I’m still working on putting together my thoughts about my recent trip to Cambodia. Look for it soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the next installment from Accountability.
Robert’s alarm woke me up. I jumped in bed as if I was rushing towards the stove to get breakfast ready for my family, but was even more shocked to find myself still in bed instead of in the kitchen like I usually was. When I saw I was still in bed, my heart jumped. I looked over at Robert who was turning off the alarm. He rolled over in bed and jumped back as well.
“Honey, what are you still doing in bed?” he asked.
It had been years since I had slept until Robert’s alarm went off. I had created one of the world’s best internal clocks. It would wake me up at exactly 5:45 every morning. It was almost as if somewhere in my head every morning there would be the electronic click of my clock telling me it was time to get up. My internal clock would always allow me to get out of bed early enough to stare down the stove and get myself ready to take on the challenges of the day. The last time I had slept through my internal alarm clock was when I was running a temperature and had a sore throat. I had taken some cold medicine the night before and it really knocked me out. Robert had been late for work that day and the kids were all out of pace because of the delay. After that morning, I swore I would never allow that to happen again, yet here I sat in bed with Robert’s alarm clock blaring fifteen minutes after my internal alarm clock should have warned me to get up.
“Honey, are you going to make me breakfast?” Robert asked. I’m glad he did because it shook me out of my daze.
“Yes, honey, sorry. I’ll get right on that.” I tried to get out of bed, but my brain swam around in my head. I looked over the edge of the bed to see only one pink fuzzy bunny slipper staring back up at me. I had no idea where the other one was, but I didn’t have time to concern myself with that because I needed to get breakfast ready for my family; otherwise their day would be off kilter. I shook the cobwebs off my brain and left the lone bunny where it sat looking for its partner. I slipped on my pink bathrobe to get breakfast ready.
At first I couldn’t understand why I had slept in so late, but as the events of the night before were starting to sift through the sleepy fog of my mind, I was able to start to piece things together. Palin had been a demanding girl all afternoon long. She kept on asking me to do this or that for her. Any time I didn’t respond to her request, she would remind me of one of the standards. When she started to make a drink and I took offense to that, she reminded me of Standard Number Two: A child should never be denied the experiences that life has to offer. When I picked up her purse to move it someplace where it wouldn’t be in the way, she pulled out Standard Number Five: A mother should trust their child’s judgment to do the right thing in any situation and should never violate this trust. When she talked loudly on the phone about finding something she called a score, and I asked her if I could use the phone so I could call Robert, she started quoting Standard Number One: A mother should ensure the popularity of their children to make sure that they have a healthy amount of self-esteem. It didn’t matter what the situation was, she had some answer passed down by the government which would counteract anything I believed would be the right thing to do.
Lindsey didn’t help much either. When she learned that Palin was her sister, she instantly fell in love with her. She started hanging around her wherever she went. I don’t think Palin felt the same way Lindsey did, but when I told her I needed to go pick up Zach from school, she offered to stay behind and take care of Lindsey. Allowing that request was my first big mistake of the evening.
In the short time I was gone to pick up Zach and come back home, Palin had taught her about the exciting game of dress-up. Instead of making it an innocent game of dressing up like a princess, Palin decided to show her the latest in teenage fashion. She had poofed out Lindsey’s hair so it looked like a blonde palm tree sitting on top of her head. She had painted her face in dark eyeliner and bright red lipstick. She even added just the right amount of rouge to highlight the apples of her baby cheeks. This, together with the choice of clothes, only made me question if this was a joke or if Palin had such terrible fashion sense she would think this made Lindsey look good. For a shirt, Palin had selected Lindsey’s bikini top. She also made sure that the Lindsey was able to show off how sexy her chubby legs were by taking her nicest skirt and cutting it so short it hung to the edge of her thigh. For a topper, she took a pair of my high heels and had her walking around the hardwood floors in them. The scratches, I’m sure, are still on those floors. I couldn’t decide if she looked more like a whore or a clown. Lindsey, on the other hand, thought she looked pretty and started to throw a temper tantrum when I demanded she take off the clothes she was wearing.
While I was trying to avert a disaster with Lindsey, Palin thought it was a perfect time to take on my other child, Zach. She showed him how to unlock channels on the cable box while feeding him large amounts of espresso she had made in the kitchen (she didn’t clean up after making that mess either). By the time I made it back to the family room, Zach was running around crazy and screaming all the fun new words he learned from the exciting new channels he discovered. He even went as far as to tell me to, “Take it like a bitch, Mommy.”
By the time I was able to catch Zach to try to calm him down, Lindsey was strutting through the house in nothing but her birthday suit. I tried to tell Lindsey to put on some clothes before her father came home, and she told me she couldn’t because she didn’t have any more clothes. It was partly true because she had thrown them all out the window of her room and they were now being ravaged by neighborhood dogs collecting them as new chew toys.
I held on to Zach who was trying to squirm out of my grip while chasing after my naked daughter. Palin sat on the couch laughing at all the mayhem while smoking a cigarette and ashing it on the Persian rug in the family room.
This is when Robert walked inside from a hard day at work. I was so happy he was home. He was able to help me bring control back to the madness taking over my life. We were able to collect enough clothes from the front lawn to dress Lindsey. For the rest of the evening, she was wearing a frilly skirt I had bought for her to wear on Easter Sunday and a t-shirt with a picture of Mama Buddy on it saying, “Isn’t she cute?” Robert placed Zach on a tread mill and told him to keep on running until he ran out of the excess energy from the espresso. I was given enough time to clean up the kitchen and prepare a quick dinner while Robert visited with his other daughter in his office.
While they were visiting, I made my second mistake. I made myself a cocktail. In fact in the course of the evening, I made myself quite a few cocktails. I knew drinking was against the standards but I knew they were lenient if a mother didn’t drink to excess. Plus, I needed a little something to help take the edge off the experiences I had from that day. The thing I found that worked the best was a gin and tonic, and by the time dinner had been served, I had a little bit of a buzz going on. The rest of the night was a blur. Palin kept on demanding things from me, and every time I went back into the kitchen, I would add a little splash of Tangueray and a bit more tonic to my never-ending drink. Robert was cordial with our new guest and I don’t even remember putting the kids to bed before I crashed in my own bed. It was probably best I couldn’t remember everything that happened afterwards, but what I did remember helped explain the way I felt this morning. It was also the reason why I was running so late.
While I was collecting my thoughts from the previous day, I rushed to the staircase, but was forced to stop when I saw Lindsey. She had her back to me and was standing at the top of the staircase looking downstairs and holding her blanket in one hand with her two favorite fingers in her mouth. I suddenly realized something new about my child I had never realized before. She was on as much a schedule as I was. I could not think of a day I had not come around from the beginning of my cooking routine to see her standing at the top of the staircase waiting for me to tell her to go wake up her brother. It reminded me how lucky I was to have such a wonderful child and it pained my heart that I was going to have to break her routine by showing her I was off my schedule. She was going to be disturbed because I was actually behind her instead of downstairs making breakfast as I should have been.
She turned around when she realized I was behind her. She took her fingers out of her mouth and said, “Do you want me to wake up Zach?”
“Yes, honey,” I said as I ran past her on the stairs, and stopped before I got half way down. I looked back up the stairs and called after Lindsey. She stopped and popped her head back down the stairs. “Can you make sure that Palin gets up too? She needs to get to school also.”
“Okay, mommy,” was her reply, and she ran off to accomplish the tasks I had sent her off to do. I went back to trying to get things on track.
I ran into the kitchen, grabbed two frying pans and a large griddle and placed them on the stove. I turned the burner on under one of the frying pans. I opened the fridge and grabbed a package of bacon, a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, and the orange juice. I slammed the fridge door shut, and didn’t realize my bathrobe had been caught in the door. I was moving so quickly to the counter next to the stove I forgot about not having the traction offered by my bunny slippers. I slipped and fell hard on my back. Luckily the only thing damaged in the fall, besides my pride, was the gallon of milk which had cracked on the hardwood floor. It was creating a big puddle on the floor.
I threw the rest of the food on the floor, and grabbed the container of leaking milk and tried to stand up. It took a little effort because of the way my bathrobe was caught in the fridge door, but I managed to do it. Milk continued to spill on the floor as I released myself from the fridge trap, and rushed over to the kitchen sink to put what was left of the gallon of milk in there. So far a quarter of a gallon of milk was lying on the floor, another quarter was soaked into my pajama bottoms, and the other half was slowly leaking out into the sink. I knew I needed to save some in order to salvage breakfast this morning, so I went back across the kitchen to get a container to pour the rest of the milk into. I didn’t make it all the way over before slipping on the milk in the middle of the room and landed face first on the floor.
I moaned as I crawled my way over to the cabinet to grab a pitcher. Luckily, we kept them in one of the lower cabinets, so I didn’t need to pick myself off the floor in order to obtain one. Of course my pajamas gathered more milk as I shuffled my way across the puddle. I tried to look at the positive of what was happening. My pajamas were helping me clean up the mess, so I wouldn’t have to get further behind by spending so much time mopping up the mess. I got the pitcher and poured the last quarter of a gallon of milk into it, hoping it would be enough to make breakfast. I also grabbed the towel from the sink and threw it down on the puddle. I pushed it around with my foot, hoping to mop up as much milk as I could, and with the help my pajamas offered, it did a decent job of picking it up.
I picked up the wet towel and threw it into the kitchen sink next to the broken, empty milk jug. I walked over to the package of bacon and grabbed a knife from the magnet on the wall. I cut open the package and ripped the bacon out. The first piece of bacon started to sizzle by the time I put down the second one. I looked at the temperature of the burner and realized I had it on high. I turned it down a bit and continued to put bacon in the pan. I had gotten to the last piece of bacon, when I heard a scream, rattling nerves even more, “Where is my orange juice?”
Zach was sitting at the kitchen table. He was pounding the surface with his fists and demanding his orange juice. I gave one second of thought to where Lindsey was, but realized I needed to put out one fire at a time. “I want my orange juice!” Zach continued to shout as he stared at the kitchen wall opposite from where he sat.
“I’m sorry, honey,” I said as I walked over to the table with two glasses and the orange juice. I poured him a glass and he picked it up with both hands and started to drink. I figured, since I was close to the front door, this was a good time as any to go and get the paper. I went outside and picked up the paper. I was hurrying back inside when I heard Shelia exclaim over my shoulder, “My lord, Rachael, are you okay? You look awful this morning.”
I turned, and smiled back. “I’m okay. I just had a little accident this morning, and I’m running a little behind.”
“Did you hurt yourself?”
“No,” I said as I continued to run back in the house, “just a little spill. I’ll tell you all about it later.”
She was such a busy body.
I ran into the house and closed the door behind me. A sight I was not expecting threw off my morning even more. Lindsey was standing in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs, staring at the door, and holding a shred of her blankee. Her bottom lip was quivering, and when she saw me, she skipped all the stages of temper tantrum and went straight to stage four. Her howl banged off the walls and reverberated throughout the whole house.
I threw the paper on the floor, and ran over to pick her up. It might not have been the wisest of decisions because her howl went straight into my ear. I started bouncing her up and down to calm her down when Robert came to the railing from our room and looked down at me. He was only wearing only a towel around his waist and he was still wet from his shower. “What is all of that racket down there?”
I looked up at him. “Something happened to Lindsey’s blankee. I’m trying to calm her down.”
“Well, do your job and hurry it up.” He turned to go back into the room and stopped himself before he went back. He looked at me over the rail with some concern. “Are you okay? You look terrible.”
I kept on bouncing Lindsey to calm her down and said, “Yeah, I just had an accident. I’m okay. I’ll clean up in a bit.”
He gave me a look with one eyebrow raised. “You are off this morning, Rachael. Let’s not make this a regular occurrence.”
My heart sank. I was letting my family down. I had gotten so drunk the night before I didn’t even remember going to bed. I woke up late this morning. Breakfast was going to be late. Zach wouldn’t get to school on time and I would be scolded again by the teachers at the school. Lindsey was crying loudly in my ear. I couldn’t think what had gone wrong, but my own daughter gave me some insight as to where the true source of my problem began.
“Palin ripped my blankee,” she screamed in-between sobs.
Of course, it all started to go downhill the moment that girl showed up on my doorstep. I couldn’t figure out why I was put in charge of this girl. She didn’t even come from my genes. She was some accident from my husband’s past and now, for some godforsaken reason, it was my responsibility to take care of all of her problems. Not only that, but she, herself, was becoming a ripple in the smooth fabric of my family’s life. She disrupted the normal flow of everything and now she had made my daughter cry by destroying the one thing she cared more about in this world than anything else.
I looked down at the distraught child in my arms and said, “Well, Lindsey, mommy is going to take care of this right now.” I placed her on the ground and told her to stay there as I marched up the stairs to Robert’s office. It had been converted the night before to accommodate our guest.
When I got to the door, it was slammed shut and the other half of Lindsey’s blanket was dangling from the doorjamb. I tried to open the door, but Palin had locked it. I banged on the door and shouted so she could hear me, “Palin, open up this door. Right now!”
I got no response.
I tried again and met with the same result. I was once told it was a sign of insanity to try to same thing again and again while expecting different results. I knew banging on the door wouldn’t open it up, so I tried to think of how I could get in. I saw there was a tiny hole in the doorknob and I knew what I had to do.
I marched back into the kitchen past my child screaming in the hallway and the other one sitting at the kitchen table trying to pour more orange juice into his glass.
“Mommy, I want more…”
“Not now, honey, I have some other things I need to attend to.” I had to stop Zach because my mind was set on accomplishing the task at hand.
I went to the junk drawer and yanked it open. I shuffled through it looking for one of the long wooden skewers I knew was in there. I found two in the back and I grabbed them. I marched my way back up the stairs past the one child pouring orange juice into his overflowing glass, and the other one still screaming in the hallway. I marched right up to the door of my family’s office, and banged on it one last time.
“Palin, this is your last opportunity. Open this door now, or suffer the consequences.”
Once again I got no response. I gave her three opportunities to do the right thing and now it was my turn to take control of the situation. I stuck the skewer into the tiny hole in the knob and wiggled it around until I heard the mechanism for the lock click. I opened the door. The ripped part of Lindsey’s blankee fell to the ground. What I saw as I stood in the entryway to the room took me by surprise. A teenage boy, who I never saw before, was pulling up his jeans over his bare butt. Palin, not taking any notice of the show going on in her room, stood on the bed trying to unlatch the screen to the window.
“What in the world…”
Palin turned away from her task. She quickly hopped off the bed and rushed over to where I stood in the doorway of Robert’s office. She started waving her finger in my face and yelling at me, “Goddamnit, can’t people get some privacy in this house? You had better start listening to my needs, Rachael, or we are going to have a difficult time getting along with each other. You better keep that in mind because I think your assessment is coming around soon.”
I was too stunned to hear what she was saying. I pointed at the other guest in my house that was walking over to me while tucking his shirt into the jeans he just put on. I pointed at him and asked, “Who is this?”
He grabbed my hand I was using to point at him and started to shake it. “Hi, I’m Dustin. It is very nice to meet you, Rachael.”
Palin smacked him on the shoulder, “Don’t talk her, Dustin. Get out of here.”
He let go of my hand and walked out of my family’s office. He waved at Palin as he walked down the stairs to where the orange juice mess and my screaming child were. “Bye, Palin, I’ll see you later, at school.”
“Bye, Dustin. Remember you need to buy condoms before tonight.”
I stood there pointing between her and the teenage boy who just exited my house while trying to articulate words to say about what I had just seen.
Palin looked at me like nothing had happened and said, “What the hell happened to you? You look like shit.”
Her disrespect helped me find the courage to put this little girl in her place, “Listen here, young lady. I don’t know who that was or who you think you are, but this is my house and you will live by my rules.”
She turned her back from me and walked over to her suitcase. She pulled off her shirt exposing the dark red push-up bra. She took out a new shirt from her suitcase and put it on. “Oh well then, just leave me a copy of them and I’ll go over them in the next couple weeks.”
She slipped on her shirt which was tighter than the one she wore yesterday and had a picture of a mushroom on it. “Hello, Rachael. I just moved in here. How am I supposed to know all of the rules of your place after one night? I mean, am I just supposed to guess it is against your wishes for one of my boyfriends to come over here and spend the night? Also, I don’t appreciate you barging into my room anytime you like. I deserve my privacy. Remember Standard Number Five: A mother should trust their child’s judgment to do the right thing in any situation, and should never violate this trust. We might have to look over your list of rules and make sure they conform to the intent of the law. Right now, I don’t have time for that because I have to get ready for school. What’s for breakfast by the way?”
I could feel my blood surge through my veins and pump hard in my temples. My breathing became heavy and haggard as I took a step into Robert’s office, but before I could place my barefoot onto the carpet, I felt a tug on my pajama bottoms. I turned around to see Zach tugging on my leg.
“Mommy, there is…”
I lifted Zach up by his shoulders and placed him outside in the hallway and told him through clenched teeth, “Not right now, Zach, I have to have a talk with your step-sister.”
“But, mommy, there is a…”
I ignored him as I turned back to the girl in Robert’s office who was looking in a mirror I didn’t remember being in the room before. She was spraying healthy amounts of hairspray into her hair to create the poof effect she had worn ever since we met.
“Listen here, young lady. I didn’t ask for you to move into this house, and I am sure you didn’t ask to be here, but I want you to know your behavior is totally unacceptable. You are not my child. You are a mistake my husband had at a very early age, and if you continue to act this way, I will make sure you and all your poor attitude are out on the curb before nightfall. Do you understand me?”
She rolled her eyes at me and snorted out a little laugh. “You can’t do that.”
“Mommy,” said Zach from outside the room.
“Why not?” I asked her.
“Standard Number Four: Proper, loving shelter shall be supplied to everyone under the legal care of the mother. You need me to stay here under the law, and you need to make sure it is a loving way, mother dearest. So I suggest you watch what you say before I report you to the proper authorities.”
“Mommy,” Zach said again.
I pointed my finger directly into Palin’s chest and said, “Why you little b…”
I turned to face Zach, and yelled at him, “WHAT ZACH?!”
“The kitchen is on fire, Mommy.”
The fire alarm started to blare from downstairs. I quickly grabbed Zach and Lindsey and ran out of the house as smoke started to billow from the kitchen.