By Tori Phelps
Discussed: domestic abuse
This is the story of Alani, an abused girl who is taken away from her mother by Child Protective Services and finds herself in a “living hell.” To get by, she lies.
I’m in this situation again. I lied. I ate all of the cereal. I felt stressed and binged. My mom was furious, so furious I got scared and a lie slipped out. Eventually, I told her the truth. She went crazy and said things she probably never meant to say. Or maybe she did.
Living with my mom is living hell. She’s not my real mom. I haven’t seen my real mom for years. Okay, my not real mom provides food, clothes, and an education. So I guess I can’t complain, but honestly, the lie I told wasn’t a big one. She didn’t have to say the things she said.
I don’t know why I lie. Crazy, right? My not real mom thinks it’s my past. She thinks it’s because I want to do whatever I want whenever I want. Who knows? Maybe that’s it, maybe it isn’t.
My name is Alani Johnson. I’m fifteen years old, and I’m in the tenth grade at a preppy, predominately white school. Not my choice. If you had known me in first grade you’d say that I had a troubled past. My therapist tells me that the things that have happened to me have led to the way I am now.
I was not bad. I was never bad.
Let’s start from the beginning. I was born at The Brooklyn Hospital Center on May 30, 2005. My real mom was there for all the big baby moments but she was nowhere to be found when I started to get older. No, she did not disappear.
She did not leave me on the doorstep of some random house. She sent me to live with my grandmother. She stopped calling to check up on me. She stopped coming to visit me.
I was hurt.
When I was two, it was just me and my mom going everywhere and doing everything together. When I turned three, everything changed. My younger brother David was born. I was no longer the star of the show.
My brother was really heavy and he cried too much. He actually did take away all of the attention. I’m not being melodramatic.
I didn’t like being a big sister. I helped change David’s Pampers. I helped feed him. I slept with him so if he cried in the middle of the night I would be next to him to comfort him and give him his pacifier.
One day, I was playing with my dolls when my brother took one of them. “Hey! David gimme back my doll!” I yelled and he started to cry. I tried to apologize. “Shhh! David, I’m sorry, you can have my doll. Just stop crying… please!” That was the first time I got into trouble. I had to stand in the corner until my punishment time was done. It was a long time.
When I was four years old, we moved to my grandma’s house. I don’t remember why. I asked: “Why did we have to leave Dad? Will we come back to see him?”
“We have to leave,” my mother said. “He’s dangerous. I don’t know if we’ll see him, Lani, just stop asking so many damn questions!” I could see why he might be dangerous. You will see it too, later when I tell you more.
I went to Pre-K right across the street from grandma’s house. After three years, I got accepted to an all-girls charter school a couple of blocks down from where we lived. Honestly, it was hard making friends there because I was known as the “throw up” girl. Long story short, I ate some breakfast and threw it up. Yeah, not so fond of that memory.
Fast forward to the middle of first grade when all hell broke loose, and when I say hell… I mean HELL. One day I got in trouble for something—I don’t remember what. My mom lashed out and I had to go to school with a black eye. I thought my eye would hurt like crazy. It didn’t but I couldn’t open it and when I did the lights were too bright. I couldn’t see.
I had been hit before but never this hard.
If my mom had only kept me home and called in and said I was sick, the school probably wouldn’t have called Child Protective Services. I was shut up in a room with someone who kept asking me questions. I lied.
“So what happened to your eye?… Do you like your mom?… Who do you live with at home? Do you and your brother fight…?”
I did what my mom told me to and said that I slipped in the bathtub and hit my head. That was new for me. For the first time, I had to lie to protect my mom. I don’t remember how they made me spill but they did, and I don’t want to remember what happened after.
I started this story over the summer because I wanted to write something from a teen’s point of view that addresses the reader directly—something honest about how hard life can be sometimes. “Growing Up” draws on my own life and the lives of my friends but it’s fiction, not an autobiography. The toughest part was starting. I wanted to hook the reader and draw her in. I wanted the reader to care about Alani right from the start. This is just the beginning, the first chapter of what I hope will become a novel.
Hi! My name is Tori Phelps. I am a junior in high school. This is my second year in Girls Write Now. I like to play the violin, play basketball, sing, and write fictional stories and plays.