“Yeah, same with me, Mom.” Jane added, “I just don’t have a good feeling about going to school here. Why did you have to post that video? Don’t you realize it could affect me and Olivia too?”
Brielle paused, laying her fork down, then looked at each of her girls. Bandit whimpered as he lay under the table, waiting for a morsal of food to fall.
“Now, listen. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t understand your fears because I do. I was bullied in Thomasville schools years ago, so- “Brielle began before Jane cut her off.
“Wait! What? You were bullied here?” Jane cried.
“Yes, I was. The Sheriff is one of my former classmates, one of the main ones who bullied me.” Brielle answered calmly.
Brielle Tells her Story
“Oh, that’s great, Mom! Just great!” Jane went on, “It already sucks that we’re the new kids in town and don’t know a soul here who’s our age. But now that you posted that stupid video, they’re going to take it out on us at school because they’re mad at you for exposing that crooked old sheriff for what he tried to do to you! And the fact that they already hated you to begin with makes it worse! Thanks, Mom! Thanks for making me and Olivia targets at school before we even get our foot in the door! Your reputation in this town will meet the teachers and other kids there before we get to meet them! If it hasn’t already! And judging from the stares, the stink-eyes, and the whispers today, it’s a pretty sure bet that it already has!”
“Now, you wait just a minute there, missy!” Grandma Bennett scolded, raising her voice.
“Hold on, Grandma. I got this.” Brielle cut in with a soft voice before giving Jane a stern look.
“Now, Jane, I won’t tolerate any disrespect. You have a right to be frightened and I don’t blame you. But do NOT get disrespectful.” Brielle warned.
“But what if- “Jane began.
“I’m not finished! Now hear me out!” Brielle interrupted, raising her voice.
Jane clammed up.
“I posted that video because what they did to me and Miss Raina at that reunion was wrong. One thing I want to teach you girls is that you don’t have to take abuse from anyone. Not a man, not your classmates, anyone! And if someone is treating you unfairly, you have every right to speak up about it and to defend yourself. And if that doesn’t work, you have a right to expose them! In life there are going to be times when people will be ruthless, and they will feel entitled to mistreat you. And you must never be afraid to stand up to those people, even if it means you must stand alone, even if it means you get pushback for it. You must continue to stand firm and never give up your ground. That’s what I’m trying to teach you girls.” Brielle told them.
Brielle’s Unwillingness to Take Anymore Abuse
“When I was your age, I didn’t have the confidence to stand up to those creeps, and, as a result, I let them steamroll me and it still bothers me today that I cowed down and let them use me as their doormat. You don’t how that feels! To have to look back, knowing that you let yourself down time and time again because you were too chicken to assert your rights not to be mistreated! That you let them get their bluff in on you! And trust me, you don’t ever want to know how that feels! All my life I’ve been treated like garbage and I’m sick and damned tired of it!” Brielle said in a tone of seriousness.
As Jane continued to look at her mother, her eyes softened, and the look of compassion spread across her face. Olivia looked at her mother with compassion as well. The faces of everyone at the table changed as their hearts were pricked. They continued to listen silently.
Brielle Breaks Down
“It’s why I moved to California right after high school and why I took Karate and Tae Kwon Do after I got there and became a blackbelt! And it’s why I took you girls to martial arts school and made sure you both learned how to defend yourselves! And I did all that only to turn around and let your daddy do the same to me! And why did I let him beat up on me and treat me like dirt, even after I was trained in martial arts? It wasn’t because I feared him hurting me, it’s because I loved him so much and couldn’t bear the thought of hurting him! It’s also because I know that if I dared to stand up to him, he would’ve turned it back on me and made me out to be the bad person! Then he would have taken custody of you girls and I probably never would’ve seen you again! But after so many years of being abused, it gets old! You get tired of being a prisoner in your own home and being treated like a slave!” she went on.
The rest of the family listened. Some with tears welling in their eyes.
The Release of Pinned-Up Anger
“You get tired of living your life- your life! On someone else’s terms and not your own! You get tired of being subjugated and made to live up to someone else’s standards! You get tired of having to shape-shift and bend yourself into a damned pretzel to try and fit their version of what’s cool! Or their grandiose and downright twisted view of what a wife, a woman, a person should be! I’m damn near forty fucking years old and I’m tired of other people telling me how I should think, believe, act, live, and be!” Brielle declared, “I’m sick of people thinking they can use me as a punching bag anytime they feel like it! And I’m sick of people using me as a dumping ground for their issues and their insecurities! And it stops yesterday!”
As she continued to speak, her voice rose in anger, then began to break. Tears welled up in her eyes then streamed down her cheeks. Grandma Bennett and Brielle’s mother, Marcelle slowly rose from their chairs as did Jesse, Paul, James, Jerome, and Tim. Grandma Bennett made her way around the table to Brielle, then leaned over and wrapped her arms around her from behind and held her as she broke into sobs. Marcelle knelt beside Brielle and place her arms around her as well.
The Family’s Support for Brielle
“Sweetheart, we love you and we understand your pain.” Grandma Bennett said softly and tenderly, “We’re here for you, Bri. Anytime you need us, we’re here.”
“We love you, baby! And this is what I’ve been trying to teach you all these years, baby. To love yourself as much as we love you. And that means standing to people like Bill and like those brutes that mistreated you in school. We love you, Brielle, and we want you to love you. And we’re so proud of you for leaving Bill and putting your needs and the needs of these girls first.” Marcelle lovingly told her before planting a soft kiss on her cheek.
Jesse then took his turn hugging Brielle.
“I love you, baby sister! And if anybody hurts you, you come to me, and I’ll personally take care of them. You hear me?” He assured her, “You remember when I beat the breaks off that Bobby Crab-apple after he manhandled you when you were in the eleventh grade, right?”
Brielle nodded, wiping away tears.
Lesson for Jane and Olivia
“Well, I can sure use a rematch, I don’t give a fat rat’s ass if he’s hiding behind a sheriff’s badge. That sunvabitch won’t be sheriff forever!” He assured.
“I could always count on you, big brother. There’s never been any question about that,” she verbally recollected.
“You better believe it, honey! And the same goes for Bill if he ever comes here looking for trouble! I’ll make a bitch outta him too!”
“And I’ll help him.” Jerome said as he took his turn hugging Brielle.
After the men and their wives hugged Brielle, Jane and Olivia hugged her as well.
“We love you, Mom! And we won’t let anyone hurt you! We promise!” Jane assured her as she hugged and kissed her mother, “I’m so sorry. Me and Olivia are just scared right now. You understand, don’t you?”
“Yes, baby girl.” Brielle said gently. She rose from her chair and cupped each of her daughter’s faces with each hand.
The Love of Family
“I want to teach you girls that you don’t have to take abuse from anyone. And if it so happens that any of your classmates try to bully you over my posting the video of the altercation at the reunion, you have my permission to defend yourselves. And if they get physical, use your martial arts training. That’s what it’s there for. Don’t let anyone bully you. And when they do, stand up for yourself right when it first starts. Remember what Sensei Delgado taught you- Never let it go on for such a length of time that people get comfortable with mistreating and abusing you. Because once you let them get away with it a few times, it becomes a pattern, and they quickly grow comfortable with bullying you. And once they get comfortable with abusing you, it’s always impossible to stop even if you begin defending yourself. When a person grows comfortable with abusing you, they’ll only become angry and retaliate when you stand up to them. Do you understand what I’m talking about?”
Brielle Doesn’t Want Her Girls to Be Victims
The girls nodded their heads.
“Yes, ma’am.” They both answered.
“I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made. I want you both to command the respect you deserve,” Brielle told them before kissing them each on the head.