Denise Charlton, 38, had gone through quite a transformation over the years. Had she, at the age of eighteen, seen what kind of person she’d become twenty years later, she’d have never believed her eyes.
Still, the transformation did occur. It occurred out of sheer necessity. There was simply no way she could have sustained herself by continuing with her juvenile delinquency. Her violent ways had to stop.
It had all started with her abusive drunk of a father, an ongoing problem she’d known as far back as she could remember. As a little girl, she’d had to endure seeing that piece of shit get pissed and beat her mom; little Denise would get plenty of hits from him herself.
Now, when he attacked her, her trauma response wasn’t freeze, as was the case with her timid mother. She hated the way her mom was too afraid to fight back, so Denise was resolved never to deal with her dad in that way. Though the beatings she’d get were far worse than those her mother got, and though Denise always lost her fights with her old man, at least she made sure that bastard got a few dents on his own body, too.
Her fight response became her way of dealing with everybody. She was determined to let the whole world know she wasn’t going to take shit from anybody, and if anybody was stupid enough to give her shit about anything, she’d fuck him up good and proper.
Because of her attitude, she got into a lot of fights in the schoolyard…and no, she wasn’t afraid to fight boys, either. She’d fight with people at school, on the streets, and at any part-time job she ever-so-briefly had. She was a potential menace–Denise the Menace, everyone called her–to anyone who had the bad luck of crossing her path, and she was damned proud of that.
She started getting in trouble with the law, typically charged with assault and battery, at around the age of fifteen. Sometimes she’d get caught vandalizing–throwing rocks in windows, spray-painting rude words on buildings–or there was the occasional petty theft. But usually it was her and her gang of bad girls beating people up, out of sheer boredom.
Well, one night, months after the disappearance of Alexa, Megan, and Tiffany, Denise took her violent ways too far. That night, she and her gang assaulted a middle-aged woman and put her in the hospital. Denise was the ringleader, and the one who gave the woman the worst of the beatings, so she got the harshest punishment: five years imprisonment.
During her first year in prison, she stewed in a rage, angry at how unfair the world had always been to her. She got into plenty of fights with the other female convicts. But early into her second year, after a nasty fight that got her face bloodied and her ass in solitary confinement for a week, she found herself forced to rethink her life.
Though the preaching of the prison priest only made her roll her eyes, he did say one thing that made her reflect: “Anger is the enemy. Anger is a poison. If you don’t cure it, your hate will kill you one day.”
Indeed, she thought as she sat all alone in that room and sulked. Look at where my hatred and anger have led me. I have to stop fighting all the time. Maybe Mom was right to have been such a wimp.
She resolved, once she got out of solitary confinement, to make efforts to control her hostility to the world. Naturally, it was hard at first: she got into a few fights after getting out, but they were fewer, and she was pulling her punches for the first time.
After a few months, she was surprised with herself how rarely she was being even verbally abusive. The others in the prison were even more surprised, and after another year and a half of good behaviour on her part, she was considered for early release.
She had a parole hearing, and after making it clear how sincerely remorseful she was for not only having beaten up that woman, but also for all the hurt she’d needlessly caused others, she was released halfway through the fourth year of her sentence.
She found work–menial labour, but it was enough to get by. Her parole officer never had any complaints about her. She continued to be amazed at her transformation.
A few years later, she met a man, Jack Drew, a nice man, totally the opposite of her father. Jack was gentle, he never drank, and he managed to revive a belief in her mind that there actually are good people in the world. After two years of dating, they got married.
She was thirty when she gave birth to their son, Jameson. She lay in bed at the hospital, and when the nurse put the newborn baby in her arms, and her husband was standing by her, tears ran down her cheeks. She’d not only escaped the hell of hate and anger; she’d entered the world of love.
Notions of wanting to hurt people had become alien to her on this first gazing into her baby’s eyes. Now she felt only nurturing instincts, the drive to help, to give comfort, to remove hurt.
Again, she was amazed at how much she’d changed.
Years went by, and she was a dedicated mother. Taking care of little Jameson was a joy. Even when he was difficult, and outright annoying–which was not infrequent–her first instinct was almost always patience and kindness, rarely anger. He’d have to have been an extraordinary brat to make her as much as raise her voice.
So one morning, 38-year-old Denise was with her eight-year-old boy in the living room while Jack was at work. He was playing with his Star Wars action figures while she was watching TV.
He was imitating light sabre noises as he had Rey and Kylo Ren fighting. Really getting into it, he was also getting really loud.
“Keep it down, honey,” she said. “I can’t hear the TV over you.”
He kept at it at the same volume.
She sighed and said, “Fine.” She picked up the remote and turned up the volume. He made louder light sabre noises.
She sighed again, but before she could open her mouth to tell him to play quieter, a commercial came on. She decided to get a drink from the kitchen.
Before she got up, though, she looked over at Jameson. The sight of her cute little boy, so happy playing with his toys, disarmed her annoyance at his loudness. She got up and walked over to him.
“Look out!” she said playfully, her tickling fingers poised for attack. “The Emperor is going to zap you, Rey!”
She got her fingers on Jameson’s little belly and began tickling. He screamed and giggled, dropping his action figures.
“Stop!” he yelped. “Mom, stop!” He giggled and screamed some more.
She stopped, then gave him a big hug and a kiss on his chubby left cheek. “Want a Pepsi from the fridge?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, nodding with enthusiasm.
“What’s the magic word?”
“OK, one Pepsi, coming right up.” She got up and went over to the kitchen. He returned to his loud light sabre noises.
She stood by the fridge, and as she opened the door, she looked back, with a smile, into the living room at her boy.
“I love you,” she whispered, then reached into the fridge for a Pepsi, and she got an orange Fanta for herself.
Someone else was gazing at her boy, and at her, but this person was frowning, not smiling. This person was invisible to Denise and Jameson, but were they to have seen this person, they’d have seen disheveled hair, pale skin, red eyes, and a tattered black dress.