Memory Five: The Escape

We pulled up in front of the house where we saw Chris standing, barefoot, holding a belt in his hand and a look of fury on his face.

The modeling brochures I had been reading on our drive back from Palm Springs started uncontrollably shaking in my hand, my mouth went dry, and the air left my lungs.

We continued to sit in the car for a few moments, trying to figure out what to do and wondering why Chris was angry. We were back on time as planned from our trip. Mom told Anna and me to stay in the car and lock the doors. And I said, “Mom don’t get out, just start the car, let’s go, let’s get out of here!”

Mom said, “I can’t Elena, all the pictures of you guys as babies and what little money I have are in the house. Just stay here and lock the door”

Mom proceeded to get out of the car and slowly approached Chris asking him what was wrong. But it wasn’t two seconds before he grabbed her by the hair and she disappeared into the house.

Anna and I started crying for fear of what he was going to do to Mom.
Neither Mrs. Morgan nor Lee, Chris’s brother, were home. It was just Mom, Anna, and me with a crazy person out in the middle of a reservation with the closest neighbor a mile away.

Anna was pale as a sheet, and all I could think about was all of the places Chris could bury our bodies to never to be found again. We sat in the car until our fear of what he was doing to Mom outgrew our fear of getting hurt. Mom wasn’t the best mom in the world, but she was the only one we had, and we needed her.

As I proceeded to unlock my car door Anna grabbed my hand saying: “Don’t get out of the car Elena, Mom told us to stay here with the doors locked, hands trembling and my heart pounding against my chest, I said, ” I’m afraid he’s going to kill her, I have to go.”

Anna and I agreed to go together. We clutched hands and slowly walked through the sliding glass door into the kitchen. We could hear Chris yelling obscenities at Mom, and Mom screaming.

We stood frozen for a second looking at each other trying to make out what Chris was yelling about and to trying to gage whether this was a situation we were going to survive.

Without speaking, we simultaneously looked over to the set of butcher knives sitting on the counter and each took one. Slowly, slowly we walked to the hallway leading to their bedroom, my whole body was cold and trembling, but the hand that was clutching Anna’s hand was sweaty and numb.

All the drapes were drawn in the house; I could see an orange cast of a dying sun outside highlighting dirt and dust trapped in the curtains. Everything looked and smelled like death and failure.

We finally arrived at their bedroom door and heard the unmistakable sound of leather and flesh coming together with such force; I could feel the pain of every blow. We tried the door knob, but it was locked, then weakly, I said “Mom, are you ok?” But she didn’t answer. Trying to force my voice to be louder, I repeated myself and knocked on the door at the same time. Mom shot back screaming, “Elena, get out, get out!!”

We ran into our room locked the door and barricaded it with the dresser.

We sat huddled together crying and wishing that we could do something to stop Chris, but we couldn’t. Instead we sat listening for what seemed an eternity to Chris taking his rage for life, his failures as a human being and hatred for all of humanity out on my mom.

Eventually the yelling and screaming died down, and everything grew silent. So silent, that it seemed, Anna and I were the last two people on earth. My mind wondered as I started thinking about the modeling brochures that I had looked through on our drive home and thought if I could become a model and make a lot of money, I could take myself and my family out of the darkness that we called life. It seemed like an impossibility considering our current situation.

Anna and I fell asleep on the bed clutching hands and our knives.

It was maybe 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. when I heard a subtle tap on the bedroom door. I jumped up and ran to the door and whispered, “Who is it?” A broken voice on the other side of the door whispered back ”Mom”.

I got Anna up to help me move the dresser in front of the door, got mom inside, and then locked and re-barricaded the door again.

Mom was so beat up and exhausted. We hugged her and said it was going to be alright. I said “We are leaving and we are leaving now. He is going to kill us if we stay here, he’s crazy!”

Mom crying asked “How? I have to get the pictures of my babies and money or we won’t be able to put gas in the car.” I asked, “Where are the pictures and money?” Mom replied “In the bedroom with Chris.” We all fell silent for a few moments and then I said “Then let’s get them and get out of here.”

Mom said “He was asleep and she thought he was out pretty good because he drank a lot before he went to bed.” And I said “Tell me where everything is, I will get it and then we are leaving.”

I took my knife and slowly walked into Chris’s bedroom; he was so huge lying in the bed – he looked like a downed elephant. He was snoring and seemed like he was in a pretty deep sleep, so I continued on. I went to the places my mom told me to and got her pictures, money, and as many of her clothes as I could, all while hanging on to my knife.

Anna had gotten our few belongings together, and we all quietly made our way through the living room, into the kitchen, and finally out the door.

We loaded everything into the car, and Mom handed me the keys and said,”You have to drive, I’m too beat up.”

The dogs must have heard us because one by one they started barking, until they were all barking. My hands started shaking as I feverishly tried to get the key into the ignition as fast as I could, for fear the barking dogs would wake up Chris. As soon as I got the car started, we saw the light in Chris’s bedroom go on.

Mom said “Go, Elena, now, go!!” I couldn’t see because it was pitch black in the desert night and Mom told me not turn the headlights on until we got away from the house.

I felt like I was going to vomit. I let the car roll away from the house, turned the lights on, and made my way to the main road, off the reservation and onto Interstate 10.

Mom was afraid that he was going to come after us in his truck, and I was too because he was a better driver than me. We made it all the way to the windy part of the Banning Pass and I asked Mom if I could pull over because I was too scared to drive the car in the wind. I felt like I was going to lose control and be swept off the road.

She said “You can’t stop now, you have to keep going. You’re doing a good job, just hold the steering wheel real tight and keep us on the road.”

I focused every ounce of myself on staying in my lane and making it to Palm Springs.

We arrived safely minus Mom being beat-up and Anna and me scared and tired. Fortunately, we already had the keys to our new apartment so we went straight there….