, and the artwork relatively crude, it far surpassed anything of her classmates. She gobbled up art resource books and books with wildlife photography and anatomy.

The middle school art teacher fawned upon her prized student. She often let the girl decide what to draw or how she wished to interpret artistic homework, never forcing her to work a certain direction. She nurtured the growing talent instead of trying to mold or restrain it. And along with the desire to sketch came a desire to read books and also to write, a love fully endorsed by Vanessa’s English teacher. Most all books in the novella category didn’t have any images, so one had to use their own imagination to fully lose themselves in the fantasy literature…which she so easily could do. As she became reserved in real life, her mind became more active with vivid daydreams to keep her occupied during boring class lectures. Between her art and English teachers, Vanessa could forget the annoyances of history and gym class…even the dreadful mathematics. Too bad though, she could barely find many fantasy books meant for her age…it wasn’t exactly a popular pick for young pre-teenage girls whose preferred reading was “The Babysitter’s Club.”

Teachers requested she draw things for them too, as well as classmates. She designed the math teacher’s homework pass tickets and several school t-shirt designs. She was even requested to illustrate the yearbook cover. Even some of the boys wanted her to draw things like Ninja Turtles or the Chicago Bulls mascot logo. Everyone pointed to her as the local artist of the school. She thought, Well, I’m good at something, at least. People like what I can do. She liked to please people.

It was the sixth grade, and she was twelve. She had a couple best friends but it was rare when she got to go over to a friend’s house or have one over at hers. Whenever she asked, the request was gently pushed aside. “Maybe some other time,” her grandparents would say. They seemed to be too disinterested or too busy to drive her somewhere or have a playdate…there were often doctor appointments for her grandmother to attend, or times when she didn’t feel good. Vanessa didn’t question it too much, since it was pretty standard for the answer to be “no,” but she felt let down by it, and hated asking when she could foresee the response being the same. Truth be told, she didn’t see, through her ignorant eyes, just how old her grandparents were getting to be, or how many extra years were put upon them during her temporary kidnapping.

On the few occasions when it was permitted she could see a friend, those days flew by like a star-ship going into hyper-drive. Why was it that on normal days the time seemed slower, with more hours hanging lazily around waiting to be wasted, yet when with friends the clock committed treason, speeding up time?

Deep down she wanted her sister to live with her instead of with her sister’s father and step-mother. She had only just tasted what it was like to not be an only child and she missed it…and here her sister got another mother too. Reminiscing about the past often brought on other thoughts however, of what she and her sister had endured. She dismissed from her mind as fast as she could, the flashbacks…pushing them somewhere down deep in her brain where it would have trouble accessing them. If she could control the OCD, she could control this too…right?

Seeing Jamie happened maybe once a year now for an overnight sleepover that always ended too soon, again jilted by the hands of time…but it was the best Vanessa could get. Jamie was going to have another sibling soon herself, since her step-mom was carrying. Neither of them had heard from their biological mother in a long time…something that bothered Jamie a lot more than it now bothered Vanessa, who often brushed off her sister’s whines. Vanessa’s former yearnings for her mother had faded to a dull memory of that person existing, but nothing more. She started to call her mother Cara instead of “mom.” And as for her father…no feelings at all. I never knew him sober, she thought. I never really knew him at all. And yet…the twinge of pain was still there from both of these called parents that created her, because she could see all of the other kids with their parents and siblings and it still struck her to the core. Even Jamie had gotten another family that was like living with both parents, not grandparents. It was enough of a tiny pain within her to foster into anger, and finally, apathy for the ones that bore her.

_ _

There was a girl in her school named Lana, who ever since the early elementary grades would cry for her mother. She lived with her mother, but having to part from her in order to go to school during the day many times seemed to be too much for her to bare…even now with how old they had become. Finally, one day Vanessa went up to her while she sat alone in the hallway.

“Why do you always cry for your mother?” she asked callously.

“I love my mom,” Lana had sniffed in return, unashamed of her tears. “I miss her.”

Vanessa snorted arrogantly, as if somehow Lana’s words were mocking her own inner feelings. The over-the-top display of emotion irritated her nerves, and her own jealousy guided her tongue. “You still live with your mother. You get to see her when you go home, every single day. Don’t be such a baby.”

Such meanness wasn’t typically her motto, but Vanessa was long done with hearing Lana blubbering away for her only-unseen-during-school-hours-mother since kindergarten. She also didn’t tolerate seeing any of the other girls crying over what she considered to be stupid things, and such visuals offended her more-so than drew out her pity. She wanted to be stronger than that. Tears equaled weakness. She didn’t want to become like Lana.

_ _

At one of the after-school dances where the boys sat on the bleachers and girls idled about in their little groupings, wondering if any of the boys would be so brave as to ask them to dance - of which they never were - a song played over the loudspeakers. It took Vanessa completely by surprise. The song triggered a memory from long ago, of her mother laughing loudly while smoking and singing to it in her car.

“They comin’ to America…”

The students would come to these silly after school functions because they were fun with friends, where they got free food and snacks, and it was one of the few times Vanessa could see her friends outside of a classroom setting…what with it being a safe school event her grandparents would allow her to attend; but she was unprepared for hearing that particular song reverberating throughout the gym. What were the odds? As it played, she resisted as much as she could her own tears she didn’t understand why were coming, but the emotions careened so suddenly upon her…

Just turn them into anger, she thought to herself, gritting her teeth. She couldn’t close her eyes though…too risky trying to shut them back when they could escape. Instead, she tried to tilt her head casually with the music from left to right, rolling the pools gathering in her lids from side to side…but it was just no good. The more she swayed to the music, the more it overtook her.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” she blurted awkwardly to her friends, leaving quickly to go into the locker room of the gymnasium. It was the quickest exit she could make, but not the most sensible one. Once there she tried to gather herself, not wanting at all to become like a sniveling little girl crying for her momma…like Lana. She angrily dabbed her shirt against her eyes underneath her glasses-frames, resentful at how her own body was betraying her.

Behind her, one of her friends had followed. It was Jenny. “Hey, Van, what’s your hurry? Something wrong?”

She bristled, dropping the bit of damp fabric and brushing it off as if re-adjusting her shirt. She kept her back turned slightly so the spot couldn’t be seen. “Just had to use the bathroom.” Did my voice give something away?

“Why didn’t you use the ones down the hall? We can go to the cafe and get some brownies. I’ll come with you.”

Her teeth clenched, imagining herself as an enraged wolf with snarling muzzle, tense clawed paws, ears laid back before a strike - a cornered animal one should know better than to jab. Somehow the image comforted her, making it easier to repress the feelings she wished to. The pools in her eyes mostly slid back to where they had come from…but it came with a cost. It exhausted her emotionally, and she didn’t want to snap at a friend, so she reigned in the beast.

She agreed to go to the cafe, looking down at the floor tiles as she headed past Jenny and for the door…but a streak of wet glistened on her face, and it was seen.

“Van, what’s the matter?”

“Uh…” she fought to find words, but all that could come out were the most unconvincing ones possible. “It’s nothing.” She wiped her cheek with the back of her hand.

“Vaaaan,” Jenny cooed, “you can tell me.”

She huffed, acting nonchalant. “It’s nothing…just that song…it reminded me of my mother, that’s all. It was her favorite.”

Her friend hugged her straight away. It happened so quickly and was so unwanted that Vanessa stiffened against it immediately. It didn’t seem to affect Jenny though, and the hug lasted what seemed like ages to Vanessa. This girl stuff she wasn’t fond of.

“Aww, lets go get some brownies, you’ll feel better.”

Jenny released her and headed out of the locker room, leaving a bewildered Vanessa behind. That was it? Lackadaisical concern at best? But what did she expect anyway with the detached act she put on? Did she actually…want her friend to pry? She shook off the notion.

Brownies do sound good…


#92

Continued…
WARNING: TMI


Vanessa was excited for the day. She was going to be picked up by one of her friends and brought back to her house to go swimming in her huge over four-feet deep pool, which to Vanessa was one of the most amazing things anyone could own. It was one of her favorite things to do…to swim, and she so seldom got to do any of it. Given the opportunity she could stay in a pool all day long.

When she was younger, her grandparents had gotten her a small hard plastic pool they filled with water on hotter summer days they set out on the cement porch outside. It was not even a foot deep but the young girl loved it. The water from the hose was very cold but her grandfather would heat up several pots full of near-boiling water to pour in for her, making the water tolerable, and she would stay outside in that little pool until all of her fingers and toes turned to raisins. Ellen or Vito would sit out in the sun reading books with her sometimes, but she could easily outlast them. She invented her own pool games for herself and treated her little pool like a double-sized bathtub oasis…without the soap bubbles. She wouldn’t get out until she had to. Such a pool was too small for her pre-teenage self now.

She had never been in her friend’s pool before but her friend talked about it often in school. Her friend even had a hot tub in her basement she might get to use and even a rabbit for a pet she would get to see and touch. It was a lop-ear beefy bunny, probably the cutest rabbit Vanessa could imagine. She had fallen in love with lop-ears since one of her favorite children’s books “Leo the Lop” of the legendary Serendipity series, was a lop-eared rabbit who had to learn how to play by himself, being an only bunny.

The first part of the morning was full of anticipation…she couldn’t wait to hit that water with her friend, but after breakfast she started to feel unwell. It was a pain she wasn’t familiar with, aching in her stomach, but unlike that if she had the flu or eaten something bad. The pain increased quickly, and her grandmother seemed to take a more keen interest in asking her questions about where it hurt, and what it felt like.

“Could it be her appendix?” Vito looked to Ellen.

She paused, then gave him a peculiar look. “I don’t think so, Vito.”

Vanessa climbed up the stairs towards her bedroom, hoping this would pass quickly. There was still a couple hours or so before her friend was supposed to come pick her up. She flopped onto her bed and curled as close to her knees as possible, holding her gut with one arm, squeezing inward. It felt as if a hand was reaching into her and twisting a fist full of her entrails. No matter which way she rolled, the pain persisted, until she felt the sensation of needing to vomit.

Rushing to the bathroom she dry-heaved, nothing coming up. It wasn’t an experience she was used to…throwing up without anything spilling out. Her body forced her to do it several more times, coaxing itself until it did manage to draw back up breakfast. After retching she slumped down in front of the toilet, shivering with cold.

Ellen knocked to come into the bathroom, and Vanessa sat back up, weak and sweating, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. The taste of acidic cereal slicked her tongue. The pain was still there, and it was taking over her thoughts even though she was trying hard not to think about it. And as the minutes passed by she started to have to…push, hard.

When she told this to Ellen, she seemed unsure suddenly, of what her granddaughter was relaying to her. “Why are you bearing down?”

“I don’t know…I just have to. My body wants to and it makes the pain go away for a second when I’m pushing.” She had started to moan, as if the twinges were somehow tied in with her vocalizing of the pain.

“You seem awfully pale.” Ellen felt her forehead with her wrinkled fingers. “You feel like you got a fever.”

That’s all she wanted to hear…she was sick on the one day she was planning to go out and have fun…in a swimming pool no less. Terrific, just had to be today.

Her grandmother took her temperature and it showed she had a mild fever, so she got her a blue water bag full of ice to put on her forehead, a Tylenol for the pain, and a heating pad to put on her belly. She made Vanessa lie back down in bed and left the room concerned, with her moaning behind her.

It felt like ages she tossed and turned in the sheets. The pushing and the moaning were wearing her out. Back and forth she fumbled her legs to walk between bathroom and bedroom, uncomfortably agonized no matter what she did, dizzy and cold but sweating despite it. In one of her many trips to the bathroom, at least she got the answer as to why this all was happening. She wiped herself and was shocked at the sight of bright red blood on the pure white tissue’s surface.

Her grandmother had told her that one day her body would change, to expect it…but this is what it was to have a period? So much misery that it made you physically ill…to have it be so bad you couldn’t bare to walk or move, yet couldn’t not move? The school didn’t say anything about this…just mentioned the word “cramps,” which sounded like a pussified word now to her. It was like saying a sledgehammer to the head gave you a headache rather than a skull-fracturing concussion.

It wasn’t long before her friend’s mother pulled up with her friend in tow, but her grandparents sent them away as she languished in bed, Ellen explaining the details with not just a little bit of a smile on her face to her friend’s mother. There was something about how her mood lifted when Vanessa had told her about the blood. No doubt they were relieved it wasn’t something serious, but Vanessa didn’t see anything to be happy about either.

“You’re a woman now,” Ellen beamed down at her, “and you’re going to be just fine, nothing to worry about.”

No, nothing but I can’t go with my friend…she thought to herself. “Is this going to happen every month like this?”

Sitting on the bedspread next to her, Ellen tried to be reassuring. “No, I don’t think so. It’s just bad because it’s your first time. It gets better.” She hugged her.

Why would anyone want to ‘be a woman now’ and deal with this?

_ _

When the next month came, her body didn’t forget itself, and like clockwork it all came on again…and again…and yet again, month after month, each and every time as painful as the last. The one comfort was that the agony only lasted for half of the first day, and she could get by after that just fine…except every month she would end up missing a day of school (easy enough to just say she was sick and spare the embarrassment of the truth since the school tested her and she ran a fever); and when she was older and could get a job, she’d miss a day of work as well. No doctor would prescribe anything for the pain…so silly was the suggestion! They wanted to prescribe birth control, which her grandparents would not permit…not even the discussion of it. Doctors didn’t take her pain any more serious than they would a stubbed toe…not even when she told them she had the need to push, and vomit, and the whole process. In their eyes she read she was just a woman being…weak.

Her friends got their monthlies about a year after she did, at around 13, and some even later, and yet when she spoke to them about “cramps,” none had any of the symptoms close to what she endured.

“You throw up?” one asked with dismay.

“Can’t walk it’s so bad - what?”

“Oh come off it. It can’t be that bad!”

And then there’d be laughing.

She wouldn’t bother any more trying to get doctors to believe her, not even the OBGYN that she would have to be seeing as part of “being a woman now,” and she sucked up the physical pain like she had trained herself to do with emotional pain. She couldn’t turn physical pain into anger but when she knew her day was coming, she already made plans to be in bed before the worst symptoms would hit. No over-the-counter medication would work, but sleep seemed to be an answer…for many things.


#93

Continued…


Vanessa’s sister was able to come over for a long overdue sleep-over. Her father and step-mother dropped Jamie off at her grandparents house and they were off running upstairs into Vanessa’s room to figure out what they were going to do first. Jamie wasn’t much into playing outdoors, but they found fun playing The Game of Life, Jenga, or just indulging in girl talk…which mainly consisted of laughing at boy-stuff.

“Do you think about our mom?” Jamie inevitably asked Vanessa after the initial tumalt of seeing each other again had worn down.

“Sometimes,” she conceded. “But what’s the point?”

“I miss her.”

Vanessa huffed to herself, knowing where this conversation was already headed and being annoyed by it. Her sister had a way or repeating herself, and wanting to discuss the same topic over and over. “If she missed us, she would come back.”

“What if she lost our phone numbers? What if something’s happened to her? What if she can’t come back to us and she really wants to?”

“What if she’s just doing her own thing? She doesn’t want to come back.”

The harshness of the response visibly upset Jamie. None of these were answers she wanted to hear from her older sister. “Don’t you miss her?”

“Yeah, sure,” Vanessa lied…or did she? She changed the topic, going over to her bedside table. “Hey, you wanna see something cool?”

Temporarily thrown off, Jamie cocked her head curiously. “Uh, sure?”

She opened a binder packed full of page after page of basketball cards. The binder couldn’t possibly hold a single page more, it was so bursting at the D-rings. Vanessa’s neighbor Bree had gotten her interested in collecting the cards, even though she didn’t watch much of the sport herself. It had been one of the many things she had picked up from Bree that made her feel “cool” by emulating her, feigning interest in the game…admittedly a pointless pursuit when one didn’t care for basketball or had anyone else to trade cards with. Bree’s sister Rainey, of course didn’t take part in such a boy-ish thing.

“These are the Chicago Bulls.” Vanessa flipped the silky, pocketed pages with delicate turns. She had an entire page devoted solely to Michael Jordan cards. “This one is my favorite Jordan,” she pointed to one of the Fleer cards with holofoil and embossed effects, “and this is Scotty Pippen and Dennis Rodman, the main Bulls trio. I have some of Rodman’s cards from his other teams too in the back.” She had organized the teams meticulously, but put the players into the sections based off their current uniforms. “I really like the uncommon black and white cards, but the rarest card I have is Jordan’s rookie card, even though it’s not a great picture, can’t even see his face really. And here are two really rare cards of Shaquille O’neal. He plays for the Orlando Magic. These cards are worth like $20 each, a friend of mine says.”

Jamie looked at the cards eagerly, saying nothing as Vanessa pointed out her prized collection. Truthfully she couldn’t care less about the players or the teams. She seemed the most interested in asking her sister what they were worth instead. Finally, Vanessa closed the binder and slid it back into the nightstand. It was almost ice cream and movie night time but they had to get ready for bed first.

_ _

It had been several days since her sister left, and Vanessa was in her room, sorting out her Lego pirate minifigures on their little pirate island. The Lego shark would patrol along the borders with gaping maw, while the Wolf Renegade minifigures would make an attempt at busting onto the island via boat to try and take the pirate’s plunder…tiny Lego gold coins from the treasure chest.

When she cleaned up the spare Legos she went to set the bucket nearby her nightstand…that’s when she noticed her binder seemed misplaced. It wasn’t pushed as far back as she normally had it. She knelt down beside the stand and pulled the binder out, flipping the pages open to adore her cards once again…until she saw several empty slots in the Chicago Bulls section. In a panic, she flipped more pages, heading to Orlando Magic, the teams sorted in alphabetical order. Both of the Shaquille cards were missing.

The upset rose up from her belly like a dragon that noticed a prized gem in its collection had been pilfered. Between the rage and the sadness she was beside herself with what to do, almost shivering with indecision. But this wasn’t something she could keep bottled up, and she told her grandparents what had happened.

“Where was the binder?” Vito had asked.

“In the nightstand, by my bed,” she answered.

Her grandfather stood from the kitchen table and walked with her up the stairs. His steps were faster than his norm, and she was quick at his heels.

“Vanessa, I know you’re upset, but you have to understand that your sister,” he sighed with an old knowing ache, stepping over the final stairs, “she lived with your mother for a long time, and she was taught many things that were wrong by her. Cara took many things from stores without paying.”

“But they were my things,” she whined. “Why would my own sister steal from me?”

“You told her how much you thought the cards were worth. Why did you have to tell her that? People see dollar signs, get jealous, and people like Cara can’t help themselves with their sticky fingers.”

Vanessa knew it was wrong to steal, but she figured people stole things from stores, not their friends, and certainly not their family. She loved her sister. Why would she do this to her collection she had raved about? Why did she take her very best of cards?

Vito let Vanessa rifle through the pages and show him the blank slots. He sighed unhappily but tried to explain that they were only just cards…it was a terrible thing, sure, but in the long run it was a tough lesson that now was being learned. However, when Vanessa put the binder back he looked down at the small drawer beneath the bookshelf area. His face turned troubled.

“Did Jamie go through this drawer?”

Vanessa shook her head. “I didn’t even see her touch my binder. I don’t know when she took the cards. I didn’t see it happen.”

“But did you go through this drawer with her?”

Again, she shook her head. “Grandpa, I don’t even use this drawer.”

He knelt down and opened the drawer quickly, reaching far into the back to pull out a long black box that was hidden behind other trinkets like cufflinks and handkerchiefs marked with an embroidered “V.” When he opened the box he saw empty black velvet…

“No…” he snapped the box closed, standing up as if he just suffered a painful injury.

“What happened?” Vanessa asked, quickly repeating herself when her grandfather exited the room. “What happened!?”

He went into his bedroom where Ellen was, asking her to come and look through her jewelry box. Ellen had been staying in bed more and more as of late, going up and down the stairs being too much trouble for her multiple times a day. She got up and went to Vito, who wasn’t about to begin to go through her box without her being with him to do so.

It was an elaborate floor-standing thing, the jewelry box. It had many tiny drawers along its front and the lid opened wide, lined inside with red satin. Many slits were impressed into rows to hold rings, and somehow necklaces were able to be suspended along the back on either side of a mirror. The outside of it was varnished mahogany, and the legs were carved smooth like curved snakes in an ‘S’ shape. It looked very expensive to Vanessa, but she never did care for such fancy things or what was held within them…until now. She didn’t know what was happening.

Finally, Vito opened the black box and showed it to Ellen. “Our engagement ring…can you find it, Ellen?”

And then Vanessa knew the importance of what must have been inside that long black box. As she watched her grandparents search in vein, drawer by tiny drawer, opening every ring case and little private pocket stashings of earrings, her heart deeply sank. This was far more important than her basketball cards.

_ _

The phone call she was forced to make to her sister ended with Jamie in tears, at first swearing that she hadn’t stolen anything, then admitting that she took the cards but nothing more. The cards were given to a boy from school she liked in trade for a faux ring he gave her in return…so why would she need to steal a ring? Vanessa was angry with her for her betrayal, but in hearing her tremulous voice, the agony coming through the phone, she could no longer be.

“Oh why…why did you take my things?” she begged for an answer.

“I don’t know…” she cried. “I don’t know why. I’m sorry!”

Vito insisted on speaking to Jamie’s parents, and when Vanessa handed over the phone, the conversation quickly escalated, and there was little mercy given. She was afraid of Vito’s anger, she saw it so seldom. His raised voice, his jerking hand motions…his insistence of them finding the ring and getting it back…the rarity of his use of cuss words emphasizing his heated fervor. She climbed the stairs and listened from the hallway, shrinking against the wall, ever so slowly creeping backwards to her room as her ears strained on every one of his words.

“Jamie is not allowed to come here anymore until that ring is returned!” and he hung up.


#94

Whose your favorite Jordan now? Eh?


#95

giphy


#96

Sorry I took a small break on this. I write when I am compelled to and I’ll get back on it soon-ish. If you haven’t had a chance to read through it yet, now’s a good time if you were interested but daunted by the size of it.


#97

Hey Sledge,

I’d like to congratulate you on putting your memories on paper (digital paper) and opening it up for everyone to see.
I believe this helps your mind to cope with the thoughts with less shame and guilt, as you begin to realize that they are nothing more than occurrences in life and that they are not responsible for defining you.

I wonder if the writing felt like a weight lifted from you. I’d imagine it would feel this way. Keeping memories for ourselves, no matter how simple they are, have a way of turning the experience into something more than it’s been. I know I have done so in the past with the most common of memories and thoughts, and after speaking them aloud enough times they are barely there anymore.

I also believe, having read all entries, that your story showed how everything is relevant in the development of a child. Sometimes it is not clear how small or short events can leave a lasting impression in someone’s thoughts and personality, as opposed to only traumatic events.

Truth be told, I believe this doesn’t change all that much as we grow up. We continue to mold ourselves based on our impressions, though our maturity helps to filter what we absorb or not to some extent, but we are always being affected, changed, molded and reshaped into something new through our life experiences… Good or bad.

Thank you for telling us your story. I’ll be looking forward to any other chapters, but even if you don’t get to write them I’m thankful for having known the ones already posted.
I’ve left this page open since the first day I became aware of the topic, accompanying each entry as it went live, sometimes in the same minute. That’s been more than a month now!