Try Harder

Contributor: Jeri Leininger

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We had packed and loaded our entire house in less than a day. There was no other way. If he knew we were leaving the police would have had to be there. No way he was going to let her go without a fight. My mom got the hotel room to let her new future husband rest before turning around and driving another 1,100 miles back to Indiana. So there we sat. My sisters and I all sat together, hugging like we were going to be ripped apart. We were. I had hit 18 and there was no room for me where they were going. That would be the last time I saw my family for a long time. So we sat there, hugging, on one bed as my new future stepdad lay on the other bed watching the local news. Mom was on the patio smoking with a friend.
When it was time for them to leave I lost it. I knew that letting them go was going to be hard but I had no idea it would be this bad. Those were my babies. I had raised them now she was taking them away from me. I began begging her to let them stay with me, that I would do right by them and keep them safe. She cried and said no. They picked up their few things and walked out the door. My girls were gone.
I sat back on the bed feeling defeated. I had lost them. There was no way any court would give them to me even if I tried to fight her. It was the emptiest feeling I had ever felt. I was hollow without them. I stayed there for the rest of the night and well into the next day, I couldn’t will myself to move long enough to sit upright or change the television station. My body ached form crying so hard. I wanted my girls back more than anything. I hoped they wouldn’t forget how much they meant to me.
It has been ten years since that day. All seemed to be well. My life had some ups and downs, as had theirs, but nothing ever came between us. Our mutual dislike for her brought us together and always kept me in the mother role for them. They were still my babies. We talk weekly. Some conversations are deeper than others, depending on how the kids are behaving. But I always sensed that they weren’t telling me everything. Something felt off. Now I find that their lives are falling apart just like hers did when she lived there before. I stayed and my life is good. They were forced back to that town where she grew up and can’t break the cycle. Nothing good ever comes from staying in that town. It was just as I always suspected. My heart aches for them but there isn’t anything I can do other than be the best big sister I can every day.
If only I had tried harder that night in the hotel room.

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Jeri Leininger is a Creative Writing BS student at Full Sail University who has always had a passion for writing. She has worked for Burger King, serving customers and training employees, for the past 3 years. This path helped her achieve numerous Human Resources and Customer Service awards and recognitions. Leininger lives in Florida with her boyfriend and two daughters.
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