The First Step to Freedom
Morgan’s greatest fear was that she’d turn out just like her mother. A thick mist of fresh shower steam scented with a bouquet of Guerlain perfume hung in the air of the master bath like a bad high school memory. An abandoned Gillette razor and freshly-shaved pubic hair stubble circled the walk-in shower’s drain. Morgan struggled to sling the fifty-foot orange extension cord over the cross beam above the sunken tub, but her third attempt was nothing short of artisan, although she knocked over a large soy-wax blend candle in the process. The remaining length of the orange cable dangled over the beam, and she tied the opposite end around the bathroom faucet across the room. She popped a Percocet from one of her mother’s many pill bottles poorly stashed in a towel drawer under the marble sink. Her iPhone 6 buzzed away on the marble sink as she tied a slipshod noose at the end of the cable hanging from the overhead beam. She figured that, if her rough calculations were correct, her feet would dangle at least two feet from the bottom of the tub. That’s when she heard the front door open.
High heels clacked across the downstairs foyer. “Who is it?” Morgan yelled.
“It’s me. I think I left my curlers on. Why don’t you pick up your phone?”
“I got it—don’t worry!” Morgan’s blood pressure dropped thirty points when she heard her mom’s footsteps stop.
“I’ll be back in a bit. I’m heading to church. Keep an eye on Casey.” Morgan heard the front door slam as her mom dashed back to her black SUV.
For the second time this week, her mother rushed to meet the pastor of the Sermon Hill Baptist Church for some “spiritual counseling,” and it was only Thursday. This “spiritual counseling” was in addition to the Wednesday night and Sunday morning and evening services they had to attend as a family—Morgan, her mom, and Morgan’s little sister, Casey. For Morgan, her mom’s increasing “religious” obsession was embarrassing—to say the least—and the new pastor only made it worse. It doesn’t take gossip long to spread in a small Tennessee community, especially if it’s true. Divorced or single mothers were subject to scorn within this small church-going community, and Morgan’s high school classmates carried that condemnation into the classroom and onto Morgan’s Facebook page. Her mom and the pastor’s relationship was the talk of the town. The pastor, they said—he had a temporary slip from grace—but Morgan’s mother, well, she was simply a temptress—a common whore. Like mother like daughter, they said. Morgan intended to distance herself from the bullying, permanently.
Shaving her pubic hair proved more difficult than she anticipated. The razor wasn’t working very well. Morgan finally picked up her phone and saw she had thirty-five text messages from “friends”—mostly bullying. She ignored the texts and googled “how to shave your pubic hair” to find out how to do it properly. After a scissor trim, a warm washcloth, and some shaving cream, she was clean-shaven—just like her mom. Morgan gathered her pubic hair up and left it piled up in the middle of the tile bathroom floor. She grabbed a Sharpie from the sink drawer and wrote “FUCK” on one thigh and “ME” on the other. Then she drew an arrow after each word pointing towards her freshly-shaved vagina.
Although Morgan had filled out a bit, the purity dress her mom bought her for the church ceremony still fit. She couldn’t reach the back zipper, but that didn’t matter. She slipped the purity ring on her wedding hand and smeared her mother’s bright red lipstick around her lips. The iPhone buzzed away on the sink.
The makeshift noose was almost too far away. Morgan had to teeter on the edge of the tub to get it around her neck. She figured she would have to sort of jump into the noose if she was going to do this properly. She kicked two more candles out of the way and gained some solid footing. She regretted not spraying the front of her hair up into an East-Tennessee poof, but there was no time for that. Morgan took a moment to relish the thought of her mom coming home to find her daughter’s body hanging in her master bath.
Morgan placed the noose just under her chin and jumped towards the center of the tub, pulling the noose firmly around her neck. The extension cord caught the weight of her body and the other end yanked off of the faucet. Morgan crashed into the bottom of the tub, unhurt. She heard someone knocking on the front door. Casey came running up the stairs, yelling.
“Someone’s at the door…what are you doing?” said Casey.
“Nothing! Don’t come in here.”
“The door is knocking!”
“I heard you! Just a minute.” Morgan heard Casey scamper back down the stairs.
“Just a minute! Someone is coming!” yelled Casey through the front door.
Morgan crawled out of the sunken tub and ran out of the master bath when she realized she had lipstick smeared on her face. She ran back into the bathroom, her heart pounding, and washed the lipstick off her face. The knocking grew louder while Casey kept yelling through the door. The commotion sounded like a mild military invasion at a daycare center. Morgan got the lipstick off her face and rustled her hair together and ran down the stairs to the front door—her dress still unzipped in the back. She opened the door.
“Grandma! What are you doing here?”
“Hi, Morgan! Oh, my…you look so nice. Have a date with a boy? Oh look! It’s little Casey!”
“No! I was just—“
“Here, let me help you with your dress. Turn around.” Casey grabbed her grandma’s leg, hugging her tightly while Grandma zipped up Morgan’s dress and spun her around to her face. “I need to borrow twenty-five dollars for the cab.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be in the hospital?” Morgan asked.
“What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” The cab driver started blowing his horn, so Morgan ran back up the stairs to find some money. She grabbed three tens from her purse and ran it outside and paid the cab driver. She looked back at their stately two-story house, and she could see Grandma dancing in circles with Casey in the foyer—her long, flowing gray hair trailing behind her like a faded wedding veil, as the orange extension cord beamed through the upstairs master bath window. Hanging herself was harder than getting Wi-Fi service under metal bleachers at high school football game.
Morgan walked back to the house and let herself in the front door. Casey and Grandma were still spinning around in the foyer. Grandma let go of Casey and gracefully swung towards the Queen Anne high back chair in the corner of the entryway and plopped down.
“I’m bushed!” Grandma said. “Who wants to play hide and seek?”
“I do I do I do!” Casey yelled.
“I have to finish my homework,” Morgan said, as she walked up the stairs.
“Well then, Casey and I will play.” “Casey, you hide and Grandma will come looking.” I’ll give you one minute to hide.” Grandma leaned further back in the chair; Morgan continued up the stairs, and Casey took off running down the hallway towards the kitchen. “Are you sure you don’t want to play, Morgan, for old time’s sake?”
“I’m studying!” Morgan yelled down the stairwell. She didn’t have the heart to tell Casey her Grandmother soon would be found missing from the local mental institution, but she felt no need to report it.
Apparently, the extension cord slipped over the shiny faucet under her weight. Morgan needed something more secure to tie the extension cord to. The 4-poster bed was too far away, and the makeup chair was too light. Morgan thought about getting the ski rope from the boat in the garage, the one her dad lost in the divorce, but that would take too long. Morgan noticed the dress was cutting into her underarms and the skin on her crotch felt like it was on fire. She pushed the “home” button on her iPhone and noticed that she had forty-seven text messages and six phone messages. The bathroom door knob seemed like the perfect place to tie off.
It took several tries to get the noose-end of the cord just right: too much slack and her feet would touch the bottom of the tub; too short and she’d have to jump into it again. After a few tries and adjustments, the length was perfect. She felt proud of herself too—accomplishing something mechanical—like the time she helped her dad work on his Harley.
Morgan kicked her shoes off and stuck her head in the noose. Nothing went through her mind—she was numb to the world. She just turned to make sure the cord on the door knob was secure. That’s when someone started knocking on the front door. She just stood there—the noose around her neck and her crotch on fire—waiting in silence for Grandma to open the door. “Can you get that!?” she yelled. No one answered. Morgan slipped the noose off her head and ran over to the window and saw a patrol car in their driveway. “Shit, they’re here for Grandma,” she thought. She checked herself in the mirror and ran down the stairs to the front door. Grandma and Casey were nowhere around. She opened the door. Two city policemen stood on the front porch steps.
“Is your father home?”
“No, my parents are divorced. It’s just me and my sister…and Grandma.”
“Is your mother’s name Marie Parker?”
“We’re sorry to report that your mother was in a bad accident, and…there’s no easy way to say this…but she’s no longer with us.”
“Okay, I’ll tell my Grandma.”
“Are you gonna be okay?” said one officer.
“I’m fine.” Morgan closed the door as Casey came running through the foyer—Grandma walking behind.
“Who was that dear?” Grandma asked.
Morgan walked up the stairs into the master bath. She walked over to the mirror and plugged in her mom’s curlers. The warm water felt good on her face, as she gently cleaned off her old makeup and put on some fresh. A bit of rue made her youthful cheeks glow, and she carefully applied bright red lipstick on her plump lips. She brushed her long blond hair to remove any tangles. Her California sundress from her closet fit perfectly, showing off her youthful curves. The curlers were starting to getting hot. She was the woman of the house now.