Once upon a time there was a young girl who, like all children, yearned for happiness and love. She was born into a broken home, however, and it would be many years before she knew the joy she so craved.
Her mother, Renee, had never wanted to be a parent but had made every effort to be at least present for her first born son; Aiden. Though not the most doting mother she performed the least of her matronly duties to maintain a certain public image. She only assumed the role of family member for holidays and events which demanded public appearances. To the surrounding community she was the doting mother at every school play, the enthusiastic fan at sporting events and the prideful spouse at company parties. In private she ignored her husband and son as though they were’ ghosts in their own home.
In the face of his mother's cruelty Aiden grew into a terror quickly. Imagine if you will; the playground bully, throwing sand in faces, stealing toys, gracing children with the first precious lessons in disappointment.
His father, Sean, remained ever blinded to both the growing darkness within his son and the distance in his marriage. The very definition of blinded by love Renee could do no wrong and nothing warranted more his attention than her. More servant than husband he kept her as content as he could ever conscious of the fact she could leave him.
For 7 years this continued until Renee, despite her best efforts, fell pregnant again (accidents happen after all). Upon the birth of her second child, Isabella, Renee felt as though she were choking on the facade she had built. The night of Bella’s first birthday Renee left the house, under pretense of picking up the birthday cake, never to return.
The pain of his mother's physical abandonment, after so many years of her emotional absence, drove Aiden mad. He became convinced his mother fled from the newly arrived, always screaming, and smelly baby. He vowed to punish the little beast.
Bella's father fell into a deep and dark depression at the loss of the love of his life . So complete was his despair that not even the anguish of his children could break through.
Bella existed in the background cared for by the kindly neighbors in reminiscence of the woman her mother used to be to them. So shining was the image the community held of Renee it obscured her true nature. Quickly rumors spread of the monster Sean must have been to drive such an exemplary mother from her children. As Bella grew and the rumors spread slowly the goodwill turned to disgust and disinterest.
4 years later When it was clear Aiden and Bella could care for themselves neighbors turned to strangers and the small light of kindness in Bella’s life disappeared leaving her alone with her shell of a father and hateful brother.
2 weeks after Bella’s 5th birthday her brother called her name for the first time she could remember. At 11 years old he had friends and hobbies to keep his attention, always ignoring her presence, Bella had always wished to play with him and quickly entered his room glad to finally have the chance. Bella rarely allows herself to recall that day; the gleam of pleasure and malice in her brothers eyes, his hands on her body and the sound of her unanswered cries of terror as he ripped away her innocence replacing it with an emptiness that seemed to swallow her soul.
Bella never lets herself recall how absolutely insignificant she felt as he carried her into her room afterwards, dropping her to the floor like so much trash. She refused to believe she was ever so naive as to cry with relief thinking “at least it’s over” unaware how routine such treatment would be for the next 3 years. Bella can not survive the thought of being weak and so hides from herself her weakest moment.
At the tender age of 8 Bella is sure she lives in hell. Her days consist of hazy 5th grade classes, painful bully encounters and returning home to her abusive brother and uncaring father. With no concept that life should be different she is unable to ask for help. Even if she had the words to describe the constant pit of loneliness, anxiety and terror in her stomach she’d long ago become convinced that no one cared to listen. Unable to shake the will to live Bella trudged through existence even at such a young age resigned to continue on forever in her current state.
To her surprise life saw fit to grace her with what was, in her opinion, a miracle.
One day, whilst doing her best to block out her brother's daily use of her, Bella screamed. Something she had not done for a long time knowing it would only lead to punishment and solve nothing. This time, like before, her brother was swift in his punishment and in reminding her to be silent but her scream did serve as a solution.
A hitchhiker passing through heard the cry and peered through the basement window intent on helping the obviously very young individual in distress. It was to his horror that he became the only person to ever witness the foul acts Aiden subjected Bella to. With all speed he contacted authorities who could not ignore such an accusation. They arrived in time to bear witness as well and thus began the events that Bella believed would end her long suffering.
Though it was true Bella was safe from the negligence of her father and hatred of her brother as the saying goes; out of the pan and into the fire.
As is law Bella was remanded into the custody of her closest living relative. It did not take long for the authorities to find that to be Renee, Bella's mother. Conveniently located in Phoenix Arizona all these years.
Had Bella been able to recall anything about her mother or the time before she left she might have marvelled at just how easily Renee was able to take up the role of loving mother after so much time without practice. Being that Bella had scarcely spent a year in the woman's presence she accepted the crocodile tears and crushing hug she received when the police dropped her off as real. As Renee waved goodbye to the officers Bella allowed herself a moment to bask in how at home and safe she felt to be with someone who clearly did care for her, she sat upon the couch reveling in the unfamiliar warm feeling in her heart. That made it all the more brutal when Renee showed her just how wrong those feelings were.
At a very young age Bella had begun to idolize her mother as a saviour. Thinking that one day Renee would return and whisk her away from all her pain. Lifting her mother onto a pedestal of heroism above the clear villain of her father and brother. To have that light shattered was equally as painful as the verbal and physical blows Bella swiftly became accustomed to living with Renee. When the woman wasn’t melting in a drug stupor she was reminding her daughter just how much of a mistake she was, how unwanted she’d always been and how useless she’d always be. Bella often woke to the sound of her mother and various companions moving in and out of the house and always she would watch her own door with trepidation; certain that one day Renee's company would force her to revisit the horrors of her childhood anew.
Bella is thankful to Renee for one thing. Thanks to her mother's addictions Bella was introduced to marijuana. At the age of 15 Bellas door opened one night. She braced herself already feeling the tears prick her eyes at the familiar dread in her stomach.
The feeling swiftly turned to surprise as she felt a hand shaking her awake and a voice asking “Hey kid. You got a lighter?” in a whisper. Bella shook her head no carefully peering at the man through the darkness.
“Well I was gonna smoke a quick bowl of herb but my lighter died.” He said, sounding disappointed.
“I don’t want to go searching through your house and your moms out cold so I can’t ask her. I’ll let you join me if you help me look?” Bella considered his offer a moment. She had long ago vowed never to try drugs given what they had done to her mother. She understood, however, that there was a difference between herb and the harder drugs her mother indulged in. The few people at school who weren’t completely horrible to her often offered to share with her. She’d only ever said no but this night she felt a curiosity.
This man was so different from the others her mother brought home, gentler somehow and kinder in the eyes. He reminded her of the man who called the police liberating her from her brothers torture all those years ago. She’d only met him briefly before they’d taken her away. They hadn’t spoken; she'd been too shy, too traumatized, to approach him but she remembered his eyes and the kindness in them. Later when the smoke was swirling around their heads and she was listening to his whispers of stories about the world she hazily wondered if he weren’t the same man.
Bella finds that she is better able to cope with the reality of her life with Renee once she starts smoking weed. The stoners at her school become acquaintances, not friends, but at least people she can be around who ask for nothing but a smoke in return. Again Bella has resigned herself to her life this time with some semblance of belonging though no less painful, or empty.
It is not until the summer before Bella’s senior year that another miracle befalls her, setting her squarely on the path towards happiness she hadn’t even dreamt of in a decade.
While returning home from a late night smoking in the park Bella is surprised to find the flash of red and blue lights along her street. It is with a sinking feeling that she approaches her own house surrounded by neighbors and uniforms.
Bella moved through the crowd as though in a trance barely registering the word “overdose” whispering through the people around her. It doesn’t register until she sees them wheeling out the body and then she’s laughing, deep and unrestrained laughing, at the thought of what everyone must think of Renee. She wonders what they must think of her laughing at the death of her mother and laughs that much harder knowing how it would enrage Renee.
The laughter brings tears to her eyes that swiftly turned to sobs as she realizes how truly alone she has just become. Looking around at the faces of her neighbors she feels fury burning her cheeks at the pity in their eyes. Where was their concern when Renee was treating Bella like trash? Where was their pity when Bella cried alone at night stifling her sobs to avoid agitating her bruises? Bella wants them to keep their pity. She didn’t need it then and she doesn’t need it now as she steps into the waiting police cruiser and towards her uncertain future.