The Evil Queen

Evil Queen

She made me go with her to the mall that day. I didn’t want to go shopping. I didn’t want to go anywhere with her. She acted like my best friend when we were in public, and it made me cringe. I may have only been 11 years old, but I knew she was a big phony and I hated her more than anything.

I never wanted a stepmother. She wasn’t part of the happily ever after I envisioned with the father I barely knew but adored. When he visited my aunt’s house, where I lived after my mom died when I was a toddler, he talked about the home he would buy for us someday. He said we would live there together as a family. He never mentioned a new wife.

When he started dating my stepmother, she and I enjoyed a brief honeymoon phase. She was attractive, fun and vivacious, charming me with shopping trips, movie dates and sleepovers. My aunt and older cousin had concerns. She was too young. She had no children. What did she know about being a mother? But I couldn’t wait to move in with her and my dad after their wedding.

Everything changed once we were living in the same house. It started with her wanting me to call her mom. I couldn’t. I already had two mothers, my real mom and my aunt. She tried to appear understanding, but I felt her resentment. My dad didn’t want any more kids. She was stuck with me and my 21-year-old brother, who was rarely home and wanted nothing to do with her.

As the months passed, the distance between us grew. When my father was around, we managed to be civil. But on the days he worked afternoons, she and I sat silently at the dinner table. Afterward, she shut herself off in their bedroom, leaving me to fend for myself. I escaped to my room, seeking comfort in books or music but feeling as if I had nothing and no one. The longer I lived in that house, the lonelier I became and the more I hated her.

Despite the tension between us, my stepmother showed off a happy mother-daughter relationship whenever other people were around. At the mall that day, while I skimmed racks of neon-colored tops, she engaged in giggly, bubbly chatter with the saleswoman.

“Are you two sisters?” I heard the saleswoman ask.

“No, she’s my daughter,” my stepmother said, laughing and shaking her head with false modesty.

“Oh, you look way too young to be her mom,” the saleswoman fawned. I seethed with anger as I watched my stepmom bask in the compliment.

We walked out of the store together, neither of us speaking. “You’re not my mother,” I said under my breath, as we entered the noisy mall.

“What did you say?” she asked, oozing venom through clenched teeth.

“I said,” speaking louder this time, so she would hear me, “You’re not my mother. I hate you!”

This time her fury trumped any concern about appearances, and she backhanded me across the mouth. I stood there in the middle of the mall, stunned by the taste of blood in my mouth and the sting of her hand on my face. I looked around and saw a few people watching us. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go, so I turned and ran. I knew I was in trouble, I knew running would make it worse, but I didn’t care.

I found the nearest payphone and called my brother for a ride home.

66 thoughts on “The Evil Queen

  1. I’m so sorry you went through this, and I’m all too familiar with my mom’s concern with appearances rather than reality. It sucks. *hugs*

  2. I wish I knew this then- and I was about 10 years older at the time so that I could have at least come over to help you gang up on her. Or at least torture her somehow.

    • Your mom and grandma saw through her from the get-go. I wish I hadn’t been so naive. But, hey, I was only 11. How could I possibly have recognized her for what she really was?

      I am very grateful that I had your mom and grandma and my sister to turn to during those years. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

  3. What an unfortunate relationship. It amazes me that any “adult” would act so selfish. I hope you realize that it was her & not you! I am so glad that you had Thelma to help you through those times. Stories like that make me want to be the best mom that I can be. XXOO

    • Thanks, mama. She was only 28 and had no clue what she was doing. I managed to forgive her…until she started disappointing MY children. That didn’t fly with me. Good riddance to the evil queen.

    • Looooonnnnngggg story…In the end, after my father died, I cut her out of my life completely. That was almost seven years ago. I have never regretted it.

  4. No child should ever, ever have to feel that kind of neglect from anyone. I’m glad for you that you had other, supportive family members to turn to for love and for help, and that you and your dad still had such a wonderful relationship.

    • Thanks, Samantha. I went through a lot of shifting emotions with my father. At times I blamed him for not seeing my stepmother for who she really was. I’m glad we were able to find a way back to each other later in life.

  5. She didn’t have what she needed to love you the way you deserved/needed to be loved. Hopefully you’ve grown to find people who love you well.


    • Thanks, Shannon. I know that now, but little girl me just felt unwanted and unloved. I learned a lot about what I want love to mean through my relationship with her.

  6. Powerful and heartbreaking story. I’m so sorry she was too dumb to love you and I hope she ended up miserable. I’m really mature, right? But I do hope that.

    • Thanks, Louise. I tried on and off for years to make it work with her for my father’s sake, but I could never bring myself to fully trust her. I’m happy and relieved that she is no longer part of my life.

  7. Wow. this is intense and makes me think I am so happy I never had to deal with that. It’s a tough situation. I can’t imagine demanding that someone call me mother, even my own kids. Really. So disrespectful of your experience.

    • She was 28, childless and married to a man almost twice her age. I understood her situation much better once I reached her age and then had kids of my own, although I will never excuse her behavior.

  8. So awful to be trapped with someone like this. I lived with a step-grandmother for a while, who, while never physically abusive, was very controlling. My favorite thing she ever said was, “I have to finish raising you because your mom did such a bad job.” As soon as I moved out I hardly ever spoke with her again.

    • So toxic! Don’t they hear the words coming out of their mouths? I will never understand how people can talk to children that way and not see the damage they are doing.

  9. Wow. Really well told. Even though you were eleven years old at the time, I can still feel that tension, dissapointment, and anger as I read this. I love your work!

  10. Sometimes reading stories about this makes me wonder about how many adults are really capable of being parents, whether biological or otherwise. Your writing captured the angst of your pre-teen self and the tension in the relationship very well. I always enjoy reading pieces by adults looking back at their childhoood – the things we remember, and how we choose to frame our perspective. . . fascinating stuff!

    • Thanks, Jared. Having an 11-year-old daughter in the house makes me think so much about what my life was like at that age compared with hers. And apparently 11-year-old me really needed to vent, even after all these years.

  11. Zam. Kids know where to hit adults exactly right. And I wish I thought the public nature of her inappropriate response drew trouble for her, rather than you!

  12. It makes me sick that you, a child, felt such resentment and neglect. No, not everyone is meant to be a parent. And she should have been the one feeling like she’d be in trouble for striking you. I’m glad you have nothing to do with that horrible excuse for a “parent”.

  13. I’m in shock. I feel so sad and angry for little you. I can’t imagine backhanding a child no matter what he/she said and certainly not for an “I hate you!” You deserved so much better. I hope you’ve found peace with this part of your childhood. This is such a beautifully written and expressed story. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Thank you so much, Mary. I’ve been going back and forth about writing this, let alone publishing it, for weeks. It felt like a betrayal of my father to put it out there. But it felt like an even worse betrayal of myself to keep it inside.

      I have moved on, and I am the best mother I can be. I had a wonderful role model before my stepmother: my aunt who raised me.

    • My dad was old school. My sister and brother got “the belt” as punishment when they were young.

      She only hit me the one time. I like to assume he stood up for me. I guess I’ll never know.

  14. Ding dong to her. At the end of this I was left wanting more! I saw in the comments how everything turned out, but I’m so sorry you had to endure this at such a tender age. Such emotion in your writing. Damn, girl.

    • Thanks, Peach. I was surprised how easy it was to go back and recount the story and exactly how I felt. I thought I had let it go, but I guess part of it will always be with me.

  15. Powerful stuff. I’ve not been in this situation, but you’ve made me feel as if I have. I can feel the sting of that slap and the panic that spurred you to run away. I hope you don’t have to deal with her anymore. Very well done.

  16. Maybe I find the whole step-mom thing easier because I’ve got my own, but I don’t get when step-parents act like this.

    My boyfriends children have done nothing but add to my life. After 4 years they are as tied to my family memories as my own. To so carelessly throw away an opportunity for something special. What a shame.

    • I had a close friend at the time who also had a stepmom and she was a lovely person. She and my friend were very close. Spending time with them showed me what my relationship with my own stepmother could have, should have, been.

      It sounds like you have a wonderful relationship with your boyfriend’s kids. I’m happy for you.

  17. Ugh, what a horrible experience that must have been. It sounds like that was a tough relationship all the way. You captured it so well, though.

    • She never, ever apologized for anything. She never saw herself as in the wrong. We became friendly again later in life, but things fell apart again. I finally just had to walk away.

  18. Oh, K, what another great read. Wish it were fiction! I remember her as a source of trouble for you in your 20s, too. Did you ever talk to your dad about her, in particular that exchange? I can’t help but think he felt guilty for not choosing better. You were so patient with her, so I know you gave it the ol’ college try. You are amazing. Hugs, lady!

    • Thanks, friend. We never got along until D and I got married and had kids. I cut her some slack then, realizing how hard it must have been to be 28 trying to parent an 11-year-old when you have no clue what you are doing. I cut ties with her after my dad died. She disappointed me and my kids one time too many, and I finally had enough.

  19. This makes me sad for you and I relate on some level. I had a nasty step father. It’s a terrible position to be in when you’re a kid, dealing with that. But he never laid a hand on me and I’m so sorry that that happened to you. You did a wonderful job of telling your story.

    • Thank you so much! I’m sorry about your stepfather as well. You’re right: It’s an incredibly difficult position for a child. You feel so lonely and helpless. She never hit me again, which leads me to believe my father must have intervened on my behalf. He always took her side, so I’ll never know for sure.

    • I have friends who have wonderful stepparents. It takes a special person to have that much love and patience in his/her heart.

      I’m sure it’s not easy to deal with as an adult either.

  20. I was thinking more about those who are no longer with us voting. No cheating, just targeted voting. Good luck!

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