I had a nightmare last night. It was the real kind. The kind that holds onto you even when you wake up to an adorable little girl shoving a mint brownie in your face.

“Breakfast in bed, mommy!” she cries.

I wipe the sleep out of my eyes, but my head is still stuck in that house – with them.

It’s dark. The walls are dark brown. The window shades are drawn. The carpet is old, musty. They are there, and I am stuck there. I can’t get out.

She is yammering at me about what a disappointment I am. I should forgive and forget. How can I hold a grudge this long.

I keep trying to tell her that I have forgiven them – long, long ago. I’ve forgiven them so many times, for so many things. I keep trying to tell her that I’m just tired of forgiving. I’m tired of being hurt, living in this vortex, repeating the patterns over and over again.

I’m done. DONE.

He just stares at me, that look in his eye. I know that look. It’s disappointment. It’s hate. I know what he is. I know him better than she does. Because I can look at him for who he is. I can face him. I can face his disproving and his hatred and I don’t care. She cant. She ignores it.

She yammers, he stares. I stare back.

I’m done.

“I made it myself, mommy!”

I sit up in bed. I can still feel him staring at me. Her words are still echoing in my mind. But I take the brownie in my hand and take the child into my lap and hold them both so tight she giggles.

“You’re going to squish it!”

She smells like home – REAL home.

People ask me where I’m from, where home is. I know they want me to tell them about my childhood, but that’s never been home to me. I grew up homeless, figuratively and actually at times. I made it through high school and I left. I came back on the odd holiday or guilt trip, but eventually, I was done.

“What are we going to do today?”

I pull away from the dream, the musty house, the eyes, the words. I try to answer my daughter. I try to live in the present. I try to focus on the bright white room around me, the warm bed, the sweet little girl who smells so good. The delicious brownie that tastes like heaven in my sticky morning mouth. I focus on the happiness and light around me.

But I know that somewhere out there, they are disappointed. They always will be. I will never be able to make them happy, even if I play along.

At least the only place they can hurt me now is in my dreams.

But if I work hard. If I concentrate hard enough. If I am careful and take my meds and if I watch my every word and move, they can’t even get me there. And I will never be like them. If I work hard enough I won’t inherit their psychosis.  I just have to work hard enough. I just have to watch.

I stare at my daughter and pray – for her, for me, for them.

Lord, please don’t ever let her feel this way about me. Please, Lord. Don’t let me turn out like them.