I went a couple weeks listening to my parents and not talking to Alex. Making sure they weren’t monitoring me, etc. As they became convinced I had moved on (apparently cutting my hair in an effort to defy them = moving on) I went into planning mode. Alex and I had figured out ways of communication my parents didn’t know about. Living in the basement does have it’s perks.
One of our friends from TeenPact was running for congress in NH that year and asked me to help him campaign, my parents agreed, though were worried I’d see Alex, I convinced them that wouldn’t happen, and so I flew to Boston and took the bus to NH (my parents also didn’t know about the bus part). Alex met me at the airport. He took the bus from Maine to Logan to meet me, and we put our faces together and smushed our lips into each others for the first time, because fuck it.
He rode with me until the last 30 minutes of the trip to NH, and I went on my way like nothing happened. He met me at Logan on the return trip too and waited with me until I had to go through security to fly home. He told me he didn’t hate me and I wasn’t damaged and he still loved me and it was good.
Came home like nothing happened, no one asked questions, although I did have to lie while I was on the bus, about the bus, which was exciting.
In November I also started carrying my messenger bag around with me (stuffed with a jacket) so my parents wouldn’t think anything of it when I left with it on my birthday. My mom had ordered me to send my promise ring back and I hid it in a drawer and told her I lost it, until Nov/Dec when I started wearing it on a chain around my neck tucked into my bra so they wouldn’t notice. They weren’t overly observant, or didn’t care once they had decided I was over it and they could continue to use me as they had for the last decade.
Meanwhile, I still had a hope chest full of supplies for my future. A hope chest that was in my bedroom as a constant horrible reminder of everything that went down in flames. A hope chest full of things I bought that I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring when I moved out. A hope chest, ironically, full of dashed hopes and broken dreams. I had about $1k of supplies in there, everything from pyrex glass measuring cups to towels and linens, and suddenly I needed a way to get rid of it. I told my parents I wanted to get rid of it because having it bothered me (which wasn’t completely untrue), but mostly, I wanted to have that giant, valuable, loose end tied up before I left.
There was a family at our church who had just moved to the area and apparently had nothing and were sleeping on towels on the floor. This was perfect. I immediately offered them everything (save for one bedding set and keepsakes) in my hope chest and they took it. Everyone was so proud of me and my generosity and I was told I would receive what I had given up 10-fold (yay christianity).
But I didn’t care, and didn’t count on it. I actually felt a little guilty because I wasn’t giving my hope chest away out of the goodness of my heart, I was giving it away because of practicality. I would rather have had it go to someone else than my family be able to keep it and use as some kind of bargaining chip. I don’t tell this story often, because people tend to attribute philanthropy to something that I still feel was an entirely selfish move. I wish I had been able to keep my hope chest, but I knew it wasn’t possible.
When your entire teen life is spent hearing about how having a hope chest is so important, and it’s such a good idea, and then you don’t have one when you need it, it’s hard not to feel judged. It’s weird. The feeling of being an example for everyone you know because you’re the first to embark on the journey they’ve all been waiting for is intense too. Something I’ll need to talk about more I think, but back to our story.
I broached the subject about meeting friends at the mall by myself for my 18th Birthday in November too, to give them time to get comfortable with the idea and not flip out about it. It took a lot of work but I managed to convince them to let that happen before January, and in January, I went to Florida to get my driver’s license.
I only had one shot at getting my license. To my parents and grandparents, it was no big deal if I didn’t pass the first time, but I knew if I didn’t get it done in January, I wouldn’t be able to again, I’d have to start all over with a new permit at age 18 because I would be living in Maine at that point. So I worked really hard and I passed the test in January, much to my relief. In order to get my license, I needed my vital records (convenient), so I grabbed my birth certificate and SS card to take to the DMV.
When I got back my mom asked me where they were, I said I had brought them with me and they were in my room and that I’d put them back….but I actually just hid them away safely, along with my diploma, and thumb drive with my “transcript”.
My mom was due any time in February and I hoped beyond hope that she would have the baby before my birthday. Before I left.
My birthday approached and no baby. I knew I only had one shot at leaving too, and if I missed it…….my life was over in more than one way. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but that was my reality. I needed to leave, or I wasn’t going to make it. The toxic hell-hole of my existence was becoming all too clear. I had even spent several months talking to a pastor who didn’t know my parents about the situation and they agreed it was unhealthy, so I felt like it was okay, as far as god was concerned (because I was still christian at the time) to leave.
There was this problem though: I was my siblings primary caretaker at this point, and if the baby wasn’t born before my birthday…who would take care of them?
My grandparents came up the week before my birthday, took me to get red highlights in my hair and were around to help with the new baby, so my plan was still a go. I knew if I left without the baby being born, then at least other adults would be around to take care of my siblings, and I wouldn’t be leaving them completely alone. I had some amazon money from christmas, I divvied up my stuff to my siblings and I bought them each a toy and left it in a backpack by my bed. It was, and is still, important to me that my siblings know I didn’t leave because of them, that I love them, that I didn’t want to abandon them, but I didn’t really have a choice.
I don’t know if they’ll ever know that. But leaving them tore me apart. I almost didn’t leave. But I had to.
One of my friends had joined the military and was stationed in GA and graduated the day or two before my birthday, so Alex came down for that (and to get me), and a couple other friends of mine picked me up and we went to his graduation and more relevant to my interests, I got to chill with Alex for a while. As a group we agreed not to post any pictures or anything on Facebook until Alex and I were safely away.
–aside– my online friend community was THE BEST and I wouldn’t be here without them, they were supportive and understanding, and I am so happy I know them –/aside–
On my birthday, I convinced my family to celebrate it early because my plan was to go to a movie and I wouldn’t be home until the kids were in bed. So they grudgingly obliged, and my presents were all conveniently travel sized, so I could throw everything in my messenger bag along with a change of clothes, my laptop, and my vital records. Then I hit the mall and my friend and I took pictures outside of Olive Garden while we waited for everyone else to get there, we were adorable.
So everything was going to plan, but instead of going to a movie, Alex and I booked it out of GA and called my parents when we crossed the border.
They…..lost it. Threatened to call the police (thankfully, a police officer already knew, and also I was an adult and wasn’t kidnapped, so :P) and even wrote up a fake police report on Facebook, went between love-bombing guilt trips (“we would have helped you pack!”) to calling me a liar and deceiver and otherwise horrible person. The trip up the coast was intense, but finally, finally we were alone and had privacy and could just fucking be.