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Beth's story...

I was born in Lubbock, Texas, the fourth child of a middle-class family and the only girl. Our family was long on love and short on money. Nothing much happened to me during my growing up years as I was rather quiet.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the company of others. I did. It's more that I had little to say to most I knew.

Then he came along.

Isn't that always the way it is with us girls. Some guy strolls into our lives and we begin writing our name with their last name attached to it and Mrs. in front of it, and the next thing you know we come up with a way to make what we are creating in our minds become real in our lives. That was a long way of saying the chase was on, and I let him chase me until I caught him. You all know the story.

We married, but we were too young and mostly unmotivated to do the things required of adults. Like work. And of course, I've never known what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I just never did. Grow up that is.

The marriage didn't work to no one's surprise. By that time I had additional baggage. A son.

Actually, this is such a common story, I'm not sure why I'm burdening you with it except sometimes common stories come to uncommon ends. Maybe it's the end that seems to necessitate the telling of the rest.

Maybe not. Only you can judge, and if you'd rather watch some mindless prattle on TV, feel free to do so. Maybe you'd like to ease back with a nice cool one, and I'd be the last one to stop someone from doing that. Actually, I preferred pot, but then that was the thing to prefer when I was growing up in the 1970s.

I understand tuning out. Believe me. I tuned out myself sometime around 1970. And I didn't tune back into my life until it was too late. No doubt about it. I drifted around the fringes of my life one day too long.

So do what you want. You will anyway. I did. At least, I though I did. It seemed that way at the time. I mean, that I was doing what I wanted. Now it appears that I was moving from day to day without much thought and somehow making poor decisions alone the way, which would cost me more than I was willing to pay. But I'm not sure.

I'm sure you've guessed by now. I'm wishy washy. I've always had a hard time knowing which decisions to stick with and which ones to walk away from. I'm just trying to be as honest as I can.

After all, I have no reason to lie now. I have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. I simply have nothing.

So I marry this prince, and he turns out to be a frog. We have a lovely son, whom I can't support financially. So I send him to live with my mom, who lives in a town with less than 300 folks. I move in with my brother and his wife until I can get on my feet. She teaches school by day-seventh grade-and is heavy into making Christmas ornaments at the time, and it isn't even close to the holiday. Now I am not a creative person and yet before I know it, I'm making this silly decorations, then I graduate to making Christmas gifts. All the while, she's encouraging me to get an education, do some positives with my life. I'm listening and not listening. Before I forget to tell you this. I'm really close with this brother, even though we are eight years apart in age. And I love his wife. She's like the big sister I never had.

Still, I quit my job and move to my mom's so I can care for my son. Now one would think that was the correct thing to do. I mean, I'm trying to be a responsible parent. And maybe it was. I knew I didn't have the driving desire to do anything much.

Then he came along.

This time I've gotten smart. I'm not writing my name with his on anything anywhere. We just live together. And it works for a number of years. He's good to my son, who knows him better than he knows his dad. Then time seems to wear our relationship thin. Something's missing. Neither of us is sure what, but the sparkle is gone. He's gone a lot, and I'm bored a lot. I've had the same job for as long as I've known him. And he's jealous. We wear each other out and go our separate ways.

I've hardly have time to breathe, to stretch my wings and see who I am when he came along.

Oh! This one is a charmer.

He makes a girl feel like she's everything. And money is no problem. He has plenty. Sure, he's a little older-15 years. But, he really knows how to make a girl feel protected and safe and well-cared for. He steals my heart before I had a chance to even know what is happening.

Then he changes. Not all the time but some of the time. And only when he drank. Booze made him crazy.

I am afraid of him, but not all the time. Only when he drinks. Then, I had to call the police the night he tried to choke my son, who is now 15. Maybe I didn't tell you. Family means everything to me. I love my family, above all things. I swear we are through. He calls and calls and calls, and I won't agree to see him. I'm afraid, you see. Afraid I'll never be able to say no to him in person. And he scares me. Not all the time, but some of the time. Did I already say that? You know what I mean. I have trouble living with him and trouble living without him.

I have no one to talk things over with, no one who is not personally involved. I can't talk with my brothers. They don't like him anyway. They think he is too old for me, that he's crazy when he drinks, and that I need to stay away from him. And I sure don't want to worry my mom, so I don't tell her I'm afraid of him. Only sometimes, mind you.

Now, he's gone to some kind of treatment for his problem with alcohol. And he sounds so contrite over the phone I agree to see him. We decide to spend a trial period of time together, so he moves in with me. And things are just like I knew they could be. It seems we've found the magic formula, so a month later I agreed to move back into his house. My son refuses. He doesn't trust the guy. I guess he can still feel his hands arond his neck. So he goes to stay with his father. I thought he should have given him another chance. I tried to convince him, but I couldn't.

Thank God.

Tonight, he comes home from drinking, and I am scared all over again. He is picking a fight with me over nothing, and I know in a moment of clarity that nothing has changed. When we made up after fighting, I always imagined next time would be different. Somehow, I would get it right this time, and everything would work out wonderful.

It was as if I had been viewing my life through some kind of thin-layered gauze bandage I didn't know was there, and and it was suddenly removed. I could see as I had never seen and hear as I had never heard. You know how distracting it can be when the radio is on and it's not quite on the dial and the static comes through with the songs? The static is gone. I tune back into my life. After all those years of taking life for granted, I discover I wanted a life.

It's too late. The first bullet hits me in the chest and the second one removes part of my face-my right eye and the right side of my nose to be exact.

And you know, I've always been afraid of guns even after having grown up in a family of hunters. I never held one in my life, and now I never will.

But I wasn't afraid of alcohol. After all, I drank myself. Not often and not much, but I drank. And, of course, I still smoked pot when it suited me.

But I had been doing neither of those things tonight. Of course, that didn't matter.

He had.

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