She was a twin and born second after her brother, Dean, on a cold and snowy late day in late November of 1922: the curse of her family, the continuing line. Her parents had been together then, since after the First World War, and had children from previous marriages. Both of their spouses were dead and they wished to start another family line, a greater one than the previous ones.
She and Dean never saw these other siblings together in the same room. They didn’t need to, as they all wished to argue and attempt to kill the other, which was why their parents wanted a new family, despite how they successfully continued to the next generation. However, both were old already when the twins were born – in their late thirties, at least – and considered too old to have more children.
Their father, the infamous Colonel “Heartless” Patrick Morrison, was a military man – famous within his own ranks – and was more devoted to his work rather than his own family, especially concerning the twins. He always drank, especially after the First World War, causing him to stay at their first house, finishing paperwork more often than commanding and being on the field with the men, especially when the company was suddenly shipped overseas when his youngest children started to grow older.
To the Colonel, it didn’t matter what occasion it was: drinking was a hobby and it was his favorite one. He always had the bottle in his hands. Even in the family’s Holy Bible – something his family had passed on from generation to generation – he brought to Church on Sundays was not spared. He had the pages carved out – the pages their mother used to read to them before he took it away – so that a bottle could fit inside, ready to be emptied and thrown out as they passed their parish priest on the way out the door.
She remembered that her father wasn’t exactly warm, even when he was at his rare sober moments. He always had the glare of a man who had seen too many battles that fatigued him, too many battles that could have claimed his life, but left him within an empty shell of a mind: a life spent. The Colonel himself was tired of war, but did his duty when he was called up, even in civilian unrest. His then-wife would describe him as a man ready for death, at anytime. If he had to commit suicide, he would do so within a heartbeat. If had to run into battle, even when he knew that all was lost, he would do so. And his family feared it.
However, his overall attitude, especially to her without the alcohol, was less than welcoming. Much like their mother, he had had the pleasure of having all sons as children and was so surprised that she had dared to slip into the world only a few minutes after Dean had. The Colonel had no use for women, which was what made their mother leave him eventually (loving another man happened to be an additional reason), and complained about her anytime he could.
“What can we do with a little girl in the family?” he would boom, sober or drunk, at their religious and overly-Catholic mother, Rebeccah.
Her mother, in turn, would shudder and cower in every corner – despite not acting the mother and protecting her children – any time she could, especially when he picked a fight. If she dared to fight back, however, she only lectured him when he was unconscious, dead in a sleep that would later render him bitterer. He was worse then.
Their mother had also figured out many ways to evade the dominating personality without arguing with him: ignoring his drinking usually. Without any other children around to take care of (because her older sons were with their grandmother overseas, in Holland), save for the twins, she felt no more responsibility to her family and left to her future husband’s home, coming back only when it was convenient for her.
The family lived in the small home of Toluca, Illinois then, the same place the twins had been born. Rebeccah, at the time, thought the twins, by the time they were not even out of their toddler years, could take care of themselves. They were already perfect in camouflaging like she was because they were smaller, so she thought it a good idea to leave them alone. For longer periods of time, she left the house and them.
In turn, by the time the twins were four years old, these absences and their father’s wrath upon them were a common occurrence and a norm in their lives. Every other day, their lives were measured by how quickly they left the house for school or to the park, what time they came home and if they could manage to make dinner for their father, who was usually in a drunken state on the kitchen floor or roaring for food at the dining room table.
The neighbors whispered about the happenings, but didn’t dare to comment to the parents’ faces. To them, there was nothing worse than being confronted by military man inside, so they left the family alone.
Within the year, finally, their parents had insinuated a formal separation and, in a dramatic scene that summer between both parents, both she and Dean were taken by their mother and soon-to-be stepfather, Clarence (someone Rebeccah had been seeing for a few years, when the Colonel’s drinking had become too much), and moved to their new home in Peoria, Illinois: a faraway city that ensured the Colonel wouldn’t dare come to see his youngest children. He didn’t seem to have an interest in them, so Rebeccah took them away.
Afterward, whether it was a month or even a year, the foursome would move from town to town in Illinois (Rebeccah and Clarence had been married then, trying not to cause a scandal within their Church circles), as if they were bandits on the run from the law enforcement. By the time she and Dean were ten years old, they had lived in over thirty towns and cities in Illinois and once, they had lived in a small town in Ohio, for only two months. They never made any friends because they never settled in one place for a long period of time. There wasn’t any point in it.
Also by the time they were ten, they had finally settled down in the town of Bloomington, Illinois (a final destination before leaving for good), where their father had caught up with them, arguing that it was his right to see the children, which angered Rebeccah and her husband. The new neighbors, on the other hand, were baffled by the inter-family arguments that always happened to occur at night, usually with someone breaking a booze bottle.
One neighbor, though, was brave enough to stick her head out often and offered a hand in taking care of the children as both parents and stepfather stepped up the level of violence that took place in each bout of fighting. She only knew this neighbor as Mildred Lorraine (called by her middle name of Lorraine more often), who always had that in-training medical student in her house, Henry Blake. At the beginning of their relationship and up to their marriage in 1940, the pair would take turns watching the twins as they had playtime in the backyard, hiding in the trees and watching secretly as their family battled drunkenly, their mother and stepfather even drinking heavily.
Soon, autumn came and those days ended, so Lorraine was given permission to put the children in school, Rebeccah only signing the paperwork because she was their mother, not quite paying attention to what she was signing. She and Dean were only relieved at this small interference on their mother’s part, especially when the neighbor offered to watch them more. As school took over their lives, their books replaced the comforts of the backyard and the carefree days of hiding from Rebeccah, Clarence and Patrick were gone.
The days afterward, in each season, promised more trouble for the both of the twins, even if their lives seemed to be normal from the outside. The worst had been the divorce battle, which took a turn for the worse as the court became involved. The judge decreed that they split their time between both parties. The third one, Lorraine and Henry (petitioning for a place in their lives, since they had been wishing to be guardians), were ignored even though they were the ones taking care of the children and asking to be guardians instead of the usual parental supervision.
This meant that both had to spend some of their time with the drunken Colonel, who, at times, left the children alone in his house – across town in Bloomington – and went to the bar. Rebeccah and Clarence, however, had been married for a few years and tried to form a family with the twins, pretending to be concerned about their welfare. The two children knew better and ignored them mostly. Hiding at their father’s and escaping their mother’s, they seemed to have a double life, only showing their true selves with Lorraine and Henry.
Clarence, who was known to be a devout Catholic and looked like he idealistically idolized their mother, harassed the twins, her most of all, especially when he was drunk. He threatened to take away what she thought of was happiness in her life, including taking Dean to the local military recruiters. It was not long before he began to sexually harass her and send her brother away when he complained.
Dean was taken to a “specialized school” (as Rebeccah called it, thinking it would correct her son), one for the military, and stayed there for basic training. He even accepted his deployment notice after he turned eighteen – war was on the horizon soon enough – and went off to war in Germany for all the years of the war, narrowly escaping injury and capture by the enemy, coming back as a war hero by the war’s end in 1945.
Her life, however, had also taken a turn for the worse, too, as the stress took a toll on her. She was sick more often than before and it caused her to miss more and more of school. However, before she turned eighteen, Lorraine offered to home-school her, which took a while to complete. When this was accepted – with the Colonel disappearing once more, permanently, as he moved out of Bloomington – she stayed more with Lorraine and Henry. However, after some time passed, she escaped them as well and ran for nursing school. Occasionally coming back to live with them had been her only other comfort.