Three reasons why I hated my stepmother.
One: Angelina drank beer the way a shipwreck survivor would gulp water. And then she'd get all clingy and weepy. She'd start whining about her childhood, growing up in a trailer home, how her alcoholic father would beat her mother, and all that jazz.
I mean, get a grip!
It's not like you see me going around moaning; I've lost both my parents last year, when my father died, and my mother went to prison for killing him, all at the tender age of fifteen, boo sniffle hoo.
Two: She'd tried playing the role of the grieving widow in public, but she'd had a string of boyfriends before and after my father's death. And yes, she did visit his grave on occasion. She'd wear a black veil and place red roses on his grave, and then she'd head to a good Italian restaurant, black veil and all. And she'd flirt with male diners, the waiter, and the busboys. In fact, the only male she didn't come on to was a gray feral cat that serenaded his orange sweetheart from atop of a garbage can.
Three: She was jealous of me.
You heard right. Yeah, Angelina was beautiful in the standard way, if you like the skeleton look. But when I stood next to her, she looked boring. My waist-long, coal black hair that contrasted sharply with my vampire-pale face turned her short strawberry blond hair into a cliché. My thick, blood-red lips made her thin lips look transparent. My midnight-blue eyes, shining like a cat's eyes, eclipsed her pale blue eyes. I made her look like a doll in a display window.
Hell, she was a doll in a display window. No brain. No personality. All she had was a cold, detached kind of beauty going for her.
This is why she was always trying to get me to wear ugly clothes and to cut my hair short. She can't stand how it shines, how velvety it is. This morning, when I was eating my cereal and milk in the kitchen, she lowered her beer can and announced, "Your hair is messier than a skunk's fur. You better cut it to look organized."
"Impossible." I always said things like 'Impossible' or 'Can't be done' when I didn’t want to do something. I meant it was impossible to make me do something I don’t want to do, so it did make sense. "I like my hair. It's fine like it is."
Angelina got to her feet and stumbled out of the kitchen. I kept spooning up my icy milk. The kitchen stank of beer and rotten fruits and Angelina's sickening sweet perfume. A rectangle of sunlight from the kitchen window turned the milk a creamy color. A drawer clicked in the next room, followed by Angelina's unsteady footsteps. And then she materialized in front of me with scissors in her hand.
"Your hair got more twists and turns than the Niagara Falls," she mumbled as she started toward me. Then she wrapped greedy fingers around a lock of my hair.
I leapt to my feet, grabbed the bowl, and splashed the milk in her face. She screamed and dropped the scissors. They landed on the floor with a clang.
"I'm gonna give you a beating, girl." Angelina wiped her face with the back of her hand. "Teach you how to give respect to elder folks."
She pulled her hand up and tried to slap me. I grabbed her wrist and twisted it, bringing her down to her knees. She tried to knee me in the stomach, and I jumped out of reach, freeing her wrist. She leapt to her feet, pulling herself to her full height, towering over me.
That was the thing about Angelina. She was skimpy dimpy, but she was huge, six feet tall. She had a foot on me. But, as anyone who knows anything about fighting will tell you, size doesn’t matter in a fight. It's all about what you know, your experience, and your killer instincts.
Having a black belt in Krav Maga and being used to hiking for miles in the park for fun, I didn’t even view Angelina as a satisfying challenge. Plus, she was drunk, and she was ancient, a prehistoric creature of about forty something. She must've had a pet dinosaur as a child, maybe rode a mammoth to school.
She threw a punch. I blocked it with one hand, and sent my fist into her face with the other, sending her sliding halfway across the kitchen until her back slammed into the wall. She dragged herself up and went for me again. She was pretty fast for a drunk. She was good, but not even close to my level.
I threw her over my shoulder, and she hit the floor hard. She didn’t get up this time. She just lay on her back, her chest going up and down heavily. I held out my hand to help her get up, but she rolled away, grabbed the edge of the yellow oak table, and hoisted herself up. Then she leaned on the table with both hands, hunched over, gulping air. The fight was gone out of her.
"I'm fixing to call the police on you." Her shrill voice took on that whinny tone I hated so much. She always sounded like a squeaking door when she was upset.
"Go right ahead." I shrugged and went up the stairs to my room. I stuffed my books in my schoolbag and dumped it on my burgundy Formica desk by the white-framed window.
Angelina's voice sounded loud and clear from the living room. "Yes, ma'am, she assaulted me. Yes, I wanna have her thrown in the slammer."
I paced my bedroom, sweat rolling down my back in the suffocating Californian early September heat. Pictures of lions, elephants, and deer in the African jungle that hung on the walls kept flying past.
Ten minutes later, there was sound of wheels on asphalt, car doors slamming, heavy footsteps, and then thuds as palms hit the door and yells, "Open up! Police!"
Of course they had to be melodramatic. I rolled my eyes at the cliché. Couldn’t they just ring the bell like normal people?
I heard Angelina's shuffling footsteps and then a deep male voice boomed, "Good morning, ma'am. We've received a call about an assault."
"Yeah, my stepdaughter attacked me. She's upstairs in her room, walking around like a tiger in a cage."
This was it. I couldn’t let Angelina take over like this. Maybe their routine dictates listening to the caller's version first and talking to me later, but I didn’t give a damn about their lousy routine. Those cops were going to hear my side of it whether they liked it or not.
I marched out of my room and took the stairs down two at a time. Two cops stood in the door, hats in hand. The older cop was short and stocky, with gray hair, a wide face, and faded blue eyes. The younger one was cute. Tall, lean, with curly brown hair and eyebrows so straight, it looked like someone stitched them on using a ruler. His pale lips, so thin they were almost invisible, were pulled in a perpetual smirk. The word 'Hunter' was printed on his nametag.