ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the February 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from Anonymous on Dreamwdith. It also fills the "sudden threat" square in my 8-1-17 card for the Survival Bingo fest, and the "chocolates" square in my 2-1-17 Romantic card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Cassandra thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains intense material. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features parents stalking a survivor of child abuse, trespassing, emotional shock, confusion, attempted tampering with someone else's property, emotional manipulation, gaslighting, calling for help and getting it, justifiable threats of force including superpowers, intense negative emotions and mixed feelings, reconsideration of legal action, can't adult right now, reference to intrusive fear, and other angst. This may cause stress for survivors of abusive parents and/or stalking. However, Cassandra has awesome friends who are not putting up with any shit from her parents, and who provide excellent backup to solve the problems. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Even If You Stumble a Little"


When Cassandra went to answer
the knock at the door, she expected
it to be one of the neighbors.

It was her parents.

As she stood there
frozen in shock, they
pushed their way past her.

"Cassandra, who are these people,
and why are they barging in here without
an invitation?" Groundhog said.
"Do you know them?"

"They're, um, these are
my parents," Cassandra said.

"I see," Groundhog said, his voice cooling.
He clasped his hands behind his back.

Cassandra's stomach clenched because
now she'd pissed him off by bringing them
here to cause who-knew-what trouble.

Cassandra's mother frowned at
the compass rose rug lying at an angle
against the smooth hardwood boards.
She toed the edge, trying to straighten it.

"Mom! Stop that," Cassandra hissed.

"It's crooked," her mother said,
kicking at the rug again.

"The compass rose belongs in
that position," Groundhog said firmly.
"Quit trying to tamper with it."

They ignored him, of course,
just like they ignored everyone
telling them things that they
didn't want to hear.

Cassandra's fingernails
dug into her palms. "What
do you want?" she said.

"We wanted to see you,
of course," said her mother.

"We have been receiving
some rather threatening messages
from the school and Family Services,"
her father said. "We thought it best
to come here and clear that up. I'm
sure as soon as you speak to them,
this will all be taken care of."

Cassandra couldn't speak.
She couldn't even get up enough
spit to swallow. All she could
do was shake her head.

"I don't think that's happening,"
Groundhog said. "You need
to leave this place. Now."

"Cassandra, honey, why on earth
would you want to visit someone
so rude?" her mother said.

Cassandra wasn't visiting,
she lived here, but she didn't
want her parents to know that
if they didn't already.

Another knock sounded,
immediately followed by,
"Neighborly Safeguard,
Highliner speaking. What
seems to be the problem?"

Groundhog opened the door
and said, "Cassandra's parents
hunted her down to harass her, and
they won't leave. Get rid of them."

Cassandra wanted to run for it,
but her parents stood between
her and the escape route.

"Time to go," Highliner said to
her parents, stepping toward them.

Cassandra's father frowned at him.
"You're not the police," he said.
"You have no authority."

"Neighborly Safeguard is
a volunteer security program
for this apartment building,"
Highliner said. "That gives
me the authority to remove
anyone bothering a resident."

"I'm not going anywhere with you,"
Cassandra's mother said,
crossing her arms.

"Ma'am, you can walk out
that door, or I can carry you
out that window," Highliner said.

Cassandra's mother gasped
and backed away from him.

"Let's get out of here now,"
Groundhog said to Cassandra,
urging her toward the door.

She tripped over the threshold, but
he caught her before she could fall.

"Never forget that walking away
from something unhealthy is brave,
even if you stumble a little on your way
out the door," Groundhog said.

"I hate them," Cassandra said as
soon as she got her breath back. "I
wish I never had to see them again!"

"Are you reconsidering the idea
of getting a restraining order and
pressing charges for maltreatment?"
Groundhog asked Cassandra.

"Yes," she said. "It's one thing
when they were far away and
not bothering me. But they
came here and I just --"
She waved her hands.

"They crossed a line," he said,
nodding. "We'll deal with it."

"It's lucky that Highliner came
when he did," Cassandra said.

"That wasn't luck," Groundhog said.
"I used the panic function on my phone.
When I'm at home, I set the default
to call the Neighborly Safeguard."

"Oh," Cassandra said. "That's good."

The two of them went downstairs
to the contemplation room, where
Cassandra sat down on a cushion
and stared at the row of candles.

The softly glowing fountain
made a tranquil burble.

"I need to take care of some things,"
Groundhog said. "I'll be right here
in the back if you need me."

"Okay," Cassandra said.

Groundhog stepped through
the sound-resistant curtains,
then closed them behind him.

Cassandra could hear him
murmuring into his phone, but
she couldn't make out the words.

She just concentrated on breathing
and not freaking out completely.

The contemplation room
worked its familiar magic.

Soon her heart slowed,
her stomach unclenched,
and she felt a little better.

Groundhog stepped back
into the front part of the room.
"Okay, I've started a few balls
rolling for you," he said. "You can
follow through when you're ready."

"What did you do?" she asked.

"First, I put your parents on
the No Admittance list, so even if
they come back, they can't get
in here again," said Groundhog.
"Second, I called the police and
told the Special Victims Unit you
want to talk about a restraining order
and pressing charges against them."

"Wow," said Cassandra. "That's a lot.
I know that I should be doing this for
myself, but I just ... can't adult right now."

"That's okay," Groundhog said. "It's
hard to deal with abusers, they
make your brain freeze up."

"Yeah," she said. "That's how I feel."

"Then it's a good thing that
I brought this," Groundhog said.

He pulled a tin from his pocket
which read Chocolate Emergency Kit.
Popping it open, he took out two squares
of clinical-grade chocolate. He handed one
to Cassandra and kept the other himself.

"Here," he said. "Chocolate can't fix
everything, but sometimes it can lift
your mood enough for you to deal
with the difficult things again."

"Thanks," Cassandra said.

She nibbled the chocolate slowly,
savoring the rich dark flavor. It made
the world seem slightly less horrible.

Then she started to giggle,
and couldn't seem to stop.

"What's so funny?" Groundhog said.

"My mother," Cassandra gasped.
"I keep imagining Highliner actually
carrying her out the window --"

"You know he wouldn't really
do that," Groundhog said. "He
understands how important it is
for me to keep my windows closed."

"Yes, but it would serve her right,"
Cassandra said. "She's afraid of heights!"

Groundhog threw back his head
and roared with laughter.

* * *

Notes:

Bernadette Vogler -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and dark hair to her shoulders. She is the wife of Garrick and mother of Cassandra. Bernadette works for a prestigious public relations firm, where she uses her ability to spin anything for managing the more difficult accounts. She takes pride in her work, and through it she has come to know most of the important people in her area. However, she habitually fakes everything, and this insincerity makes insightful people distrust her. It also makes her doubt herself. Bernadette is afraid of heights, too, but that doesn't come up as often.
The family belongs to the Evangelical Methodist Church. When Cassandra's superpower manifested, her parents first put her into suppression therapy, which spurred several unsuccessful attempts to run away. Later they found a clipper to remove her Flight ability. That loss has left Cassandra with chronic pain, and a deeply conflicted identity crisis over whether she is still "really" a soup with her power crippled.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Spin Anything, Good (+2) Important Friends, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Toothpaste Smile
Poor (-2) Insincere

Garrick Vogler -- He has fair skin and hazel eyes of gray-green with a brown center. His short dark hair is going gray and also thinning. He is the husband of Bernadette Vogler and father of Cassandra. Garrick runs a lucrative corporation that brokers developments and other deals. He is physically fit because he goes to the gym, but he has a bad habit of using it as an excuse not to deal with family disputes or other problems. He doesn't like conflict at work, either, and routinely fobs it off on his subordinates. His ability to wrangle deals has made him quite popular, but it's based on manipulating people without them catching on how much of a fake he is. Garrick likes to talk up his "perfect family" but it's all a sham. He is secretly unhappy and terrified people will find out.
The family belongs to the Evangelical Methodist Church. When Cassandra's superpower manifested, her parents first put her into suppression therapy, which spurred several unsuccessful attempts to run away. Later they found a clipper to remove her Flight ability. That loss has left Cassandra with chronic pain, and a deeply conflicted identity crisis over whether she is still "really" a soup with her power crippled.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Executive, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Physically Fit, Good (+2) Popular
Poor (-2) Conflict Avoidant

* * *

"Never forget that walking away from something unhealthy is brave even if you stumble a little on your way out the door."
-- Quotes on Abuse and poster

Groundhog's compass rose rug is backed with an adhesive for security as a landing pad for teleporters. The rug can be peeled up for cleaning, but cannot be kicked loose.

A variety of panic button and other personal safety apps exist in local-America for smartphones. In Terramagne-America, apps are typically customizable using modular code, which is rare here but just starting to appear. This makes it possible to do things like create a silent alarm if the phone is shaken (which is how Groundhog triggered it) or set adaptive defaults that change based on your location.

L-America has a few variations of block watch or neighborhood watch programs adapted for apartment buildings. As with party monitors, the T-American approach is broader and more positive. Neighborly Safeguard is a volunteer group of people who practice active neighboring. These are the folks to call when you want to borrow a cup of sugar, your cat gets out, you need mail pickup, help watering plants over vacation, etc. as well as actual security issues like ousting unwelcome visitors which is one of their most common tasks. By creating a volunteer organization for active neighboring, that reduces the tendency of callers to feel like they're "bothering" someone, because these folks like to help out; it largely prevents disturbing people who aren't into that kind of interaction right now; and it encourages a favorable impression of the Neighborly Safeguard instead of a negative one that L-American neighborhood watch programs often have. Here are some tips on how to start an apartment watch program and what to do with it.

Stalking is a crime in which a pursurer hounds an unwilling target.  While usually thought of in sexual terms, it also causes problems when parents stalk their adult children.  Estranged parents do not understand this as stalking, because they are focused on themselves, not their children.  L-American laws against stalking are haphazard and not always useful, plus they are rarely enforced.  Penalties vary widely.  T-American law recognizes location as protected information, because it can be used to harm people. So their stalking laws are stronger and better enforced.  In particular, stalking works a lot like sexual harassment: as soon as the target indicates that contact is unwelcome, further pursuit constitutes stalking.  Here are some tips for getting rid of a stalker.

Although the general impression is that child abuse only affects minors, many abusive parents continue to harm their adult children.  L-American law is a sloppy mess when it comes to severing legal ties with toxic parents; much of the material is simply ignored, no matter what people do to document their wishes.  T-American law is much more serious about enforcing a person's choices, so long as those are legally valid and appropriately documented.  For instance, telling Cassandra's parents they aren't welcome in the Skylark Apartment Building and putting them on the No Admittance list is enough to constitute trespassing if they try to come back.  Among the best ways to deal with abusive parents is to cut ties with them.

The Contemplation Room serves as a combination meditation, prayer, and quiet room. Decorated with cool, soothing colors and abstract art, it is suitable for a wide range of relaxing activities. It contains small tables and benches, cushions, mats, candles, and a desktop fountain. A bookcase holds resources for interfaith, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim traditions; the most popular titles occupy the top shelf. Sound-resistant curtains such as these Eclipse curtains in lime and turquoise screen the back area, which includes a glide rocker.

Groundhog's Chocolate Emergency Kit is small enough to fit in a pocket but large enough to hold several squares of clinical-grade chocolate. This page offers printable labels for emergency chocolate, useful for distinguishing the expensive stuff from the snacking grade.

I was delighted to discover that someone in L-America is actually producing clinical-grade chocolate! Check out Nibmor Extreme Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs in the original bars or daily dose squares. They have some other flavors too. Check out the health benefits of chocolate. What makes chocolate clinical grade? Darker is better, because it has more of the active ingredients; but semisweet or milk chocolate is okay if that's all someone will eat. Look for non-GMO and organic chocolate made with top-quality components and sustainable practices.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-27 01:22 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lone_cat
How did they find her? And how much trouble are they looking at?

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-02-27 09:22 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Humiliation is good. Being left alone is better, and one of the best ways to accomplish that is to have her parents serving a good long jail sentence. Plus, that adds another layer to the humiliation -- which of their neighbors would ever want to associate with JAILBIRDS?

Of course, it's still true that the only way to be completely rid of a stalker is for the stalker to die, so those jail sentences should be made with that in mind.

BTW, thanks for the link on why stalker parents don't think of what they do as stalking. I passed it along to someone I know who has just recently had to file a restraining order against her father. With a content warning, so she can brace herself before reading it!

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-05 04:33 pm (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
An interesting thing: the certainty of punishment matters far more than the severity. If there's zero chance that you'll escape 30 days in jail for shoving someone away, hard enough to take them off their feet (a pretty dangerous assault, but one clearly not intended to cause immediate, direct damage) then anyone who can be deterred by legal penalties isn't likely to do it. Making it a year, but with a great deal of uncertainty of whether it will happen, will make it less likely to deter.

Washington state found this out by greatly reducing jail time for parole violations, which also made sure there was always space to send someone to jail for the weekend. So before, you might draw 30 days for a parole violation, but you weren't likely to receive it because there was no space. Later, you might draw a weekend - but if you broke parole, you were virtually certain to spend the weekend in jail. And, parole violations dropped.

So "a long sentence" might not be all *that* long.

Also, in cases like this, I sometimes wonder if a shorter sentence might cause more people to be willing to ask for it in situations like this. If Cassandra feared her parents would draw a years-long jail sentence, she might feel unable to do that to them but if she knew it would be a month, or two months, or six months, or two years, but only on weekends, it might not seem too terrible.

ker-plunk

Date: 2017-02-27 02:31 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
goes the brick square against their pathetic, tiny little brains!

\0/ GO CASSANDRA!!!!!

The Voglers

Date: 2017-02-27 03:35 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
and the Bradstreets should NEVER meet. They'd hate each other on sight, declare the other heretical and shallow and fake...

Which is what would make HAVING them meet so much fun!

I think this was about the MOST Cassandra could have done, actively, to defend herself at this point. I hope that she'll be better after her parents' conviction.

Re: The Voglers

Date: 2017-02-27 05:39 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I think that'll do a lot of good to have validation for Cassandra's view of the situation as abuse.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-27 05:47 am (UTC)
thnidu: Seven-branched Temple menorah, symbolic of all Judaism, not the 9-branched Chanukah menorah. bethelcongregation.org (menorah)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Wow. Bravo for Groundhog & Highliner, and Cassandra for finding the strength to tell Groundhog what she does, once out of her parents' oppressive presence.

That Contemplation Room is a good thing. The description and photo strongly remind me of the interfaith chapel at HUP (as everyone around here calls the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania). I spent a lot of time at HUP when my wife was ill, and that chapel was a help to me: sometimes to pray, often to sit quietly and meditate, for my emotional balance. And now that I'm getting regular treatments there myself for a skin condition, I often stop in there for the same reason. -- On Friday afternoon a group of, I think, hospital employees were worshipping at the mihrab (the indicator of the direction to Mecca and the Kaaba), and someone sitting near the cross on the wall seemed to be reading a Bible. If I had been praying formally instead of meditating I might have gone to the plaque of the Ten Commandments.
I like that chapel.

Edited Date: 2017-02-27 05:49 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-27 12:19 pm (UTC)
sweet_sparrow: Picture of two cats lying back-to-back with two black spots connecting to make a heart. (E: Heart)
From: [personal profile] sweet_sparrow
Go, Cassandra! Yay for Groundhog and Highliner!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-27 02:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you for this, which was helpful to me to read.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-27 05:56 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman (from livejournal.com)
Interesting that their dark chocolate even though certified vegan is still kosher-dairy, most likely b/c they process milk chocolate on the same equipment without kashering it between runs...

I nicked me a small case of the chocolate cherry ones.

If it's any good I may have to get the Duchess some of the Daily Dose stuff... she loves dark dark darkity dark, the darker the better; mum gave her a bar of 82% Ghiradelli for Hanukkah and you should have SEEN the dreamy look... me, I top out at 72%, so... (At least for entertainment. And frankly part of the point of clinical grade chocolate in that situation is that it be a pleasant experience *too*... )

Sort of funny and sort of pathetic, Cassandra's mum is acrophobic... *sigh* My mum's claustrophobia never had her keeping *me* from flying through clouds... but then evangelicals have a tendency to be dysfunctional in other ways. Tends to happen when one's religion gets codependent on one. I'm usually much more a fan of getting up off my knees and *doing* something about it...

Thoughts

Date: 2017-02-27 06:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Interesting that their dark chocolate even though certified vegan is still kosher-dairy, most likely b/c they process milk chocolate on the same equipment without kashering it between runs... <<

That could be it. Another possibility is simply to indicate its interaction with other kosher things. I mean, there are kosher soap flakes so people know what it's safe to wash the dishes in.

>> I nicked me a small case of the chocolate cherry ones. <<

Yay! I have not seen this brand personally. Let me know how good it is?

>> If it's any good I may have to get the Duchess some of the Daily Dose stuff... she loves dark dark darkity dark, the darker the better; <<

That sounds promising. :D

>> mum gave her a bar of 82% Ghiradelli for Hanukkah and you should have SEEN the dreamy look... me, I top out at 72%, so... <<

The darkest we've found was 91% and it was disappointing; tasted like black wax. :P But I have found a few dark chocolates worth eating. [livejournal.com profile] my_partner_doug prefers dark to milk.

>> (At least for entertainment. And frankly part of the point of clinical grade chocolate in that situation is that it be a pleasant experience *too*... ) <<

Agreed, and that's why Heron experimented with various flavors of chocolate for Mallory, to find things she could not only eat but also enjoy.

>> Sort of funny and sort of pathetic, Cassandra's mum is acrophobic... *sigh* <<

That's what I was aiming for. [personal profile] dialecticdreamer pointed out that this is likely part of the reason why Cassandra's parents wanted her cut. I didn't even notice the mother's acrophobia until it popped up in this poem. Sure, part of it is because they're bigoted control freaks, but Flight has to be extra scary, especially in a household devoid of trust.

>> My mum's claustrophobia never had her keeping *me* from flying through clouds... <<

That's good.

>> but then evangelicals have a tendency to be dysfunctional in other ways. Tends to happen when one's religion gets codependent on one. <<

Yyyyyeah. Codependent is a real good term for that. It's no accident that Cassandra's parents are evangelicals; that branch of Christianity has poor boundaries and is muchly about telling other people what to do. They're down on gays. It stands to reason that they're down on soups too.

As opposed to the very nice Catholic church I was just in that actually hung up an "All Are Welcome" sign. I think that's the first time I've seen one on a Christian church.

>> I'm usually much more a fan of getting up off my knees and *doing* something about it... <<

Agreed. Most of my deities are into followers primarily for having small hands to help with the work.

RE: Thoughts

Date: 2017-02-27 11:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
One of the churches near campus has a rainbow flag in the window. Under that is a bumper sticker that says, "The Methodist Church welcomes you." Under *that* is a handwritten note reading, "So do the Lutherans, but we don't have stickers."

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-02-27 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
*laugh* That's really cute.

I've seen a variety of open-minded signs on churches, usually in concert with queer symbolism. Actually putting out the "All Are Welcome" version is rarer. Based on the handful of samples I've seen, there are a couple of clusters: churches that have it as a tenet (like the Baha'i faith) and pastors who have chaplain or other interfaith training so they actually know how to handle guests of different traditions.

Huh, in practical terms, I've done much the same. It's not advertised, but when we've had guests who wanted to attend ritual with a significant other or whatever, I've been happy to accommodate that. All we ask is that they be Pagan-friendly, and anyone who wants to see a ritual has to be in the circle for safety's sake. One of our more charming Yule rituals happened a year when we had several non-Pagan folks wanting to attend, so I just looked at the intersections and used motifs that appeared in all the represented religions. Candles. Incense. That sort of thing. Everyone had a ball.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-03 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] johnpalmer.livejournal.com
Yeah, super dark chocolate doesn't have enough cocoa butter to hold it together so they have to find a way to make it a bar.

Interestingly, (at last mass-market) chocolate manufacturers are desperate to get things labelled chocolate that substitute some of the cocoa butter with other stuff because cocoa butter is valuable for skin and beauty products. I heard the comments regarding the regulation that would allow that *exploded* once word hit the internet.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-03 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Interestingly, (at last mass-market) chocolate manufacturers are desperate to get things labelled chocolate that substitute some of the cocoa butter with other stuff <<

That sucks. People who want to do that don't care about the product, they just want to cheat people so they can pocket the profit and walk away. These are the guys that used to cut flour with chalk or sawdust. >_

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-01 05:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kelly scanlon (from livejournal.com)
I couldn't help but giggle at that ending. As always, the author notes are useful as heck, and I hopped right over the clinical chocolate site. Thanks. -kellyc

You're welcome!

Date: 2017-03-01 06:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I couldn't help but giggle at that ending. <<

Yay!

>> As always, the author notes are useful as heck, <<

I'm glad I could help.

>> and I hopped right over the clinical chocolate site. Thanks. -kellyc <<

:D I think I've already sold several of those. I'll definitely keep an eye out for some to try myself.

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