A Secret Grave 79: The Awful Melody of Grief

 

After that, chaos. Blind grief. Misery. Fury. A lifetime of sadness. Donny’s grandmother, Hattie, took the three children. She was a small, dowdy black woman of about fifty-five who lived alone and worked as a nurse’s aide and caregiver at an old age home. Janet liked her okay, but Betsy, who’d just turned eighteen, grumbled that there were too many rules and she wouldn’t be staying long. The trauma of her mother’s death had rendered Betsy fearful, jumpy, neurotic, ready to take off and run for the hills at the slightest sound. She was afraid of Hattie’s son, her mother’s ex-husband, who had molested her. He didn’t live at Hattie’s house, but would stop by whenever he liked, grabbing a beer from the fridge, installing himself in front of the TV with five-year-old Donny in his lap, and when he was there Betsy locked herself in the bathroom, or slipped out the back door to go see a friend, or take refuge in the library, or just plain wander the streets.

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Hattie with Donny

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At  fourteen, Janet clung like a shadow to her step-grandmother, Hattie. After her mother’s murder she was scared all the time, and the older woman, with her penchant for order and decorum, offered a vestige of safety. Janet would do whatever the grandmother wanted – cook meals, run errands, make beds, clean the toilet and kitchen. Chores kept her from thinking, kept her mind from chomping on the deadly gray grizzle of the awful things that had happened. She was just entering high school, a thin pretty ghost of a girl who clutched her books close to her chest and avoided anyone who might bring up the subject of her mother’s lurid death. Happiness to her meant walking arm-in-arm with her sister, cuddling up with Betsy in bed, sharing clothes and secrets with her, the light skinned older sibling who could do no wrong, who was always there for her. But then Betsy left, disappeared from one day to the next, and after that Janet’s whole world crumbled.

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Janet, early teens

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Without Betsy to protect her, Janet felt lost and unsafe. She would do the jobs Hattie asked her to do, but a melody of grief played over and over in her head and she couldn’t stop the sense of abandonment, the feeling of rage that rose like a snake inside her when she thought about her sister’s desertion. And then the worst of the worst happened: Her stepfather began to molest her in the same sneaky way he had groped and molested Betsy. Janet brought this up to Hattie, who refused to believe it was true and even smacked the girl in the face for suggesting it. And so Janet, with the perennial melody of grief sounding loud in her ears, visited the school guidance counselor who contacted CPS and once that process began, Janet’s life took a 180.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ http://fineartamerica.com/featured/inner-grief-abstract-pamela-shane.html

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