Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Even If You Stumble a Little"

This poem is spillover from the February 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from Anonymous on Dreamwdith. It also fills the "sudden threat" square in my 8-1-17 card for the Survival Bingo fest, and the "chocolates" square in my 2-1-17 Romantic card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Cassandra thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains intense material. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features parents stalking a survivor of child abuse, trespassing, emotional shock, confusion, attempted tampering with someone else's property, emotional manipulation, gaslighting, calling for help and getting it, justifiable threats of force including superpowers, intense negative emotions and mixed feelings, reconsideration of legal action, can't adult right now, reference to intrusive fear, and other angst. This may cause stress for survivors of abusive parents and/or stalking. However, Cassandra has awesome friends who are not putting up with any shit from her parents, and who provide excellent backup to solve the problems. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Even If You Stumble a Little"


When Cassandra went to answer
the knock at the door, she expected
it to be one of the neighbors.

It was her parents.

As she stood there
frozen in shock, they
pushed their way past her.

"Cassandra, who are these people,
and why are they barging in here without
an invitation?" Groundhog said.
"Do you know them?"

"They're, um, these are
my parents," Cassandra said.

"I see," Groundhog said, his voice cooling.
He clasped his hands behind his back.

Cassandra's stomach clenched because
now she'd pissed him off by bringing them
here to cause who-knew-what trouble.

Cassandra's mother frowned at
the compass rose rug lying at an angle
against the smooth hardwood boards.
She toed the edge, trying to straighten it.

"Mom! Stop that," Cassandra hissed.

"It's crooked," her mother said,
kicking at the rug again.

"The compass rose belongs in
that position," Groundhog said firmly.
"Quit trying to tamper with it."

They ignored him, of course,
just like they ignored everyone
telling them things that they
didn't want to hear.

Cassandra's fingernails
dug into her palms. "What
do you want?" she said.

"We wanted to see you,
of course," said her mother.

"We have been receiving
some rather threatening messages
from the school and Family Services,"
her father said. "We thought it best
to come here and clear that up. I'm
sure as soon as you speak to them,
this will all be taken care of."

Cassandra couldn't speak.
She couldn't even get up enough
spit to swallow. All she could
do was shake her head.

"I don't think that's happening,"
Groundhog said. "You need
to leave this place. Now."

"Cassandra, honey, why on earth
would you want to visit someone
so rude?" her mother said.

Cassandra wasn't visiting,
she lived here, but she didn't
want her parents to know that
if they didn't already.

Another knock sounded,
immediately followed by,
"Neighborly Safeguard,
Highliner speaking. What
seems to be the problem?"

Groundhog opened the door
and said, "Cassandra's parents
hunted her down to harass her, and
they won't leave. Get rid of them."

Cassandra wanted to run for it,
but her parents stood between
her and the escape route.

"Time to go," Highliner said to
her parents, stepping toward them.

Cassandra's father frowned at him.
"You're not the police," he said.
"You have no authority."

"Neighborly Safeguard is
a volunteer security program
for this apartment building,"
Highliner said. "That gives
me the authority to remove
anyone bothering a resident."

"I'm not going anywhere with you,"
Cassandra's mother said,
crossing her arms.

"Ma'am, you can walk out
that door, or I can carry you
out that window," Highliner said.

Cassandra's mother gasped
and backed away from him.

"Let's get out of here now,"
Groundhog said to Cassandra,
urging her toward the door.

She tripped over the threshold, but
he caught her before she could fall.

"Never forget that walking away
from something unhealthy is brave,
even if you stumble a little on your way
out the door," Groundhog said.

"I hate them," Cassandra said as
soon as she got her breath back. "I
wish I never had to see them again!"

"Are you reconsidering the idea
of getting a restraining order and
pressing charges for maltreatment?"
Groundhog asked Cassandra.

"Yes," she said. "It's one thing
when they were far away and
not bothering me. But they
came here and I just --"
She waved her hands.

"They crossed a line," he said,
nodding. "We'll deal with it."

"It's lucky that Highliner came
when he did," Cassandra said.

"That wasn't luck," Groundhog said.
"I used the panic function on my phone.
When I'm at home, I set the default
to call the Neighborly Safeguard."

"Oh," Cassandra said. "That's good."

The two of them went downstairs
to the contemplation room, where
Cassandra sat down on a cushion
and stared at the row of candles.

The softly glowing fountain
made a tranquil burble.

"I need to take care of some things,"
Groundhog said. "I'll be right here
in the back if you need me."

"Okay," Cassandra said.

Groundhog stepped through
the sound-resistant curtains,
then closed them behind him.

Cassandra could hear him
murmuring into his phone, but
she couldn't make out the words.

She just concentrated on breathing
and not freaking out completely.

The contemplation room
worked its familiar magic.

Soon her heart slowed,
her stomach unclenched,
and she felt a little better.

Groundhog stepped back
into the front part of the room.
"Okay, I've started a few balls
rolling for you," he said. "You can
follow through when you're ready."

"What did you do?" she asked.

"First, I put your parents on
the No Admittance list, so even if
they come back, they can't get
in here again," said Groundhog.
"Second, I called the police and
told the Special Victims Unit you
want to talk about a restraining order
and pressing charges against them."

"Wow," said Cassandra. "That's a lot.
I know that I should be doing this for
myself, but I just ... can't adult right now."

"That's okay," Groundhog said. "It's
hard to deal with abusers, they
make your brain freeze up."

"Yeah," she said. "That's how I feel."

"Then it's a good thing that
I brought this," Groundhog said.

He pulled a tin from his pocket
which read Chocolate Emergency Kit.
Popping it open, he took out two squares
of clinical-grade chocolate. He handed one
to Cassandra and kept the other himself.

"Here," he said. "Chocolate can't fix
everything, but sometimes it can lift
your mood enough for you to deal
with the difficult things again."

"Thanks," Cassandra said.

She nibbled the chocolate slowly,
savoring the rich dark flavor. It made
the world seem slightly less horrible.

Then she started to giggle,
and couldn't seem to stop.

"What's so funny?" Groundhog said.

"My mother," Cassandra gasped.
"I keep imagining Highliner actually
carrying her out the window --"

"You know he wouldn't really
do that," Groundhog said. "He
understands how important it is
for me to keep my windows closed."

"Yes, but it would serve her right,"
Cassandra said. "She's afraid of heights!"

Groundhog threw back his head
and roared with laughter.

* * *

Notes:

Bernadette Vogler -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and dark hair to her shoulders. She is the wife of Garrick and mother of Cassandra. Bernadette works for a prestigious public relations firm, where she uses her ability to spin anything for managing the more difficult accounts. She takes pride in her work, and through it she has come to know most of the important people in her area. However, she habitually fakes everything, and this insincerity makes insightful people distrust her. It also makes her doubt herself. Bernadette is afraid of heights, too, but that doesn't come up as often.
The family belongs to the Evangelical Methodist Church. When Cassandra's superpower manifested, her parents first put her into suppression therapy, which spurred several unsuccessful attempts to run away. Later they found a clipper to remove her Flight ability. That loss has left Cassandra with chronic pain, and a deeply conflicted identity crisis over whether she is still "really" a soup with her power crippled.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Spin Anything, Good (+2) Important Friends, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Toothpaste Smile
Poor (-2) Insincere

Garrick Vogler -- He has fair skin and hazel eyes of gray-green with a brown center. His short dark hair is going gray and also thinning. He is the husband of Bernadette Vogler and father of Cassandra. Garrick runs a lucrative corporation that brokers developments and other deals. He is physically fit because he goes to the gym, but he has a bad habit of using it as an excuse not to deal with family disputes or other problems. He doesn't like conflict at work, either, and routinely fobs it off on his subordinates. His ability to wrangle deals has made him quite popular, but it's based on manipulating people without them catching on how much of a fake he is. Garrick likes to talk up his "perfect family" but it's all a sham. He is secretly unhappy and terrified people will find out.
The family belongs to the Evangelical Methodist Church. When Cassandra's superpower manifested, her parents first put her into suppression therapy, which spurred several unsuccessful attempts to run away. Later they found a clipper to remove her Flight ability. That loss has left Cassandra with chronic pain, and a deeply conflicted identity crisis over whether she is still "really" a soup with her power crippled.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Executive, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Physically Fit, Good (+2) Popular
Poor (-2) Conflict Avoidant

* * *

"Never forget that walking away from something unhealthy is brave even if you stumble a little on your way out the door."
-- Quotes on Abuse and poster

Groundhog's compass rose rug is backed with an adhesive for security as a landing pad for teleporters. The rug can be peeled up for cleaning, but cannot be kicked loose.

A variety of panic button and other personal safety apps exist in local-America for smartphones. In Terramagne-America, apps are typically customizable using modular code, which is rare here but just starting to appear. This makes it possible to do things like create a silent alarm if the phone is shaken (which is how Groundhog triggered it) or set adaptive defaults that change based on your location.

L-America has a few variations of block watch or neighborhood watch programs adapted for apartment buildings. As with party monitors, the T-American approach is broader and more positive. Neighborly Safeguard is a volunteer group of people who practice active neighboring. These are the folks to call when you want to borrow a cup of sugar, your cat gets out, you need mail pickup, help watering plants over vacation, etc. as well as actual security issues like ousting unwelcome visitors which is one of their most common tasks. By creating a volunteer organization for active neighboring, that reduces the tendency of callers to feel like they're "bothering" someone, because these folks like to help out; it largely prevents disturbing people who aren't into that kind of interaction right now; and it encourages a favorable impression of the Neighborly Safeguard instead of a negative one that L-American neighborhood watch programs often have. Here are some tips on how to start an apartment watch program and what to do with it.

Stalking is a crime in which a pursurer hounds an unwilling target.  While usually thought of in sexual terms, it also causes problems when parents stalk their adult children.  Estranged parents do not understand this as stalking, because they are focused on themselves, not their children.  L-American laws against stalking are haphazard and not always useful, plus they are rarely enforced.  Penalties vary widely.  T-American law recognizes location as protected information, because it can be used to harm people. So their stalking laws are stronger and better enforced.  In particular, stalking works a lot like sexual harassment: as soon as the target indicates that contact is unwelcome, further pursuit constitutes stalking.  Here are some tips for getting rid of a stalker.

Although the general impression is that child abuse only affects minors, many abusive parents continue to harm their adult children.  L-American law is a sloppy mess when it comes to severing legal ties with toxic parents; much of the material is simply ignored, no matter what people do to document their wishes.  T-American law is much more serious about enforcing a person's choices, so long as those are legally valid and appropriately documented.  For instance, telling Cassandra's parents they aren't welcome in the Skylark Apartment Building and putting them on the No Admittance list is enough to constitute trespassing if they try to come back.  Among the best ways to deal with abusive parents is to cut ties with them.

The Contemplation Room serves as a combination meditation, prayer, and quiet room. Decorated with cool, soothing colors and abstract art, it is suitable for a wide range of relaxing activities. It contains small tables and benches, cushions, mats, candles, and a desktop fountain. A bookcase holds resources for interfaith, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim traditions; the most popular titles occupy the top shelf. Sound-resistant curtains such as these Eclipse curtains in lime and turquoise screen the back area, which includes a glide rocker.

Groundhog's Chocolate Emergency Kit is small enough to fit in a pocket but large enough to hold several squares of clinical-grade chocolate. This page offers printable labels for emergency chocolate, useful for distinguishing the expensive stuff from the snacking grade.

I was delighted to discover that someone in L-America is actually producing clinical-grade chocolate! Check out Nibmor Extreme Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs in the original bars or daily dose squares. They have some other flavors too. Check out the health benefits of chocolate. What makes chocolate clinical grade? Darker is better, because it has more of the active ingredients; but semisweet or milk chocolate is okay if that's all someone will eat. Look for non-GMO and organic chocolate made with top-quality components and sustainable practices.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, food, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing
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