Vicki waded up the paper and threw it in the heap. She sighed and leaned back on her bed.
Vicki was a senior at West Iredell High School and her English assignment was to write an essay on encouragement. She was the middle child. With two older brothers and two younger sisters, she had become the ‘mama’ when mama was at work. She cleaned the house and cooked. She was also the peacemaker between her siblings. Sometimes she wondered if her mama even noticed the clean house and the meals. It was like the straight A’s on her report card. They were just expected of her. Why can’t my topic be ignore? I could write tons about that, she thought as she chewed on her pencil.
Encouragement, the word trespassed on her brain. How was she going to write about something she knew nothing about? She looked the word up in the dictionary. It said ‘support that inspires confidence’.
She was instantly back in sixth grade. She smiled. Mrs. Canter had told her she was college material. That’s why Vicki had made potholders and sold them. She had used the money to take the SAT. Mrs. Canter also said that her brain worked faster than her hand, that’s why she left words out of her stories. Mrs. Canter had told her that she had a vivid imagination and should become a writer.
Her smile faded. She was thinking about what she had overheard. The words that became the tape that replayed over and over in her mind. Vickie had been snuggled in bed thinking about how to pay for college, her mother was on the phone, and her drunken father was on the couch. Her mother thought she was asleep.
“That Vickie thinks I am going to pay for her to go to college but I’ve got news for her, if I get her through high school, I’ve done my part.”
She wanted to jump out of bed and run screaming to her mother. “No Mama. That’s why I took the ASFAP. I aced the mechanic part of the Air force test. They will pay for my college.”
Instead she covered her head with the pillow and cried. She did not want to be a bother to her mother. She would figure out a way to go to college even if it meant the Air Force.
Vicki didn’t tell her mother that she had overheard the conversation. That was the way it was in that house. When she told her about her plans to go into the Air Force, her mother was vehemently against it.
“You will never make it out of boot camp.”
Vicki sighed and directed her attention back to her paper. How was she going to get a 1500 word essay out of that two minute conversation with Mrs. Canter? How was she going to pay for college? How could she convince mama that she would not be a burden?
Vicki dressed for work with a heavy heart. Her homework was not finished and her problems were not solved. She hoped her muse would kick in during her shift at Boodle’s.
Vickie bummed a ride home with a coworker. Darol was eight years older than Vicki. He smelled like cloves mixed with something, just like her daddy. She thought all men smelled like that. He had been making passes at her for months. She fought Darol off when he stopped in front of her house. She jumped out as fast as she could. She did have that paper to write.
Vicki got an A on her paper and it was her little sister’s birthday. She prepared a feast to celebrate, steak and gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans. They all ate in the living room. Her brother had gotten up to go back for seconds. She sat in the empty chair.
“Get up.” He demanded.
“No.” she growled back.
He slapped her with full force.
That was it. She launched the plate of food at him. It missed and crashed into the family portrait that hung on the wall. Mashed potatoes ran down her mother’s face and down the brown paneled wall.
Her mother was on her in an instant, hitting her again and again.
Vicki ran out the door. She had nowhere to go, no one to talk to.
She picked up the pay phone and called Darol.
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