Friday, March 2, 2012

The Bracelet

8/10/2002

A few days later, as she skipped down the stairs of the split-level house she had always known, she was happily conscious of the feel of her bracelet on her small right wrist. She dashed out the door, across the front yard and under the crab apple tree. Had she not been wearing a dress, she would have turned cartwheels from her front yard to where her friends stood on the sidewalk.

Karen and Jeffery were in front of Karen's house playing. She yelled to them as she ran the short distance to where they stood. Lost in the careless games of childhood, they played together until Karen noticed the bracelet.

"Where'd ya get that?"

"I brought it from the zoo. It was a dollar."

"Where'd ya get money?"

Had she told Karen about not having money the day of the trip? She couldn't remember. Mrs. Westinghouse said not to tell. Don't tell. Don't tell.

"I, I found it." stammered the little girl, hoping they could go back to their game. Karen wasn't finished with her questions.

"Where'd ya find it?"

Don't tell! Don't tell!
Looking at the sidewalk the little girl said defiantly, "In the monkey house."

Immediately she knew she had said the wrong thing. Where the words of don't tell had echoed, there was now the sound of the taunting children's song. Liar, liar, pants on fire! She didn't tell. What was wrong? She could see it in Karen's face. She did something wrong.

"You stole my dollar!" screamed the girl she thought was her best friend. "You didn't find it and I lost MY dollar in the monkey house. You stole it!"

"Did not!" she yelled back.

"Gimme that bracelet! It's mine cuz you stole my dollar!"

Instantly the two girls were face to face as they each accused the other of lying. Stomping their feet as they yelled, with Jeffrey standing a few steps away looking both shocked and entertained by the fight.

It ended when Karen's dad poked his head out the front door to tell them to settle down. "I'm telling!" Karen spat as she turned and ran toward her father.

A huge lump formed in her throat and tears crept toward her eyes as she watched her friend telling her daddy about the fight. As they turned and began walking her way, she could feel herself shriveling up and wished she could run away.

Mr. Ruie stood over her like a giant and with a stern voice asked where she had gotten the money to buy the bracelet. Too late Bad Girl. Without conviction she whispered the story she'd tried to tell her friends. She knew what was coming next and slipped away as The Bad Girl took her place.

"It's very bad to steal Marisa," said Mr. Ruie as The Bad Girl stood staring at his feet. "Admit that you took Karen's dollar and I won't tell your dad."

A flash of anger shot through her and she stomped her foot yelling, "No! I didn't steal anything! It's mine!"

"Yes you did Marisa. If you find something that doesn't belong to you and you don't return it, that's stealing."

Still holding her angry and defiant pose she said, "What about finders keepers?" Why couldn't anyone say her name right? It was Ma-ree-sa, not ma-ri-sa. Her attention shifted from the bracelet to her name and when Mr. Ruie told her to give the bracelet to Karen, she quietly complied. Karen stuck out her tongue and triumphantly turned away. "You're not my friend anymore. I don't play with stealers."



She was in her room again. Fear clutched at her as if it were something alive. Mommy had said, "Wait 'til your father gets home." Mommy hadn't believed her when she tried to tell about finding the dollar at the zoo. No one would listen. "You'll get the beating of your life if you don't tell the truth. Only bad people steal."

The Bad Girl was gone and it was another child who sat in her room waiting for the sound of Dad's truck in the driveway. When she heard him getting out of his truck and shutting the cab door, she began to shake. Please believe me. Please believe me. Please believe me.

The dinner table was quiet and tense as the large family ate. Everyone knew of The Theft and knew of the punishment to come. Only the little girl was unaware of the rage boiling under the deep brown face of her father.

After the table was cleared, the six older children were sent downstairs. Mommy was already in the kitchen doing dishes. Usually Rick or Michelle would help but tonight she did the chore alone.

Sitting stiffly in her place at the table, the little girl waited as Dad filled a glass with the strong smelling brown drink he had every evening. He sat in his chair in the living room, his back to her. For a tiny moment, she hoped that he did not know and she would be allowed to go downstairs to watch TV. with her brothers and sister.

"Marisa."

He didn't call her Roo. She was his little Reesiroo and he had used the pet name Roo for as long as she remembered. He did not want Roo he wanted Marisa.

"Come here." Her father's voice which could create the silliest of voices when he was playful, was now the voice she'd learned to dread.

As Marisa slowly walked toward her father's chair, her fear consumed her and she was suddenly lost in it. Roo crept to her father's knee but was frightened away by the sight of his face and The Storyteller now stood before him. Knowing nothing of the day at the zoo, she knew only that she must convince him she had not stolen from her friend.

For nearly two hours, the father and child stayed locked in a verbal battle. Despite threats, promises and yelling that seemed to shake the house, she held to her story. She had only found the money at the zoo. She would not tell the secret between her and her teacher. It was BAD to tell secrets.

Over the course of the interrogation, Marisa stayed locked in her fear, Roo tried to plead with Daddy and The Storyteller stuck to her tale, while The Bad Girl took the blows.