I never liked my own family—call it dysfunctional if you may. But I still couldn't fathom how my sister would betray me like this, twice, even though I helped her and our father out.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I was born into a better family. You know, with better parents who actually know how to be parents? But you don’t always get what you want in life, isn’t it?
I can’t really blame my mother actually—she ran away from the family when I was just ten, presumably since my father was abusive and manipulative. I still wish she took me and my sister away with her at that time, but then again, it is what it is. Sometimes there’s no use in looking back at things and constantly thinking about “what could’ve been.”
That’s what my therapist kept telling me. Don’t look back on the things you can’t change and think about what could’ve been. Look forward, time is linear, there’s no going back.
But she also said writing it out might help—so here it is, I guess.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family | Source: Shutterstock
As I said, my father was an abusive and manipulative monster—self-centered, arrogant … he only cared about himself and the things that actually concerned him. Sometimes I wonder how come my mother actually married him. That’s something I’d never find out, I guess.
As for my younger sister Cheryl, you can probably understand what kind of person she’d grow up to be under such circumstances. We were close when we were kids—at least before everything happened —but after my mother ran away, it had gotten worse since then.
My father never liked me since I was a kid, but he hated me even more after my mother ran away. Why? I have no idea. He probably thought I was the reason why she ran away—he never thought it was his fault.
Well, he blamed the stripper when he was drunk sometimes, but it takes two to tango, isn’t it? Or that it took two to have a lapdance, in this context.
Anyway. My sister Cheryl.
Cheryl and I used to be close when we were kids | Source: Pexels
Ever since mother left, Cheryl became dad’s favorite, presumably since she was still too young to understand what happened. Since I was too old to be converted into daddy’s little girl at that time, he focused on Cheryl instead.
That’s what I meant when I said things began to go downhill from there—he and Cheryl began to gang up on me, alienating me in the house. It wasn’t pleasant, and to be honest, I don’t really want to go into details about what happened. Let’s just say I wish I had a more functional family.
Cheryl grew up to be a spoiled brat. That’s the thing about my father. He might be an absolute jerk of a person, but he wasn’t stupid. In fact, he made himself a fortune by setting up a trading company. It made sense though since he had every single trait of being a psychopathic CEO.
Chery, being daddy’s little girl of the family, had everything she needed and wanted—and even things she didn’t know she wanted. I can still remember the Gucci bag my father gave her when she was just 12. Can you believe that? A 12-year-old girl holding a Gucci bag?
Needless to say, Cheryl grew up to be a dysfunctional human being.
I remember how I used to smell like fast food every night after work | Source: Pexels
As for myself, I had to work hard for everything that I had. Since I wasn't getting any allowances from my father, I began taking up part-time jobs here and there just to get by. I worked in McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and even handed out leaflets outside Sears at some point. I can still remember how I used to smell like French fries after my shifts. You just cannot get rid of that stench.
In a way, I am thankful for the experience, since all of these things taught me things I needed to know in life. It made me who I am—it taught me how to be resilient and got me through some dark times.
I moved out as soon as I could. I remember I was 18 at the time—it was a long and hot summer, and I packed up my things and went off to California in my old Honda Civic without even saying goodbye. I probably had $400 in my account at the time, but it was liberating. I can still remember the sweet summer breeze of youth and freedom along the Pacific Coast.
I found myself an IT job in California | Source: Pexels
Fast forward 10 years from there, I got my college degree and began working for an IT company. I wouldn’t say I had a great career, but I managed to have a decent life and save some money of my own. To be honest, I wouldn’t stay in IT if not for the money. But hey, we all gotta make a living somehow.
It was then when I received an email from Cheryl. I hadn't spoken to her nor my dad since the day I moved out, not that they cared anyway. They could’ve reached out to me somehow, but they did not. Ten years, not a single message from them.
But surprise surprise, Cheryl actually asked me for help in the email. How things have changed, I thought to myself.
It started with a bunch of formal addresses like “Dear Emma,” “I hope this email finds you well,” and my favorite—“Sincerely yours.”
I received an email from Cheryl while at work one day | Source: Pexels
She was asking me for money since her kid got sick and needed surgery, but her ex-boyfriend ran away with some chicks and left her with nothing. She said she hadn’t been talking to dad for a few years already due to some argument … bla bla bla. That was why she needed my help.
I was hesitant at first, but then I opened the attachment in the email—it was a picture of my nephew. He was adorable.
After looking at that picture, I debated on what I would do—or rather, the right thing for me to do. You see, I might not like my family, but the kid was innocent. He shouldn’t be pulled into the whole family feud that we had.
After a night of turning over and over again in my bed, I decided to wire her the money.
Cheryl didn't respond to my emails after I wired her the money | Source: Pexels
The next month I sent her an email, asking her if everything was alright with the kid—alas, no response.
So I did a bit of research and found out where she lived. Well, as it turned out, she didn’t move far—basically six or seven blocks from where we used to live. I decided to drop by and give her a visit.
It had been more than ten years since I left—but that’s the thing about small American towns … scenery might change, but people don’t. I can still recognize the same shops and people I used to know. Older, but not necessarily wiser.
Then, as if God intervened through some twisted manner, before getting to Cheryl, I bumped into an old classmate of mine who happened to know my family cause you know, small town.
I bumped into John at a gas station—it was truly a strange coincidence | Source: Pexels
John was a classmate of mine back then. His mother and my father were neighbors growing up, so he was kind of a family friend. He was beyond surprised when he saw me at the gas station.
“Hey. Is that you, Emma?” he said as he approached me from his car.
“ …John? God, could barely recognize you there, man,” I said.
“What brought you back here? Haven’t seen you in years,” he continued. “Came here to see your old man?”
I assumed he didn’t know what happened to my family all these years.
“Nah, just wanna check on Cheryl and my nephew,” I said, trying to shrug it off and make it sound as natural as I could.
“Your nephew? I didn’t know Cheryl had a kid,” responded John, with a pair of confused eyes. “That’s strange, I would’ve known since I live across the road from her,” he added.
Now things were getting weird.
John happened to live across the road from Cheryl | Source: Pexels
Out of curiosity, I asked John about my father after a brief explanation that we haven’t been talking for quite a few years.
“Yea, he goes over to Cheryl’s every weekend. His business partner screwed him over, I heard, so he lost quite a bit of money there. He seemed sad for a while but he seems alright now,” he said. “I think Cheryl managed to bail him out or something.”
“His partner screwed him over? When was that?”
“Maybe a month or two ago? I remember seeing him walking around Cheryl’s driveway, calling and cursing at his phone—must’ve been around that time.”
I decided to pay Cheryl a visit. I had to know what happened.
I knocked on Cheryl's door, not entirely sure what I was expecting | Source: Pexels
So, I pulled up in front of Cheryl’s house, rang the doorbell, and she opened the door for me.
From the door I could see my father sitting in the living room, having a glass of wine in his hand—and no, I did not see any kid in the house.
Cheryl was surprised to see me there, as you can guess by now. “Emma? What’re you doing here?” she asked.
“Just trying to check up on my nephew,” I responded.
For a fleeting moment, I could see it in her eyes that she was trying to avoid the topic.
“Oh, a friend of mine is babysitting Anthony now,” she responded. “Do you want to come in? We haven’t seen you in years,” she added.
I was still hesitant at the time—just one step, and I could step inside the house and perhaps deal with all that trauma sown within me years ago. It was so close, that feeling of being able to make things right at last.
But I wasn’t ready. I told them I was a bit under the weather and got back into my car and drove to a nearby motel.
Unable to face Cheryl and my father, I drove to a motel nearby for the night | Source: Pexels
The next day I bumped into John again at a local diner. God certainly works in mysterious ways.
But it was a bit different this time—when he saw me at the diner he simply turned around without saying a single word.
That was strange, I thought to myself. Considering we were on good terms the whole time, there was something odd about it. I decided to walk towards him and asked him what’s up.
“Hey man, sup? Is everything alright?” I asked him when he sat down at his table.
He tried to avoid having eye contact with me, but I just stood there, utterly bewildered by his reaction.
“Hey, I know it’s none of my business, but I think you might need some help,” he said.
Now this just got way more confusing.
“What? Why? I don’t think I understand,” I said.
“Look, I talked to Cheryl last night, about her having a kid—she told me that … well, she told me why you left,” he said meekly.
“What? What did she say?”
“She said you were … imagining things, and they had to send you away to the hospital.”
I bumped into John again in the diner, but I could tell that something was wrong | Source: Pexels
“She doesn’t have a kid and I don’t understand why you said she has. So last night I went over to her place and asked her about it, and she told me what happened,” he said, but then he paused for a moment. “She said you just showed up out of nowhere and started asking about her kid … Look, I don’t want any trouble here.”
That … wretched woman. I don’t know if I can still call her my sister anymore. Did she just throw me under the bus after all I did for her and presumably our father? Am I hallucinating? No, I was pretty sure I was not.
“Wait a second,” I said to John as he was about to leave. I then went through my inbox and showed the email to John. He looked at it and went quiet for a while. But at last, he responded.
“Look, it’s really none of my business, just leave me out of this,” he said, and he simply left the diner without touching his pancakes.
Here I am, back in San Francisco, wondering if I did the right thing | Source: Pexels
So here I am, back in San Francisco at my own apartment. I just drove all the way back here after that interaction with John—Lord knows what other folks in town were talking about right now. Can you imagine that? My very own sister, fabricating a lie so that I could save our father who never cared about me, and then throwing me under the bus and telling the folks that I was crazy? Seriously?
I am not sure how I should feel about it—I admit that writing it down did make me feel better. But still … I couldn’t help but wonder if it would have made a difference if I actually walked into the house and talked to them. Maybe I had a chance to change something? Maybe things wouldn’t end up the way they are now?
I don’t know. I really don’t know.
What can we learn from this story?
Sometimes we just have to let things go. It is what it is, sometimes there's just nothing we can do about it. Let go and start living.
Look forward. We cannot change the past, whatever that is, but we can try and move on, one way or another.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.
If you enjoyed reading this, you might also enjoy this one where a man sheltered a homeless woman and discovered who she really was.
This account is inspired by our reader's story but written by a professional writer. All names have been changed to protect identities and ensure privacy. Share your story with us, maybe it will change someone's life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.