WARNING: May cause triggers for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
As far as the east is from the west−
That is how far he has removed our rebellious acts from himself.
Makayla Nicole Isley, 19
Having this window down, on this beautiful− nearly winter− day, will annoy the daylights out of Melissa. She has every reason to be happy though. She’s engaged to the most perfect guy on the planet. Well, he’s almost perfect. He’s tall, handsome, and a rancher. What is sexier than a rancher?
Aw… I can’t think about that a rump in the sheets… That just makes me think about my past. I get that I’m forgiven now and I’m not entirely at the fault for the things that happened to me back then. That kind of hurt is the worst any girl could suffer. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
My whole life I was told I’d never amount to anything, which is odd I remember my mother telling me that because she was never around. And my father− if I can even call him that− was a drunken, pot-smoking, predator. People are surprised I’m not a prostitute or a teen mother right now. All I can say is it’s because of the Love of Jesus Christ I’m not.
At first, the “deed” was scary and gross. Then my sex life became a tool to numb the pain in my constant hellish reality. When my father abused me sexually, I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror afterward. Even though during the whole grotesque act, I went elsewhere. I pictured I was an eagle flying in the sky− flying through the clouds on my way to freedom. I did end up pregnant once. I was 13. That’s the first time I slept with someone other than my father. I couldn’t let the entire world know what type of man my father was. They would lose respect for him, what little bit of the community that did respect him. It was already bad enough he married a white woman and had a Halfling. They couldn’t know what a monster he was too.
Michael was a handsome guy. He was slender. He wasn’t chubby like the other Navajo boys. He was 15, two years older than me, but he had shown an interest in me since I got my boobs! I hit puberty when I was 10 and a half. That’s around the time my father started the sexual abuse. It was so different being with Michael… I was in the moment and it… it felt sooooooo good! Well, it felt good while we were doing it. Afterward, I felt filthy and shameful, but at least I could look at myself in the mirror.
I made him think he was the father. He told me to get an abortion or to fall down a steep hill to lose it. That broke my heart. He had told me he loved me and I thought he really meant it. I should have known better. We had been fooling around for a while before I found out I was pregnant. Then, when I did find out and I didn’t know what to do, he happened to tell me he loved me. He said it to get into my pants and it worked. I thought he would be my hero, but he wasn’t.
I didn’t know how far along I was, but I was starting to show. Michael spread rumors across the reservation that I sold my body for sex. I got all sorts of attention. I never accepted money, but I did sell my body for just a few hours of company. My father still used me for sex, even though he knew I was starting to get around. It didn’t bother him any.
One night, I suddenly woke up because my gut was paining me. I was bleeding. I wasn’t old enough to drive myself to the hospital. I went to the bathroom because I felt like I had to pee. I kept bleeding, but not badly. When I was on the toilet I felt a slimy chunk slide out of me. Thank goodness I was in the dark. I don’t think I could have taken the sight of it. I flushed the toilet before I got off. It didn’t clog the toilet, which I was grateful for. After I cleaned myself up, I cried the rest of the night. I didn’t know I could cry for so long.
I don’t really remember what happened after I got the chills and couldn’t stop shaking from how cold I was. My grandma found me in my bed the next morning and took me to the ER. It was thereafter I was treated and I came to my senses that I had a miscarriage. My grandma didn’t ask me who the father was. In fact, she didn’t even speak about my pregnancy when she drove me home.
A hole formed in my heart from that, and it wasn’t until I accepted Christ that hole went away. Losing a baby is hard. I was depressed for months. I was completely desperate to feel something other than the nothing I felt inside. I started smoking pot with Daniel. Not only was he the best sex I ever had, he knew how to party. We would go out into the middle of nowhere. He would blast black metal from his car. We would share bottles and bottles of 40s while we passed the joint back and forth. We escaped from the whole world and made our own. But when the pot wore off and I woke up hungover with a skull-splitting headache, the void inside me felt larger than life. It made me want to drink and smoke more, that or the void made me hunger for death. I figured death would be the ultimate escape.
“Roll up the window, please!” Melissa snaps.
I was wondering how long it would take to get on her nerves. Slowly, I begin to roll up the window.
“Hurry it up please, it’s 54 degrees outside.”
“I’m sorry this is as fast as I can roll the window up.” I lie. I love teasing her. Seeing her frustrated makes me smile. I know how that makes me sound. Mean and vindictive. But Melissa is amazingly sweet. No matter how much I piss her off or how mean I am to her, she still loves me. She still spends time with me, and no matter what I do, I know she’ll always be there for me. That’s why I do it. I know I can get away with it.
“Are you pregnant?” I ask Melissa.
“No!” She defensively barks.
She says her and J.P. have never had sex, of any kind. I believe her, sort of. It’s still hard for me to believe a boy J.P.’s age doesn’t want sex or is willing to wait to have it.
“Well, with your luck, you’ll probably end up pregnant your first time. With your family being so fertile and all.” I laugh.
It’s so true! Her sister Clarissa, who’s the oldest, has six kids. Connor 15, Celeste 12, Callum 8, live with their father in California. The other three, the twins: Jodi and Jordan 4 and Dwight 22 months, live with Melissa and her parents. The twins’ father died of a heroin overdose. Dwight’s daddy is a stranger to the Russell family. Clarissa was on heroin when she showed up eight months pregnant with Dwight. Poor little guy was born an addict. Clarissa went to jail after she had him. I forgot what she did to end up there. She got out six months later on good behavior. After her parole was finished, which also ended earlier for her good behavior, she was gone. That was three weeks ago.
Then Gabriel has two little guys. Peter Gabriel Russell, age 3, lives with his mother Charlotte. She lives down the street from Melissa. Pete’s at their house most of the time because she’s so busy working. Gabriella Dawn Russell is just a few months old and she lives with Melissa and her parents. Her mother wasn’t in a position to raise her. Her mother named her Gabriella, signed adoption papers, and left. Gabriel went to Vegas with his band. They’re trying to make it big. He doesn’t really care about being a father.
The family tree doesn’t stop there. Deacon, who is six years older than Melissa, has a daughter. Phoebe is 7 and she has the biggest cool blue eyes, and the cutest, big-curl dark brown hair. Her mother died after she was born. Undetected preeclampsia. Deacon’s a good man. He did have an apartment in Albuquerque, but he got laid off. He went to Alaska to drill oil and he didn’t want to uproot Phoebe and take her so far away from family. He left her behind with the grandparents.
The real kicker is that the Russell’s have a four bedroom, one and half bath, double-wide trailer. One bedroom belongs to Craig and Janie. One bedroom belongs to Melissa. Jodi, Gabriella, and Phoebe share a room. Then Jordan, Pete, when he’s over, and Dwight share the other. There is no room to breathe in that house, no more room for any more kids, and guess what! Janie’s pregnant! She’s about to pop any day now too. God confuses the hell out of me sometimes. Why would he place more children in that house? Melissa is the only super good child they have had so far. Who knows how the grandkids are going to turn out and they’re having another child. I shake my head in the suspension of disbelief. I know what’s going on, but I’m choosing to ignore it.
“J.P. and I are thinking about getting married on New Year’s Eve.”
O my God, “Why?” I ask.
“I don’t want to be there when the new baby comes. I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep since Gabby arrived.” She explains yawning.
I wonder if she should be driving… I begin to roll down the window again. I am a little warm. Just a little of the fresh air will cool me off. Melissa hounds me to roll up the window.
“That’s not fair! I’m hot-blooded and you know it.” I sigh as I roll the window back up.
“Too bad. My car, my rules.” Melissa says authoritatively.
Who is she to boss me around? I’m a grown woman. I’m 19 years old. Angrily, I stomp my foot on the floor of her car. Like the action will somehow get rid of my anger. The sound of the stomping startled Dwight. Waking him up from his nap, he begins wailing.
“Thanks a lot, Makayla.” Melissa snaps.
Melissa’s cool blue eyes stare at Dwight through the rearview mirror. Melissa speaks as soothingly as she can to calm him down, but between his crying and the loud music Dwight can’t hear her. It’s hard for her to focus on the road and Dwight.
“Turn down the music!” Melissa commands me.
She continues to talk to him and every few moments she looks through the rearview mirror to check on him. Dwight’s tears subside. When Melissa’s eyes meet Dwight’s matching cool blue eyes in the rearview mirror she smiles at him. He giggles, smiling back. His soft, big blonde curls droop in his face and shield his eyes. Knowing he’s alright, Melissa goes back to focusing purely on the road.
“Are you excited to see Lauren, Dwight?” Melissa asks, in a typical child-addressing tone.
He yelps excitedly, “Or-en!”
Melissa and I laugh. I turn back to look at Dwight and observe him. I look at him in his red, thick winter jacket and baggy blue jeans. Dwight looks like he’s disappearing in his clothes. He’s safely buckled into his bulky car seat. Dwight still looks sleepy with his eyelids drooping.
“He looks like you when you were three.” I say turning back to face forward.
Melissa glances at him quickly over her shoulder. Is she mad? I yell at her to keep her eyes on the road. Frustrated that I’m being a passenger driver, she whispers at me loudly, “I know!”
I ask if we’re there yet. I know we’re nowhere close, but I like the face Melissa makes when she’s agitated. She cringes and bares her teeth like a little angry bear. I can’t wait until Dwight starts making that face. People mistake Dwight for her son all the time. But it’s really weird how he is the spitting image of Melissa at three. She had blonde hair then too. Now her hair is jet black. Even the twins resemble her more than Phoebe. Gabby will never look like Melissa, she’s half Mexican and she looks it. I’ve seen pictures of her nephews and niece that live in California. Their hair is still blonde, but they kind of look like Melissa’s siblings.
“Ibby!” Dwight shouts as he points to Gabby beside him. To our knowledge she’s sleeping in her car seat. Melissa shushes him to be quiet. She threatens not to give him a snack if he wakes Gabby up. Instead, he directs his attention to stare out the window. That’s a good idea.
I follow Dwight’s lead and I stare out my own window. The dark clouds and gray sky suggest snow’s on the way. When Lauren came for Thanksgiving, it almost snowed.
I hope whatever’s been getting her down has changed. She was really different a few weeks ago. She would smile, but there was no happiness in her eyes. Normally, we confess everything to each other, but I’ve never really shared my entire past with them. All they know is that my father sexually abused me. They don’t know I’ve slept with other guys… I don’t even want to count how many.
Now I know where I’ve seen that look before− a smile without joyful eyes. It was after I made my purity pledge. For me, it was a pledge of celibacy not purity. Daniel came home for a visit. He offered to take me to dinner. He took me all the way to Sanders, to his parents’ house, and we had mutton stew. Trust me, not my favorite. On the way back, we went to our usual spot. I figured we’d just talk, but we didn’t. We had sex. It sure felt good while we did it, but I felt guiltier than I ever had afterwards. I felt like God’s eyes were burning up my soul. He dropped me off at home and I was depressed for weeks. I stopped praying and having devotions with the Lord. I felt too guilty to turn to him. I would smile, but there was no joy in my eyes.
O my God! Lauren’s not a virgin anymore! She would be the last person I would think to break her vow. She loves Jesus more than life! How could she go back on her word? It must have been that Matthew guy she talks about all the time on Facebook. She never mentioned him over Thanksgiving. I waited the whole time for her to bring him up, but she didn’t. She’s fornicating with some hot college guy! How could she?
She’s the whole reason Christ found me. I grew up Mormon. I hated the whole thing. Didn’t understand why everything happened in America. Jesus was an Israelite… kind of… he was Jewish! We didn’t always attend services. The few times we did, I got disturbed. I thought all religion was a joke. I didn’t understand why we had to do good works to get into heaven?
Lauren had always been nice to me at school. She was the only girl in school who would talk to me. Sometimes, we would have lunch together. It was after Daniel dropped out of high school, I must have been 15, maybe 16, I was really depressed. I lost the one person who understood me, or so I thought. For whatever weird reason, well, the Lord’s reason probably, she invited me to church. I was going to say no, but then she said there was going to be a potluck after service. They were celebrating all the April birthdays. My birthday was in April and I told her that. She said all the more reason why I should come. So I did. It was the end of the month. Both of my parents relied on the government for money, there was no food in my house or money to buy some. I said yes!
I kept going back because everyone was so nice. People wanted to know me and men didn’t want to use me for sex. I went just to socialize. I didn’t care about the sermons. Then June came, and on the third Sunday, Father’s Day, I accepted Christ. Pastor Donahue’s sermon was about how important fathers are to their children. He gave statistics and everything. When he started talking about how fathers today fall short of their duties, we all have one father that never does− our Heavenly Father.
A feeling I never had before came over me. A glorious sensational rush moved down me from head to toe, but it wasn’t sexual in any way. The feeling was almost like a chill but not quite. I wasn’t cold. It was very hot and stuffy in the church that Sunday, at least it was to me. Tears came out of me like never before. It was a good thing he was closing his sermon because I was ready to get saved. He asked if there was anyone who was ready to accept Christ. I nearly ran to the altar and, immediately, he prayed over me as the congregation sang God’s praises through a worship song called ‘Surrender’. Like the moment was cinematic, that song fit my life to a T. I was ready to surrender to God. Since that day, I have felt like a new woman. Reborn in the Body of Christ!
When I slipped up by fornicating with Daniel, I thought I could never go back. But the minute I gave in and asked the Lord for FORGIVENESS, I felt forgiven… just like I did when I got saved.
I guess I have no right to be upset with Lauren. We are all human. From the way she talks about Matthew on Facebook, she’s in love with him. At least she fornicated with someone she loves. That doesn’t make it any more right, but at least she can feel less guilty about it.
“Do you think Lauren lost her virginity?”
Melissa’s eyes bug out as she stares at me with her eyes off the road. “Where did that question come from?”
“She talks about some guy named Matthew all the time on Facebook. I tried to look him up, but I don’t think he has a Facebook page.”
“Lauren would not break her purity vow…” Melissa says with uncertainty. Like she’s trying to convince herself Lauren wouldn’t. In speculation, she adds, “She did seem different over Thanksgiving break. But she said she was having a tough first semester.”
Yeah, right. Lauren is oodles smart. She could do homework in her sleep. That’s why God destined her to be a doctor.
But I don’t feel like arguing with Melissa. I agree with her. “I’m sure that was it.”
*Edited by Kristen Wenneborg