It was Thanksgiving, 2017. I had a 5 year old daughter and 5 month old baby boy. Thanksgiving would be held at our usual spot, my Mom’s house, with the same family that we have spent Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas with over the years.
The car and kids were loaded with dishes, infant necessities and water toys (November in California was unusually hot this year). We got there before the rest of the family arrived. I watched our son while his Dad cooked and my daughter played in the kids pool we had in the backyard.
Around 5pm, the family showed up. The family would be my deceased Step-Father’s Dad, some of our close friends, my step-sister, her husband and their 5 kids. Their 5 kids included 4 boys and 1 girl with ages ranging from two years old to fourteen years old. The kids all immediately started playing. Michael, the oldest son of my step-sister, came to me and eagerly asked to hold my son.
Michael was the son of my step-sister’s husband from a previous relationship. Over the years, we always felt sadness for Michael. He seemed to be the one singled out by my step-sister… Never abusive, but definitely borderline abusive. When we saw him, he was a good kid. High energy, but very eager to gain approval and acceptance of the adults. A few years earlier, on Christmas, Michael had actually asked if he could go home with us. To this day, that memory haunts me. I wish I had probed a bit on that question, but I assumed he asked because we had such a good time playing games, laughing and enjoying all the Christmas magic that night.
I let Michael hold my son. My step-sister came flying around the corner and told Michael to give her the baby to hold, but gave him a look of disgust or anger… I couldn’t tell what it was or why. It was just weird to me, but my step-sister always treated him poorly. At some point, the kids all made their way into the very large backyard. The sounds of hide and go seek, tag and children’s laughter filled the backyard. Soon, dinner was ready. I opened the sliding glass door to tell the kids it was time come wash up, for dinner. I saw my daughter sitting on Michael’s lap in the dark corner of the patio.
I will never forget the look on my daughter’s face when we locked eyes.
Her look was fear and shame. I knew that look. I felt it in my soul. I instinctually knew he did something to her. I yelled at both of them to get up and come inside. I still regret yelling at them. At her. My entire life, I had grown used to ignoring my intuition, but this time it was blaring. My frustration, fear and countless other emotions took over and I yelled. If I knew then what I know now, I would have ran outside, I would have protected her and held her.
Once the kids were inside. I pulled her Dad aside. I told him what I saw. What I felt. What I thought happened. He quickly assured me that this was in my head. Nothing happened. Nothing was going to happen. He told me we would keep an eye on them, but not to worry. I continued to worry, but attempted to use my mind to outweigh my intuition- just like I always had. I couldn’t this time.
Her Dad returned a few minutes later. He said he believed that Michael was trying to hurt our daughter. He said he did not believe anything had happened, but he did not trust Michael. I would later learn, that her Dad had lost sight of her. He looked for her and found her in the front yard with… Michael. Michael’s hands were on her shoulders and he was trying to convince her to stay with him and not to go inside. Her Dad confronted Michael at that time, he threatened him. “If you look at or touch my daughter again, I will kill you.” Michael asked him if this was “because of what I’ve done at school?” Not knowing what that was, her Dad just said yes.
We watched the two of them throughout the night. Adamantly. I would have periodic bouts of tears and anger, but no outlet. This kid is 14. I have no evidence or proof anything happened. My daughter was still seeking him out to play and keeping them apart was a constant battle.
At this point, Michael’s parents had left to take her Grandfather home and had been gone for almost 2 hours. I noticed at the time that they left all of the boys with us, but took their daughter. Their daughter was 2 and this was uncharacteristic of my step-sister, who typically took every opportunity to leave her kids with a sitter. When they finally returned, they loaded up the car to head home. Michael came to me and said goodbye, but this time he called me the wrong name. Something about this triggered something in me. I had known this kid since he was 6, he’s always known my name.
The drive home was somber. Both kids fell asleep. Her Dad and I continued to try to convince ourselves that nothing happened. Her Dad mentioned that saying goodbye to Michael was a little weird this time. This time Michael would grab his had and firmly shake it, all while maintaining a smirk that her Dad didn’t understand. I still remember her Dad saying on the ride home, “it was creepy.”
We got home and unloaded the car. Both kids were in bed and their Dad had passed out on the couch. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t shake the feeling I had. I still can’t put into words what I felt like that night. Its like I knew that day would change our family. forever. I decided I would make a drink. Self-Medicating is how I got through all the hard things in my adult life. I drank a lot. I drank all night. I couldn’t get drunk enough to stop feeling what I was feeling. My intuition was tired of being silenced. Tonight it would be heard.
I finally managed to fall asleep. The next day, my daughter would tell me what I knew. She was hurt by Michael.
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you giveKesha- Praying
But some things only God can forgive