Column: Separated by glass

‘I want to scream for my mother, cry out for her.’


Shalinda Thomas

“And I know, know Connor has the same face of despair when he’s told he won’t be seeing his sister again.”


3:45 p.m., Saturday

My hot pink Crocs crunch chunks of glass when I’m 10 feet inside my front door.

Someone’s been here.

And it wasn’t my mother.

I look toward the back door, see the small broken window panel right next to it. See the deadbolt lock broken into a million pieces.

I’m hit with the rush of adrenaline.

I’m so afraid a monster could pop out of nowhere to take me away.

Where’s Connor, my 2-year-old brother? Where’s my mother?

The house is too silent.

I hurry to Connor’s room, forgetting a monster might hurt me. Slam the old cracked wood door open, gasp at the sight.


Used diapers spread out to every corner of the room.

The small toddler-sized bed pushed halfway across the room, pushed away from its bed frame. Soaked toilet paper rolls thrown in random places.

I’d just cleaned the whole house before I went to the park with my friend, cleaned it to make my mother happy.

We lived in a safe neighborhood. There was no way this could’ve been just anyone.

It had to be him.

* * *

3:50 p.m., Saturday

I stand at Connor’s door for what seems like forever until I hear the front door slam.

Till I hear, “Madison?”

Hear her what-happened-here voice. And I know, know she’s seen the only light on is in my brother’s room. And seen the broken window.

I run into my mother’s arms, so scared of what would come next. Only one thing in my mind.

“Momma, when’s Connor going to be here?”

9:30 p.m., Saturday

I wait patiently at the door, wait for the knock which means my brother’s home.

I’d just finished cleaning my brother’s room, hoping no one would discover someone trashed our house. My mother helped me clean up the glass so I wouldn’t cut myself.

It’s getting late, but I stand there waiting – I know someone will bring Connor home soon. I don’t have any doubts.

9:45 p.m., Saturday

Finally, the knock.

Mom rushes to the door. I try to stand on my tippy toes to see over her shoulder, see who’s there.

It’s an older man I’ve never seen before.

I hear rushed words –  “Not coming back.” “Here’s the papers.”

I’m only 10. I don’t understand. Don’t understand what “serving papers” means. The door shuts, and my mom just stands there with an I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening look on her face. I run to her, question her.

But she ignores me, won’t answer me.

Then she cries and cries and cries.

4:30 p.m. – The next day, Sunday

The leather couch is cold. The TV is playing a show my mother and I aren’t paying attention to.

“I need you to go stay at your dad’s so I can get help.”

I can’t process the word help. My mother needs me to clean, change diapers and make dinner. What more does my mother need?

Who would clean and make dinner for her if I’m gone, if I’m staying with my dad?

And I don’t want to leave my brother, even though he isn’t even at the house.

“Where’s my brother?” And I cry, my nose beginning to run. “Everything was fine when he was here and then he never came back.”

My mother begins to cry, reaching out to hold 10-year-old me like a baby.

“I’m sick, honey. Connor can’t come back until I’m healthy,” my mother gently caresses my head.


“Don’t cry sweetie. You’ll come home in a month.”


“Your dad will be here any moment. He said you and Jennifer will go clothes shopping tomorrow.”

But what my mother doesn’t know – my evil stepmother is my greatest nightmare. Simply because I am my father’s daughter. And she always holds a bottle of hatred labeled as ‘Madison’ which she drinks and drinks and drinks.

The knock on the door makes my heart clench. Why couldn’t I have more time with my mother? She’s everything to me. She’s my mother.

My dad walks in, gives me the same sad smile he gave me when Grandpa died, when my dog Gracey ‘ran away,’ when I moved into a room with my stepbrother.

My father grabs my hand, slightly pulls me with a soft grip. I want to scream for my mother, cry out for her. But my father doesn’t like crying. In fact, he hates it.

* * *

Then I’m in his car, looking at the windshield. Emotionless. The picture of the front of the house washed away.

“Daddy, where’s my brother?”

And he tells me.

Tells me Connor’s staying with his dad.

Tells me you won’t see him until your mom receives the help she needs, till she’s off the meth which she’s been addicted to for a few months.

Tells me Connor’s dad is the one who broke into our house, messed up Connor’s room so he couldn’t come back.

Tells me Connor’s dad just wants to win custody over Connor.

Says to me, “I’m sorry, baby girl.”

And I know, know Connor has the same face of despair when he’s told he won’t be seeing his sister again.

For a long time.