My second stepmother was evil. I could imitate her perfectly. My friend Shelly used to laugh and ask me to do it again. An imaginary cigarette rhythmically tapped on the tabletop to pack the tobacco while her eyes stare me down. Smoker’s lips with deep lines like a sun I drew in kindergarten, pursed either in anticipation of an oncoming cigarette or just to let me know she was pissed. She didn’t scare me, she made me sick to my stomach.
The redundant scene reeked of drama, a ploy to take my power. The simple act of smoking her dirty cigarette was an opportunity to say, “and what are you gonna do about it?” Evil eyes never leaving my gaze, she would light the cigarette, inhale deeply, flare her nostrils and hold it. Jesus, let this be her last breath, lungs filled with tar and contempt. But I wouldn’t be so lucky. Her tight lips would release a stream of smoke from the side of her mouth as to not let the smoke obstruct her gaze or block her glare. Again, pursed lips, fucking drama. Words wouldn’t come until she was about half way through the cigarette- glaring, smoking and pursing. With halfcocked head I would sit silently; I would let her take her time and take me in. Regardless of how much she governed my every move, I would play oblivious to her tactics, the way my own daughter does because she knows how it drives me crazy. Relaxed, no blinking, just watching this crazy bitch unfold.
Sliding her tongue over her teeth as if the words were stuck like peanut butter she’d finally announce, “you’re 10 minutes late.” Still pursed lips. Details were irrelevant, I was always 10 minutes by late her time frame, she had designed it that way. I couldn’t peddle any faster to get from my summer job at the Egg Roll King to home. I knew this wasn’t an opportunity for me to explain; we were already to the arraignment. In the sentencing, there was nothing she could take away as I didn’t have anything. She had already told me that if I wanted school clothes I would have to get a job and pay for them myself. The fact that I was only 14 made her threat that much more tragic for me, an eighth grader who just wanted a couple items that wouldn’t give me away. It infuriated her that I had lied about my age on the on my application and gotten the job. My silence was like a flame to an aerosol can. Maybe if I got lucky her head would explode.
The next day she informed me that she and my dad had decided that I wouldn’t be living with them any longer and that I would go live with my aunt and uncle in Oregon. She had given my dad an ultimatum, either she or I, and he had chosen as he always did. This sly bitch had done it, she found the only thing I had and took it away from me; she took away my little brother, Jason. I was devastated and I couldn’t contain my sadness any longer. My tears and pain brought such joy to Vicki, as evidenced in her smile.
Before I left Texas I made a promise to myself, I would take her out. The scenes rolled through my head in the few days before I was to get on the plane with each rendition only better than the last. She was smaller than me; I had her by about 20 pounds. I imagined my arms wrapping around her scrawny neck until she passed out, a swift kick to the groin hard enough to shatter the pelvis and a boot boy kick to the head for good measure. That would work. A rare instance when the flashing scenes of violence brought me joy and hope. The problem was that I kept missing my opportunity and my time was closing in, as I was to leave the next day.
At the airport the next day I knew it was now or never. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the victorious smile on Vicki’s wrinkled lips. The announcement to board came over the speaker and I stood to make my move. Fists clenched, I moved inches from her face and then my eye caught Jason’s, his face red and swollen with tears. I lost it. I grabbed Jason in my arms and started sobbing. I had given Vicki exactly what she had hoped for.