Friday, September 25, 2009


She had dark hair and dark eyes, and the lively eyes that were flanked by long lashes told me that she was focused and intelligent. Her face was the perfect shape of oval, and her nose and lips were small, cute and in ideal proportion with her face.

Everybody who saw her would say, “She’s beautiful.” Not only that - she was also at the top of her class. The only thing about her was that she was a little too serious for a girl supposedly at an age of innocence and laughter. She didn’t smile often.

May - that was her name. She made me feel like an awkward little duckling that had little idea about what to do with the unfriendly world around it.

She singled me out to be her friend. My classmates said we looked like sisters, but I knew better. She wrote me little notes, telling me my dreamy eyes reminded her of the glistening stars. I checked with the mirror that day, and couldn’t find anything about me that was “dreamy,” but my little heart was secretly elated. She was one of the very few people who were kind to me while growing up. Did she somehow sense we had an unspoken connection?

We didn’t spend a lot of time together after school. She either had to help her father, who was a doctor with his own practice in the same building where they lived, or she had to go back to "take care of things” as she put it. I didn’t question too much at first. We would either go out and take a walk around the neighborhood, or share some shaved ice at a food stand once a week, exchanging chitchats that were meaningful only to thirteen-year-old girls. Our time together was the much needed escape from my horrid stepmother.

Summer was always sultry and humid on the subtropical island. I repeatedly asked her why she was wearing long-sleeve shirts, as I could barely keep my short-sleeve shirt on. At first she said she didn’t like short sleeves. I thought she was crazy – and probably told her so. She hesitated a while, then finally lifted her sleeves. My heart stopped beating for a second. The skin on her arms was covered with whipping wounds from dry bamboo stems.

"Who did this to you?!” I was furious.
"My stepmother.” She said it calmly.
"Why?!” I demanded.
"It was my fault. I didn’t wash the dishes clean enough.”

I found out about her life in the house of horror.

She washed the clothes and cleaned the house for the whole family every day. Anything that was not to her stepmother’s liking was a reason for a good beating. She also told me her father used to slap her mother across the face in front of the family. She finally left him and remarried, but she didn’t want any visits from her daughters from the first marriage. What was more incredible to me was that she thought she deserved the beatings. Her father was perfectly capable of hiring a maid with his income, but he chose to let his own daughter be abused and did nothing to stop it.

I felt the worst emotion I ever experienced – anger combined with powerlessness. For the first time I connected the word “demon” with the face of a human being. And for the first time, I felt lucky to have a life that was as unhappy as mine.

I moved to another city a few years later and we kept our friendship by writing letters. I had to be careful with what I said, since she didn’t get to be the one to read them first. More often than not she didn't receive my letters at all. I was very happy to know that she was in the teacher’s college as she wanted. She had to move to the college town, and thus was freed from the abuse at last. I thought her happiness had finally arrived when she told me her boyfriend was going to marry her as soon as they graduated, and that he would make a happy home for her. She paid me a visit with her husband when she was very pregnant, and very content, a few years later. I thanked her lucky star, or fairy godmother - whoever was watching over my dear friend - for bringing her the life she deserved.

A few years passed before she visited me again, this time by herself, and shocked me again.

"Adam is having an affair.” She had the similar emotionless tone as the time when she revealed her wounds to me years ago.
"….With whom?” Was the only thing I could think of after pulling myself together.
"A teacher at the same school where he teaches.”
"How did you find out about it?”
"He told me.” She said, as if she was talking about someone else.
"He told you?” Did he set out to hurt her on purpose?
"I asked him what she would do that I wasn’t doing so I could get him back, but he wouldn’t tell me.”

Once again I wanted to ask her, “Are you crazy?” I think I would've had a big fight or two with the cheating husband if I were her. Then she said, "He doesn’t want a divorce. He doesn’t want to stop the affair either. He said they just wanted to have sex. She’s married, too.”

The nerve he had. I would divorce him, but that might not be the most rational thing to do. Maybe she was…right?

We shared a bed that night. I couldn’t sleep – I couldn’t stop thinking about her marriage. What happened to his promise to her? He would make a happy home for her, he told her. I remembered how pleased she was when she told me that. Had he no concerns about their family or their daughter at all? Again I felt the terrible emotion – angry yet powerless.

She tossed in her sleep and said softly, “Adam…” I sighed. As long as she loved him, she would put up with the affair just so he might come back to her one day. There was nothing I could’ve said. After all, she was brought up to believe she deserved very little love, if any. The "demon” may have made her strong in order to survive; but strangely, it had also broken her to irreparable pieces.

I moved again, this time to a different continent. We lost touch completely. I think about her a lot during many sleepless nights. Did Adam go back to her to be a truthful husband and father? Did she finally find the happiness she was looking for?


  1. Hey you,
    those kinda peeple nevr change, she was unlucky in live and asleep to abuse. You werre the best friend you could be, hugs.

  2. hey bob - thanks for stopping by. did you mean my friend will never change or the mean people in her life won't change? i just hate to think she's forever broken, you know?

  3. Hi, Sarah. This was a touching post. I share your hope that all turned out well for your friend.

  4. I can certainly relate to this.. when you are abused/neglected as a kid, it is a major journey to get to a place of feeling "worthy." But I believe she will get there in her own time and on her own path. Having friends who love you unconditionally are a huge savior.

  5. hunter - thanks. so do i, but i wish there's a way to find out.

    charlene - i can only hope she turned out to be as awesome as you are.

  6. That was probably the saddest and most moving thing that I have ever read today. I hope that everything works out for your friend, and I also want to congratulate you on your award!

    Hope you have a good weekend, and can read this if you have time:

  7. danny - thanks! and have a great weekend as well. will pop over and check it out soon. cheers.

  8. That is such a sad story, Sarah. I've known far too many women who settle for an abusive relationship, either emotionally or physically, and even more still who think it's normal to still love someone that obviously doesn't care as much and shows it by cheating. I know all too well the scars, nevermind the wounds that stay open, that a life of undeserved, unfair treatment can leave.... I hope she has finally found her happy.


  9. jenno - thanks for stopping by. i also hope she realized she deserved better treatment from a man and found some happiness. i still get angry thinking about her parents.

  10. HI Sarah. Unfortunately certain behaviors come from the wrong asiatic culture that girls, women, are worthless comparing to males. I read a beautiful book of hope and change: the struggle of a girl in Cambodia to get out of prostitution and abuse and how she fought to help other girls. she has been internationally awarded, I ll find the title for you in case you like to read it. Have a wonderful week end


  11. lorenza - yes, i would very much like to know the book title if you have it. in her case it's more of the stepmother's doing than the culture, but both played a part in the problem. thanks for stopping by.



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