If I had not gone looking for that stupid cat I never would have overheard the conversation in the first place.
It’s strange the things you remember and how you process as a child. I was looking for our cat that night. He was a cantankerous old bastard so I have no idea why I was searching for him so desperately. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him. This cat was really terrible though. His name was meano because he was so prickly and vicious and the name suited him perfectly. But I wanted him and I was going to find him.
I had looked almost everywhere and had made my way to my brother’s room when I heard voices in the kitchen. Our apartment was long and narrow, like a train car. The kitchen would have been the caboose. His room was in a little corner off of the kitchen. My brother was sleeping soundly. He looked like an angel back then. Everyone said so. Curly, blond hair. Big blue eyes. Dimples when he smiled. The chaos that was about to implode upon this little boy’s life is impossible to describe.
I heard my mom first. She sounded different in a way that I can’t explain. Not mad exactly, but threatening. I had to strain to hear what she was saying. My mom never really got angry in a way that scared me or made me feel like I was in trouble. This time I felt something close to fear. If I had the words to describe it back then I would have labeled it as anxiousness.
She was talking to my sister.
My older sister is the one who had to shoulder the majority of the burden in this nightmare. She was the one that they found Polaroid pictures of. Her and her best friend. They were about seven years old, close to 8.
“You cannot say that your father did those things. You CANNOT. They will put him in jail, do you get that? Look at me! They will send him away. DO NOT say he did those things.”
“Look at me. You’re not going to say he did those things, right? You’re going to say it wasn’t true?”
I peeked around the door frame. Her head was down. She was standing there, not answering. Not looking at my mom. Just standing there. The image of her standing with her hair draping over her face, looking at the floor will never go away. I didn’t know what they were talking about. It was all completely over my head. I didn’t want my dad to go away and I couldn’t understand why my sister would want him to either. Why wasn’t she answering? It seemed simple enough.
It was then that I noticed the cat. Curled by her feet. Staring at me. Almost like he was daring me to interrupt this moment. To help her. To save her.To save myself. Anything. Just make this heavy feeling end.
“What are you going to say?” my mother asked again.
My sister never looked up but I heard her reply.
“He never did anything.”
She turned and walked down the hall. The cat followed.
My mom just stood there, staring into space.
These moments are what I remember. These memories haunt me. This damage can never be undone.
My sister ended up telling the truth when it went to trial. It wouldn’t have mattered if she had lied. They had enough evidence to put him away for a long time even without her testimony. Now that I’m old enough to understand, I wonder if she would have felt better if she has lied. Probably not. Some truths need to be told. Even If only for ourselves.