Rose and I had a complicated relationship. My parents pitted Rose against everyone else. They called her “evil” and were constantly fighting with and yelling at her. One of my earliest memories of Rose was watching the babysitter pull her from the window as she tried to run away. Rose was wearing a teal and white striped overall/t-shirt combo, bag packed for her new life.
She used to tell this story about when her and Robert got caught fighting and each parent thought the opposite child was at fault, so they would both get 3 lashes with a belt. This was before they moved on to spanking us with those cardboard rods you could take off hangers. The adults took the children to separate rooms to deal the punishment. As each parent thought their child was innocent, they spared them this time, making them promise to lie and say they got spanked.
My parents fought often. Once, as they were yelling downstairs, Rose and I were sat at the of the stairs. She could see the fear, sorrow, and confusion in my young eyes. She said something like, “This is all just a story. Do you know how it ends?”.
“Divorce?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she offered, “no one knows.”
Though our parents did a bang-up job demonizing Rose and conditioning us to hate her, we were still blood and they couldn’t break our connection. As we grew older, we went through phases of closeness and complete separation. It took me a long time to understand even a portion of Rose and how strong she had to be.
Being on the outs with my parents made Rose an excellent confidant, and somehow she knew she could trust me too. We were the respective black sheep of our blood lines.
Once, Rose entered my room in a hurry. She paced in front of me over and over asking if she smelt like cigarettes. I yelled her name in admonition, then said that I couldn’t smell the smoke. I later found out she was keeping one of her packs in my closet, as she thought my parents wouldn’t search there. She was right- I had some privacy for now.
Rose and I loved horror movies and most shows/movies that were forbidden to us. She brought The Ring home when it was new; Robert found out and made her watch it in the garage. My parents had instilled the belief that physical things held spirits associated with them. So, scary movies held and/or attracted demons. When I mistakenly let my mother watch Constantine, she made me put the DVD in the van until we could return it to Blockbuster.
When our mother was in the hospital, I think for her gallbladder, we visited her and asked if we could go see The Mummy Returns. She answered yes with a morphine-induced smile on her face; she was obviously less than thrilled with us when the drugs wore off. My heart pounded so hard during the film, I was 11 and it was one of the first “forbidden” movies I had seen. It was beautiful, thrilling and sacrilegious if you were a “bible-believing Christian.”