Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 11

Monday, instead of heading to class, I made my way across the creek back to Mom’s trailer. There was a good chance that skipping the first several classes was going to create problems at school, but I needed to help Mom get the restraining order against Dad, and she was really struggling when I left her the night before. I almost spent the night there, but she insisted I go back to Hanna’s house, since all my clothes and everything was there. I think she was feeling sorry for herself, which wasn’t unreasonable considering how violent Dad had been the day before, but I recognized what she was doing.

In a way, Mom shared a lot of the same trauma as Kat. She’d been an adult when it happened to her and it presented itself in different ways, but it had caused scars all the same, which meant some of the things Dr. Rothstein had said about Kat and how I should deal with her applied to Mom as well. The one that I thought of at the moment was emotional blackmail.

People in physically abusive relationships, where they weren’t the one in power, learned more subtle ways of getting what they needed. While it was a good survival instinct to use with their abusers, at least while they were still in the midst of the abuse, it could often develop into a habit. The victim would start using the same tactics with everyone, probably not even realizing they were doing it, or at least not doing it on purpose.

Early on, Kat had tried this kind of thing many times, offering to take some negative outcome or agreeing to something she didn’t really agree to in hopes I’d feel sorry for her and let her have her way. It was understandable that Mom wanted me to stay there, to help her feel safe, but Dad was in jail, so she was perfectly safe. What Mom needed now, and what I hoped the restraining order would be, was a path to recovery.

I’d made a push over New Year’s to get her to go see a therapist, even offering to pay for it, since I knew money was always going to be a concern for her, but she shot me down cold. She related therapy to people who had serious mental illnesses, like Kat, and didn’t see her trauma as an actual problem.

I’d tried to explain that Kat’s condition was also caused by trauma, but it had been like talking to a brick wall. So, until I could convince her to get real help to deal with all the damage Dad had done, I was at least going to do the little things I could do to help her.

Of course, I could be full of crap for all I knew, but it felt like the right thing to do.

I knocked, let myself in, and found her already dressed, sitting at the kitchen table. There was a cup of coffee next to her that was completely full, but without any steam coming off of it, and had a filmy layer that happens when coffee filled with cream and sugar goes cold. She must have been sitting there for a while, and if she’d skipped drinking her morning coffee, she was really struggling.

“Hey,” I said gently, sitting down across from her.

“Hey,” she said, still staring down at her untouched coffee, her hands clutching and unclutching. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“I’m positive. If the divorce papers didn’t get it through his head, then nothing will. I don’t know how he got the money for bail, but Sheriff Gibbs sounded pretty certain he’d be out again soon. We need a way to make sure, even if he doesn’t go psycho, that we can send him back to jail every time he comes at you. As long as he’s behind bars, he can’t hurt you, and this is how we’re going to keep him in there.”

“But what if it pushes him further?” she asked, finally looking up. “You didn’t hear everything he was saying yesterday. He was so angry that I’d divorce him and he threatened ... well, it was a lot. If that’s how he reacted to the divorce papers, how is he going to take a restraining order? I mean, he tried to attack you in a courtroom and in front of the sheriff, and he wasn’t that drunk at your emancipation hearing, so it’s not just the booze. He’s getting worse, and I’m afraid of what he’ll do when he finally snaps.”

“That’s what I’m here for. You’ve seen there’s nothing he can do to touch me, and it’s a small town. It took the sheriff like five minutes to get here yesterday, and if Dad’s here, he’s going to jail. You’ll have protection.”

“I guess. I’m just scared.”

“I know, Mom. I know you don’t want to talk about it, but you’ve been through a lot. With that kind of trauma it’s a miracle you’ve held it together as well as you have.”

“You’re right; I don’t want to talk about that.”

“I’m not pushing you to. I’m just saying this is a good first step to recovery, without having to see anyone or agree that something’s wrong. As long as he’s out there, you’ll always be afraid. Which is why we have to keep him in jail. Hell, you should have seen yourself last year before Dad showed up. You were a brand-new woman. I was always telling everyone how scared I was to cross you. You were a force to be reckoned with, and it was because you knew he wasn’t going to be able to get to you again. Once we get him out of our lives for good, you can go back to being the woman who yelled at the principal and told Chef you’d come find him if he got in the way of my schooling.” She laughed at that, but it was true. She’d been a different person, and I was convinced it was because she’d finally felt safe.

“Come on,” I said, holding out my hand.

The county courthouse was practically empty, which wasn’t that surprising. We might have had the county court and the sheriff’s office, both of which were separate from Asheville, which was in charge of itself, but we were a small county and things just didn’t move that fast here.

We made our way up the steps and through the big double doors that were much too ornate for a town like Wellsville, past the single courtroom, to the clerk’s office, which was really just a row of cubicles inside a cordoned-off area of the courthouse. Having told them why we were there, they handed us a stack of papers, and we found a bench to fill everything out.

Mom was still nervous as she filled in each blank, telling them why she was requesting the order, giving a brief summary of events, and so on. There wasn’t much for me to do, since I was mostly there for moral support, so I looked over the bulletin board, near where she was sitting, just being there for her while she went through this.

Something caught my eye, and I was just pulling it down when Mom said, “Done.”

“Okay, let’s go submit it,” I said, stuffing the flyer in my pocket.

I’d been on both sides of protective orders and knew they weren’t instantaneous. The time I’d filed one, also against Dad, funnily enough, Mr. Eaves had done it for me, but the process was pretty straightforward. What it wasn’t, was fast. It could take weeks, or maybe a month, to get a hearing where Mom would tell the judge why she needed the order and hopefully have him approve it. I wasn’t that worried that it would get accepted, not with Dad’s violent history. He’d had multiple arrests for violent actions, a prior, although overturned, murder conviction, had attacked me in a courthouse, and had a previous protective order approved against him. Showing a pattern of violence wasn’t going to be difficult.

What was going to be difficult was the wait. Dad could be out of jail any day, and he’d almost certainly show back up at Mom’s trailer. Of course, a piece of paper wasn’t going to stop him, but if he showed up before we got it, then there was another chance for him to hurt someone, and we’d only be able to get him off the streets for a few days again.

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