Today is particularly difficult to me, because my little sister is suffering. Contrary to the belief she's held since we were six and eight and I whipped her with the vaccumn cleaner cord, I don't actually like to see my little sister suffer. It was very difficult to leave her alone in Olympia when my husband, children and I left Washington state in 2008. We followed my parents who had left in 2007. All six of us now live in south eastern Wyoming, while my little sister chose to stay in Olympia. It is hard, because for our whole lives, my sister and I stuck together. When I was bullied in high school, she was one of the only people who ever took the whitness stand and stood up for me with the truth.
Laura is only two years my junior. She is twenty six, she has nearly waist length brown hair, a freckled face, a movie star body, and blue eyes that remind me of a New York September sky… so bright, so beautiful, so blue, and yet so melancholy.
Laura and I grew up under the cherry trees of Olympia’s suburbia. We used to play he-man and she-ra in the yard amongst the dogwoods and dahlias. We had a huge playroom in our attic, filled with toys ranging from Legos to Barbie dolls. Laura was both tomboy and princess she played with the tough guy stuff, like plastic swords and superhero costumes before falling asleep under a pink lace comforter with a teddy bear.
I have never forgotten a particular moment on our back porch when she had one handful of skittles and one handful of potato bugs. The face she made when she wrongly popped ten or twenty potato bugs in her mouth has never been forgotten.
My sister was spunky. She climbed to the tallest points, she ran the fastest, she carried the heaviest loads, she beat every boy in her class at dodge ball and four square, and she did it all in red cowgirl boots. I remember that when she moved out of the family home, all of us were awed as we watched her detach the hundreds of dried roses she’d received from hopeful suitors during high school, which she had hung, one after another, from her ceiling till they covered the whole thing and crowded each other such that it was nearly impossible to discern the posters and paint pinned under them.
When she was 5 a co-worker of my father was so impressed with Laura that she framed an excerpt from a conversation between them and gave it to our family as a gift that still hangs on my parent’s wall, it reads:
“I guess just from my gut.” – Laura Wilson’s reply to “Why are you so smart?”
I include these anecdotes because they are key aspects of who my sister is. My sister is strong, courageous, intense, beautiful, smart and she guesses from her gut.
As a preteen Laura regularly attended a local church (even though she had to go alone because no one else in our family shared that particular aspect of faith with her.) She used to take poster board that was printed blue with clouds on it and write prayers on them that she’d hang on her bedroom walls.
She very much enjoyed a yearly retreat to a local religious horse camp for a week or two. It was ideal for my faithful, animal loving sister. From an early age it was always assumed that Laura would work with animals. She loved horses, dogs, cats, hedgehogs, chickens, cows, sheep, pigs, lizards, birds, bugs, and everything else she came in contact with. Animals felt her love for them and would often find themselves in her care. During middle school she would ride her bike a fair distance to the local animal shelter where she would volunteer until Mom and Dad suggested she quit because they were tired of making the trip to the place to explain why we couldn’t take in any given creature that she wanted to rescue.
In high school, Laura took vet tech classes at the local technical school. When she graduated from high school, Laura’s future seemed ultra-bright. She had good grades, she had family support for college, she had a job, and a car.
Up until then I had much disdain for my goody two shoes little sister and her Backstreet Boys C.d.s . I felt it was almost inhuman of her to not have made more mistakes growing up. She never really smoked, or did drugs, or chased boys, or stayed out late, or broke the rules or even got the cops called on her and after the crazy life I’d had I just couldn’t figure her out. I would almost wish tough times on her so she’s stop being so darned perfect.
Now I wish I hadn’t done that.
From my disadvantaged viewpoint as her older sister, I am not sure what happened. I just know that toward the end of high school she stopped going to church, she stopped wearing pink, she stopped telling anyone who loved her about her life, and she changed her group of friends from yuppie college bound kids to the kids who bummed smokes on the corner downtown instead of going to class. I am certain that this progression must have been gradual and maybe even obvious to others, but for me it was shocking and instantaneous. One day she was my sweet innocent annoying little sister, the next day… well she was still annoying.
I now know that at this time in her life that my sister met and lost her first love, a bad boy that I know little about. I suspect that, as with all of us, losing her first love seriously impacted her ability to judge her second. Within only a few weeks of her graduation, my little sister met a new guy, whom we’ll refer to as Chuck. Chuck and Laura fell instantaneously into a dangerous kind of love that only those who are the outside can see clearly. I was disgusted with this kid. He encouraged her to skip college and just get a job. He would belittle and bully her if she didn’t bring enough money home, he hated to be uncomfortable and was very spoiled, but I knew she loved him so I tried to be nice.
I wish I hadn’t done that.
I wish I had never wasted any effort on that guy and I think my sister does too. It’s been something like 8 or 9 years since Chuck entered our lives. Since then she tried making an impossible relationship work because she loved him. Her love ignored terrible selfishness – like buying her an engagement ring, making her make the payments on it, then taking it away hurtfully on numerous occasions. Her love ignored violence like fists through doors, screaming, name calling and to my estimation – much worse. Her love ignored his refusal to get mental health treatment, his bullying her over money, and even sleeping with her best friend while she was in the hospital.
Although my sister lost many, many, pieces of her spirit to this guy, she never gave up. She never gave up her most powerful aspect of her soul - her ability and willingness to love. For years, my sister and I have fought over this guy. One time we actually ended up fist fighting each other when, in a moment of sheer desperation, I tried to grab her and shake her and make her remember who she was before Chuck came around and we melted into a mess of hurt and anger.
It was been hard to watch her hurt herself for someone else. It has been hard to not be able to offer support for bad ideas when all I want to do is support my little sister. But over time, Laura and Chuck sort of evened out. I almost, almost, chalked the past up to growing pains and considered a new opinion.
This was after my family left Laura behind with him, and moved to Wyoming. From a thousand miles away at least, it seemed that maybe Laura and Chuck had gotten things together because they didn’t seem to fight, or suffer such profound moments of desperation anymore. I suppose one might call that the silence before the storm.
It wasn’t long before Laura called one day upset; she and Chuck had been fighting about money. My little sister was sick, she had a immune disorder and a deadly disease known as MERSA, and she had been unable to work enough hours to equally contribute to their living situation, so Chuck was enraged. He refused to feed the puppy he had gotten Laura for her birthday. This argument culminated in a desperate weekend where somehow Chuck ended up shooting his gun out of a moving car in a neighborhood during some kind of deal in an attempt to make money.
Laura called me and for the first time in many years I recognized her voice. It was strong. It was resolute. She was done. She was done being with a man who was so volatile, and dangerous, and domineering. She didn’t at that time reveal the entirety of her reason, she only told me parts of the story – just enough that I understood that it might be time before she could move on physically as well as emotionally.
Two days later I was shocked and grieved to answer the phone, to the broken Laura. I learned the whole story about Chuck's crime as she hysterically she told me that the police had come and trashed her home searching it and arresting Chuck for the shooting. Although she had done nothing to help him shoot his gun or commit his crime, she helped him pay his price.
She lost her job for being late to work that day. The apartment evicted her for the disturbance, Chuck went to prison for several years, where he was fed and sheltered, but Laura was homeless with their two dogs, and two cats for months and months and months. For the entirety of Chuck’s prison term, Laura stuck by him. She would never really explain to me why she had reversed on her resolve to move on. She was once again secretive and independent. She and her pets somehow subsisted without home, without job, without hope, visiting Chuck in prison regularly, catering to his demanding and abusive family in exchange for rides to see him. She still loved him, she loved her pets, and through that love, Laura survived on nothing but sheer willpower, and the grace of small income here and there through occasional employment.
Last July, while I battled homelessness, my sister was finally able to see past that. She got a job as a vet tech, she got a small apartment of her own, she rescued her belongings from his mother’s home, and she fixed her car. She started to rebuild herself in the form of the woman I always knew she'd become someday.
Then, Chuck got out on work release. He had his phone installed in her house for jail check ins. One night, in mid-July my sister me called again. She whispered quietly, “I’m getting a divorce.” I didn’t hesitate to step out of earshot from the rest of the family in response.
I asked her when they’d gotten married and learned that it was sometime between his arrest and his imprisonment. I asked why he wanted a divorce and found it was because she had accepted financial help from a male high school friend in order to keep her belongings and pets while Chuck was in prison. I asked if she wanted a divorce too. She said yes. So, I did what any sister would do, I told my parents and advised them to find help for her so this guy wouldn’t take her for any further ride. I turned it over to them and my godfather – a lawyer. I thought that that should have been enough to protect Laura. I thought that if Chuck wanted a divorce and Laura was finally willing to walk away, that all they’d have to do was sign those papers and move on.
But I was wrong.
A bully like Chuck doesn’t go away so easy. He served Laura with annulment papers that guaranteed him with nearly every possession that she’d so carefully paid storage fees, and moved, and cared for while he was in prison – including their dog, Brinks. Laura knows that she cannot give up Brinks. For his entire life, she has been his owner. When she and Chuck would fight, Brinks always intervened on Laura’s side. For six years she has given her own food to him, her own chance at a home was lost more than once in favor of keeping him, she’d walk to work so he could see the vet. At night he was the one, not Chuck, who kept her warm and safe, and so she couldn’t sign the annulment, she has to seek a divorce.
Ten days ago Laura lost her beloved vet tech job because she was too sick to maintain employment. She used her last paycheck to buy the dog food and pay rent, and then she had nothing with which to feed herself or see a doctor. I have no idea how she has managed to live and yet she has survived. I suspect that the freedom she has experienced, for the first time since she was a young high school girl, has led her to a better place.
She stopped coughing so badly on Thursday last week. She had several job interviews too. I can only hope that she is able to find employment before next month’s rent is due. On Saturday my sister called me. She was giddy. A boy we’ve known since grade school has returned from war. He has asked Laura to the zoo. Laura, said yes.
I have rarely, if ever, been so happy for my sibling. She was laughing, she was hoping, she was happy – and that made me very happy. Think of this; Laura went from a marriage that she couldn't tell her family about to a fresh start that she could brag about. That is something to celebrate.
But in Laura's life, celebration doesn't last long enough.
Yesterday, Laura called again. Chuck found out about her new friend. Chuck was angry and jealous. Chuck did what Chuck always does; he abused her with his power over her by walking into her home and taking Brinks from her.
Yesterday almost broke Laura.
I think that my sister can survive just about any injustice. I think that she can be broken and remade stronger than before. I think that her future is ultra-bright and hopeful. But I think she needs Brinks. I think Chuck knows it. I know Laura knows it. Something must be done.
I am the big sister. It is my job to make sure my little sister has what she needs. I cannot protect her from Chuck. I cannot guarantee that the neighborhood warrior who is with her at the zoo this moment will not hurt her. I cannot force a judge to return Brinks. I cannot force change or hope into my sister’s life.
I can ask for help in a simpler mission, and that is why I write today. When I was homeless, and hopeless, and at risk of losing my cats, you helped me.
I am asking for help again, this time for my sister. She only needs $250 to file for divorce and properly, legally, seek ownership of Brinks. The other choice is to sign him away to an abuser who has beaten him before. I cannot stand by and let my furry, four legged, nephew be taken by this hateful man. I think that my sister deserves the right to ask for a real divorce, properly adjudicated, and fairly considered.
Brinks deserves a fighting chance and so does Laura. If she signs the free annulment papers Chuck has provided, Brinks and a piece of Laura that can never be replaced are gone forever. If she stands up for herself, and her beloved pet, I think we have a chance at seeing that little girl, with courage and red cowgirl boots again.
I don’t know how to express to you, my desperatation to get my sister back from this terrible abuser, or what rescuing her dog or even giving her the feeling that she can fight for her dog will help. These things are related, and I miss that girl with a whole heart, and unbroken spirit. I miss my little sister.
Please, help me. I want to send her $250 so she can file for divorce. I want to offer her a chance at a fair, just, and immediate fresh start. She is unemployed and alone, and she doesn’t have it. You know my story. I spent every cent you sent me on school clothes and housing as promised. So, what do you say, have we got 10 people with $25 bucks to give my sister the awesome gift of a fighting chance at getting her dog back?
Doesn’t Brinks deserve Laura too?
C’mon folks, let’s rally around one of the most loving and determine women I’ve ever known… my little sister, Laura. To help her and her beloved Brinks I have set up a temporary Pay-Pal account in her name. To donate for her divorce, and maybe if we surpass $250 - her rent, her medicine, her freedom, and her chance at a new life, please use this Pay-Pal button. Thank you for helping me, help her. ~ Sarah