Chapter 33: Lydia

I won't say that everything's changed since we found out that Vicky died, or even that everything is better. I guess you really can't change everything when it's real people that are involved, and you can't change what happened in the past. I guess other than your circumstances, all you can really change is you and just hope everyone else follows along.

It's taken a while to adjust, but we're all getting there. Even now, even though we all know that Aunt Kim and Uncle Roy are taking care of things and won't disappear or kick us out or do anything to really hurt us- they don't even really yell at us- it's just hard to get used to thinking that maybe all this is permanent and we really are safe, or as safe as anyone can ever be anyway without Secret Services following you around or something.

Angie and Leigh seem to be having an easier time than I thought with that. Yeah, Angie still gets scared and clings and cries pretty easily, talking about missing Vicky, but not like she did at first. And the bedwetting and nightmares are either gone or almost gone by now. I don't hear her talking about it anyway, and if it was an issue, I guarantee Leigh would say something.

Leigh actually talks without her voice raised or dripping with sarcasm once in a while now, and she even manages to look at people without glaring and to talk like it doesn't kill her to have to once in a while. Sometimes Leigh even kind of stands around me or Ricca like she wants to actually be around us, and she lets Aunt Kim touch her most of the time without doing anything to stop her. She's not skipping school or assignments or doing anything to hurt herself, and I'm pretty sure she's not screwing around with boys either, although I guess I don't really know that for sure. She looks a lot more like a 12-year-old than a 25-year-old hooker with growth issues lately too, which is nice.

Not to say she doesn't still stomp and yell and try to demand her way, or go into moods where she acts about three years old and melts down into tears and dramatics over the stupidest things…damn will I dread when she finally gets her period if this is an indication of what she'll be like with PMS. The difference is that when Leigh tries to pull shit like that now though, Aunt Kim doesn't let her. And the amazing part is Leigh listens sometimes.

It's slower for Ricca. I can tell she's still afraid to loosen up, to let down her guard, even though none of this is her job anymore. She's afraid to just be able to be what we all should have been allowed to be from the start…dependent. Kids. She's going to be eighteen soon, just a month away, and she's already stressing over that and what she'll do. She feels like once she's a legal adult no one should take responsibility for her, like she should go off on her own and not make them support her anymore. Doesn't matter what Aunt Kim or Uncle Roy or Jaden or I tell her about how she can't and shouldn't support herself on her own yet, not when she should go to college and make what she wants out of her life. It wasn't the route Jaden took, and it probably won't be the one I take either, but Ricca should, and she shouldn't NOT do it just out of guilt.

It goes deeper than that with Ricca though, I know. She's doing okay in school and she talks with people and laughs and smiles, but I'm the one who sees her wake up crying at night. I'm the one who gets in bed with her and holds her hand until she goes to sleep again. I'm the one who's heard her talk about that disgusting place and what they had her do, about that man and what he did, and speculate what Vicky might have done while she was there and if that's why she was the way she was. I don't mind listening. It's the hearing what she's saying that I hate. I know my sister is strong, I know she'll work through this eventually. Sometimes though, I still have to be afraid that maybe she won't, or that I'm doing something wrong where she can't.

With me…well, I guess I'm getting through like usual. I'm grateful for Aunt Kim and Uncle Roy, like everyone else, and I'm glad they're in my life. Jaden too. But even so for a while it was hard to feel anything. At least, not very strongly. It wasn't that I didn't care, or didn't want to care. I did. I even care about Vicky, and I definitely cared about my sisters and what they were going through. I don't know. I just couldn't turn it into emotion on my part. At least, not much emotion, or not emotion that was demonstrated with actions.

It took me six months to cry, and how it came about was the least way you'd expect it. It wasn't because I was thinking about Vicky and it sank in at last that she was dead, or that I didn't have a mother, or my sisters and their problems, or anything like that, that you'd think of as normal. I mean, someone can't even remember the last time they cried, you'd think it would be something really awful that finally set them off. Or at least something definite.

But it wasn't. For me, it was just a normal night with nothing at all special or extraordinary happening. We were sitting at the dinner table, my sisters, my aunt and uncle, and Jaden, who easts with us a couple of nights a week usually. We were just talking and eating and it was perfectly normal. Even boring really.

And that WAS extraordinary. That we were all there together, and getting along, without stress or bickering, and that it wasn't exceptional…that it was ordinary, dull, a typical occurrence…that was what killed me.

I didn't get it at first. I felt my throat choke up and my eyes start to sting, and I knew what was about to happen, but not why. I excused myself as fast as possible to the bathroom and sat on the wall of the tub as tears started to stream down my face, my throat itching with sobs I wouldn't let come out.

I really didn't understand at first what was going on with me, and that kind of freaked me out more. Why the hell was I crying? I wasn't sad, at least I didn't think I was. So then what was wrong with me, why now?

It was a couple of minutes before it hit me. I wasn't crying because I was sad or upset, or because something was wrong. I was crying because things were close to okay right now as they could be….and because I was happy.

We lost Vicky. We lost our mother. But really, we never had her to lose in the first place. We almost lost each other, but we didn't. And now we gained more. Security, stability, a home. A family.

I guess that's all that matters, as sappy and corny as it sounds. We're family. We're the Sherwoods, and nothing can really take that away except our own selves, through our own choices. I guess that's one thing about all this…it definitely proves that.

And as long as we have that, then honestly I don't know what else we could really want.

The end