Published first on CBC Books Canada Writes
Finalist for the Song that Changed your Life challenge

It’s hard for me to close my eyes. When I do, all I hear is screaming. Loud, heartbreaking wails that shadow my heart in terror. I can’t silence them. They’re echoes of my past. I can’t change what I’ve done.

I wasn’t a good enough sister. Cruelties of what happened to me expressed physically onto my siblings. Fingernails dragged across their bare backs as a game. They scream like the screech of nails down a chalkboard. Bedtime stories were cruel whispers I repeated like a mantra. Vicious words that should have been unfathomable to such a young girl. “You ugly, fat bitch. No one is ever going to love you. If you tell, I will kill you.” It’s hard to explain, but I thought it was my duty.

I wasn’t always bad. Before my innocence was rubbed away from me I held their hands because I wanted to. One memory shines on my spirit.

It’s sunny. We’re as small as Cabbage Patch Kids. Plump and happy with tousled hair and sticky cheeks. Mom puts on a CD. Papa loved Mama by Garth Brooks sings through the speakers. We all love mama so much. I grab my sister’s hands in ecstasy of the music.

“Come on, Amelia!”

We bounce and wiggle, boogey and giggle. Sunbeams make halos of our little bodies. My brother, Peter, is so small he has to cling to my mother’s leg as he bobs to the song. They both look up at me, angels with wild grins. Why do they always have to copy me? I don’t yet realize my impact, my importance in their lives, but in that moment, I’m good at being big.

As the honky-tonk fades, we catch our breaths and collapse to the floor. Our mouths are sore from smiling but we can’t stop laughing, except Peter who is drooling like a hound dog and still bobbing at my mother’s knee. Silly Peter. Before our laughter ends, my sister bounds to her feet, the clumsiest ninja.

“Again, Mommy! Again!” she squeals.

“Again?” Mom says, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears she always tries to hide.

“Yeah, again!”