Everything seemed lost in shades of perpetual dimming light, fluttering between dusk, the moon, and hell. There had been no heavenly grace period, or spell of good luck with a happy ending like in the movies.
All that I had learned to love I had lost, and the precision of the misfortune that had snatched everything from my fingers seemed to hold there…paused…as if waiting to seize another ember of something good. The ghoulish heartbreak—rapidly beating chests, sullen cheeks, and sickly morning sunlight—everything was always out of place after he left my bedroom.
I wondered where every slur of “Why me?” sobbed to an indignant God went? Probably teetering upon some hopeless bank, a lonesome stream of faith floating right past me, seemingly out of sight to those looking for it.
Palms muddy in the thickness of reality that never quite felt real, I had started to sink. It was all too violent and out of my control. Now every relationship, vow of intimacy with a stranger, or sentiment itching to be shared had been consumed by the presence of Adam. I had never known what I was fighting for…to let go of his love or to salvage my own.
What I had wanted was to be loved, and I had wanted a father’s love after losing my dad. But what my stepfather Adam and I shared was different. It had crossed boundaries, over my breasts, down past my zipped jeans, and into the striking nerve of my inner being, bearing the brunt of its weight on every fleeting relationship I would later yearn to nourish.
I had asked myself what was consciousness when everything seesawed between the nightmare of his snarling voice, the hinges of his fingers pulling me violently toward him, and the whispers of the willow tree accompanied by her name, the wife he had lost. The two phrases had always accompanied each other, a dance partner forever on the turntable of my nightmare: the willow tree and her name stuck in the silo of my eardrum.
Something would switch in Adam when he had retreated to the inner space of his long lost thoughts, memories, and dreams. There was nothing stopping him from taking me as if we had belonged together forever. Yet, it was all so terribly wrong.
The pit of my stomach often heavy with the sinking feeling of his body on mine, unexplainably stuck in a moment of time I didn’t want to be real—those moments had become more frequent, elusive, and mystifying. The only thing that I had known was that Adam was always there stripping me of my confidence…and mostly of everything else—my youthfulness that only God would want kept holy, my mom’s long hug goodnights, even the waning hope that I would finally have another dad.
And when Adam woke up from the reality he had created with me, it was a thunderstorm of rage and blunt fists. My tiny body kneaded and destroyed, because it was always my fault for triggering him. Mom didn’t want to believe it.
So I had done what any fourteen year old could do: fight until the flames went out. The fire in my eyes darkened to ink, a pitch-black blindness. I was slowly dying, my bones, flesh, and soul a sanctified trifecta withering, always fighting, but losing pieces of itself with each tumultuous battle. And so my struggle had begun…
The Willow Tree is a heartbreaking coming-of-age story similar to White Oleander and with profound introspection akin to that of The Bell Jar. Emma must learn to fight for her emotional stability and life after her mother remarries. She engages in a stormy relationship with her abusive step-father, while her mom slips away to depression. Both book-smart and painfully awkward, she struggles to connect with her peers and eventually finds friends with students who are considered outcasts. Outside of school, her home life becomes more and more turbulent. The bond between Emma and her mother dwindles to only occasional encounters, while her step-father remains present in her waking life and nightmares. Fraught with hiding the stress from deep concerns about her friends’ misjudgments, Emma hides the torment of her step-father’s unrelenting sexual abuse. After his sudden suicide, her feelings she developed for him dangerously lead her down her own self-destructive path.
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Genre - Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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