Broken Chains–Morgan Wiese

“Broken Chains”

Morgan Wiese

The only memory I have of my mother is of her holding me close, sobbing, telling me it was going to be okay. My father had broken through the bathroom door where we were hiding and dragged my mother out, despite her desperate cries for help. I stayed huddled in the corner of that bathroom, listening to the screams and violence going on downstairs. I finally pushed myself up when the noise subsided and peered my tear-streaked face around the corner and down the staircase, where my mother lay crumpled in a heap, not moving. That was the last I ever saw of her. I was five.

I was fifteen, without a real teenage life. I lived with my father, confined to my room when I was home (except for meals)—no friends, no toys, nothing to do. I kept a picture of my mother tucked in my pillowcase that I stared at every night. She was a striking figure; brown hair strung in tight curls that fell just below her shoulders, soft green eyes, and a smile that could light up the world.

Every day I gazed out the tiny smudged window in my room, my peephole to the world. I saw birds soaring in the treetops, flying high above their worries. I saw kids in their backyards, playing, swinging, running, and laughing without a care in the world. I saw billowing white clouds that could float free in the sky, looking down on the whole world. What I wonder tonight is if I could be one of those birds, free to fly where they want, when they want. I yearned for that day.

School was my safe haven, where I left my loneliness panting behind and entered a place of freedom and independence. I didn’t have any friends, and my grades were average, but it was the one time every day I could speak up or actually do something without feeling the sting of a belt. A victory! I did my best to savor those few precious moments at school while they lasted.

One night I had been staring at my mother’s picture longer than normal, remembering her soft touch and smooth voice. I drifted off at some point in the night, and I awoke to sunlight pouring in my miniscule window and birds chirping their morning tune. “Shoot.” I realized I overslept and rushed to gather my things for school. I went through my daily routine in the classroom; studying, listening, taking notes. I came home to my father waiting in the living room, the fireplace crackling. It was odd since it was a 70 degree June day. He gave me an icy stare, and a chill began to radiate from his cold heart as a shiver crawled down my spine. He said nothing, just pulled out the picture of my mother and threw it in the fire. “Get down on the floor,” he said so quietly I almost couldn’t hear it. And so, as I knelt on the hard wood floor and braced for the lash I had come to dread, I wondered how he had come across the photo. I must’ve forgotten to put it back in my pillow last night. A silent tear ran down the side of my cheek as I watched the last connection to my mother crumble to ashes.

I’d put up with my father for fifteen years, taking his abuse without complaint. He had kept me cooped up in the house my whole life and robbed me of my happiness. I was done. I had to leave. I began packing the next day for my departure, stuffing my few belongings into the small black suitcase I saved for vacations, though I hadn’t gone on one since my mom was alive. I tucked it under my bed and awaited nightfall.

The rest of the day I lay on my bed thinking of the future and what would become of me. Honestly, I would have been satisfied with anything because I would be free from my father. Oh how I longed for that feeling! The birds would chirp a greeting and the clouds silently watch over me, a welcome to their way of life. I was entering a place where my fears couldn’t catch up to me.

Finally the sun sank below the horizon as I anxiously waited for the right moment to sneak out. A few hours passed and I listened as my father’s snores from across the hall fell into a steady pattern. Then I pulled my bag from under my bed and cautiously opened the door, grimacing at every creak. I slowly crept down the stairs and made my way to the front door. As I stepped outside the crisp summer air hit me immediately. I glanced back over my shoulder and took a look at the place that had been my confinement and my nightmare. Then I walked straight ahead and didn’t look back.

I was free.