Tainted by Crazy - Abby McCarthy

I sat against the doorframe listening to loud moans. Molly, my doll that was ripped at the waist and missing an arm, was clutched against my chest. I’d close the door to my bedroom, but I didn't have a door. My room was more like a closet with a mattress from an old crib shoved inside. My feet dangled over the edge when I laid on it.

Tonight, Momma was louder than usual. I prayed that it would end soon. I was tired and couldn't sleep. I was starting first grade tomorrow and was nervous about it. Last year, the kids made fun of my dirty clothes. I didn't want them to laugh at me again. I was tired. So very tired.

A few minutes more of moaning passed and then the hallway was filled with light. A man stepped out of my Momma’s room. He was shirtless and fixing his buckle.

“That’s it! You’re just gonna leave?” Momma shouted from her doorway. She was naked and her hair was a tangled mess.

“I got what I came for. Ain’t no reason in me sticking around,” the man said throwing his shirt over his head.

I was either invisible, or they didn't notice me.

“You bastard,” Momma yelled.

“You gonna spread your legs like a whore; I’m gonna treat you like a whore.”

Momma picked up a shoe and threw it at the man. “Get out!” she screamed as the shoe hit the man against his chest.

“Gladly, you crazy bitch!” he shouted and walked out the door.

Momma slumped to the ground. “I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy.” She rocked back and forth. She wasn’t crying, but her face had a certain emptiness to it that I’d started to notice. She began to rake her nails up and down her arms. Her skin grew red and trickles of blood appeared.

“Momma,” I cried rushing to her. She didn't notice me and for a second, I really thought I was invisible. “Momma,” I cried again, this time throwing my arms around her naked frame. “Momma, it’s okay. Momma, I love you,” I pleaded with her to see me. Then she blinked and finally did.

“Maple, honey. What are you doing here?” She didn't seem to realize she had blood on her arms or that she was naked. It was like she just blinked me into sight.

“Momma, your arms,” I said as tears streamed down my face. I hated to see my Momma hurting.

She looked down and held me tighter. “Honey, I got you. All I need is you. You make it all go away. Don’t ever leave me, baby. You hear me. All I need is you.” She rocked me for a while, and eventually I felt my heavy eyelids close.

“Promise you’ll use that heating pad I sent you and you’ll stay off your feet for the rest of the day?”

“I promise . Now if you don’t let me go, you’re going to miss cards.”

“Fine, fine. Love you, sweet girl.”

“Love you too, Grams.”

I hit end on the phone and tossed it into the center console, then manually rolled down the window of my far too ancient hunk of junk. She was all rust and little paint. I sighed, thinking one day I’d have a car where I could hit the button for the window to go down. I pulled out of Willow Hill Nursing Home, hating to leave work early, but knowing I needed to get off my feet. Grams was right. A heating pad was exactly what I needed to get over the pull I felt when I lifted Mr. Martinez and was left with a crazy ache in my lower back.

I made the fifteen-minute drive home and was surprised to see Bradley’s beat up old Bronco in the driveway. He needed a new car too, but at least his never broke down. I wasn't sure why he was home. He should be at work too. What in the world was he doing here?

I parked and was instantly on alert. The shades were drawn and I always left them open in the living room. I liked the light to shine in on my houseplants. It was the sunniest room in the house and I didn’t see much purpose in keeping them closed. Something felt very off.

Leaning against the house was my black softball bag that I’d left outside after last night's practice. Our neighborhood had good neighbors, somewhat nosey, but aside from the occasional neighborhood drama (the Wisteria Lane kind if Wisteria Lane houses rented for about seven hundred dollars a month),