Sunday, December 27, 2015

Chapter 21... Am I Free?

I wasn't handcuffed. Thankfully.
 I was put into the back of a squad car. Just like in the movies, the officer held the top of my head as I was tucked into the back seat of the car and the door closed. A wire cage separated me from the front seat.
I had never been in trouble before. I had and still have a very healthy respect for law enforcement to this day.
I was scared to death.
Not scared of these kind men in uniform but scared mostly of being sent back to Barb and Bob.

Tears rolling down my face I ask "Where am I going?"

"You are going to juvenile detention until your court date in a few days. Charged as Juvenile Delinquent, " the officer explained.
I breathed a sigh of relief....Then what?
I wouldn't even think of that right now.

What was juvenile detention?
I had no idea but knew I was about to find out.

Gates open to let us in. Guards on duty. Razor wire surrounds the facility. Guns.

I am taken into the stark brick building.
Bartow Florida Juvenile Detention Center.

The processing is a blur in my mind. I was so scared. I remember being handed a blue jumpsuit and told to shower.
After a shower and being sprayed for lice I am taken to a small room and asked questions.
I am filthy dirty so a warm shower was like a dream. The lice spray was not.
They tell me that the authorities have contacted my parents and let them know I am safe. Ha! Safe is being held in jail behind bars that protect me from them not the other way around!

The walls are so  cold and our footsteps echo on the hard floors as I am escorted to my cell.

The door is opened and I am shoved inside.

There are bunk beds bolted to the walls. A small window above the metal rails of the beds. A toilet and sink.

I am told I have the bottom bunk.
The heavy door with an 8x8" window closes with a loud clank behind me.

As I enter I notice a young black girl stretched out on the top bunk.
I say hello but get no answer.

I have no idea what to do or say. I lay down and curl up without pulling the scratchy green blanket down. I just lay down on top of it.

As I close my eyes, I hear the most beautiful voice begin to sing....

You and I must make a pact, we must bring salvation back
Where there is love, I'll be there

I'll reach out my hand to you, I'll have faith in all you do
Just call my name and I'll be there

And oh - I'll be there to comfort you,
Build my world of dreams around you, I'm so glad that I found you
I'll be there with a love that's strong
I'll be your strength, I'll keep holding on - yes I will, yes I will

Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter
Togetherness, well that's all I'm after
Whenever you need me, I'll be there
I'll be there to protect you, with an unselfish love I respect you
Just call my name and I'll be there

The tears come and do not stop.  Sobbing. Those words to that beautiful song just bounced around in that tiny cell. That beautiful voice  just bounced around in my heart.

I find my roommate's name is Jackie. She has been there for over a month. Her 2nd court date was not for another 30 days.
"Why? What did you do?" I ask her.

"Oh, I took a screwdriver and stabbed my step dad in the neck then called the law. I'm not sorry. He beat me and has been raping me almost every day since I was 9 years old.  I only wish I had killed him. He almost died. Was real close to dead. Next time he will die."

Her face was like that of a small child but her eyes were old beyond her years.

I will never forget her.

Jackie asked me what I had done. When I told her why I was arrested and placed there, she came down from her bunk and sat near me. She took my hand and told me that the courts would send me back to them. My offense was too small to even deal with.

"I can't go back there." I wailed in desperation.
I knew the wrath of Barbara would be swift and harsh. To have escaped her evil and to be caught would be certain cruelty and the more savage the punishment she could think of the better, in her twisted mind....

Other girls in other cells up and down the hallway yelled out to tell me to "Shut up you big crybaby."

Jackie hummed a soft tune as I quietly continued to cry.

My court date was in 3 days.....

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chapter 20... I'm FREE!

I throw on a top and shorts. Slip dirty feet into scuffed old shoes. I have no money, nothing.
 No need for much.
 We are in Florida after all. I don't even think as I run out the back door.
My brain only registers that I must run!
 I run and run... along the roads to duck behind trees or slip off into deep ditches as cars drive by so their headlights won't illuminate me in the darkness as I make my way to freedom.
I don't know where to go or what to do.
It doesn't matter. I am free.
Free from Barbara and her  sick pleasure and glee in inflicting torture and pain. Free from Bob and his evil thoughts to a girl who is not his daughter but who is coming of age.
Just free!

I find a church and spend the night curled up in pew in the back. It's like Heaven there. The smell of the wood still a memory as I press my face into it and breathe it in. No pillow or blanket, just a few oranges I have found in the orange groves that line every back road of the state of Florida.
I am 14 and not very wise to the ways of the world but I am strong!
Sleep doesn't come easy as I worry each noise and creak of the tiny old church may be one of them lurking and waiting in the shadows to take me back. I won't go back!

Morning comes and I slip out of the church undetected.
I am getting good at this.
I am learning to become invisible and slip in and out of places and not be seen.

I am now in  Lakeland Florida.
The year is 1970. A time of free love, peace and hippies. Flower children everywhere. I am able to fit right in with them and they accept me as their own. Long hair and unkempt kids. Pot and drugs are free and available.
Its not my thing but it's a way of life for those around me. I didn't need to be high or messed up on drugs. I was just happy to be alive and safe! I felt so liberated.

I meet other runaways, hippies and homeless kids my own age that quickly teach me how to pan-handle.
Pan-handling is just a pretty way to say beg.
I was 14 but looked 10 years old. It was easy.
I was fed and had people that cared about me. Street people.  They didn't care who I was, they liked me for me.  If I felt like I was going to be accosted by some drug addicted hippie at night, I would simply leave. Better to sleep in a ditch. I learned to sleep in ditches and churches and under bridges. It was easy. I'm sure I was dirty and ragged but I had no fears. I still think my sweet guardian angel was with me.  Keeping me safe. I think of my own kids at this age living like I did and it scares me to death!

My days are filled with pan-handling, coffee houses, hippie-fests, and fantastic music on hillsides. Sitting in the grass listening to bands.  Sunshine and warm sunny Florida days. The smell of pot wafting in the air.

I am at a 7/11.
It is a beautiful day and I know have nothing to worry about anymore. Each day away from Barbara and Bob has lured me into a sense of safety.
As I walk out of the convenience store with my hands full of a sandwich and BBQ potato chips bought with money begged for right outside by a nice older lady, I am stopped by someone that looks so familiar yet older somehow.

It's my sister!

"Lana?  Is that you?" She says with a look of wonder on her face.
"Are you ok?"
I am so happy to see her as I grab her in a tight sweet hug. I have never been so happy to see someone, ever!

I answer her, "Yes, I am fine! How are you? Are you still living with Barb and Bob?" Please say no, I silently plead with her as I wait for her answer....
She lowers her head and nods yes.

"Come with me. Leave now! I know how to get by and you can leave them! I can take care of us both." I beg her  as she begins to walk away, she looks at me and says, "I'm not as strong as you, Lana. I won't make it."

"But you will! We can both have escaped. I think of you every day! I worry about you still there."

"I can't" she says as she hurries away from me almost running and disappears.

My heart is so heavy just knowing she is still living there with them.

My days are the same but different. Begging, meeting an array of people from everywhere.
Anywhere. No one knew or cared where we came from. We never asked last names or backgrounds. It didn't matter.
Young people like myself that are either runaways or just escaping life. Such a simple time.

I scored a dollar from a young mother when I helped her by entertaining her darling 2 kids at a nearby park. Pushing them in the swings and playing with them in the sand. I love kids. Laughing and playing and building sand castles. Bright sunlight on our faces as we laughed and played... It felt so normal.

My life was about to become anything but normal.....

As I walked to the same convenience store I had just seen my sister days before and  with my newly earned dollar bill in hand,  eager to get a can of soda and a candy bar for my meal of the day, I am approached by two uniformed police officers. One on either side of me. They turn me around. Each has a solid grip on my arms.  Pushing me along to a waiting squad car.....

" You are coming with us. You are under arrest for being incorrigible and running away from home."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Chapter 19 of These Horrible Memories...

I have had so many of you write to me to ask when I would finish this story of a tragic childhood. 
I appreciate all of you so much. 
When my husband was so sick and dying, you were all like beacons of light and I will never forget you and your sweet support.
Support of a complete stranger that you have never met. It makes my heart swell with so much love for each and every single one of you.

It has been so hard to come back here to finish this. 

I always knew that I would but didn't know how I could, really. So, today, in the bright happy sunshine of south Florida, once again I am going to reach back into the memories that I have tucked so safely away and want to forget but they are a part of me. These horrible memories are what have molded me in to who and what I am today.
I like who I am today. 
Actually, I really liked the strength of the young girl that I was even back then. 

I have been asked by people  "What are your best attributes?"
That's easy....
I am nice. 
People really like me. I think it's because even going thru this hell of a young life, I aways saw the best of the tiniest little thing. 
The glass is always half full to me! 

Ok, enough dragging this out.... 

I am stalling and we all recognize that so here goes....

My sister has been made to quit school and get a job in a nursing home wiping butts and cleaning up vomit to help with the bills. Barbara and she both work the same shift. Midnight to 8 a.m.
Left alone with Bob overnight is frightening even now to remember it. A big hulk of a man and mean as a snake too.
He reminds me daily that I am not his daughter.
Yay! That makes me happy. Wouldn't want to be!

Because of all of the beatings and stress of living with these two monsters, I had developed a horrible nervous habit of sleep walking. Sound asleep, I would suddenly wake up outside or in the bathroom, down the hall or in the kitchen, asleep and awaken scared to death in a place I had no memory of how I had gotten there. My nerves were raw like metal rubbing on a bare wire.  I got no escape from the terror even in sleep.
One night,  while Barbara was working and I am alone with Bob in a darkened house. I never wanted to be alone with him and being alone in a house at night was beyond the scope of terror for me. I would slink along the halls and slip thru doors to avoid him if I even thought he was going to come near me. Quiet and stealth. I was so tiny and underfed that it was easy to slip by and be unnoticed.

  No one had ever uttered one word to me about sex or what it was or that it even existed. Somehow, even my young mind knew he was after some hidden secret thing and I wasn't his daughter.... He reminded me of that fact daily. Almost as a chant to convince him and me that whatever would happen would be okay. 

I remember I am in a nightgown with tiny blue flowers on it and wake up in the middle of the living room. Bob has his arms around me tight in a bear hold. I was sleep walking again and my biggest fear has come true! 
He has me alone and it's dark and I am alone in a quiet house with Bob. I still shudder when I remember this fear of him. The smell of him.

He yells at me "You little Whore! You were outside with boys. Out fucking around! I know what you were doing!"

"No! I just woke up! I was sleeping. I promise, I was sleeping!"

He drags me down the hall to his bedroom. Slams the door shut. He has a rope. He pushes me down on the bed so hard that my teeth shatter together.  I can hear him panting in his effort to hold me down to the bed and tie me to it.
The fear in me is overwhelming. I could scream and no one would even hear me. No one would care.

He pulls my nightgown up and  over my head. 
I must run!
I have to stop this. 
He looks demonic.

He spreads each leg and my nakedness is so demeaning in front of this evil man. 
No no no no no.

He ties my arms up and out to each bed post. I am kicking out and trying my best to find a place on him to hurt him. To make him stop.  It is a fight for my life. He finally wins over me and manages to tie each leg at the foot of the bed to the posts that are now my prison. 
I am fighting him with all that I am. Squirming, lashing out, biting, spitting.  Not one muscle or bone in me is going to allow this to happen. 

I am not his daughter. I am 14.

I don't know what he wants to do but I know it's very very bad.  I feel like I am no longer me. I am thrashing around with every fiber of my being....Fight!
Suddenly. I stop fighting. I go completely quiet. I feel as if I am floating above myself.  A calm goes over me like a rush of cold water was injected into my veins. 
I look at him dead in the eye and say "I don't know what you are trying to do but if you touch me. Ever touch me again I swear to you that I will kill you when you are asleep. I will.  I will do it! I will kill you in your sleep."
I don't even recognize the stone-cold determined voice as my own.

He stops cold. The look on my face must have convinced him that I meant it. 100% meant that I would kill him. 
I don't know where the strength to even utter a word came from but to this day, I believe it was a guardian angel that was sent to spare me from Bob.

His eyes never leave my face. I can smell his evil breath. He slowly gets up off of me and goes to the door. He leaves me tied up.  I hear his steps going down the hall away from me.
I still feel the danger and know that I must act fast.

Being underfed and malnourished was going to work in my favor for once. It took me some time, but I was able to wriggle out of the ropes that tied my wrists and ankles.  My small fingers working frantically at the knots of the ropes. 
I have to leave! 
Not one more minute to waste. He could return any minute...
Get dressed. Hide? No! Leave here.