BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Daniella's Story

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 I’m usually afraid of thunderstorms. The loud crashing of its thunder rocking the sky used to make me tremble enough to go and seek the comforts of my mommy. I would lie next to her while she read one of her favorite books on the corner of the couch and soothed any fear I had toward the bad weather. “Thunderstorms won’t you hurt, Daniella,” she chuckled as she paused from her reading. This was followed by her motherly smile and the soft pats near my single ponytail.
It had just been me and my mommy for years until the day she met my stepfather. He was nice to us at first by taking us to fun places like Chuck E. Cheese, the park, or Disneyworld. He would take mommy to nice, grown-up places like fancy restaurants and overnight vacations to expensive hotels. Everything was going fine with the three of us until my stepfather, who was no taller than mommy, came home one night and began to hit her. The sounds of his hand hitting against her skin still makes me cringe.
Later that night I played alone with my baby dolls on the living room floor. At seven years old, I sat between the couch and a recliner chair combing the kinks from one of my doll’s hair. As I hummed a tune I learned in school mommy shouted from the kitchen, “Daniella, dinner will be done soon.” I smiled back at her since she could see me from the stove. Whatever it was she was cooking smelled awfully good and it made my mouth water with excitement.
 Then my stepfather suddenly returned home and he didn’t look too happy. He slammed doors shut and pouted like a little kid before he sat on his recliner. Plopping his feet up he rubbed his dark colored forehead and let out an unhappy sigh. This was his usual routine night after night.
Looking into his eyes used to bother me because all I saw was someone who didn’t care. My stepfather’s vibes rubbed the nicest people into the saddest, but I grew used to his mean personality. Mommy told me all the time that mean people weren’t born mean they were made. I would quickly answer her with, “Isn’t that tiring for a mean person to stay mean forever?”
 Then my stepfather moved on to the next step of his routine. He went to the kitchen with mommy and pierced his eyes through her as if he wished she wasn’t his wife. I knew mommy felt what he was going to do by how nervous she acted, but she been used to it for three years. Stepfather would come home mean, pick fights with mommy, and hit her for no reason at all! That’s how it has been. I learned to find ways to live with it even if I had to hold in my tears.
Next thing I knew he was yelling at her like she did something wrong. Rushing behind her while she tried to cook he pulled her hair back to force her to look him in his eyes. “Why are you doing this,” she cried. “I didn’t do anything wrong!” She was right. Mommy never caused the fights. She only tried to be a good wife.
“Shut up,” he yelled.
“Please, stop!”
“Did you hear what I said? I said shut up!”
His routine continued as he slapped mommy hard making her fall to the floor. She crawled underneath the kitchen table to get away from his grip and was crying for him to stop. Part of mommy’s routine was trying to trade for the beatings to stop and then she would give him anything he wanted. Sometimes it worked and sometimes she got beat more. That night he ignored the bargain and the beating continued.
I turned away from the madness to play with my dolls and hummed any tune I could think of. That night the slaps were so loud that I focused on the booming sound of the thunder.
“Why can’t you do what I say,” he yelled as he continued to beat her.
With each blow to her face I could hear mommy’s echoed, blood curdling screams. She screamed so loudly I almost couldn’t hear the pounding noise of the thunderstorm anymore. “I’m sorry,” she pleaded. My stepfather didn’t say a word. He only moved to another phase of his routine which was calling her names.
            I still faced away from the beating. Tuning them out was all I could do. If I cried he’d remind me that I could get it too. I did that before and remembered the terror he gave me. I didn’t want to be black and blue like mommy. Maybe I should’ve worn a brave face and shed tears for her, but after the fact when I saw mommy lying on the floor bloody, broken, or bruised I feared he would’ve done me like that too.
While I heard her crying he told her, “You think you’re going to leave me? Think again!” Then the routine suddenly changed. My stepfather went to the hallway closet and began to throw coats, shoes, and boxes out of his way, but there was one box that stood alone behind the other clutter. I saw him grab a small shoebox and load a small gun from the corner of my eye. I knew this was bad. He was usually just waving the pistol at mommy to make her cry, but this was different… much different.
He stomped toward mommy with his hand on the trigger and then pushed the barrel of the gun to her face. “Are you going to leave me now,” he grunted.
“Please don’t,” she sobbed. “I’m sorry!”
“Shut up!”
“I’ll do anything for you to stop. Please, no more!”
“Oh really,” he said as he turned my way giving me a freakish grin. “Anything,” he asked mommy.
 Her eyes widened as she suddenly realized what he meant by anything. She scooted, crawled, and even got dragged by him while he walked towards me.
“I didn’t mean Daniella,” she screamed while trying to rush to me.
He raised the back of his hand to my mommy and slapped her back to the floor. With the pistol still in his hand and his freakish grin he stood above me and my dolls.
“Your mom said anything, Daniella.”
Anything,’ I wondered. Saying anything could mean all kinds of things. Does he want me to say anything to keep him from hurting mommy or does anything mean to beat me too? At the time I clearly didn’t understand the word anything, but I knew by his devilish grin that it wasn’t good.
“Come to Daddy,” he softly said.
The way he said ‘Come to daddy’ skipped beats in my heart. The creepy tone behind his soulless eyes made me fearful of his next move like mommy. With my dolls in my hands I used my fists to crawl to another safe area in the room. ‘He’s not going to get me’, I said to myself.
“Daddy is not going hurt you,” he said “Come here, Daniella.”
 Then out of the blue mommy screamed. She ran toward my stepfather as if she had a mission, hopped on his back, and scratched his face with her nails like she had cat claws. “Stay away from her,” she yelled. He tossed her over his shoulder and she landed on her back.
All of this was getting to be way too much. For the first time I stopped playing with my dolls and sprung from the comfortable living room floor yelling, “Why are you doing this to my mommy?” That made things worse because he told me to shut up or I’d get it too as he pointed the gun toward me.
“Now, if you want to look like your mother I’d suggest you stay quiet,” he ordered.
I wanted to call for help but I was frozen. Then I looked out the window through the thick fog from the rain praying that someone could see through our window.
After that mommy grabbed the gun and told me to leave the room, but again I was frozen and scared of what would happen next. All kinds of things rushed in my mind like ‘if the gun goes off and mommy dies, who would take care of me?’ Mommy didn’t have contact with her parents. I guess they didn’t like her life choices so they cut ties from us. ‘What if the gun goes off and kills my stepfather? Should I cry or pray? Should I even mourn if he has a soulless heart? Or should I really care about what happens to him at all?’ This is not the first time I saw mommy fighting the man who tried to beat the life out of her for three years.
“Daniella go to your room,” she demanded once more, while wrestling the gun from his hand.
This time I did what she said, but as soon as I began to leave the room I heard this thunderous boom different than the sound of the storm outside. The deafening silence surprised my mommy and my stepfather, and I didn’t understand why they stopped fighting. Then I felt a weird pinch in my back. I thought it was him trying to hurt me like he does with mommy, but before I could ask mommy was she okay my legs fell asleep and I buckled to the floor.
“You shot my baby,” I heard her cry.
I heard the sound of her footsteps by my side. Then I felt warm kisses on my forehead and remember her begging God not to take me. I guess her begging didn’t make it to him fast enough because everything suddenly turned black and it felt like my body rose like a cloud. Mommy knelt by my body crying loudly while my stepfather held the gun with the smoke still lightly rising from the barrel. He was speechless as if there was nothing left to be said.
“I’m okay mommy,” I tried to tell her, but she didn’t hear me.
 Everything turned black once again and that was the last time I felt my mommy’s hands on me.
Since then I’ve been in Heaven watching the earthly days go by and now realize so much more. You would think from that night a person would learn from their mistakes. Well, unfortunately someone didn’t get the message. After my stepfather served a few years for my murder mommy went back to him. She lives every day being black and blue and the same old cycle goes on like when I was alive. I pray for her to get some common sense. Just because I’m in Heaven doesn’t mean prayer have to stop or that I can’t forgive the people who brought me here.
The only things I miss are the warmth of mommy’s love, her holding me tenderly until I fall sleep, and getting her sweet goodnight tuck in kisses. Too bad I won’t ever experience a senior prom, learn how to drive, go to college, get married, or have a family. I was robbed of all those things because someone hated rejection, but it may end sooner than later because as the cycle goes on history will repeat.
I want my voice to ring through this text to remind everyone that anger is a letter short of danger. Due to one person’s action time stood still for me and I will never experience anything past the age of seven that normal people do. My mommy’s self-esteem is so low she feels she doesn’t deserve to be loved by someone who respects her. Now I have to get ready to greet my loved ones because they haven’t learned from my death. Like me, mommy has to bury my new little brother. He suffered the same ill-timed fate and most likely he’ll repeat this same story with the very same ending.

©2011, Imani Wisdom


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