Stolen Words

I was panic-stricken when I first found it missing.

My tenth grade English teacher had required us to keep a journal. Not necessarily a journal for all things personal, though we were certainly free to use it as such. Instead, it was a journal for our class-time free-writing (which ended up being personal for me nearly all of the time) and random assignments based on various books we were reading throughout the year.

Writing on this level was new to me. I eventually came to use the journal for both a classroom utility and a slightly fogged conveyor belt for all of the personal baggage I carried with me every day. I had never known that simply allowing these words to flow from me and onto paper could comfort me. Even if sometimes only temporary, it was a release, and one I desperately needed.

What if I had lost it on the walk home from the bus stop and some stranger found it? Or, worse yet, at school?

It was overflowing with entries filled with personal information; spilled lines of poetry over which I had agonized were on those pages.

I spent nearly two weeks in a gut-wrenching panic, nauseous at the possibilities.

Who was reading my words? Were they laughing? God, like they didn’t think I was pathetic enough already.

All I had to do now was wait. Wait for whomever had it to come forward and announce to the whole world what a fuck-up I was and just how much I deserved the ridicule that I’d always gotten and that would be handed out as a result.

I cried myself to sleep several times during those two weeks, if I even slept at all.

Lying in bed one night, my eyes focused only on the blackness around me, I finally admitted defeat. Until that moment, I had been hoping it would turn up. But now I simply knew that it was a lost cause. No one would turn something like that in for its owner to claim.

I sighed and rolled out of bed, heading for the stairs from my basement bedroom to the restroom on the main floor. I needed to rinse my face and try to clear my mind before I would be able to fall asleep.

I stopped at the base of the stairs when I heard the voice of serious discussion drifting down, what bits and pieces I could make out causing me pause.

I sat there quietly, listening to my mother’s hushed voice as she spoke from our living room above. Her words were so familiar and her voice carried the unmistakable hint of disgust and disappointment as she finished.

They weren’t her words coming from her lips. They were mine.

Read to her husband, by her, from my journal.

It had been missing just long enough to give her time to peruse, to select the entries most pertaining to her; the ones that separated me from her.

I shook with anger, shocked at this blatant disregard for my privacy, my life, my thoughts.

I wanted to charge up the stairs and snatch my journal from her grasp. I wanted to yell and scream and demand answers.

Instead, I stood there while they degraded the words held in their hands.

I don’t know for how long; I stopped hearing them long before they were done speaking.

As their conversation dwindled to nothing more than what was on the television, I headed back to my bedroom, ashamed of my weakness at reclaiming it, yet thankful, at least, that it had been here all along.

This post is a non-fiction response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club.

Someone has stolen something from you (or your character). Something of tremendous value. What will you do to get it back? Or will you give up?

Write a post – fiction or non-fiction. Word limit is 600.


About Caitlin's Concepts

Mom to 4 boys and drowning in a sea of testosterone!
This entry was posted in Life, Red Writing Hood, The Red Dress Club. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Stolen Words

  1. Shell says:

    Oh, the betrayal! How do you get over that?

    My mom read my journal when I was in ninth grade and I was so devastated. It was like the only thing that was truly mine and she violated it. Dramatic? Yes, but that is how that felt.

    You brought back that emotion for me.

    • In my case, she was just prepping the cake for the frosting, I think. Our story goes well beyond this..

      And I don’t think it’s dramatic at all. It’s a very personal thing and one of the main things taught to us (in most cases) is respect for other people and their property. So, really, why should our kids be the exception to the rule we try so hard to teach?

  2. Frelle says:

    oooh this hurts me. i cant imagine listening to my private thoughts being read out loud like that. but I have some serious issues with shame. Im sorry you were hurt like this, but I guess Im a little relieved as well that it didnt fall into the hands of strangers at school.

    I have a story about my words being stolen too. I wish I could link up that story, but I linked it during a weekend linkup a while back.

  3. MamaRobinJ says:

    I sense that bigger story in this. How horrible. Did you continue to write after that?

  4. Kir says:

    oh, ouch, oh. My mom and I had rocky times, but she would never have done that to me..never betrayed my life and trust and childhood like that.
    I am so sorry that this happened, that you felt those feelings.

    but the writing, oh wow, the writing of this, I could have been standing on those stairs, hot tears rolling down my cheeks. It was a fine piece, a wonderful one

  5. Dawn says:

    Tragically common; but still enormously difficult to believe. My entry this week is similar to yours in that we convey what an injustice and invasion it is to have our journals STOLEN…
    While I did not indicate fiction or non-fiction, my account was true. I was forty years old and had been journaling for years. Not only did my husband take my journals, but in his anger, he DESTROYED them – adding additional pain. It took me years before I felt safe to practice that much needed therapy again…
    It took me years to get over it,,,

    I’m not sure I am…………..

    • Oh, that’s horrible! I was married to someone that really disliked the fact that I had kept my journals – I think because they were a part of me that hadn’t involved him. They did end up being destroyed or, rather, pages ripped out in an attempt to appease him. But by my hand, not his. I thought it would make him less.. jealous? Less inclined to make my life miserable, I suppose.

      One of my many regrets..

  6. Erica says:

    I felt this. I sat here reading this and my heart ached while my eyes welled with tears. I value the words I write more than most other things. Beautifully done. Excellent job of using metaphors to enable the reader to see and feel with you. Thank you for sharing something so personal and real.

    • Thank you so much! At the time it was such a relief to me to be able to “vocalize” things – it’s definitely hard to have that space invaded, especially by someone who is supposed to be one of the most trusted people in a child’s life.

  7. Yeesh, the triple whammy here of not only the violation of your mother reading the journal at all, but reading it ‘to her husband’ which I assume means a step-father and the voice that she read it in, just made the teenage girl me in ache.

    I had one point of curiosity, was she unaware that this was a journal for class? We had to keep one too and we had to have them to our teacher by Friday afternoons so she could scan them over the weekends.

    • We didn’t have to hand ours in every week – I actually don’t ever remember the teacher having them even overnight. I do remember handing them in at the beginning of class on some occasions and then getting them back at the end.

      As far as my mother goes? Honestly? I don’t think she cared, really. I mean, being a teenager, the personal stuff in there was something she probably felt reflected poorly on her, in which case she didn’t want anyone else to see it. Outward appearances were key for her, and not just in a physical sense.

  8. Pepca says:

    I could just feel all the anxiety and the relief at the end. Good job.

  9. angela says:

    Oh, this is amazingly awful. My mom told me that when she was young, she kept a journal; her brother read it, and she threw them out and never kept one again. However, that didn’t stop her from reading mine and using the things she found in them. I would like to think that I wouldn’t read them if I find them, as a mother. I do know that if I do, I will never, ever marginalize the words I read or twist them to my advantage in any way 😦

    Your writing is very strong, from the thoughts about people at school finding the journal and laughing, to the anger when you hear your mother, to the shame you feel about your words.

    Also, a very crucial detail was your description of your mother’s husband as “her husband” and not “my stepfather.” That small difference really tells so much about the dynamic of the family. I think it’s a perfect example of “showing, not telling!”

    Excellent job!

    • I’m glad you picked up on the wording there near the end. At that point, we definitely were not all Little House on the Prairie and 600 words really limited my options on how to get that across.

      I know there will probably come a point when I am the snooping mother, but, like you said, I would hope that I’d never use what I found as a way to hurt my child. I don’t even understand where the desire to do something that horrible would come from. 😦

  10. MamaTrack says:

    Oh, I’m so sorry for you. How disrespectful. That must have been crushing.

  11. Jack says:

    That is one of the reasons I never kept a journal as a kid. I couldn’t have tolerated any one but me reading it. Kind of funny to me that I blog now.

    • I think it’s different when you choose to let others read it.. a friend of mine and I used to exchange and read one another’s journals and it was an amazing experience.

      As for blogging? For me, what makes it easy is the anonymity. 😉

  12. The ultimate violation of a child’s trust, the reading and mocking of our deepest thoughts. It’s like crushing our wings. I really felt for you..

  13. Renee says:

    You drew me into the search with your words. And my heart sank at finding.
    Not only did she read it herself. She read to someone else.
    I can only sit here shaking my head.

  14. Evonne says:

    Journals are such a personal thing. Having your mother read it was probably more painful than just some kid at school. To read it aloud to who I assume was your step-father is like twisting the knife in your back a little more.

  15. Melanie says:

    Having had several journals while growing up I could relate to your feelings. Having a place where I could put down my deepest thoughts was sacred to me. What your mother did twisted my heart. That’s just horrible. I felt it all thanks to your writing – pretty strong and descriptive.

    I’m glad too that your journal was not lost, and I hope you took it back as soon as you had the chance.

    Nicely done.

  16. Mrs. Jen B says:

    Oh, you poor thing. I don’t know what I would do. That stinging sense of betrayal, and the feeling that at least it was her and not someone at school…ugh, I’m right there with you. Poor, poor thing.

  17. Ilana says:

    Oh, this is devastating. I like the uncertainty at the end— the anger of being betrayed by your mother coupled with the relief of finding out it was still in the confines of your own home. It seems like you felt your mother already had a low opinion of you, so it may have been the easiest person for you to be exposed to.

    A very sad and interesting tale. Makes me want to know if you ever confronted her or got the journal back.

    • Actually, I did confront her later. Told her that I had overheard her reading it even… and she still denied having it. She lied to me a lot.. one of the many reasons she and I don’t speak to one another anymore. =\

  18. Mandyland says:

    I so, so sorry! I can’t even comprehend what your mother was thinking.

  19. Mandyland says:

    Ugh…dang iPhone.

    I’M so sorry. I also didn’t mean to hit “send”. I really need to go back to my computer.

    This post was so full of anger and betrayal and sadness. I could visualize you standing at the base of the stairs, hearing their voices. Great job!

  20. From your comments, it sounds like you’ve dealt with this sort of betrayal before. I am sorry.
    You did capture the fear, the anxiety and the pain very well. You had us all angry at your mother …and you did it all within the word count. I saw how concerned you were about doing that! 🙂

    Not the place, but I’ll share anyway: my mother recently told me that she had read one of my journals from my teen years. She told me something that I have a hard time remembering ever feeling (about my middle brother). The worst part: she told him! Yeah, I’m still ashamed, angry and mortified that she did that.
    I PRAY I never do this to my children.

    • Oh my gosh! Why do people feel it’s their place to tell others those things? Even had she just read it all these years later, why not just give it to you and leave it alone?

      And, yes, 600 was hard to limit this time.. 😉

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