I was 10 years old. I had only one friend in the state where we lived because my family had just moved away from everything and everyone we knew in Spokane, WA, to Glendale, AZ. And, it was about to be her birthday. My only proof that I was accepted by my peers was turning 11, and I was invited.
Her name was Misty, which I found to be so exotic when combined with her multicultural background. She was street-smart and confident beyond her years. Misty’s single mother did not hover like my own, she had freedom, and wild, unruly hair that curled on its own. When she laughed, she didn’t cover her mouth, like I was starting to, didn’t try to hide her crooked teeth. She simply let out her laughter, without apologizing for it.
I was beyond excited that she chose to be my friend. Ecstatic, when she invited me to her birthday slumber party. I had to go. Had to.
I talked to my mom as a formality, knowing the necessity of my attendance. “Um,” she hesitated……”I’ll think about it….” Whaaat? Immediately, I jumped in. I was a 10 year old middle child- which meant I could spot weakness like a cheetah watching a sick gazelle. I’d been honing my strategy for years. Ask, nag, coerce, repeat. And I did. All day.
The next morning my mother told me that she had made up her mind and the answer was no. No. Two letters that would sum up the death of my social life. But I was not one to let things go at no. For days and days I manipulated, begged, and threatened. I pulled out all the stops. I knew that I could wear her down, could break my mother into submitting to my plan. But she wouldn’t budge. She kept telling me that the answer was no. That she didn’t know why, but she kept feeling like everything in her was saying, No.
The day of the party, I watched as four girls I did not know brought gifts and balloons to Misty’s uncle’s apartment. It was in the same gated complex we, and Misty, lived in. Apparently the slumber party was being thrown by her uncle’s girlfriend, while Misty’s mother had to work. I sat unnoticed, in misery, on our front stoop as the party commenced. Eventually, I went into my own family and watched a movie or two before going to bed.
I don’t know what time I woke up, we all woke up. The SWAT team, yes, you read that right, is not one to lower their voices in the morning. We looked out our front window to see the complex filled with police officers, and more than one ambulance waiting outside. The speaker was aimed at Misty’s uncle’s apartment. We were told to wait inside, away from the windows, lock the doors. And so, we did. For what seemed like hours.
Once allowed out, my father learned from a police officer and other residents, what had happened. While I slept, angry and resentful at my mother, in the safety of our home, Misty’s uncle had raped all the girls at Misty’s slumber party, including her. When his girlfriend caught him and called the police, he beat her, and used her as a hostage, before finally taking scissors to her neck.
Now, that is a lot to take in. I know it. Imagine how hard that is to take in as a 10 year old girl who fought to be there. I have never been the same. Neither has my mother. My fight for my way weakened that day, her resolution to not give in, strengthened.
I only saw Misty once after that, as she packed her things into the suitcase she would carry to live with her father. She confirmed the police officer’s story. And we cried. Both, for very different reasons.
As a mommy, this both breaks and makes me. I can never thank my mother enough for standing up to my 10 year old tirades. For showing me that sometimes, the best things in your life stop you from what look like the funnest things. And that sometimes, love says no, and means it.