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Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country (Chapter 8: What She Broke)

AMONG THE TRIBAL MEMBERS TEX Hall appointed to the drug task force was Irene Yellow Bird, on account of her expertise in addiction treatment. Irene did not mention this to Lissa, who found out one day in March 2013, when she visited her mother in Minot. Irene lived in a small, carpeted house with a bedroom, a living room, and an eat-in kitchen. She had lived alone for some time now. In the years before Wayne’s death, they had divorced, and then he had moved back in, and then they had split up again. He was “running around with a Puerto Rican girl,” as Irene put it, and living with the woman when he died. Irene had received the news of his death while at a doctor’s appointment for an oncological exam, and when her doctor tried to leave the room, the door had stuck. “Your dad was visiting,” she later texted her stepson. “He wouldn’t let me and the doctor out of that room. I suppose he’s being jealous again.”

Her living room was furnished with a love seat, a television, a recliner where she often slept, and an expansive library containing books on all aspects of social work—chemical dependency, diabetes, family violence, child welfare—as well as on grant writing, Indigenous spirituality, and pedagogical theory. Beside two volumes of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders were books by Vine Deloria, Jr., a Lakota writer and historian, and Wilma Mankiller, the first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. There were cookbooks, self-help manuals, and a biography of Mother Teresa, and memoirs by famous American Indian Movement activists like Dennis Banks, Leonard Peltier, Mary Brave Bird, and Russell Means. Irene knew Russell when she lived in Bismarck. She admired his stern demeanor, his gift for oration. That was in 1973, as the occupation of Wounded Knee was ending. Irene attended some protests, including a Bismarck event hosted by the John Birch Society, at which Doug Durham, an FBI informant who infiltrated the occupation by posing as an activist, was invited to speak. Lots of Indians attended his talk, including Russell’s cousin, Dennis, who sat right up front and glared at Durham. When it came time for questions, Irene asked Durham what impact his work had on his family, and she swore she saw regret flicker across his face.

 

The books of which she was most proud were her collections of Arikara stories, recorded and translated by Douglas Parks, a white anthropological linguist. In 1974, Irene attended a workshop hosted by the Inner Peace movement, where she met the director of the language program at Mary College in Bismarck, whom Irene told about her brother Chucky and his efforts to preserve the Arikara language. The director offered to reach out to Parks, who was studying Pawnee, a language in the same family as Arikara. Not long after that, Parks visited Fort Berthold, where Irene introduced him to Chucky and various elders, among them Nellie Yellow Bird. Over the following years, Parks became the preeminent scholar of the Arikara language, and Irene’s brother Loren studied under him. Now Loren was a cultural expert for the National Park Service and had been hired by a Hollywood director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, to teach Arikara to Leonardo DiCaprio for his role in The Revenant.

On the walls not taken up by books were portraits of Irene’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as a photograph of Lissa in her final year of high school. It was remarkable that Irene still had the photograph—that Lissa hadn’t stolen it with the rest. Her shoulders were draped in black, her left hand rested on her right arm. Her skin was smooth, her eyebrows arched, her cheeks dimpled in the corners of her mouth. Her eyes laughed out of the dark.

 

On the day in March that Lissa visited her mother, she stood in the doorway to the kitchen, Irene watching from a recliner, as she sifted through papers stacked on the table. It bothered Irene, Lissa’s habit of nosing through her things, and now Lissa made a show of it. When she came to some papers labeled DRUG TASK FORCE, she paused and then ran to the bedroom.

Her mother’s closet was neat, her clothes evenly spaced, and Lissa took theatrical pleasure in pushing them back and forth. Irene had risen from her recliner and watched from the bedroom door. “Lisa, what are you doing?” she said.

“It’s in here somewhere.” Lissa dropped to her knees, peered beneath the bed.

“What are you looking for?”

“For your SWAT team outfit.”

Irene looked confused.

“What’s this task force, Mom?”

Her mother straightened. “Tex asked me,” Irene said. This was not out of the ordinary. He had asked her to serve on committees and give presentations to the tribe before.

“Mom, you can’t tell me that this guy isn’t trying to buy you out. Who else is on it?”

“Cheryl.” Also, Madeleine’s younger sister.

“You’re fucking kidding me. Don’t tell me Grandma’s on it, too?”—Madeleine, who could not tell marijuana from sage. Lissa wanted to laugh and then scream. She saw that her mother was becoming angry, too: Her lips had tightened. Her chin lifted. Her eyes cast on Lissa a familiar disappointment. “This is to silence me, Mom,” Lissa said. “This is a fucking psychological game. If this is how it’s going to be—”

 

“You be careful now,” her mother said.

 

THAT WAS HOW Lissa recounted the incident. Irene would not recall specifically how her daughter learned about the task force but, when presented with Lissa’s version of the story, offered that while she did not remember the “SWAT team outfit,” Lissa rummaging through her things sounded “about right.” Apart from worrying for Lissa’s safety, Irene wondered why Lissa cared so much for the child of a stranger. Did she not have her own children to care about—children she had hardly seen in the past decade of her life? Still, Irene knew better than to expect her daughter to heed her advice. She thought that if she could give Lissa an “Indian name” she would call her “Tells It Like It Is.” Then she thought of a better name: “No Ears Don’t Listen Woman.”

Irene’s grievances echoed her granddaughter’s. “Our mom loves dead people more than her own kids,” Shauna still complained—so often now that her brothers Obie and CJ had taken to repeating what she said. Lindsay, who had rented her own apartment after the wheel fell off her car, encouraged this, leaving only Micah to defend Lissa consistently. “We should just be happy that we still have a mom,” Micah said.

Lissa told her children that they were lucky to be alive; that there was a murderer at large in their home, the reservation; that a dead person could not defend himself; that if any of them ever disappeared, she would search for them as she did for KC; that KC was now “family,” in a sense; that she could have lost a child as easily as Jill had lost her son. It was not true Lissa cared more for KC than her kids; she cared about KC because of her kids. As for Irene’s warnings to be careful, Lissa replied with variations on a point she once made to Jill: “James can do nothing to me that my addiction hasn’t already.”

 

None of this comforted Shauna, who had no desire to revisit the sort of life she had occupied before her mother went to prison. That was a life of absences and separations, of feeling more like an orphan than a daughter. And now, with her mother gone so often, her memories of those separations returned.

Shauna remembered each one clearly—her age, the length of time, the names of strangers and relatives in whose care she had been placed. The first separation came in 1993, when Shauna was six years old. Her mother left Grand Forks for Minneapolis to join her boyfriend, Tom Reinardy, and while Lissa searched for a house and a job, Shauna and CJ had lived with their grandmother in Minot. Not long after that, they moved to Prior Lake, south of the Twin Cities, where Lissa met the casino security guard whom she swiftly married. The man was abusive, which led to the next separation, when Lindsay went to live with her father and Lissa placed CJ and Shauna in foster care while she found her own place. For reasons Shauna never understood, they remained in foster care for a year until the fall of 1995, when she and CJ rejoined their mother in the house in St. Paul, with OJ. Less than a year passed before police raided their house, and they packed their bags and fled. Shauna never saw that house again. She and CJ were taken into custody. CJ went to live with Irene in Minot and Shauna with Madeleine in White Shield.

It was the only time Shauna lived on the reservation. She had been nine years old then and still remembered how lonely she had felt—how she made few friends at the White Shield school in spite of being related to many of her classmates. White Shield was quieter than anywhere she had lived, as foreign to her as places she had seen on TV on other continents or in earlier times. There was something freeing about this, Shauna thought—the way the reservation felt like another world that few others paid any mind. Dennis taught her how to drive, and no one cared when she took Madeleine around. It was the elders, Shauna learned, who kept the order in White Shield. “Call his grandma. She’ll get him in line,” she heard people say. No one had to get her in line. Madeleine often remarked how different Shauna was from her mother. She was diligent with her schoolwork. She attended Mass, counted beads and said the rosary, and took her first communion. She accompanied her grandmother on visits to relatives’ homes, where she listened, keeping her opinions to herself—how the houses all smelled the same, like water left to sit, and dust from roads and pastures, and commodity dinners of hamburger and pilot bread, and the rank sting of propane. A “poor smell,” as she would put it, “the smell of barely getting by.”

 

The Yellow Bird house was not much different, but Shauna clung pridefully to the idea that her family was more successful because they owned a store. She often worked in the store, which had two rooms, a bathroom, and a closet furnished with a cot for visitors. The place was stocked with basic groceries, candy, and instant meals. A bench had been placed in a corner by a microwave, where customers warmed their sandwiches and sat to eat. The cigarettes were kept behind the counter, and on a wall near the entrance hung a list of customers late on credit payments and thus prohibited from charging more items. Some tried anyway, but Shauna had been firm. She came to know the drunks who lived beside the store in the complex called the Jungle, and the elders who asked the first time they saw her, “Who’s your grandma?” When she told them, they nodded and said, “You look just like Lisa.”

Whenever the store was empty, and Shauna had been left alone, she sometimes looked around and tried to imagine her grandparents living there with all their children. In reality, they never lived there all at once, due to their different ages and the fact that many attended boarding school, but in her daydreams, her relatives occupied the house together. It comforted Shauna, this thought of them all in one room. Later, when she tried to explain the feeling, she would say, “I’ve always felt in between. I’ve never felt like I totally belonged on the reservation, and I’ve never really been part of the white people’s society either.” In the store, among the illusory bodies of her relatives, she had felt, for a rare moment, at home.

Shauna had no idea what her mother did during that time. She had heard Lissa was in Oregon. Then, one day in the summer of 1997, her mother reappeared.

 

After that it had seemed they were always on the run. Shauna’s memory of those years was as fragmented as their movements: The neat piles of weed. The men wandering in and out. Her mother gone and back again. The pop-pop of handguns. The warnings not to answer a knocked-on door or a ringing phone.

It had not always been clear to Shauna whom they were running from—police? social workers? her mother’s boyfriends?—but the longer they ran, the more these threats coalesced in her mind into a single, indiscernible force. No matter where Shauna slept, she had been ready to escape. The oddest thing about this childhood, she now believed, was how normal it seemed at the time. Shauna could not remember feeling scared. In certain ways, Lissa hid her addiction from Shauna, who had never seen her mother stick a needle in her arm or wrap her lips around a pipe. Years later, after they moved to Minot, Shauna had known when her mother was using meth by her strange, hostile energy, by the smell of the drug on her skin, but with crack it had been harder to tell. Perhaps the best childhoods lacked frames of reference so that even depravity felt like innocence. Either Lissa concealed the highs or it had all been too routine for Shauna to notice.

This was not to say Shauna never rebelled. After a boy who lived in a neighboring apartment learned Lissa had been a stripper and teased Shauna for it, she had taken to snipping the strings of her mother’s thongs whenever she did laundry. But she remained loyal to Lissa to a degree that baffled her other relatives. You always go back to her, Irene complained, and it was true, Shauna always did. Even in the care of her grandmother and great-grandmother—in the stability they had fashioned from their own loosened foundations—Shauna, admittedly, grew bored. She missed not just her mother but the entropy of her mother’s life, the daily flowering of new crises.

As Shauna grew older, her loyalty toward her mother had waned, but it was only in the course of their longest separation, after Lissa went to prison, that it had occurred to Shauna that their life, as a family, could be different.

 

Later, when asked what she envisioned, Shauna would describe two photographs, both taken while her mother was in college, before the addictions set in. In the first, Lissa posed with Shauna in lipstick and a blazer. In the second, Lissa held Lindsay in a garden, wearing a pink blouse and matching bow, her head tilted to kiss her daughter’s neck. This was what Shauna had wanted—a version of her mother she believed existed but which she knew only from photographs—but instead, her mother reminded her of a past Shauna wished to forget. When Lissa left on weekends, Shauna remembered nights she and her siblings spent wondering when their mother would return. When Lissa warned them not to speak about the case, Shauna remembered how she had been forbidden as a child from answering strangers’ questions. When Lissa hung blinds on the patio, Shauna recalled the paper they had taped over the windows of the apartments where her mother sold drugs. And if ever Lissa mentioned KC, Shauna remembered the time she disappeared herself.

Her mother had not looked for her.

 

SHAUNA SPENT SEVERAL months deciding what she would say. Then, one night in the spring of 2013, she went by her mother’s apartment. She sat at the computer desk, Lissa at the dining table. “When you came back from prison, I thought you were going to be different,” Shauna began. “I thought sobriety would make you this perfect mother, but the only thing different about you is that you’re sober. You’ve substituted what you do now for things you used to do.”

Shauna cried. “I like to hold it together, make it look all pretty on the outside,” she would recall. “I learned that from my grandma. But I couldn’t anymore. There was just so much I wanted to ask her about my childhood. I wanted to tell her how I felt. I wanted her to have some remorse, some sort of accountability. I envisioned it playing out differently. I thought I would cry to her about all these things, and she’d feel bad, and it’d be a huge awakening for her, and she’d be like, ‘Oh my God, I had no idea. Let me change.’ But it didn’t work out like that. She just sat there, no emotion on her face. She stared at me the whole time I broke down. And when I was done, she said, ‘You sound like you got some really serious emotions that you need to deal with.’ ”

 

Shauna left her apartment on Ninth Avenue Circle for a temporary lease across town. She told the landlord not to bother painting the walls. She asked her employer for a transfer, and on July 1, 2013, she would move with her children to Minneapolis.

 

THERE HAD BEEN no “awakening” for Lissa, because everything her daughter said, Lissa already knew. She heard each word Shauna spoke, and in the days after Shauna cried to her in the kitchen, Lissa could think of nothing else. What did her daughter want from her, she wondered? Did she want her to relapse just so she could see how much her mother hurt? What would it take for her children to understand that it was the moving on that made her well again?

Remorse was not the only thing Shauna wanted, Lissa knew. “How about you search for my missing dad,” Shauna had said, a fair criticism. Lissa had never told Shauna who her father was. Lissa did not know, she claimed—or did not care to know. There were some things she still never spoke about. The circumstances of her first pregnancy was one of those things. So was the time, at age four, she was molested by a man who watched after her while her mother was at work. So was the time she was trafficked for sex—in the eighties, during the second oil boom. These were the things, sexual things, that Lissa believed would bring the most shame to her family. OJ was one of few people she ever told who Shauna’s father might be. To everyone else, Lissa explained it like this: She had found herself in a dangerous situation, and when she got out, she had not looked back.

Now Lissa retraced her path to other origins of her daughter’s resentment. There was the decision she made to place her children in foster care in 1994. She had made this decision hastily: Her husband started beating her; Lissa worried her kids would see it. She had intended for them to live with a family in the area for only a few months, where she could visit often while she worked and saved money to rent her own place. The plan had gone wrong immediately. Lindsay’s father had claimed custody of her, and whenever Lissa visited Shauna and CJ, they begged Lissa to take them back. There was something going on, they said, but would not tell her what it was. Lissa requested that they be placed with another family, and it was after that, she believed, that Child Protection began giving her a hard time. First, they denied anything was wrong; then, they required that her visits be supervised. Lissa had assumed that by placing her kids voluntarily, she could take them back any time, but suddenly she was confronted by a variety of reasons why she could no longer have them: She missed some visits. (She worked two jobs.) She was “too transitional.” (She was homeless, living with friends.) Her work was not suitable for children. (She bartended, the most lucrative job she could find.) In surrendering her children, it seemed she had given up her right to be a mother, but what defined a mother in the eyes of the state was unclear to Lissa, and in the end, the reason she got her children back had seemed as arbitrary and unknowable as the reason she lost them. One day, after Shauna and CJ had been in foster care for a year, a social worker called and said Lissa could come and get them, offering no explanation. Nor did the social worker explain how CJ ended up with a traumatic brain injury. It was Shauna who later admitted that he had been abused by a foster care mother.

 

The next time Lissa lost her children, the reason was clearer to her: She lost them because she was an addict. In 1996, after police raided her house, Cheryl, Lissa’s aunt who lived in Minneapolis, told Irene that Shauna and CJ were in danger and called Child Protection. Lissa did not remember losing them—that was how strung-out she had been. She and OJ were together still, or maybe at that time they were apart. Later, when asked how he started beating her, each would tell a different story. OJ would say Lissa made a joke about sleeping with another guy, and he hit her, and it had seemed to him she liked it. Lissa would say OJ came home drunk one night and, without warning, broke a VCR over her head.

 

They started selling crack together not long after Lissa started smoking it. There was a dope house they sold at most often, where a dealer named Cuba hung out. “Yayo,” Cuba called cocaine, so that’s what they called it. Yayo. Selling drugs was the easiest thing Lissa ever did, because the drugs sold themselves. She drove a hard bargain—harder than OJ, who often gave away his drugs for free.

He was soft like that. In certain ways, OJ was helpless without Lissa. He had no driver’s license, no credit. He had never paid taxes or applied for a job. It was Lissa who drove him around in her sports cars, who taught him how to pump gas and change the oil. She taught him to cook. All OJ had ever wanted, he sometimes said, was to have a family to sit down with for dinner. He was good with Lissa’s kids. He loved them. He fed them when she was absent. But it was her absences that bothered OJ, that filled him with rage and made him act like a different person. She believed her sex work made him jealous. By then, she had a full-fledged business, with many women and returning clients. The women paid Lissa seventy-five dollars each session for making their arrangements and ensuring their safety. Lissa often brought OJ to her own calls, who waited outside in the car. Her clients were doctors, foreigners, businessmen. If ever she worried one was a cop, she encouraged him to pleasure himself, and when he had sufficiently jacked off, she offered help. It was not just sex these men wanted. They wanted comfort, purpose. One paid her to dress him in only an apron and order him to sweep the floor. Another liked to call at all hours of the night and ask if there was anything she needed.

She became an expert in the sadness of men. When OJ hit her, she hit him back, and then he hit her harder. She called the cops on him but never showed up for her court dates. Charges were dropped; she took him back. She inured herself to violence. Once, she was selling crack to a man when another addict sank a screwdriver into her buyer’s head. The attacker dragged her buyer onto the street, and Lissa never bothered to figure out what happened to the victim. She was ruthless. Sometimes she flung a pea-size crystal against the wall and watched the addicts scatter like starved animals to sweep the pieces up. She laughed at them. Go ahead, she would say. That’s a fucking devil’s drug.

 

When Lissa became an addict, everything she loved turned to water in her hands, and everything she lost—that slipped through her grasp—she believed she deserved to lose.

After she fled Minneapolis and ended up in Portland, she got sober, and after she returned to Minneapolis, she reclaimed her children, but not in the way she had planned. Willard Yellow Bird died that September, in 1997. The day before his funeral, Irene insisted Lissa take Shauna and CJ for the day so Irene could focus on her father’s arrangements. Lissa took her kids but did not bring them back. When weeks passed and Lissa still did not return, Irene reported her for taking them.

Lissa had enrolled them in school in St. Paul. One afternoon, she went to pick them up, and they did not emerge from the building. She was still waiting when a social worker called to inform her that Shauna and CJ had been detained by Child Protection. Police arrested Lissa on the sidewalk, threw her on the concrete, and pulled so hard on her hair that her neck cracked, she would recall. They let her out of jail that night, after her kids were gone. She wandered downtown, where a man drove up beside her and offered a ride in exchange for sex. Lissa agreed on the condition that he take her to a dope house first. When they came to the house, Lissa ran inside and never saw the man again.

She was pregnant. She and OJ were back together, and the next July, she gave birth to their child, Obie. OJ came and went. Lissa became pregnant again, but this time the father was not OJ.

When she relapsed in 1999, she would not remember when or how it happened. It was OJ who would later say how he had shown her his stash in the hopes that she would relapse. When Lissa was sober, she intimidated OJ. He found he loved her even more, but he could not control her.

 

On the evening of December 22, 1999, Lissa stopped at a friend’s house, bought some crack, and got high. Obie was seventeen months old. Micah had been born just that summer. OJ was home with the kids that night, and Lissa had left her phone in the car because, as she would later explain, she “didn’t want to hear him calling all the time.”

The story Lissa would tell of that night would match the police reports and court records. She had returned to the car in the early morning and listened to her messages: If she didn’t come home soon, OJ said, he would murder the kids. “I was hysterical,” Lissa would recall. “I drove up to the building. When I went in the first door, there were people in the hallway. They were like, ‘Don’t go up there, something’s happening.’ I pushed past them. I opened the door. I said, ‘Where are my babies?’ OJ was standing there. He hit me with a bat.”

By the time the ambulance arrived, Lissa’s body was cut and bruised, her wrist broken, the bone showing through, her left eye swollen shut. She was unconscious, so what else she knew of that night came from interviews police conducted with Shauna. Her daughter would say that it was the sight of her mother after the attack that shook her more than anything—her face so disfigured, Shauna could not bear to look at her—but during the beating Shauna had remained calm. Later, in court, a prosecutor would note how serenely Shauna described the scene to police. At 3:45 A.M., she had risen from bed, walked to the kitchen, and found OJ with a fistful of her mother’s hair, striking her limp face with his knee. For a moment, Shauna watched as CJ threw his body between OJ and their mother. Then she called to CJ, whom she told to dial 911. He handed her the phone.

And this was the remarkable thing, the prosecutor said: how coolly Shauna told the dispatcher, “My stepdad is trying to kill my mother,” and when the dispatcher had not understood, how Shauna said it again.

My stepdad is trying to kill my mother.

 

The words were the clearest memory Lissa had of that night, though they were not her memory; she could not have heard them; and it was after the court hearing that she claimed them as memory, as vivid as if she had heard them herself.

OJ pled guilty and was sentenced to thirty-three months in prison. Lissa spent two days in the hospital and rejoined her kids at the apartment. Later, she would say that the winter and spring were when things really fell apart. She stopped paying rent. She was evicted. She went on smoking crack. She had loved OJ. She had let herself be hurt by him, again and again, and in the end, he had stolen from her the choice to take him back. “Kill me. You don’t have the balls!” she had screamed at him in the minutes before she lost consciousness. She had been ready to die, and when she survived, she had wondered why she was still alive.

It was Shauna who changed the most after that—who drifted from her mother—so it had not surprised Lissa when, one morning, Shauna disappeared. Lissa did not hear the hotel room door when it opened or closed, but when Lissa woke, she knew her daughter was gone.

 

ON THE NIGHT of June 14, 2013, Lissa sat in the kitchen, her sons gone out, and composed a message to Shauna:

You know I was thinking about what you said regarding the time I spend looking for all these “Missing People.” I didn’t know what to say that day and I didn’t want to say anything I didn’t mean. But now that the words have revealed themselves to me here is what I have to say. When you were a teenager and that day you left the hotel, I knew already in my heart why you left. I knew it was a result of my addiction. I knew that I was unable to help myself let alone try and track you down and bring you back to the misery and despair I created for you. I have apologized and I also knew that the words “sorry” would never be enough to compensate for the wrongs I have done to you as a result of my addictions. You ask why I didn’t look for you? I’ll tell you at first I couldn’t bring myself to believe that I had lost my daughter because I fully chose drugs over you. Even though I couldn’t help it. I was gone inside. I pretty much knew you were with friends. I felt you were safe in my heart. Call it intuition if you will. Insight. Whatever. Even though I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt at the time I always felt you were ok. I hoped and prayed you were. I didn’t see the point of coming after you and bringing you back into my world of chaos, immorality, and despair. The shame I harbored, the sick emptiness in my gut knowing that I had lost you emotionally and at that time physically. Our relationship has never been the same since that day. Until that day you were MINE. My treasure my baby my everything. I had realized that I had pushed you so far away that you would never come back the same person and I hated myself for that. I have known you never trusted me since that day and you have always looked at me with a sense of hate in the background of your mind. I tried to change my life and SHOW you my love and it seems it hasn’t helped the hostility within you every time you think of my name. The way I look for KC…IS the way I would have looked for you if I was sane and drug free. I’m sorry I was not that person for you back then. I am now. I am drug/alcohol free and I try to live right. These things I do, I do for you. This is how I would have done for you. I keep doing them to show you my persistence and my love and that I will never give up again. I will never make myself vulnerable enough to not wanna fight back. This is my explanation. I hope this helps you to move forward. I am proud of all you do to help others. I would hope that it is a little reflection of me. Maybe not, but someday. Remember Shauna…I love you! Every time I am out there looking for others helping others I’m thinking of you too. You were the real inspiration. Love MOM

 

Shauna did not reply, and Lissa did not write her again. After that, Lissa tried not to think of her daughter too often, as doing so filled her body with emptiness.

For Shauna, the feeling was different. Shortly after she moved to Minneapolis, she bought her first home, a condominium in a quiet, wooded suburb south of the city. She felt relieved. She decided she would no longer expect anything from her mother. She would not speak to her, and in this silence, there would be less to remind her of their past.

 

She had read the letter once, and quickly. She had been too angry to give it much thought, and, anyway, it made little sense to her. “I more or less was like, Not only did you not care when I ran away then, but you’re completely ignoring me now,” Shauna said. That she had inspired her mother sounded too convenient, and it angered Shauna that Lissa rationalized her obsession in this way: “It’s easier to accept guilt for what you’ve done than admit to it. By accepting that guilt internally and trying to change your life around so that others on the outside can see a change, you’re still not making those amends where that hurt was done. You know, you murder somebody, you feel bad about it, and next thing you know you become an advocate out in the real world, but what about that family you took from? It’s two different things, to accept the guilt and to admit it. She wasn’t able to admit to the guilt. She wasn’t willing to repair what she broke. She was just trying to fix it in other places, through other people, but she failed to fix the one thing that she broke. I didn’t care how many other people’s lives she was trying to fix. It’s still broken here.”

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