It started with a fifty nine cent hamburger.
I know that sounds strange, and in actuality it started way before then. I suppose it ended with a fifty nine cent hamburger, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
When I was ten years old my mother and my step father had been married for nine years. They had a happy marriage for a while but slowly we watched it deteriorate. They stayed together trying to make it work. Meanwhile the resentment in the rooms they occupied together left the air feeling humid, like there was no way to breathe.
One day a fight escalated from the original stand by of yelling and sceaming, to throwing dishes and breaking things. That was the first fight that made us ask our mother to get divorced. While we were still so young, and not quite understanding of how the world worked, we knew this wasn't it. They worked it out again though. I guess as parents they thought they could do it for us. Deep down we wished they wouldn't. We loved them both, just not around eachother anymore.
Things were going great in my life. I was thriving at YMCA day camp. I had an outlet for my art there, plus I got to swim all the time, and there were awesome snacks! I was dating the cute new guy. I had discovered I was good at acting and had just been in a play. I had great friends, power rangers, and a free spirit, life was good.
My mom always tried to make doing our chores fun. She kept a coffee can with random dollar gifts, those eggs from the quarter machines, and the prizes from the cereal box. When we did something good we would get to pick out of the can. If we were really good, we might even get McDonalds. Coming from a poor family, going out to eat was something that wasn't done for convenience it was done for celebration.
On this day mom offered us fifty nine cent hamburgers if we all got our room cleaned up! We were stoked of course, so we worked double time to get it done. Dad was sleeping in at the time, and when he woke up he decided he was coming with us to McDonalds. You could tell this wasn't exactly the day mom had planned by her facial expressions, but she went along with it.
At this point Dad's back had been hurt for a while and he was out of work. I'm not sure what was happening with workmans comp, but it seemed mom was the bread winner. We were stretched pretty thin. So when mom said fifty nine cent hamburgers, that was what we were getting. I'm almost positive she knew what she needed, down to the penny, taxes included. She could not deviate from this plan in order to keep everything else running smoothly.
Dad was driving and we pulled up to the machine to order. He begins by asking for hamburgers, Mom corrects him.
"You have to ask for fifty nine cent hamburgers" she says, because she knows exactly how everything must be done to execute this without error.
"What difference does it make, they know what it costs" He says matter of factly. This was not the correct approach with my mother, no, no. We all sat in the back quiet as ever, eyes wide.
"You have to ask for the deal, they don't just give it to you!" uhoh she used her voice she reserves for when she's including first and last names. We are not getting McDonalds today, I think to myself.
Instead of just asking for the damn fifty nine cent hamburgers and moving on, they begin fighting in the drive thru. When the person inside asks how they can help, he tells them to hold on and they proceed to fight. Then, they pull over into the side parking, and fight some more. He says
"Let's go home and handle this!" Were all in the back crying at this point.
"No, I promised the girls I'd get them McDonalds!" at this point we do not care about McDonalds, but we also know not to say a thing. So they fight more and he decides to walk home. Mom stays and gets us our fifty nine cent hamburgers. We eat them as we cry, these are the worst burgers ever now. Nothing tastes good when you have snot running down your face.
We take our time sitting at McDonalds. I know mom is not in a hurry to get back. She says Dad needs to cool off. He could be scary when he was angry, and when his face was red and looking like he might explode. We understood, and we took our time. We stayed quiet and trying to be as good as possible.
When we got home he was already there, and he was fuming. Mom had calmed down a bit and was trying to talk nicely at first. Then he said something that changed that and boom, they were yelling again.
We all begin to go to our rooms, we are too exhausted at this point. Dad says
"No, sit down on the couch! I want you to see how much of a bitch your mother is!"
"Don't say that about her!" We cry out, trying to protect our mother. Our tiny voices in comparison to his large, scary voice. He tells my mom that they need to talk everything out and they sit at the table yelling. She asks him to let us go to bed but he says no, and keeps saying he wants us to see her being a bitch. Really it's him we are sitting there afraid of. We are crying, hugging each other, and watching them fight for a long time. Then we start to drift to sleep.
I wake up to such insanity. It's such a strange feeling to be asleep and to wake up to chaos. My sister is next to me screaming
"Don't kill my mommy!"
My dad then let's go of my mothers neck. She is discolored, and weak. He almost killed her in his fit of rage. She wants him to leave, he says "No!" She want's to take us, again he tells her "No!" We want our mom, we are all crying and saying over and over that we want our mom. Then he tells her to go, but that she can't take us, her keys, or her shoes.
My mom leaves and now we are hysterical. We want our mom, it's the middle of the night, it's the middle of winter, and we almost just watched our mom die! He says she will be back soon, and he might go away for a while. He tells us to all go to bed. We all cry ourselves to sleep in my parents bed together.
Once again we get woke up in a crazy moment. Sirens outside, police lights shining on the walls and windows. An officer is at my side, making sure I'm ok. Our dad is being cuffed by an officer, reading him his rights. We are all crying again, I'm not sure how we have so many tears. Then our mom walks in the room, and we all get out of bed. Nothing else matters, Mom is safe!
We think everything is going to be okay now, but if I'd have known then what I know now.
That is for anther story.