Several evenings ago, my family, or at least three fourths of it, got a little bit of shock therapy. Tonight, as a result, I finally came clean to my parents and it seems that after all these years, they are trying to understand me and stop the stereotyping.
It's hard now to think of Paige being gone. Actually, she had always been out "studying" with her friends and staying the night, but it's hard to imagine that she will probably be gone for good or might even get put on Death Row for what she did. Despite the fact that she always sided with our parents and treated me generally sub-human, I am still going to miss her. Hell, I already feel like a puppy without its owner, and it's only been a little over seventy two hours since Paige was abruptly taken away. Now sitting here writing exactly what has been running through my head, I have been trying to understand exactly how we all go to this point.
I guess the whole thing started toward the end of my sophomore year, when Paige, my sister two years my senior, was just about to graduate. It's coming back to me vividly; I was still in my old bedroom, which, although clean, was a level four biohazard in appearance. One particular over-slept morning, my dad hollered at me to get up and be ready to go to school in the next ten minutes. I got up and fished through the disorderly mess for something clean to wear.
"Looking like a cheap whore as usual, eh, Emily?" my mother remarked, as the other two gave me their militant looks of disgust. I rushed out the door, hurrying to catch up with Paige before she drove away without me. My dad brusquely reminded me that I was to come straight home afterwards due to the fact that I was still grounded.
Perhaps I'm jumping a bit too far ahead; I shall rewind and give a bit of background. I really never did anything to piss my parents off, let alone to be seen as a bad apple within our society, but I was anyway. On the other hand, up to now, I thought that the problem my parents had with me was that I wasn't Paige. She was completely different from me, and really seemed to be a model citizen and daughter. She always earned damn near straight A report cards, wore stylish yet conservative clothes, had a thing for classical and intelligent alternative rock music, and even played viola in the school orchestra. She hung out with friends from those groups to go see movies and plays, or just to study for upcoming tests.
As for me, I was the black guy profiled by white cops in a small town. Just because I was so "different," and didn't fancy, say, playing an instrument, buying CDs of Mozart and Radiohead's music, or dressing in long skirts, loose fitting jeans and not exactly form fitting tee shirts, I got the crappy end of the stick. And yeah, somebody could say that I sort of brought it on myself, though it was also partially society's ignorance. Specifically, instead of the retro look that Paige sported, I preferred low rise jeans and variations of the tank top from the trendy shops in the mall. Rather than the alternative and classical persuasions, I bought my CDs from the rap and hip hop sections of the record store, and spent my time either at a party with friends who share my interests, or reading books that I checked out of the library.
The disapproval and disappointment from my parents was rooted in their complete inability to "think outside of the box." Living in a small town like Richville, everything is very conservative. In other words, anyone coloring outside those lines, like me, are looked down upon. Within the school and in surrounding neighborhoods, there are a lot of girls that fit the same mold as I do. They dress like me, listen to the same kind of music as me, and love to party. Additionally, they also love to indulge in hard liquor and drugs like weed, acid, and magic mushrooms while at parties, and make all failing grades because they're too busy pleasing their much older boyfriends, to care about their future. Some that are near carbon copies of me otherwise, had gotten pregnant by those older boyfriends and/or had dropped out of school.
At that time, I was grounded for getting F's in the majority of my classes, though it's not because I don't give a rip about school. I worked really hard, but my teachers really sucked, and saw me in a negative light for the same reasons as everyone else. The thing that upset my parents the most, however, was my continued association with my long time boyfriend, Caleb, who is four years older than me. Without even meeting him, my parents labeled him "bad news." On the other hand, contrary to their beliefs, Caleb had (and still has) a steady job, and had just begun to get his way through college in pursuit of a Psychology degree; certainly, he was no slacker! And furthermore, we hadn't even (and still haven't to this day) had sex!
Anyway, accepting the fact that I was grounded, I prepared myself for the first big crappy weekend; I got a bunch of books from the library and a couple of new CDs from the record store down the road. Unfortunatley, that was all I ended up doing (generally) the entire time; homework, reading a couple of books, and playing to hell, those two albums in my portable CD player.
Over the course of that time, I began to notice something odd. Usually, Paige, while still with a "holier-than-thou" aire about her, was pleasant, at least to be around. Over time (and especially that weekend) she had become more and more crabby. Also, I noticed that she had suddenly gained some weight, though when I brought it up at the dinner table, my family members saw fit to "rip me a new one" because they thought that it was just a vendetta driven by sheer jealousy. Also, it seemed as if Paige was taking full advantage of my being grounded. Even though it was the weekend, Paige's double bell alarm clock screamed her awake early in the morning. She got up cheerfully and dressed quickly as she informed my parents that she was going out to a movie with Desi (a friend from the orchestra) and to run around the mall, then was spending the night at Desi's house. However, what she was really doing (and I know so well, as she confessed everything leading up to the incident to the police) was first of all going to have sex with Kaden, her boyfriend of a couple of years before he had to go to work. Paige would then mess around at the mall with Desi and go to her all night house party; where she would smoke weed and get drunk as a skunk. This, in fact, happened nearly every weekend that I was on restriction! My restriction was really pissing me off; so I had to convince my parents to let me have some freedom. The following day, the agreed to let me stay after school to only see a tutor, but I was instructed to walk straight home afterward.
I don't feel I really lied, only partially…I did meet a tutor; but, it was my boyfriend, Caleb! He was very strong in the maths and sciences and they were definitely not my strengths. Certainly, I needed all the help I could get. We began to spend a couple of hours working every other night. I also strived to work harder so that I could show my teachers what I could do. Eventually, it all began to come together; test grades began to progressively get better, and my assignments were some of the best in the class. Still, my parents weren't impressed.
Finding it hard to concentrate, I regress, wondering how long Paige had held the wool over our eyes. At first I thought a lot about how, with her hard partying, which spanned entire weekends and some school nights; all still when she managed to produce the grades she did! It was easier to understand when she admitted to hiring guys at the school to do all of her work for her in exchange for money, weed, and/or sexual favors.
Let me zoom ahead to my sister's graduation night, despite the fact that I always swore I would not be there. It was actually a descent evening, not only because it was one step closer to Paige being far away from home, but my final grades came out that day, too; C's in math and science, and A's and B's in everything else. Surely, it surprised my folks.
The summer that followed wasn't bad, considering that I wasn't grounded, and I got to hang out with Caleb a lot more. I kept on reading and even, over the course of the almost three month hiatus from school, began to experiment with poetry. Meanwhile, Paige was getting more and more excited about dorm life, and she was gaining more weight. Finally, the time came for Paige to pack it up and head off to Browne's University. That morning I found out that Kaden was driving Paige to the university, and further, they were going to live together and share her car. I was still trying to get on good terms with my parents, since college preparation was soon to be on my agenda. Surely, this was the time to show my parents I could really shine; without living in Paige's shadow.
I continued to work on my grades, and Caleb still helped me so that I could do better in science and geometry, which I found to be especially tricky, though was required to take, since I passed first year algebra. As a result, I mustered a B minus this time in that class, but then I also had a really good teacher. I managed to get a solid B in chemistry class; with everyone's help; especially Caleb's.
Paige, on the other hand, seemed to have it all together. She called home to talk to my mom, dad, and even me now and then; although she never mentioned coming home to visit us or us coming to visit her in Brownesville. After a term of "hard work," and generally starting out with a bang, Paige produced yet another set of straight A's. When she finally got home, she seemed excited to see us all, but didn't seem to talk about Kaden and didn't have any "campus happenings" to share with any of us, which seemed strange, because she always communicated well with our parents.
All four of us were sitting at the table having dinner consisting of our family's favorite takeout Chinese from downtown. My parents were asking Paige millions of questions about her school's clubs and organizations, life in her dorm; and especially in regards to what she would be taking during the winter quarter. Suddenly, the front door throbbed with a rhythmic knocking. My dad answered it; standing there was a uniformed officer from the Brownesville Police Department. Once he introduced himself, he wasted no time before he walked in, and announced that Paige was under arrest for murder in the first degree. She was cuffed, led out, read her rights, and was shut in the back of the police cruiser parked outside of our house.
My parents were in complete denial; that is, until the officer produced a file folder consisting of pictures and papers. He first showed us a DNA chart of three people; Paige, Kaden, and a newborn baby with a combination of both of the first two. Paige had gotten pregnant by Kaden and delivered on the floor of her dorm room; mom and dad were flabbergasted just from learning that she had even gotten knocked up at her age in the first place, let alone didn't even say anything about it. Then out of the file folder, the officer produced a half-page size newspaper clipping from the Brownesville Herald with the headline, "COLLEGE STUDENTS WANTED TO GRUESOME MURDER OF NEWBORN." It read:
"Two days ago, arrest warrants were issued for nineteen year-old Paige Hedges and eighteen year old Kaden Pierce for the respective charges of murder in the first degree and being an accessory to murder. The charges have been brought about for the horribly brutal murder of a baby, no more than a month old. The baby, a little boy, was found two weeks prior by a campus security officer in a dumpster outside of Hedges' dormitory hall with multiple stab wounds in the head, chest, and stomach. In addition, the baby was apparently suffocated by wrapping its head in plastic wrap. After turning it over to proper authorities and taking DNA samples from all students on campus, samples from the baby revealed that its makeup was a combination of Hedges and Pierce who, according to others living in their dorm hall, were significant others at the time. Hedges was impregnated by Pierce nine months prior."
"So, what can we expect, Emily?" my mom and dad then began as one of them opened my bedroom door, the night following Paige's arrest. "They'll be coming for you, too, because you killed someone?" They actually thought that I had something to do with it. This, obviously, was not the case, but I had to prove otherwise. However, knowing that we had never been able to talk face to face very well, I sent them both an email that read:
"Dear Mom and Dad:
I was just as shocked as you were to learn about the awful things that Paige did while at college, let alone that she completely kept in hiding about all of it, although I did have an inkling of a clue that she was pregnant by Kaden before she left for college. I have some things to tell you that you might actually agree with, though I am not even sure if the relationship that I have with either one of you is even salvageable at this point. Anyways, over the years, I came to learn something that you really should have seen a long time ago; everything that Paige was and stood for was just a façade that she used in order to obtain many more privileges and whatnot over me. She knew from early on that you two really have some ideas about girls who aren't exactly of the norm, and generally are menaces to society. She went to become part of the norm and play as if she was the model daughter/citizen/student, only so she could live the life of those menaces and just not be looked down upon because of it. Much of this was driven by the fact that I just happen to enjoy dressing somewhat like most of the menaces around and I listen to rap music and go to a lot of parties with similar friends…hence, because you guys think that people like those are so socially unacceptable and whatnot, while Paige wanted the life, she didn't want the stereotype and your restrictions that come with it. When I say living the life, I mean that she did all the things that you suspected that I was doing, but probably a whole lot worse. Whenever she said that she was out studying with friends, for example, she would really be going out to late night parties with friends. And the sole reason that she would never call you from them, or you'd never hear about them, is because she was getting drunk or high while there. And, when she would be going out early on weekends or say that she was staying after school to tutor other students, she would really be running off to have sex with Kaden.
I, on the other hand, have never touched any form of illicit drugs, do not drink whatsoever, and haven't even done as little as to smoke cigarettes. The only reason that I wear the clothes that I wear is because they are comfortable to me. I like rap music, but it has done nothing to influence the life that I lead. As for the biggest thing you always call me on the carpet for, my relationship with Caleb, that is something that really hits close to home. Yes, Caleb is four years older than me, but age has never mattered to me, and he is also very mature. He is not at all a slacker, as he is going to school to eventually become a clinical psychologist, and he really is a wonderful boyfriend. I do love him dearly, and he has mutual feelings for me. In fact, it really was not the school's group of very self-fulfilling and ridiculing tutors that did the volunteer work to help me bring my grades up. It was actually Caleb, and only him, who took it upon himself to help me out in actually learning, and optimizing my knowledge that I needed to raise the really bad grades that I used to have. Hence, without his help (though I always did my own homework, whereas Paige never did), I never would have been able to raise the two F's to almost C plusses.
I just thought that it might behoove me to send you two this email, despite the fact that you might not even be listening to me, let alone believe me. If you would like to talk, I am always available.
Really, I never expected anything from either one of my parents; I had sent them emails in order to communicate now and then, but they just ignored them and deleted them. However, this time, things seemed to be different. Earlier this evening, when we were sitting down to dinner (I knew something was up, when they prepared lasagna, my absolutely favorite food), the conversation at the table was about the contents of MY email. Let's just say that this evening was the first time that I actually felt REALLY LOVED. I was moved into Paige's old and much larger room, which I vowed to keep clean. My folks now support me one hundred percent; in fact, my mom even suggested that she would like me to spend a day with her shopping at the mall, something she had only done with Paige! Stunned by the fact that it was actually Caleb who helped me bring my grades up, they have really warmed up to him ever since. Truly, life, despite the fact that I might never see my sister again, is good. On a final note, to further confirm what has been written here, the mailman brought something interesting which I have decided to include here; a confessional and clarification letter from Paige from the Brownesville Correctional Facility:
You have probably all heard plenty of versions of the incident since I was taken away and brought here. Yes, I completely admitted to doing what I am being held for; I birthed a baby after being impregnated by Kaden, then I stabbed and suffocated it to death and left it in a campus dumpster to be completely forgotten about. I did it, and I realize that there is probably something horrible coming my way; I could get life in prison, or I could get the death penalty. What I did was an extreme thing to do, though a lot of it was about my fear of you finding out about me. I do have remorse for what I did, though I don't have what you would consider a valid explanation to justify what I did. There is no excuse in the world for killing an innocent human being; yes, I should have thought of that, let alone thought of considered using protection when Kaden and I were having sex. Speaking of Kaden, now the two of us aren't even on speaking terms; hell, he even said to me that he never wants to speak to me again. He wanted so badly to be a father, but just not right now, though was totally religious and pro-life. Certainly, I never wanted it to come down to this, but it has; I just didn't want you to know that the most important person in my life was ME, and furthermore, I didn't want you to know that I was one of 'them.'"
Hope all so far will enjoy it.