I was standing in the grass outside the house, but not outside the fence that enclosed about half an acre that served as the front yard. Even at 6:00 in the evening, the Texas heat still pricked my skin causing a warming sensation that was both uncomfortable and reassuring. Uncomfortable as my pores opened up and released the perspiration that would cool my body, but dampen my clothes. But the heat was welcomed, as it drew my attention to something other than my current state of depression.
My father joined me in the grass and stood close enough to where I could feel his presence without him having to announce himself. The two of us stood there in uncomfortable silence. Until…
“What are you thinking about?” my father questioned, breaking the ice.
Everything and nothing, I thought to myself. A response that I knew would not be acceptable and only probe further unwanted questioning. One trait my father always appreciated was directness, so I decided to give him what he asked for.
“About how I can get out of here,” I stated as directly as I could.
“You’re not stuck here, Sarah,” my father responded.
As soon as his words hit the air, tears as warm as the sun on my skin began streaming down my face. Tears of frustration, despair, confusion and longing. Somehow, we always came back to the same issue: they didn’t understand. We were speaking two different languages and they refused to work with a translator. Of course, I was stuck here! I tried to leave but was forced to stay. My voice went unheard and my feelings dismissed. Every aspect of my life was controlled and twisted into what their vision of my life should look like. And still, neither party was happy.
“It sure feels like it. I can’t leave. I can’t talk to anyone. I can’t do anything but be miserably stuck here,” I managed to get out between deep breaths and tears.
“You’re making this more dramatic than it really is. It’s not like you’re a prisoner here,” my father made a stab at a reassuring response.
My father was the king of comments that were not intended to be hurtful, but were. I was the one being dramatic? Oh, but not approving of the person your 22-year-old college graduate daughter is dating, so you lock her in your house, take away all her freedom and expect her to thank you for it and be pleasant isn’t dramatic? Breathe Sarah. Bringing that up would get me nowhere and would just further escalate the current situation. I certainly did not want to explore how things could get any worse.
“Right now, it feels like I am a prisoner. I can’t talk to my friends. I have no freedom to do anything. I’m miserable…” I choked out in between more emotional tears.
My father paused for a moment before speaking. “Well, your mother and I are going out to run some errands tomorrow. Why don’t you see if Brad can meet up with us for lunch? He’s a good kid.”
Brad was a friend of mine since I was fifteen. We had met at church and our enjoyment of tennis coupled with our shared bond of being raised by strict parents had made us fast friends. My parents and his parents had never spent time with each other outside of church, but both sets approved of the friendship. We lived about 30 minutes apart, but when you live in the country, that’s as good as right down the road.
To my sincere gratitude, Brad was able to meet up with me and my parents for lunch. We met up at BJ’s Brewhouse and shared an interesting lunch. Brad hadn’t the slightest idea of what chaos my world was in, but he played along nicely. Any rude and sarcastic remarks from my father didn’t faze Brad. He could certainly hold his own. Much to my surprise, my parents decided that Brad and I could spend some time without their chaperone so long as he didn’t mind dropping me off back home.
Brad and I parted ways with my parents and headed towards his car. Before either of us could get our seatbelts on, I exploded. “I need to get a burner phone. Can you help me?”
Without so much as a hesitation, Brad responded, “Sure, I think there’s an AT&T right around the corner from here.” See, there was a reason we had remained friends for so long.
As Brad drove to the AT&T store, I spilled my guts about everything that had gone down. How my parents had broken up with Kendrae for me. How I was an actual prisoner in their house. With no phone, no freedom, no contact with the outside world, least of all with Kendrae. And now I was being shipped off to Ohio, to stay with my mother’s side of the family so that I could be supervised more closely. I think my parents were concerned that I would run away.
Brad was as shocked as I had been. Laughing at the sheer hilarity of it all, because it didn’t seem real. Over the course of our friendship, Brad had come to know my parents through personal interactions with them as well as recounts he had heard from me. He told me that even in the wildest interactions and bewildering stories, he had never expected a concoction such as this.
What a rush of relief I felt all throughout my body! This was the reassurance I had been longing for. That I was not crazy. This was not normal. And was certainly not right. Brad had been my first true contact with anyone in the outside world, and it felt SOgood! The fog from the Twilight Zone had not seeped into my pores yet. There was still a chance for me to escape with myself intact.
A short while later, I was the proud owner of a pay-as-you-go phone. A tiny little thing with unlimited text messaging and 250 minutes of talk time. I had selected the slimmest phone model I could find, because it would have to remain hidden on my body at all times. I paid all in cash, and filled in the home address with my college address, so that no paper trail could ever make its way back to my parents address. When the month was up, I would just come back to this store and pay for another month’s worth of calls and texts. A $40.00 phone and a $25.00 monthly plan was a price I was happy to pay for the slightest taste of freedom.
On the night that my world had been turned upside down, by some miracle I possessed some sense of foresight during utter chaos. After begging my parents to allow me to call Kendrae upon learning of the terrible text my mother sent him, I quickly looked up his cell phone number as I was pretending to dial. And I repeated the digits in my head to commit them to memory. I hadn’t quite known at the time, when I would be able to use his number, but I was hopeful that I would eventually.
As Brad kindly made the drive back to my parent’s house, I held the jewel of a lifeline in my hands delicately. I punched in the one number besides my own I knew by heart, and typed out a brief message.
Kendrae, it’s me, Sarah. I bought a burner phone so we are able to communicate. We’ll have to be careful when we talk and text, but anything is better than nothing. I’m sorry that we have to go through this, but being with you is worth it. I love you.
The second I pressed the send button, a thought caught in my chest and took my breath away. What if this was too much? What if Kendrae didn’t want to be forced to communicate sporadically with a girl whose parents hated him? He certainly wasn’t limited to being with me. There was a long list of girls just waiting for him to be single. In fact some of them, didn’t even care about him being single. What was to say that he hadn’t changed his mind since he agreed to wait?
*New Feature* Audio file of this post.