Mi Casa Con Las Cortinas Rojas
A Story of a 17-Year Old Foster Youth
This story is real, painful and a way to close old wounds. My name is Coral and this is my story.
The background of a person and how they were brought up in life reflect a lot on what they will end up becoming in their future. In my story, those circumstances are terrifyingly different. My mother’s upbringing was a result of an absent yet strict mother and a musician father; not to mention her sister and two brothers. In her youth, my mother was a rebel in the eyes of her mother, but extremely talented in mine.
My mom was forced to grow independently, she told me stories of how she learned how to cook at a young age, she knew how to sew, wash, clean, etc. She proceeded with these stories by calling me good for nothing. My mother’s sister had her first daughter when she was around 18, my grandmother couldn’t see her daughter the same way after that. To make matters worse, two years later my mom found out she was expecting me. She was only 14 when she found out she was pregnant, and she was 14 when she ran away to live with my father.
My dad, Sabel, is someone I don’t remember. My mom always told me that out of my parents he was my favorite. I never left my dad’s side and my dad would never leave mine. All his interest; video games, rock music, skating and even apparently his top lip; were traits I took after my dad. She used to paint this pretty picture of him until I met my grandparents from his side.
I can’t remember much, not even their names. All I remember is they bought me an iPod I used to play “Where’s My Water” on. Another thing I remember is that two years after that visit my dad’s father passed away. You know, I didn’t feel bad when I heard the news. I just wished his family well. After I met them, she started telling me stories about how they kidnapped me for a week and threatened her with jail time if she called the police on them. In her eyes and mine, my dad’s side of the family was no longer my blood.
My dad made that much easier when I was ten. I was calling my father because I needed money for some medication that was helping me postpone my rapid growth. It was a week from July 22, 2010 when I received my first period, I was eight. My dear old man refused to give me and my mom money and his last words to me were “You, your sister and your mother are dead to me.” I handed the phone to my mom that day, trying to hold my anger and frustration.
The word resent (re-sent) means “feeling bitterness or indignation at a circumstance or person” I was ten and already holding resentment in my tender little heart. I was also ten and having five day long periods.
I came to live with my step father, Ricardo when I was illegally brought here to the US at the age of five. Ricardo is the father of my four other siblings. I was five when I was brought to live with him. We lived in a one bedroom apartment at the time. He tried his best to be a dad to me but he wasn’t the best of people at the time.
Every weekend from 2007 to 2013, without a fail, he’d come home drunk and have a fight with my mom. Mathematically speaking there are roughly 52 weeks per year, multiply that by the number of years which is 6 you get 312 weekends. 312 weekends, 7,488 hours and a whole lot of minutes of attempting to shield my siblings eyes from the abuse and the trauma only I could barely understand.
In 2014, my mom filed a restraining order against my step father. It lasted five years (2014-2019). From 2014 it was just me, my mom and my four younger siblings.
A mother is a woman who is there for her child or children, like her mother, my mom was starting to be absent in our lives. There were times when she was absent without knowing. After her separation with my step dad, my mom entered a terrible depression leaving me to care for my four siblings especially my youngest brother who was one at the time. My brother, John was one of the best things to happen to me in my time of need.
John is a bubbly little boy, he adored being smothered and never wanted to be away from me. He was my little baby and I couldn’t part with him. If he ever went to a doctors appointment I’d skip school to make sure my mom took him. I loved him like my own baby and he’d always call me mom because I was that, his mom.
At the same time my mom started her relationships, seeing other men to try and forget my step dad. However she cracked a lot and my step dad would somehow end up with her in bed. I was disappointed in my mother. She wasn’t the strong independent woman I knew. She was weak and vulnerable but I wanted to help her because I felt strong and independent. After finally getting over my step dad, my mom proceeded to see three other men and one woman. Then when I was 16, she met her boyfriend; Vicente.
Vicente was 9 years younger than my mom. He was a Cal State Fullerton student studying to be something in the educational field. He was working at a bread factory and living with his parents. My mom was a single mother of 5, no college career and working at the same bread factory. She was embarrassed of us. She didn’t bring her boyfriends into the house. Instead she’d randomly leave us alone, leaving me to take care of them. With Vince, it took her a few months to allow him into our home. He got along quickly with my younger siblings but something about him always threw me off.
As they continued dating, I realized that he was twenty-two while my mom was thirty-one. He was technically still an adult, yet he still had that childish immaturity my ten year old brother had. Aside from that he tried to be a father and teacher to John which didn’t go well. John was at risk of failing kindergarten because he didn’t know how to read. I tried teaching him but he wouldn’t get it. When Vince tried teaching him he’d always call him “stupid,” “idiot” he even compared him to my twelve year old brother who was born with cerebral palsy on his left side of the body.
Cerebral palsy is a disorder which affects muscle movement. My brother would always walk with a limp or he couldn’t move his arm as much. He attended therapy most of his childhood which actually helped him. I also had to make sure he was attending those.
As their relationship went on, my mom became more desperate for his love. She wanted to be loved so badly she would do anything for him. Meanwhile I was going to school full time and coming home to pick up my siblings and feed them. There were times she wouldn’t cook or clean just to be with her boyfriend. She had to be next to him 24/7. That's when that resentment came up again. That's when my mother started being absent again, she was there without being there.
16 years of living with her, 16 years of calling her mother. That all changed once my junior year ended. May 2019 was one hell of a month and nightmare.
How does it start? It started with my mother and her obsession with her boyfriend. The second I came home from my last day of school I was locked in my own home with my mother, my 4 younger siblings and occasionally her boyfriend. It all started with a simple complaint from my mother. “My phone got hacked,” after that complaint everything went downhill. The mental and emotional abuse started. She believed in her own world that I was sleeping with her boyfriend who was seven year older than me and nine years younger than her.
She’d call me names like “slut” and “whore.” When I decided to defend myself that's when the physical abuse started. It started with a slap; it went so fast I couldn’t tell if it was with an open or close palm. Then another slap. I fell back on the bed, trying to shield my face. My eyes were closed and all I could hear were my younger siblings begging her to stop hitting me. After that day the abuse went from hitting me to death threats against me.
One event I can vividly remember is her, grabbing one of her knives and with the non sharp end she drew an “X” on my stomach. Another one that haunts me is when she grabbed my five-year old brother, John, she held him in place while holding a box cutter on her freehand. Her words were “I rather watch all of you bleed.” She thought we were helping her boyfriend steal from her and leave her.
On two occasions she violated my private rights. One was where she forced me to lay on her bed with my pants and underwear down, she made me open my legs as she aimed her flashlight on my vagina. She wanted to make sure I was still a virgin. The second event was when she forced me in the bathroom with her, a big gulp cup from 7-Eleven, a belt and a pregnancy test. She forced me to pee in the cup. She placed the pregnancy test in my urine and when it came back negative she was so upset.
I sometimes look at myself in the mirror and remember all those word, I started hating my body for that.
On June 19th, around 8 AM, I left my bunk bed, walked up the stairs to wake my mom up. I did and she woke up. She looked around for my brother’s phone. When she found out that not only the phone was gone but it was also without battery she proceeded to grab me by the side of my head, force me down onto one knee, while she was bringing me down I hit her in self defense. She yelled “You fucking hit me” as she bit hard into my knee. I had a bruise for another few weeks.
On June 21st, my friend had arrived at my house since I had made plans to attend Orange Country Pride with him. My mom made me tell him to cancel my plans and “if you tell him anything I will kill you.” I opened the door and told Abraham , my friend, that I wouldn’t be going, I was fighting back my tears as I spoke.
I looked at her, my mother, with fear and anger as she lay in her bed with her boyfriend. I went back downstairs to my sleeping area. Around 1PM that day, her and her boyfriend started having an argument. She called me and my sibling upstairs. She started with her usual argument, me and her boyfriend were sleeping together, I was pregnant and that it was her boyfriend’s. We both protested but she continued. Her boyfriend left her when she continued to press her claims onto him. After her boyfriend left my mom grabbed a bag which contained some of my underwear. She told me “I’m going to take you to the hospital to see if you’re still worth something.”
Those words come back and always find a way to bring me down.
She also grabbed an extension cord. She forced us all outside, pushing us towards the elevator, there was when me and my ten-year old brother decided that enough was enough. My brother helped my three other siblings out the elevator as my mom tried to get them. That's when I stepped in and got hit with the extension cord on my hip. She tried to hit me again but I managed to fight her for the cord.
After escaping the elevator she managed to grab John and lock herself in the house with him. She was locked in that house with him for an hour. My anxiety was high and I couldn’t talk to function. John was my baby and I didn’t know what I’d do without him. During that time, two neighbors stepped out to help us. They tried getting my brother back from my mom with no prevail. After an hour she managed to slip out of our sight, all I heard was my brother saying “Bye Coral” as the elevator closed.
I wasn’t fast enough.
I heard her car speed away, my heart sank. An hour later the Santa Ana PD showed up. They asked me questions, it felt long and painful to have to describe those events. To force myself to relive them. After the questioning I was made to remove my pants and to wear some shorts to get my bruise photographed. Five hours I went without knowing what happened to my John. During those five hours, my siblings were being taken care of by the neighbors. They were all fed and they were also given sweaters.
“I can’t believe Monse (my mother) would do that,” “Well she was never a mother to them, I always saw Coral taking her siblings to school or picking them up.” My neighbors all tried to make me feel better by comforting me. After those five hours of waiting the cop car finally showed up with my mother and John. The cops brought John to me and they kept my mother away from them.
I’m not a mother yet but I know the fear of losing a child and the tender joy of being reunited with them. I was so relieved when I saw his little face, his cute face which resembled mine. In the distance I could see her, my mom. She was talking to the cops and the emergency social worker. An officer walked over to me and asked if I wanted to get stuff from my house. I nodded and guided them to the small one bedroom apartment with the red curtains.
After that trip, me and my siblings were escorted to Orangewood Children and Family Center in Orange California. It was almost midnight when we made it to First Step, the place where newcomers stay for the first few days. That's when the fight for our case started.
It had been five years since we lived with my step dad. Five years that I hadn’t fully seen him. He had taken anger management classes and went to AA. He was an entire new person yet he was determined to fight for his children and even me.
I wanted a different path. From the second I met my attorney;s assistant I made it clear that I not only wanted my mother’s legal rights over me but I also wanted my father’s legal rights . Thanks to the lawyer I was given, I was able to not only able to get my emancipation process started but also get a chance to start obtaining my green card and hopefully become a US citizen.
From September 2019 to March 9th 2020, it was a long and hard fight but my mom stopped showing up to court. It was an almost easy way to win the case and it was. I was fully emancipated and my immigration process had started.
My mom made me a strong woman, she taught me that the world had evil and good in it. She was evil, always seeing the world with pessimistic ideals and I was the good, helping myself and others with my optimistic eyes. I’m now a strong woman, wanting to fight for other girls and kids in a similar position as me.
I found a superhero, no not my mother. Me. I realized no one else was going to come save me and if I didn’t step up me and my siblings wouldn’t be here. Enjoying our lives and enjoying the gift of a normal and loving household. I’m still battling with some scars my mom left behind and scars I won’t let close, but at some point with enough determination and persistence I will be able to close this chapter.
Thank you, mom and thank you, self, for not giving up on you or your dreams.