Ow! Again!? Why can’t she ever throw something else? I plummeted to the shiny, hardwood floor, having just been slammed against the wall, barely missing Mark’s face on my flight from Kelly’s swift and angry pitch. Ow! Tilting to my right, sitting on the floor where I landed, it was obvious that matters were about to get worse – much worse.
Yep! If I could close my eyes, I would, but instead, I have to watch an outraged Mark now moving quickly toward Kelly with his right hand up behind him, ready to swing. She tries to shield her face with her petite hands, but it makes no difference. My heart sinks as she falls to the floor in the dimly lit family room. She lies there, face in her hands, blood dripping down from the corner of her mouth. I live with Mark and Kelly, and they are fighting again.
Darn, my behind hurts! With my fuzzy bottom, I thought falls wouldn’t be so painful. But no, they’re bad - even the first one when I was brand new at the Illinois State Fair. I’ll never forget when I was proudly won by Mark for his girlfriend, Haley, whom he just adored. It was a stirring summer night at the lively festival.
“You look beautiful, Haley,” Mark complimented. “I’m glad you finally agreed to let me take you on a date.” He threw her a bashful smile of appreciation. Haley was in her sundress, nibbling on some blue cotton candy while they strolled through the carnival game section. “Are you any good at any of these,” asked Haley.
“Of course, I am. I’ll show you,” responded a self-assured Mark. They approached the one where the player has to throw a baseball at a target. “Watch and learn, my lady.” He could be pretty charming, even though his confidence came across as cocky at times. Mark threw baseballs at the carnival game target. He won! Haley was so happy. Of course, she would get the prize. If Mark kept it, I’m sure there would never have been a second date. I was also thrilled! Haley chose me. Me! Out of all the teddy bear prizes, I was the one she wanted. Maybe it was because I was the only white, plush bear left with a shiny pink nose. Girls like pink - and shiny stuff. The game attendant dropped me as he pulled me off my five-foot-high shelf. That’s when I learned my fluffy behind was not helpful for plummeting from such heights. Aaaany-who, Haley was a sweet girl. When Haley took me from the worker, she checked my hiney and dusted off any loose dirt with her gentle hand. Because my life really began by being won at a fair, I like to refer to myself as Fair Bear - not that anyone would ever ask me my name, or I could ever answer.
Mark and Haley dated in college back in 2009 for about seven months – from their first date at the fair on a beautiful May evening, playing games and eating sloppy food with ketchup dripping everywhere - to the last time I saw Haley when they left the dorms for Thanksgiving break. She and Mark were both seniors, and Haley was studying pre-law with a plan to stay in Chicago for law school. Mark planned to attend Yale University on a scholarship the next year…not the next school year, but January 2010, one month after that Thanksgiving break. Few long-distance relationships can work, I suppose. Sad. I’ve been with Mark Flannery ever since – I think Haley gave me to him as a token to remember her by. I wonder what Haley’s up to these days.
I find Kelly Donovan, here, to be delightful, too – more so, though, when she is not pitching me across a room. I actually like her a lot, but for some reason, she occasionally brings out the worst in Mark. It’s not her fault because her anger is normally justified. Other than when she loses her cool every now and then, I find her to be quite kind and sweet. One time, among many of her good deeds, agreed to a neighbor’s request for help even though Kelly was swamped with school work and taking care of Mark. I believe it was late last summer when the neighbor came by on a weekday afternoon. I remember the doorbell rang, and Kelly opened it to the woman who lives two doors down. “Hi, Priya. What can I do for you today?” Kelly always opened her side of conversations with inviting words. It just came naturally to her.
Priya timidly asked, “Well, I’m glad you asked. I hate to be a bother, but my son is dead set on setting up his lemonade stand this afternoon, but I have to go to work. Would you mind keeping an eye on him?” Priya pointed to direct Kelly to look at the front yard by the street in front of Priya’s home. “See, he’s right there, and I told him that he could only stay out for a couple hours.”
Kelly leaned out the door and took a peek. “I can do more than that, Priya. It’s the end of the summer and not very hot today,” said a concerned Kelly. “How about, I go over there and give him some tips to boost his sales in a slow market?” Kelly offered with a smile dripping with strategy.
“That’d be great! You don’t have to do that though.” Priya replied with obvious appreciation and a thankful grin.
Kelly quickly replied, “I’m doin’ it. Off to work you go now, Priya.” Kelly was so cute and so kind.
Priya threw up her hands in an I-give-in manner, and walked away commenting, “You’re the best, Kelly. I owe you!”
I am certain that Kelly did not expect, or even want any payback. She loved kids and fun stuff like this. It was awesome! Kelly helped little age-eight Suraj make a banner to hang from his tray table. The sign said, in huge orange letters,
“END OF SUMMER SALE – LEMONADE for CELEBRATING no more SUPER-HOT days. ONLY 50¢ a cup!” She even helped Suraj draw some flames above the words “SUPER-HOT” to get some more attention to the sign. She definitely had a head for business. At least 20 cars stopped by to patronize the stand that afternoon. How could they not stop when they saw all the effort that a young boy put into his humble little stand? After the sales event ended, Kelly got Suraj safely back inside his home--within two hours, just like Priya wanted. It was great! When Kelly came back home, it was going on 5:30 p.m., so she hurried to clean the dining room and prepare dinner for when Mark got home from work.
Kelly’s very smart and thoughtful of others. Mark, on the other hand, while he is also intelligent, is more ignorant of other’s needs. He likes to take care of himself and his business. I suppose he does have the pressure of supporting both himself and Kelly in a fairly luxurious lifestyle. He won’t let Kelly work while she’s in nursing school. He likes her to be free to care for him and their home, oh, and herself too, when she’s not concentrating on schoolwork.
With a moan here and a cry there, Kelly slowly pushes herself up from the floor. She has a look of self-disappointment on her face as she notices blood on the ends of her silky hair. She’s instinctually closing all the drapes and blinds in the room, so the neighbors won’t see her in this condition. As Kelly tries to wipe some the blood out of her hair with her right hand, I am whisked up from the floor by her soft left hand. She’s walking us from the family room to her kitchen to get the first aid kit and ice for her lip. She put me on the Italian stone counter next to their stainless steel extra-large refrigerator, and she’s bagging up some ice. Kelly looked conflicted so often. To me, she seemed happy to have this life with Mark, but at the same time, did not look sincerely in love with him.
Ever since Haley, Mark just hasn’t been the same. Being thrown at Mark is nothing new; it just wears on me to witness the arguing and hurtful, cutting words they shout at one another.
It never seemed this bad with Haley. I mean Mark was with Haley almost all the time, and they were so untroubled and content, except for a rare argument--only one or two the entire time I was with them. Maybe a, “Don’t you dare try to leave!” or “You’re mine, and only mine!” was exchanged, but that’s about it.
Why does he act this way now? He’s such an intelligent responsible guy. I don’t understand why he can’t control himself or break his routine occasionally when Kelly asks, especially in her sad situation right now. She doesn’t seem to ask for much.
Mark exhibited no remorse, and as he left the room, I heard him say,
“Kelly, when will you learn not to try to change me?! Do I have to hit you harder next time? There’s only so much a man can take! Haven’t I given you enough?! Shit! I already skipped golf and a home-cooked meal for the wake and the funeral. The house is a mess, so, no, not this weekend, too!”
All Kelly asked for was an afternoon over this weekend to visit her dad’s grave with his brother, Uncle Brian. Her uncle was taking his passing terribly hard. But Mark loved golf. He always says he needs his 36 holes every weekend in order to feel calm and clear-headed for the work week. Hurt, angry, and obviously not thinking straight, Kelly threw me at Mark when he coldly denied her request. She should know by now not to cross him. He needs her to clean the house, run his errands, and cook his meals since he can’t be home to do it. I don’t know why she doesn’t just do what he asks. He takes such good care of her. Oh well. What do I know? I’m just a stuffed toy.
Kelly’s father, Charles Donovan, had died of cancer, and the funeral was just five days ago. Kelly’s sister, her only sibling, was not there. I overheard Kelly on the phone with their mother the day after the funeral. Kelly sounded like she was trying to comfort her mother. “Mom, I’m sure Tori would have been here if she could have. It’s not important anyway. We know she loved Dad, and that’s all that matters.” Kelly was using her best fake sincere voice. Kelly knew that her older sister wanted nothing to do with their parents, and sadly, Tori disappeared from the family altogether almost three years ago. Kelly wasn’t even sure where Tori was living these days. Plus, Kelly was hurt that Tori had not stayed in contact with her. But, based on the last time Kelly and Tori visited with each other, just before Tori left,
Kelly understood that her big sister had to heal from the unceasing mental and emotional abuse both of them had endured growing up. Tori simply said to all three of them, “I have some traveling I want to do, so I will be out-of-touch for a while.” It didn’t take long for Kelly to figure out that “a while” meant forever, or at least, a very long time.
Their mother was clearly narcissistic and controlling, always expecting pure perfection from the girls and belittling them for whatever ideas they came up with on their own. Kelly shared about her mother’s tirades to her own friends, so I learned a lot, and, frankly, I’m impressed that Kelly did not end up a complete basket case. Kelly once described a horrible time the night before Tori started college at Northern Illinois University.
Kelly was talking to her childhood friend, Jenny, and explained, “That night is just one of the many times my mom ruined something that we wanted to enjoy. It was awful for my sister. Just like my mom sucked the joy out of every special occasion—birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, I could go on—this was no different. Tori was trying to get a good night’s sleep and was so excited about starting college the next day, but my mom, the psycho that she is, took that joy from Tori, too.”
“What happened?” asked Jenny, and Jenny continued, “I’m so sorry. I had no idea how abusive she was to you two until now.”
“Well, it’s been hard to talk about it, but my therapist says it’s good to talk about it, process it with true friends, that sort of thing. It’s supposed to help me move past it to a more happy and balanced life. Here’s hopin’!” Kelly always kept her sense of humor and optimistic attitude.
“I’m your friend,” Jenny reassured, “Talk away.” She truly was a kind friend. I learned that over the few years I’ve witnessed Kelly’s visits with Jenny.
Kelly went on, “So, yeah, that night Tori was trying to get some sleep, and my mom just would not let that happen. She kept opening Tori’s bedroom door to turn the lights back on to yell at Tori. She’d say things like, ‘You will get nowhere in life majoring in DER-RAMAAA! It’s a waste of money and time. I thought you were smart, but I was wrong.!’ Tori would try to reason with her. She told my mom, ‘Mom! I’m minoring in accounting as you demanded, so just let me sleep!’ My sister agreed to minor in accounting in order to get my parents to let her live at home while she attended college. Tori had no money to live anywhere else and attend school at the same time, so my parents had her by the you-know-whats. They loved to pull the purse strings on us!”
Jenny nodded in sympathy and in what I’d describe as believing-disbelief. I like to make up adjectives from time to time. Kelly then finished the story to Jenny, picking up at the purse strings point, “It sucked. They got away with so much control because they made sure we believed we’d literally be out-on-street if we didn’t follow their rules. Tori kept pleading. She switched to my dad since my mom would not shut up. ‘Dad, make her stop! I already agreed to the accounting minor, so please make her leave me alone. I need to sleep.’ He just stood there like a zombie, like he always did when my mom would scream at us at the top of her lungs until we cried or finally screamed back. She has this sick need to bring us to the brink of madness before she’d even think about stopping her tirades. Anyway, my mom had long ago emasculated my dad, but Tori and I always hoped he’d one day stand up for his daughters--that never happened. So, if I recall correctly, my mom just continued to berate Tori for at least two more hours.”
Kelly listened to their mom repeatedly attack Tori that night, yelling about what an idiot Tori was, and the meanest part was when her mom laughed in Tori’s face, saying, “Tori, I’ve seen you try to act.” Kelly described the laughing as deranged, and her mom spewed words something like, “You’re horrible at it, Tori. It’s actually laughable how you think you’re good. Don’t go trusting your supposed ‘expert’ teachers either. Your drama professors will humor you because they are paid their big-shot college salaries to do so. I hope you won’t actually believe them if they say you’re good! They won’t tell you the truth because they don’t love you, like I do. Oh, and remember the expression, ‘those who can’t…teach!’ Those drama teachers are losers.”
Kelly explained to Jenny how that last dig was the most damaging type of insult their mom would shout at her and Tori.
It was easy for their mom to twist them into trusting her because, “What child does not want to believe that her own mother loves her?” Kelly explained. “My mom is a master manipulator, so she’d have us trusting her, and only her, no matter how badly she hurt our feelings. It was a nightmare growing up in that house!” Jenny continued to listen intently, as Kelly changed the subject a little. Kelly said, “I have counseling though, to help me. I don’t think Tori has done that. I just wish I could find Tori to tell her that there’s professional help out there for us.” When Kelly finished telling all that to Jenny, Kelly ended up in tears.
Jenny was kind enough to give her tissues and a long hug until Kelly could calm down a bit. I wanted to hug Kelly too, but that was impossible—still is, given I can’t move and all. Mark would overhear these types of discussions between Kelly and her friends, but, oddly, he never says or does anything to comfort Kelly. Well, actually, correct that. He is paying for her nursing school and letting her live with him. That literally keeps her away from her parents, so I suppose that is the biggest comfort of all, right!?
I completely understand why Tori split and didn’t look back.
Kelly would be a reminder of the life Tori wanted to forget.
After all this time, I could tell Kelly needed her big sister. Lately, she would stare at a picture of Tori, touch the image of her sister’s face, and attempt to hold back tears which invariably streamed down her cheeks anyway.
The family room where Kelly and I lay after the scuffle, became darker as night fell. Mark was who-knows-where, and Kelly and I were at home in the beautiful house Mark built “for her.” The large home has all their favorite things, like Mark’s stained-glass Northwestern University purple “N” and Yale navy “Y” embedded in their twelve-foot family room windows – his awards for being the youngest successful entrepreneur in the architectural field. Of course, all of the rooms were decorated in beige and dark mocha – Mark’s favorite colors and the colors of his 2016 Lexus. Mark and Kelly were also devoted Chicago White Sox fans, despite the fact that they live in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He displayed quite a bit of White Sox paraphernalia around the house, including ticket stubs from all the games he attended with his buddies, two old stadium seats that his mom bought him for his birthday, and the signed Jim Thome jersey. The home is quite impressive.
Mark was even thoughtful and considerate enough to let Kelly pick out the kitchen décor because he knows how much she loves to cook. It’s embellished with Roman adornments because her favorite type of cuisine is Italian. Oddly though, Kelly only makes dinner twice a week, and it’s typically something that was pre-made at the grocery store which she simply heats up. It is cute how she serves the meal on their elegant, gold-rimmed, Tiffany & Co. dinnerware when she and Mark sit down to eat together. They dine in the ornate, yet chic, dining room instead of in the kitchen. I suppose it’s because the kitchen is always a mess with dirty pots and pans, cutting boards and spices out of their cabinets - even though none of it was actually necessary for the “ready-to-eat meals” -- I don’t quite get that. Anyway, Mark always compliments her on the food and says, “You must be so grateful that the kitchen is all yours.” While looking at her food with her baby blue eyes, she smiles and always says, “Yes, I am very lucky to have you.” Kelly mostly keeps her head down with her healthy straight blond hair falling down the sides of her beautiful alabaster skin. Mark typically appears plenty pleased with himself as he shovels in the food, like a seventeenth century English king.
They had been living together for almost three years now, and their daily routine is like Chinese water torture. Imagine watching the same episode of a TV show over and over again for months! Mark comes and goes as he pleases; Kelly cleans the house and shops for household items; she does all the laundry, taking special care to fold Mark’s clothing just the way he likes; and has her friends over once every couple of months—those visits only occur on a weeknight when Mark is home, and the visits can only last for two hours. Mark likes to unwind in a quiet home on work nights, so the ladies cannot stay long. However, he leaves the ladies alone to catch up in the living room, while he stays in the adjacent den with its door open. Mark and Kelly also have “mutual” friends over about twice a month for cocktails and laughs. There’s conversation and laughter, but Kelly’s amusement always seems forced and empty. The only time she genuinely smiles is when she is with her own friends. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think she really appreciates the life Mark has given her. She gets really mad about once every five to six months, and that’s when I end up flying through the air at Mark’s face, and she inevitably ends up bruised or bloodied on the floor. Like I said, her anger is probably justified, but, in my opinion, not worth the cost of displaying it to Mark.
As I watch Kelly, I’m wondering why she always carries me everywhere. I was not even won for her. All I can remember is lying at the bottom of a cardboard box when Mark and Kelly moved into this house, and Kelly found me, alongside her business management B.S. degree from Roosevelt University. She pulled out her degree, and she was just about to toss the box away when she paused and glimpsed at me again. I will never forget her look on her face when she scooped me out and gave me a good hard look; I thought I’d be tossed out with the box, especially because of the reddish-brown stains and blue spots from cotton candy on my fur from the night of the State Fair.
To my surprise, Kelly gave me a final glance, tilted her head with an audible, “Hmm,” and a smile, and then brought me to their new family room. It’s my shiny pink nose, I just know it! It’s like a tractor beam for young women. She placed me in a basket of toys that held many different toys, including blocks, wind-up cars, dress-up dolls and rattles. Mark and Kelly have friends with small children, so Kelly keeps the basket of toys for the kids to play with when they come over with their parents – babysitters were not always easy to find. After about a year in this house, Kelly began to seat me right on top of the pile, so that I wouldn’t get smashed by the heavier toys anymore, I guess. I think that’s why I am always what Kelly grabs to throw at Mark when they fight. I am easily accessible. Well, my fate could have been worse. Being dumped at a garbage site…no…sounds very bad and very yucky. I am thankful that Kelly kept me, despite being used as a weapon, however ineffective, from time to time.
Kelly is just about to finish her last year of nursing school! Mark is such a generous man. When he was with Haley, he always arranged to be by her side when she did her homework…literally. In case she needed help, he would, without exception, be immediately accessible to her. He bought her groceries for her dorm room, so she could stay in, and even checked on her dorm while she was in class or her book club meetings to be certain it was clean and tidy. Mark did this at least three times a day. What a guy…handsome too! I am sure she loved showing off her 6’ 1”, 220 lb., fit, blue-eyed, dark-haired man. He looks a little like Tom Cruise, but taller. I digress. Haley never had to worry about someone breaking in or stealing her things or even her dorm room being messy, all because of his perpetual efforts.
The only strange thing was that Haley’s roommate, Chloe Stogdon, could have watched out for Haley’s things when Haley wasn’t “home,” but instead, Chloe just sat quietly and practically ignored Mark whenever he was there without Haley. Sometimes, Chloe simply left when Mark showed up, and they didn’t even exchange pleasantries. I don’t know if she was just plain rude or extremely preoccupied with studying. If I recall correctly, Chloe’s major was international business; she had pictures of places like China and Great Britain on her side of the room. She was single at the time, but it had to be by her choice because she was very pretty with dark ash brown hair and eyes of hazel green. Her complexion medium, smooth and sprinkled with some small freckles only on her nose and upper cheeks that gave her that sweet, but also, “hot” effect. “Hot” is what I hear the guys call uniquely pretty women, so I think that’s right.
Anyway, Mark treats Kelly differently than he treated Haley. For the life of me, what little there really is as a plaything, I can’t remember any event which could transform him into the man I know now. Mark never struck Haley. As far as Haley is concerned, he was so nice. He even would check inside her drawers, closets, jacket pockets to make sure that everything was neat and orderly. Plus, Mark would look at her computer history and even under her mattress and bed to make sure those were organized, too. Mark is pretty nice, I’d say! I was lucky to witness such care and chivalry while sitting on Haley’s dorm bed for the duration of their dating. I even remember this one time when Haley got a letter delivered to her room – it had been slid under her door, and Mark opened it for her since she was in class at the time. It had a return address on it which I think said, “Bible Church of Christ.” The address was too small for me to read. Mark placed the letter on the desk, purposefully wrote something on the letter then handed it to Haley upon her return. After that, he took it back, walked by her and whispered in her ear, “Remember who REALLY loves you. Don’t EVER forget it.” Clearly, Mark whispered these sweet nothings to make Haley feel secure in his love for her. I was always confused by her reaction when he’d say such romantic things. She typically appeared a touch terrified, if there is such an emotion, like frozen with fear until he left her personal space.
Kelly’s sitting down at the kitchen table while icing her mouth, her aching head leaning into her propped-up hand. I watched her cry for several minutes, and now she’s picking up her head, taking several deep breaths and standing up. The self-deprecation seems to have made way for a more confident attitude. She snags me off the counter and sets me back in the basket. On her way out of the family room, she grabbed the White Sox 2005 Championship souvenir throw, wrapped it around her shoulders, and is headed toward Mark’s computer desk which is adjacent to the family room. With noticeable conviction, Kelly is opening the laptop computer and starting to type with clear vigor and purpose. Hmmm, I wonder what she’s doing. Also, how did she even get into that laptop? Mark is the only one with the pass code. Oh, wait. I remember how she got it.
About an hour has ticked by, and Kelly has not moved from that laptop. She’s only changed her sitting position twice, and barely takes her eyes off the screen. Plus, I have never witnessed anyone type so fast in my life. What the heck is she doing? I hear keys opening the front door and see Kelly turn her head toward the front door in a startled manner, as if Mark had never come in the front door before. He always comes in that way after a night of drinking with his buddies. Kelly quickly, but as quietly as possible, presses a key, closes the laptop, slides out of the chair and lays down on the couch before Mark walks into the family room from the cathedral chandeliered foyer. Kelly pretends to be asleep. Well, this is odd. Mark gets closer to Kelly to check if she’s awake. As her ruse is successful, Mark leaves her to sleep and goes upstairs to bed. I just lay in my basket amongst blocks poking me in my sides and stare into the dark family room until sunrise. My eyes are plastic…with no eyelids to close.