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Tough Love

If you can't be good be good at it

By E. J. StrangePublished 3 years ago 5 min read

“She is faking sleep. She does this all the time,” I hear my mother say to my stepdad at the time.

Admittedly, I had been reading by the dull glow of my nightlight a few moments before I had heard their creeping. I had thrown the contraband book under my bed behind the strategic clutter and dove under my covers. I willed my breath to be even and steady and tried with all my might not to crack my lids as listened to their tactical approach.

I was doing nothing wrong I told myself. I was sleeping. I was an angel. I kept eyes shut and continued to breathe smoothly as my mother spoke over my covered form.

She pulled the covers back, while my dad of the time flicked the lights. I tried to keep up my rouse a bit longer, but my mother’s stern commands rattled me out of my pretend, “Elizabeth, stop faking it and get up.”

I rolled over in dread to face her. I tried to make pitiful noises to make it seem like I had been asleep. I rubbed my eyes still feigning innocence, “what? Mumm, it's not time to get up.”

She ignored the question and started her assault, “Why were you late coming home today?”

The question floored me. I had expected to be in trouble for reading so late into the night especially under such poor lighting. Those were two things that constantly peeved my mother. I had already flawlessly explained at dinner why I was exactly 32 seconds late from coming home and she had seemed to accept it, so I was confused why she was questioning me again.

We had checks in my house. As long as I was where I was supposed to be at the check times, I was where I said I would be if my mother decided to stop by and I didn’t do anything to embarrass my mother it didn’t matter what else I was doing. It just so happened on that day I had come home moments after the clock had switched to 6:01 pm, which was a capital offence if you couldn’t already tell. She had accepted my story though, so I repeated it, “I was late because I set my alarm watch to AM not PM and Raina’s room doesn’t have a clock.”

“Raina’s room? I thought you said you were at the library with Raina. Which is it, Elizabeth?” My mother questioned picking apart my alibi.

Panic flooded me. That was two offences. I was late and I had been in a location I hadn’t disclosed. I thought quickly, “Yea they have study rooms in the library and Raina had gotten one for us.”

My mother arched a brow, “So if I talk to Raina’s mother tomorrow morning, she will collaborate your story?”

I felt sick and twisted up inside then. No, no she wouldn’t, and I knew it. I was caught and I would have to give up my innocence. In my mind I hadn’t really done anything wrong, but I had violated the rules. I hung my head and shook it not wanting to put words to my defeated.

“Well?!” she prodded wanting me to vocalize my confession.

I rolled my eyes feeling petulant, “I was at Raina’s house, and I lost track of time. I am sorry.”

She knew I knew the rules, so she did not waste her breath lecturing me. She let her disappointment seep into the silence before saying, “I am going to take away your nightlight for lying to me.”

I have one irrational fear that still haunts me to this day. I am afraid of the dark. I rather get stabbed in an alleyway with a rusty spoon and bleed out for hours than spend a second alone in the dark. As you can imagine I would have faced any punishment my mother could come up with except that one.

I howled out like a savage afraid and cornered. She ignored my pleas and my grabs to get my lamp back. She took away all light sources and locked me in the room. I ran to the switch and flicked it on only to have it flicker off when my mother cut the breaker.

I tried for about 5 seconds to be brave. I put my back to the wall and tried to imagine everything that was in my room and could only conjure monsters. The unknown terrifies me, and my imagination has always been my worst enemy. I screamed and banged on the door panic clawing at me.

Eventually when they figured out that my screams would not cease my mother came back to my door. When I saw the light of the hallway flood in from my door’s cracks my terror dissolved slightly. I would do anything to keep myself bathed in light.

My mother opened the door and crouched down to my level, “I am disappointed you lied to me. I am more disappointed in how poorly you did it and that you expected to get away with it. Elizabeth, if you can’t be good at least be good at it.” She let me have my nightlight back and said no more on the subject.

I laid there awake feeling foolish at my tantrum and digested what she said. She would say it from time to time after that, but only in case of extreme disappointment and once when she dropped me off for college. No, she was not encouraging me to be a criminal, but she knew she would have to raise her girls tough.

My mother was an on again off again single mother. She had had a hard life and even though she sheltered us from most of it she knew we would still face adversities that most other children wouldn’t have to face. We had to be critical thinkers and on point. Making up stories instead of finding loopholes to rules would not cut it for her, because she knew that’s not how we would rise up in life.

My mother knew that we would have to face hard decisions. She knew we were not perfect and would mess up. She knew that if we made the wrong decisions, she would not always be able to help us. She knew the best she could do for us in that case was to teach us how to get through it. If we couldn’t be good, we had to be good at whatever we were doing. We had to be ambiguous and cleaver or accept consequences for our bad decisions. That mentality sharpened us and pushed us to a high level of independence and success. I can't always be good, but I can be good at it.


About the Creator

E. J. Strange

I am new to the writing community but hope to publish a novel one day. I am simple minded and sucker for romance.

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