She had the gun.
It was in the drawer under her side of the bed and nobody knew it was there. She hugged the secret to her like a saviour.
She had sent Christopher to Annie’s for a month…the girl had done her best to displace her in all things ever since she had come back home, why not let her have her shot at supplanting her as Christopher’s mother, too? Annie’s criticism and judgmentalism might mitigate just a bit after wearing her tattered and ragged moccasins for a while. Besides, Christopher didn’t need to be here for what she had planned.
She laughed quietly to herself, a humourless, hollow sound. Maybe it really was time to give up. Mother had been out of her life for years now, but her influence was everywhere, and Annie…her precious Annie, who at one time was her only reason for living…was rapidly turning into young, blonde, critical version of Mother. How bitterly ironic, she mused. The grandchild Mother had been so keen to abort or discard like an unwanted puppy had grown up to be Mother’s staunchest ally and doppelganger. Funny how life worked out.
“Why don’t you just get rid of her?” a fifteen-year old Annie had said to James one night. James, who delighted in his power to hurt her, couldn’t wait to report this conversation with his step-daughter. “I can do anything she can do,” Annie had told him. And then, according to James, suggestively repeated the word “anything…”
She had to give James credit here…a lot of men would take that kind of behaviour as consent and find a way to exploit the girl, but James…mindful of jail, if nothing else…had angrily demanded that she make Annie stop flaunting her developing sexuality in front of him. No more bending over from the waist to show a short-shorts clad fanny…and no underpants. No more laying on the floor on her back playing with the cat with her legs suggestively open…in those same short shorts sans panties. No more sexual come-ons. Annie was her daughter, damnit, couldn’t she control her?
Actually, she couldn’t. She hadn’t raised her. Mother…or “Grannie,” as she liked to call herself, had kept her children secreted from her for eight years. And the sullen, wilful, resentful, suspicious adolescent who finally returned bore little resemblance to the warm loving child Mother had spirited away. She had her children back, but they were strangers…and not very nice strangers at that.
Her relationship with James, always chaotic and volatile, became even more strained. Annie, like her Grannie, was a master manipulator and could wind one of them up and provoke a fight that would take scrutiny off her and later allow her to empathize with one adult or the other, ultimately reaping some kind of privilege or concession in exchange. Annie thought herself clever and subtle, but the child was as transparent as glass…except to James, who was sucked into it every time and later would not allow himself to admit he had been suckered by a rank adolescent amateur. “You’re wrong,” he would say, his voice sharp with indignation, when she tried to point out how Annie had manoeuvred him into a position she wanted him in, “Annie’s just a kid…she’s not that smart.” She would just roll her eyes and shut her mouth.
It didn’t do to argue with him about anything, anyway. They just recycled the same argument, year after miserable year…for more than a decade, now…because as they would approach the point of having to negotiate a compromise and a solution, he would slam his fist into his palm and declare “I don’t want to talk about this any more.” And that would be the end of it. Until next time.
And now she was tired. Tired of Annie’s long-distance sniping. Tired of shouldering the burden of the lies that had been told about her for all these years. Tired of the blackened reputation she carried…some of it, admittedly, of her own making…but most of it a result of a long and complex web of lies and innuendo created by Mother and abetted by well-meaning but clueless relatives.
Why, they seemed to reason, would a mother tell such awful lies about her own child? Hadn’t Georgia told us for years what a bad kid she was…and we didn’t believe a lot of it…but then the kid turned up pregnant and not married at seventeen. Doesn’t that prove Georgia was right all along? And so the lies were spun, many of them based on a single…often innocuous…shred of truth that was bent with imagination, coloured with innuendo, and embroidered with malice. She hadn’t understood at first why family members no longer seemed to welcome her presence, why telephone calls from her were cut unusually short, why she stopped receiving Christmas cards and birthday greetings. Slowly her family shrank until it was just her and her two kids.
And then Mother suddenly had become uncommonly friendly, dropping in unannounced with gifts for the children, although she never bothered to ask what they needed, in which case she would have been told that milk or cereal or meat or even a loaf of bread would be preferable to a pair of ruffled socks that Annie had no place to wear and another cheap plastic truck that Jakie would destroy before Grannie went home. They had days where she didn’t eat so that the kids could, but Grannie could only bestir herself to bring useless junk on those unannounced visits. She knew her mother was snooping on her, but could not imagine why.
She was tired then, but she was weary to the bone, now. Annie was twenty now, married and in her own home half a country away. Annie’s hands were probably full with Christopher right now, he of the wide, innocent-looking blue eyes, shock of cornsilk hair and rosy round cheeks. Nobody knew what was wrong with him, so they all blamed her. What else was new? If you can’t find the source of a child’s asocial and destructive behaviour, it must mean he has a non-nurturing mother, right? That’s what the psychologist had said, wasn’t it? Never mind that he was “different” even in utero…more violently active than the first two…and had cried in a frenzied panic when swaddled or held in anyone’s arms for feeding. Nope…she was a non-nurturing mother and screwed up her kid. It was all her fault. Everything wrong in life was her fault. She sighed heavily…if someone would look hard enough, she expected they would find a way to make global warming, El Nino, and losing the Vietnam War her fault, too. Nobody had bothered yet, that’s all.
The bedroom door was closed and she slid open the drawer, twitching the cloth off the gun. It was a lovely little Smith & Wesson .38 Police Special with a 2” snubnose barrel. Dark blue with finely knurled wood handgrips. It fit her hand nicely. She opened the cylinder and checked to make sure it was fully loaded, then closed the cylinder and checked to make sure the safety was on. James was in the living room, watching television and reading a money magazine. Did he care that the lawn was overgrown or the roof needed a patch or that the trash had not been put out to the curb for three straight weeks? Did he give a fuck about anything except his dick and his dope and his wallet? Not as far as she could see.
She looked down at the pistol cradled in her left hand, her gaze snared by the thin, silvery scars that crisscrossed the inside of her wrist. Sometimes she was a slow learner, she thought ruefully, remembering the blood and the stitches and the terrifying weekend spent submerged in the thorazine haze forced upon her. Her throat tightened at another memory, gagging on the tube jammed down it, the bitter, acrid taste of the half dissolved pills as they were forcibly ejected. “Gastric lavage,” they called it at the hospital, forcing a tube down an unwilling throat and then shooting water under pressure into the stomach until you vomit so hard you lose control at the other end, too. She smiled at the little gun. Stitches and gastric lavage tubes won’t reverse this, she thought, hefting its satisfying weight in her hand. She put it back and slid the drawer silently closed. Options, she thought. She still had options. She had stepped back from the precarious edge before by reviewing her options. She opened the bedroom door and emerged, ready to try one last option.
James did not even look up when she entered the dining room. He was sitting in his chair at the head of the table, one of his ever-present money magazines open before him. Plotting his next get-rich-quick scheme, she thought resentfully. If he spent half as much energy on just building himself a decent career or business, he’d be way ahead in life by now. But no, not for Mr. King James…it had to be a big score, preferably one that dealt a devastating blow to some other guy…and it didn’t matter who that “other guy” was, as long as James came out looking like a “winner.” She shook her head. Fucking loser…can’t even let a six year old win at Monopoly…had to trounce the kid early in the game and then crow about it…and then get mad because she refused to play out the game after he slaughtered a little kid. And he wouldn’t play chess or gin or Scrabble with her because she won most of the time. Big fucking man, huh?
“James,” she said, pulling out the chair opposite his and sitting. “James, I need to say something to you.”
“Uh huh,” he grunted, not looking up.
“James,” she said, suddenly feeling an unexpected calm come over her. She knew what to say, what option to take, what card to play. “I need your full attention. You can go back to the magazine when I am done.”
He looked up slowly, a dark, disapproving scowl on his face. This, she knew, was supposed to intimidate her into shutting up and going away until he felt like listening to her. Which, after thirteen years, she had learned was never going to happen.
“This is not working,” she said, quietly folding her hands on the table in front of her. “This is not working and one of us has got to leave.”
Completely expressionless, he simply stared at her. “OK,” he finally said, turning his eyes back down to his magazine. “When are you leaving?”
She smiled. This was much easier than she had thought it was going to be! “I don’t think you understand,” she said calmly. He looked back up, eyes narrowed impatiently. “If I am the one who leaves, I will take my car, half the bank account, my jewellery, my clothes, and my cat…and that’s all.”
He continued to look at her blankly. “That means you get the house,” at this he nodded. “You will also get the kid," she continued, "his appointments and specialists, the monthly bills, the grocery shopping, the cooking, the dirty dishes, the washing, the ironing, feeding and grooming the dogs, feeding the cats, changing the litter boxes…” He held up his hand to stop her.
“I get your point,” he said. “When do you want me out?”
She was almost giddy with success, but kept her face impassive. All those years with Mother had had some benefit, after all. “Today would be nice,” she replied in her most neutral voice.
His car was retreating in the distance. The house payment was due in a week and she didn’t even have half the money she needed to pay it. Christopher was coming back in three days and the pantry was bare. Her car was almost out of gas and her wallet was flat…she was broke, she hadn’t worked in five years, and her husband had just driven out of her life, leaving her penniless, jobless, and alone. She stood at the foot of the driveway watching the back of his Mustang disappear around the bend at the end of the road and lifted her right hand in a final wave of “good bye,” then turned to go back inside. It was all she could do to keep from skipping, and her feet barely touched the ground as she practically floated back to the house on this new, exhilarating, breathless feeling of freedom.
Alone! she thought to herself.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.