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Chapter no 20 – Mother knows best – only in the movies Shannon

Binding 13

When I woke up for school on Wednesday morning, my mother was waiting for me.

In my rush to get out of the house – and away from my father – I almost didn’t see her.

It was only when I stopped in the hall to retrieve my coat that I noticed her sitting at the kitchen table, clasping a mug of coffee between her hands.

“Mam?” I frowned at the sight of her.

She looked exhausted, with dark circles under her eyes, complexion pale and gaunt.

She was wrapped up in her old, frayed, polka-dot dressing gown – the last Christmas present Darren had given her before he left.

Abandoning my coat on the baluster, I wandered into the kitchen. “What are you doing up?”

“Shannon,” she acknowledged, forcing a weak smile. “Come and sit with me for a bit.”

I did because it was so unusual to see her at this time of morning, and I knew something was wrong.

I checked my watch, making sure that I hadn’t accidently slept in or something. 05:45.

Nope, I was early and something was definitely wrong.

Scraping a chair back, I lowered myself into the seat opposite her and asked, “What’s going on, Mam?”

“Can’t I get up to see you off to school?” No.

Not really. Not at all.

My silent response must have spoken volumes because Mam set her mug down and reached for my hand.

“Shannon,” she finally got on with it and said, “I know you feel like we don’t – that sometimes your father isn’t very – I just want you to know that I love all my children equally, but you’re my special one.”

That was a lie.

I wasn’t her special anything.

Darren was her favorite, and when he left, Mam was never the same.

In truth, between shifts at work and taking care of the younger kids, she barely noticed me.

I loved my mother, I truly did, but that didn’t mean I didn’t resent her weakness, which I did.

A lot.

Uncomfortable, I slid my hand out from beneath hers and asked, “Did you sign my permission slip for the school trip to Donegal?”

I knew she hadn’t.

It was still on top of the bread bin – unsigned.

“I’m not comfortable with you being so far from home, Shannon,” she explained, worrying on her bottom lip. “Donegal is a long way away.”

Exactly.

“I want to go, Mam,” I whispered. “Claire and Lizzie are going and I really want to go. I need to have the permission slip handed in before Friday – otherwise they won’t let me go.”

Okay, so that was a lie, I had until after the holidays to hand in the form, but putting the pressure on her was the only chance I had of getting her to sign those forms

“What if something happens to you up there?” Mam offered. “What if someone goes at you?”

“There’s more chance of that happening in this house,” I muttered under my breath.

Mam flinched. “Shannon –”

“Did he tell you what happened last night?” I bit out, knowing that this was what she wanted to talk to me about – what she wanted to make sure I didn’t talk about.

Straightening my shoulders, I stared across the table at my mother. “Did

he tell you what he did to Joey?”

He has a name,” Mam said in a tight voice. “Did he tell you?” was all I replied.

“Yes, your father told me what happened,” she finally replied.

“And that’s it?” I leaned back in my chair and studied her face. “That’s all you have to say about it?”

“Shannon, it’s complicated.” Mam sighed heavily and dropped her head. “We’re all under a lot of pressure right now, what with the baby coming in the summer and your father being out of work. Money’s tight, Shannon, and it affects your father. He has a lot on his mind –”

“He split Joey’s lip, Mam!” I swallowed down the lump in my throat. “Over a packet of biscuits. And if he’s worried about money then maybe he should stop gambling and drinking the children’s allowance money!”

My mother flinched at my words, but I was glad I had spoken them. It needed to be said.

I just wished she start listening.

“Your father told me you were late home from school,” she continued to say. “He was very upset about a picture of you in the paper –”

“It was a school picture!” “With a boy?”

“Oh my god,” I cried. “Not you, too.”

“No.” She shook her head. “Of course not. I understand these things, but your father was very upset over it. You know how he gets –”

“So, it’s my fault he beat my brother and tried to strangle me?” I choked back the sob of outrage threatening to burst out of me. “For getting home late, or having a school picture taken, or for moving to Tommen? Which one, Mam? Or is everything I do wrong? Am I to blame for everything that goes wrong in this family?”

“No, of course it’s not your fault, Shannon,” she quickly tried to retract. “You’re not to blame, and your father loves you very much. But you know he has fears of you ending up like me. And he and Joey have a complicated relationship,” she said, trying to talk her way out of her responsibilities with lies, “Joey knows better than to rile him up like that–”

I cut her off with a shake of my head.

Stop defending him,” I hissed, keeping my voice low as to not wake the man who had been successfully ruining my life every day since March 13th of 1989 – the day I entered this world and toxic fucking family. “Just stop, Mam! Nothing you ever say helps. It just keeps happening over and over again. So just stop apologizing and trying to explain his behavior away. We’re tired of hearing it.”

“I’m doing the best I can, Shannon,” my mother whispered. “For who, Mam?”

Her eyes flashed with anger when she looked at me and spat, “For my

family.”

“For him,” I muttered under my breath.

My mother flinched, but I didn’t take my words back. They were the truth.

“You can’t speak to me like this,” she snapped. “You have no idea how hard it is coming home every night to world war three.”

I didn’t respond.

I had nothing to say.

If she truly believed that I didn’t know what it felt like to live in a warzone, then she was delusional as well as a neglectful mother.

“I’m tired of this, Shannon,” she said. “I’m exhausted from living like this. And I’m tired of being judged by my own children.”

“Well join the club, Mam,” I bit out. “We’re all tired of living like this.” “Don’t cheek me,” she warned. “I won’t put up with it, Shannon. I’m

telling you now I will tell –”

“My father?” I filled in for her, tone high and pitchy. “That’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it, Mam? You’re going to tell him on me?”

“You need to show me some respect, Shannon,” she growled. “I’m working myself to the bone to put you through school, and I sure as hell don’t appreciate you talking to me like I’m the shit on your shoe!”

“Well, I don’t appreciate being called a whore every time I walk through the front door,” I choked out, my emotions spilling over.

Guilt for upsetting my mother was churning inside of me, mixing with a lifetime’s worth of resentment, fear, and anger.

“Because that’s what he calls me, Mam,” I strangled out hoarsely. “According to my father, I’m nothing but a dirty whore.”

“He was worried about you,” she replied. “He didn’t know how you got home last night.”

“He was worried about me so he called me a whore?” I shook my head, appalled. “Because that makes sense.”

“Because you were in that picture –” “Have you seen the picture?”

“No.”

“Well, if you had you’d see that I didn’t do anything wrong!” Batting away a traitorous tear, I sniffled and said, “I’ve never even been with a boy, Mam, and you know that. But he gets to call me a whore and you do nothing.”

“I did,” she defended. “I spoke to your father about it and he’s promised not to do it again.”

“Forget it.” Shoving back my chair, I quickly stood up and moved for the door, unwilling to listen to her explain away my father’s actions. “Just forget it, Mam.”

I’d heard enough of those explanations over the years.

“I need to go,” I added hoarsely. “I don’t want to miss my bus again and cause any more problems.”

“Stop,” she warned, following after me. “I haven’t finished.”

“Yeah, well, I have,” I choked out, shrugging off the hand she placed on my shoulder.

It was a gentle touch but it hurt worse than any slap he could deliver. Ignoring my mother’s protests, I stalked out of the kitchen.

“How did you get home last night?”

Stopping at the front door, I swung around to face her. “What?”

“Your father thinks Aoife dropped you home from school last night,” she said, eyes laced with concern. “But I know that’s not true – she works on Tuesday nights. So, how did you get home?”

“What does it matter?”

“It matters because it’s fifteen miles to Tommen from our house, Shannon Lynch, and I want to know how you made that journey!” she demanded. “Are you having trouble again? Did you miss your bus on purpose to avoid more bullies?”

“No, Mam, I’m not having trouble at school,” I choked out.

“It wouldn’t be the first time you avoided the bus, Shannon,” she countered, blue eyes locked on mine. “If you’re in trouble, you can tell me. I

can help you.”

“I love Tommen, Mam, I’m happy there!” The words that came out of my mouth surprised me because they were true.

Shockingly, I realized that I did, in fact, love my new school.

“Then how did you get home?” she repeated for the third time. “Tell me!”

“Johnny Kavanagh dropped me home,” I bit out, fighting back the urge to scream. “Okay? Are you happy now? He’s the boy I was with in the newspaper. I had my picture taken with him last week, and then I went and got in his car and he dropped me home last night, so I suppose you can run upstairs and tell Dad that he was right all along and I’m a fucking whore.”

Mam’s face turned deathly white. “I’m calling the school.” “What?” My eyes widened. “Why?”

“That boy is not supposed to go anywhere near you,” she spat. “Why not?”

“Because he hurt you, Shannon!” “It was an accident.”

“I’m phoning Mr. Twomey.”

Mam turned to walk back into the kitchen to get her phone and I found myself chasing after her. “Don’t –Mam, don’t!”

“Give me my phone, Shannon,” my mother ordered when I wrestled it out of her hands. “Right this minute.”

“You don’t even know why!” I cried, clutching her mobile to my chest. “I don’t care,” Mam barked and yanked the phone out of my hands. “He

knows the rules. They were explained to him very clearly. He is not supposed to talk to you. He was warned, Shannon. In no uncertain terms. He should have been suspended for what he did to you. By the time I’m finished with him, he will be.”

“Johnny is not the problem here,” I strangled out. My heart was hammering in my chest, the thought of getting Johnny into trouble again was making me feel lightheaded. “He apologized for what happened. He replaced my uniform. He stuck up for me at school when a boy was giving me trouble. He has been nothing but good to me, Mam.”

My mother was not a big woman, but at 5’8 and four and a half months pregnant, I felt very small in this moment.

When her fingers tapped against the keypad of the phone, I reached my breaking point.

“I missed my bus!” I screamed, panicking when she began to dial. “I was scared of being late. I was scared of coming home late to him. I took the spin because I was desperate! Because I knew what he’d do if I waited for the next bus.”

“Shannon,” Mam whispered, pausing mid-dial. “You don’t have to feel scared to come home.”

“Don’t I?” I brushed my hair off my face and pointed to the scar on my temple.

The one that my father put there when he almost maimed me with a whiskey bottle when I was eleven.

There were many more where that one came from, but she already knew that.

“You are so concerned with fighting the bullies at school, Mam,” I sobbed, tears streaming down my cheeks. “When the biggest bully of them all lives under this roof.”

My mother flinched like I had physically slapped her. I hadn’t.

What she was feeling right now was a cold, hard dose of reality smacking her in the face.

“You need to leave Johnny alone!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, voice shrill and furious. “He has done nothing wrong here! Absolutely nothing.”

I didn’t care anymore.

If I woke my father, then I woke him.

If he kicked the shit out me, then I would heal.

I was beyond containing myself, and all of my concern was directed at the boy who had done nothing to deserve being dragged into the middle of my madness.

“I mean it, Mam,” I warned, voice warbling. “Call the school making trouble for Johnny and I’ll tell them everything you don’t want them to know!”

Mam clutched her chest and shook her head. “Shannon.” “Everything,” I bit out.

This time when I turned around, I didn’t turn back.

“Shannon, wait,” were the last words I heard before I closed the door on my problems.

Tilting my head up to the storm ridden sky, I closed my eyes and absorbed the feel of raindrops pelting down on my skin.

I stood right there in the middle of the torrential March downpour, and prayed for divine intervention, or at the very least, a little reprieve from the hell that was the family I’d been born into.

I never wanted to go back into that house.

Knowing that I had no choice and would have to go back was a special form of hell.

For once in my life, I wanted a safe place to run to instead of from. I felt like I was slowly dying in that house.

In my home.

Where I was supposed to lay my head. Where I was supposed to feel safe.

The door opened behind me and every muscle in my body coiled tight with dreaded anticipation.

He was up and I was done for.

“Shannon.” My mother’s voice filled my ears, managing to dissipate some of the fear threatening to choke me. “You forgot to take your coat.”

Stiff as a poker, I turned to find Mam standing in the doorway with my coat in her hands.

“You need your coat,” she explained in a thick tone, gesturing a hand to the sky. “They’re forecasting another storm.”

“Don’t you ever get tired of it, Mam?” I asked, voice breaking. Blinking back my tears, I choked out, “Don’t you ever get sick to death of pretending?”

Her expression caved. “Shannon…”

She took a step towards me and I took three more back. I couldn’t keep doing this.

I couldn’t keep living like this.

I laid my heart out to my mother. And she was worried about a coat.

“Fuck my coat,” I strangled out as I broke into a run towards the bus stop, desperate to put some much-needed distance between me and my family. “Fuck my life!”

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