Home > Confessions of a Kleptomaniac

Confessions of a Kleptomaniac
Author: Jessica Sorensen

“I want you to light it on fire,” my mom urges me, urging the matches and lighter fluid toward me. “You should be the one to do this. It was your mistake.”

I tuck my hands behind my back, looking down at my clothes, jewelry, and a few pairs of heels piled on the back lawn just a few feet away. “I can’t.”

“Luna, this isn’t up for debate. You will burn these clothes. They’re too immodest, and you never should’ve worn them. I can’t believe you bought them. Those shorts are way too short, and don’t even get me started on the skirts. They don’t even go to your knees. The rules are no skirts unless they go to your knees, Luna. You know that, so why would you break the rules? What is wrong with you?” She shakes her head when I don’t respond, utterly disgusted with me. “Your father and I taught you to be better than this.” She scans the skinny jeans and black T-shirt I’m wearing. “Maybe we should burn those jeans, too. They look tight.”

“These jeans are fine,” I mutter, wishing I was stronger and could stand up to her for once in my life.

I wish I could say a lot of things to my mother. That her standards are too high. That I don’t think I’ll ever be the perfect, proper, church going daughter they want me to be. That I’m nowhere close to being perfect. That some of the stuff I’ve done . . . It’d probably kill them if they knew everything about me.

Just open your mouth and tell her you don’t want to burn your clothes, that you like the shorts and skirts that are in that pile.

My mouth opens, but no sound leaves me lips. I shake my head, disappointed that, even at eighteen years old, I still feel like a child whenever I’m around either of parents.

“I don’t want any more arguing from you.” She smoothes invisible wrinkles from the turtleneck sweater. It’s eighty degrees outside; she has to be sweating to death. But that’s how she always dresses, afraid to show even an inch of skin. “After what you did last weekend, you’re lucky you’re getting off this easy.”

Easy? Is she kidding me?

Gritting my teeth, I grab the lighter fluid and box of matches from her hand before turning to the pile of clothes. The smell of the lighter fluid makes me gag as I douse my beautiful skirts and shorts that I’ve secretly been wearing over the last year.

I was always so careful never to wear them any place my mom might see me. I would change into the outfits at school or at one of my friends’ houses then make sure to get back into my other clothes before I returned home. But last weekend I was at one of the few parties I’ve managed to make it to when the cops showed up and forced everyone to call their parents. I didn’t have an extra set of clothes with me, so not only did my parents have to come pick me up from a party, but they saw me in the above-the-knee, black dress I had on. It was a side of me they’d never seen before, a side they never wanted to see.

Burning my clothes is my punishment, and my mom also put a tracking app on my phone so she can keep track of my every movement. It’s not the first time she’s done this, and I’m guessing it probably won’t be the last.

“Now the match,” my mom says after I’ve soaked the clothes with lighter fluid.

Tears burn my eyes as I pluck a match out of the box, strike the tip against the side, and then drop it onto the pile. The clothes erupt in flames as I stare down at the scars on my hands, struggling not to cry. Burn scars from when I was younger and our house caught on fire. I can’t remember much about what happened, but sometimes, when I’m dreaming, I see myself in my bedroom, about to be burned alive.

“This is for the best.” Her expression sharpens when she notes I’m staring at my scars. “Luna, get over it. It’s just a fire outside, in the backyard. The house isn’t going to burn down.” She huffs an aggravated breath when I don’t look up and cups my chin, forcing me to meet her gaze. “You’ve been going through a phase where you feel like you need to fit in with everyone else, but fitting in isn’t what’s important. As long as you live under my roof, you will be the person I raised you to be. You will wear the clothes I pick out for you. You will never, ever wear a dress or any outfit like that again.”

I smash my lips together. She doesn’t get it. Changing the way I dress isn’t about fitting in. It’s about being myself.

My parents have always been strict with me. They’re religious and have hardcore beliefs about how people should behave and dress, and I’m expected to live up to those standards. But their beliefs aren’t the only reason they’re so strict. A lot of it has to do with how they were raised. My grandparents on both sides are extremely intense, to the point where it’s scary being around them. They frequently lecture my mom and dad on ways they need to improve not only themselves, but me too. My parents act just like their parents do and have similar rules. There is no cursing allowed, only PG movies are permitted, and Sunday’s are spent at church. I have to wear the clothes my mom picks out; no makeup ever, and no dating, unless she approves of the guy, which were the same rules she had when growing up. My mom’s only ever approved of one guy. He goes to our church and is about as boring as watching paint dry.

I went out on one date with him and was completely miserable. When I came home and told my mom I didn’t want to see him again, she said, “You’re expecting too much. Dating isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be an opportunity to find the person you’ll marry and start a family with. That’s how things worked with your father and me.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I’m only a senior in high school, and marriage and starting a family is the last thing on my mind. What about graduating? And college? Of course, these were things I thought but didn’t dare say aloud. I knew if I did, she’d give me a lecture about how I’m not going away to college, not if they have any part of it. Then would come the punishment, their way of trying to mold my mind to be more like theirs.

Things have been this way for as long as I can remember. I’ve never had control over my life, never had the chance to be my own person. I’ve never had the freedom to explore who I am, what I like, what I want. But what I do know about myself is that I sure as hell don’t want to stay home after I graduate and wait for a future husband my parents approve of to put a ring on my finger and knock me up. I want to finally be able to explore who I am.

The outfits burning on the lawn were a step in the direction of self-discovery, my way to find out what I like. But in the back of my mind when I was wearing each outfit, there was a voice whispering that what I was doing was wrong. I heard it every time I did something rebellious, and the voice sounded like my mother’s.

“You don’t want to turn out like your aunt Ashlynn, do you?” she asks as the fire simmers and hisses.

Whenever I screw up, she always throws Aunt Ashlynn into the mix. She’s what the Harveys consider the bad seed of the family. I haven’t seen her since I was four years old—hardly remember anything about her—yet I feel like I know her since she’s constantly used as an example.

I almost reply yes, that I want to be like Aunt Ashlynn, shunned from the family, free from this lifestyle. But the fear that I might get kicked out stops me. While I want to escape the house eventually, my parents won’t allow me to get a job, because again, it gives me too much control over my own life. So, I have no money of my own, no place to live, no nothing.

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