I had to gather up courage in my room first. I recited the scriptures I had memorized and told myself I’d be fine. I was doing this for God. I had to.
I was about to go upstairs and tell my stepmother some new thing I couldn’t do because of my Christian faith. Some new thing that she did all the time, that I did too, but couldn’t do anymore.
That was one time.
Another time I had to tell her I needed to stay after church to attend a board meeting. I was a board member now and I had to do that sort of thing. It was only once a month, but I’d be home late. An elder would drive me straight home though.
She said okay.
This was after we had been forbidden to be out of the house past sunset on Sabbaths. Apparently we were coming home way too late on Saturday nights and this stopped us from packing away groceries that had been bought that day while we were at church. It was also making us too tired to get up early on Sunday mornings to help with preparing dinner – which was a big deal.
Okay, wine. Rice wine. That was an ingredient of Teriyaki sauce, which I used to make chicken all the time. But I couldn’t have it anymore because wine was in it. I don’t know what made me decide to smell the contents of the bottle one afternoon before pouring some into the pot, but the scent made me instantly move my head away because it was so potent. It smelt weird too. I read the ingredients on the side of the bottle. Vinegar, bla bla bla, rice wine – stop. Wine. I can’t drink that. I can’t drink anything fermented. Oh God. How was I going to tell my stepmother. We had already stopped consuming dairy because it was contaminated with blood – and we must absolutely, never eat blood, because that’s the life of the animal – and my stepmother was not happy about that because soy milk cost more than dairy milk, so she was spending more money for groceries every week. She also had to separate our food when making pasta with Alfredo sauce, and make a completely different meal for us when she made lasagna. She wasn’t going to take this well.
I languished at the dinner table when I had to eat something she made that contained an ingredient I wasn’t supposed to eat. If I said anything, she would be upset. And if I chose not to eat, she wouldn’t like that either, though she wouldn’t say anything. I didn’t pray at times like this. I just felt really, really terrible. Depressed. Drained.
I had to do what God said. There wasn’t a question about that. But I lived with this woman, and she was in charge of the food, and much everything else. Besides, she was my father’s precious wife. Upsetting her wasn’t something I wanted to do. But I had to.
We were on our way home from Walmart one night. I think she went to pick up something for my brother. I don’t remember why I was with her. It was Sunday, and she still had makeup on from going to church that morning. I told her I had something to tell her, that I’d been wanting to tell her for a while. It wasn’t really a great time, but I didn’t think I’d every find a good time, and this had been driving me crazy for weeks. I really needed to tell her.
I did. I waited in silence for her response, sure she was getting upset at my decision to cut yet another food from my diet because of church. She said she thought it was something more serious the way I had brought it up. She said it was okay, that I’d just not use that sauce when I was cooking – which I had already begun to do. It’s just that I didn’t do all the cooking.
I was surprised. I knew it was because of my sister. Luckily for me, though definitely not for her, she had caused enough trouble to make this look insignificant. Oh thank God. I was really not up for a fight on this. God knows I’d been fighting myself enough, and that was really, really, exhausting.
I spent the rest of the ride home in great relief, glad I had finally gotten this dumb thing off my chest, glad she had taken it so well. Why was I even that scared in the first place? Psh.