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Lies and Confession

Story ID:8510
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Oak Park IL USA
Year:1945
Person:Nancy Julien
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By the time I’d climbed the three flights of stairs that led to our apartment, my short legs were wobbly and my stomach felt like a whirling top. My mother was going to be so angry, but there was no way out.

I slipped into the kitchen just as I did every afternoon when I walked home from kindergarten. My mother turned from the stove where she’d been stirring something.

“Where have you been?” Mom shouted.

If I explained that a girl in my class had shown me a shortcut home but I got lost, all would be well. So thinks an almost-six-year-old mind.

“Answer me,” my mother screamed. She was shaking, and before I could say anything, she slapped my cheek.

It was so unlike her. My face stung, but it hurt my feelings even more. She’d scolded me earlier in the day for dawdling on the way home, being late and making her worry. I’d tried so hard to get home on time that day. If only Lois’s directions for the shorter way home had been easier to follow! I’d gone up one street and down another until I finally saw familiar territory. I ran the rest of the way.

In that split second after the ringing slap, I decided to make my mother feel bad about hurting me. The lie formed in my gut, bubbled up and out my mouth between sobs. “You’ll be sorry when you hear what happened. I’m late because a man took me away.”

Mom gasped and put her hand around my upper arms. “Man? What man? Where did he take you? What did he do?” The questions came like the firing of the machines guns in the movies we saw during those WWII years.

Once the first lie emerged, the next one erupted with ease. “He held my hand and we walked to Roosevelt Road.” Mom’s hazel eyes opened wider at hearing that the man had taken me to the street lined with bars and liquor stores.

Now, she wiped the tears from my cheeks and hugged me to her. “Then what?”

“Nothing,” I said. “He brought me back to school and I came straight home. I’m really sorry I’m late, Mommy, but the man made me go with him.”

“What did he look like?” Mom’s voice was so quiet.

“Well,” I said, stalling for time, “he looked a little like Uncle Christie.” My father’s Uncle Christie came to mind as he was old and grizzled, always needing a shave. But he was kind to me.

She had a funny look on her face when she asked me another question. “Did he touch you?”

“He only held my hand.” I wondered why she seemed so upset.

I had to repeat the story to my father when he got home. I kept the same lies going, never changing my story. We ate dinner that night with me chattering as usual, my baby brother banging a spoon on his high chair tray and my parents talking only through looks passed across the kitchen table.

Grade school and junior high years slipped by, and even though I thought about the horrible lies I’d told, I’d reached a point where the guilt proved easier to bear than the thought of confessing. Finally, when I was sixteen, Mom and I were doing dishes one summer evening. We were chatting and laughing as she washed and I dried. Why I suddenly decided to confess that night, I don’t know.

During a lull in the conversation, I said, “Remember the day the man took me up to Roosevelt Road when I was coming home from school?” Even all these years later, my heart beat harder as the memory of my lies surfaced.

My mother stopped scrubbing the potato pan. “How could I ever forget? Your dad and I worried ourselves sick. We didn’t know what to do so we called the police, and they had a police car follow you to school every day for about two weeks. They never found the man, but it was a terrible time.”

I never knew that I’d had a police escort. I nearly swallowed my big confession right then and there, but I went on. “Mom, I made it all up.”

“You what? But why?” Her face turned red and her hands were shaking as she dried them on the tea towel by the sink.

I could barely get the words out. “You hit me before I had time to explain that Lois told me a shortcut to go home but I got lost.” I started to cry and so did Mom.

When we both gained some control, I said, “I didn’t think you’d get so angry ten years after it happened.”

She sank onto a kitchen chair and put her hands on her cheeks. “I barely slept for two weeks. I couldn’t walk to and from school with you every day because your baby brother was sleeping then.”

I’m sure she told my dad that night, but he never said a word to me about the stupidest thing I’d ever done. Stupid or not, I learned that one lie leads to another, and once you’re deep in a pile of lies, the way out might take years.