Just Twenty-four



“It takes two to make an accident.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby”

The details:

  • 1000 word limit, all genres of creative writing are welcome.
  • linky is open until Friday, February 21, at 11:55pm Pacific
  • Use the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote above as an opening/closing line or draw inspiration from it, your choice.
  • Community voting opens 2/22 and closes 2/28 at 11:55pm Pacific.
  • Community and editorial choice winners will be announced on Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books on Monday, March 3, 2014.
  • All entries must be original work, only published on your personal blog/website, and by entering you give Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books permission to reprint your entry in Precipice, Volume III‘s print and digital formats, as well as permission to edit for grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors.
  • Have fun!


     In the novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “It takes two to make an accident.”  I’m inclined to agree.  At least, when it comes to  memories of my mother, my father, my step-father, and myself, I definitely must agree.  

     My mother, Debra Jean Sifford, was in love.  It appears my father, Dale Smith, returned fond feelings until the pregnancy.  This is the part where he ducks out of the picture and fades back into the hollows of West Virginia for 31 years, leaving my mother to face her parents, a small community with a Church of God’s biggest hypocrites, and the fact he hadn’t gone  shopping for any ring. Though she was 24 years old and a working adult, this was 1975, when having a baby out of wedlock was considered a scandal.  Especially in a town this small and nobody could conjure up my father’s face in their minds, so it became a guessing game. This happens to be a  famous game in this area.  

     My relationship with my mother, from the time of conception  until her death,  appears to be one accident after another.  Our relationship went  from one mishap to a thousand disappointments.   To begin with, she hid her rounding belly beneath her tightest bell bottom jeans, played baseball with the rough crowd, took her older sister’s birth control pills by the handful, and refused to make a doctor’s appointment.   As if to remind  her of her mistake, a cesarean section was performed, which 37 years ago was done differently than now.  She was left with a long scar vertically on her stomach.    I weighed 4 pounds and dropped down to 2 from being premature.  She brought me home to my great-grandmother’s trailer because my grandfather had kicked her out.  A fluke storm reunited us with my grandparents.  From there, everything to do with my mother and I was defective.  I have spent years trying to understand  why and how our relationship became so strained.  The only things I understand are my feelings and reactions to her actions. 

   My memories bounce around inside my head, taking me back to nights I slept with my aunt because my mom wouldn’t allow me to have a nightlight, but then she pouted because I wouldn’t sleep with her.   Her annoyance at being hugged, even after I was an adult, made me feel as a child that I was somehow unworthy of her affection.   Suddenly, I’m 6 and she is marrying my step-dad and moving to the next county. Holding her breath,  she waited for me to say I wanted to stay where I was, with my grandparents.    Later this would be misconstrued and her reasoning for my lack of respect was because my grandfather said I couldn’t  go with her. Promises of weekends with her and my step-father  turned into me staring out the kitchen window for her car.  Those broken promises ended with my granny spanking me for whining to stay one night with my mom after my mom had said no. With each sting from my my granny’s hand, realizations began to form, until I was staring at my mom and thinking to myself, “I’m being whipped because you are a liar.”  I never brought up the subject again about spending the weekend with her. 

     I’m 8 and my mother is glowing because her and Richard are having a baby.  Even the doctor’s orders to stay off her feet because her first pregnancy put a strain on her body, was just another misfortune from having me.  Children are resilient though.  Time moved on and my mother became the visitor for Sunday dinner.  My step-dad was annoying on these Sundays and my sister was just there.  Around the time I noticed my awkwardness and lanky frame were being replaced by subtle curves, my mother disrupted my life in a massive way. I’m looking in the mirror at how round my lips are, practicing a perfect pout, and planning a summer with friends and guys.  The next moment, my granny is telling me my mother and hubby need a babysitter because theirs  quit.

     Before my pouty lips could form a decent argument, I’m hearing how they had to work, if they lost their jobs they couldn’t take care of my sister, and listening in disbelief about how granny told them she would have me there the following Monday.  Assuring me this was temporary and I’d be home each weekend, didn’t help with the betrayal I felt.   Temporary turned into 4 summers.  I could go on about the newness I found in me, my first menstrual cycle, first love, crazy times, and how those summers prepared me for the next 4 years of high school.  This can be explained by the fact my step-dad hated me, I resented my mother, and my sister pissed me off.  I stayed drunk from Jim Beam while smoking Marlboro Reds because my mother tried being my friend.  Her being a friend kept me from telling her when an adult tried to have sex with me because whether she believed me or not, she wouldn’t have been  strong enough to handle her world crashing around her, and I knew she would  feed me to the wolves.

     The pastor’s voice made me sick when he read her eulogy in 2008.  His  words of rejoicing  never entered my soul.  I felt and feel so many emotions, but no closure. I feel regret she was unhappy for so long, I feel scared my mental illness will make me weak like her and I feel guilt because I was the source of unhappiness for her.  Her life was ruined when she was just 24.

This is my story written for:  It Takes Two; A Writing Contest




13 responses

  1. Donetta, this gave me chills. No lie. It is so honest, so raw. That last line–wow! What a heartwrenching story. Sometimes when children suffer less than stellar parenting, they themselves go on to become wonderful parents, refusing to make their parents’ mistakes. You seem to have gone that route. I am so very sorry you had to feel this way and live this way. Thank you for trusting us with such painful recollections.

    P.S. My story, while fiction, deals with similar subject matter. Weird.

    1. Thank you, Ivy. I do try to be a good mom and not let my children have any doubts that they are loved. I am heading over now to read your story. 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there for all to see. I congratulate you on your bravery. Well done.

    1. Thank you. I had doubts about publishing this piece. I normally write poetry on my blog at Blogger. For me, fiction is so hard. I admire anyone who writes a fictional piece and it comes to life from their wonderful minds.

  3. This is so sad. No child should have to suffer for the mistakes of his/her parents. I’m glad you found some peace after writing this, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult things must have been for you. You are very brave. Thank you for opening up and sharing this with us.. 🙂

    1. I actually didn’t start out planning on writing about my mom; it just took a turn there. Thank you for your kind words and for stopping by.

  4. Oh Donetta,I have no words to express what I want to say to you!Had I not read Janna’s and Val’s comments,I would have been blissfully unaware that it was not fiction.No child should have to undergo this kind of pain and living with a guilt which they don’t deserve to feel in the first place!That last para says it all-such deep pain and still carrying the burden of guilt!My heart broke to read this and knowing it is real,makes it harder.I hope and pray that someday you will find closure and that with your inner strength ,you will be able to beat this thing.Keep smiling and God bless((hugs)

    1. Thank you so much. I just got back to read comments. I appreciate everyone’s kind words. As Janna said, I try to just focus on being a good mom to my two daughters. This was a piece of work that came out of nowhere in my mind to write and it felt like the right time. I admire anyone who can write fiction well. 🙂

  5. This is such a deeply personal piece of writing. I’m sorry your childhood was so difficult. From what I’ve read of you before, it seems that you are able to share yourself with your daughters in a way that your mother couldn’t with you. In that, I hope you find some comfort…

    1. Thank you so much Janna. It is a wonderful feeling to be with my daughters and parenting can be trying at times. And, I absolutely love everything about being a mom. 🙂

  6. Oh honey, I wish, I wish, I wish I could fix what happened to you, but I think (I hope) that writing about it, bringing it to the surface like you did and not trying to pretend it didn’t happen is good. I wish I had more in the way of wisdom, but the thing with groups like Write in Edge, and Trifecta, is that you can reach out-and you will be lifted up by people who care. From what I know of you, I think you are pretty special-and I also think that no matter how broken we are, we can still find some sort of peace in life. Hugs, my friend! xx

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and your kind words. I usually stick to poetry over on Blogger. I seen this challenge for Write on the Edge and I wanted to try. I have the hardest time with fiction. Writing about it did make me feel better, or better isn’t the word………. closure on something that needed it. I have found so much support on blogs like Trifecta, and met wonderful people. I’m grateful for that. Hugs!!

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