So, I'm working on some side projects right now and instead of leaving this space forgotten, I thought I'd share a little from Come Alive. I won't always have pieces up on Mondays, but for the next few weeks, I will. Hope you enjoy. “You did this, you dirty little whore. You’re nothing. Nothing!”
His hands find places to grip and slap and poke that no one would ever see. There will be bruises. There is already blood. My mother weakly argues with my father, begging him to stop simply because the carpet has enough stains.
I barely register that she mentions nothing about him hitting her daughter.
I finally manage to break free and push my way past mom and Mr. I-don’t-have-a-voice. I really don’t know where I’m headed; I just know I need to get out. My cheek still burns in the shape of a fist. Gingerly, I reach up and touch the bruise forming. It’s tender. Swollen. I turn back around to see if anyone is following and trip over my little brother’s toy truck. Falling against the wall, I jam my fingers. I don’t have time to think about it though, because I can hear the rage building in my room. The man-without-a-voice is suddenly yelling back obscenities at my father. It will only take a few minutes before my dad realizes me gone. As I run out the door, I hear my mom in the background, crying.
I can’t help but wonder if she’s crying because she was caught or because I’m leaving. My chest heaves with remorse and pain, and I fight the bile forcing itself up my throat. I will not let him win. My head turns reflexively as I shoot a furtive glance back to my house, sitting eerily silent in contrast to the raging argument heard for miles just seconds before. I give up and crumple to the grass in defeat. My body flinches against the icy green blades, but I simply wipe my cheek and pull my hoodie over my head to protect my skin from the burning sensation of frozen water against the most recent scrapes and bruises. My face crinkles in disgust. It happened again. How could anyone ever want me? How could anyone ever find me attractive? I close my eyes as the tears start to fall freely, melting the ice around me.
Maybe my dad was right. Maybe I am nothing. The inner record player rewinds the events of the last hour and I start to wonder. How was my mother’s mistake my fault? Why did my father choose to take his anger out on me? I try to push the thoughts out making me think I am nothing more than a human punching bag and reach for positive memories. The last time Kevin kissed me. Laughing with my friends at lunch. Getting my English paper back and noting the “brilliant!” scrawled across the top by Mrs. Peabody. I keep this up until my doubts are replaced with my shaky self-confidence. I am worth something. People do want me. Staring at tiny blades of grass glistening with night frost I force the mantra back and forth through my head.
Just breathe, I tell myself. Just breathe.
I stay there for about thirty minutes. A bit longer than normal, but my father doesn’t disappoint - I know the routine: anger, remorse, forced forgiveness and guilt. Compulsiveness at its finest. I hear his footsteps before I smell the residue of his latest bottled conquest. I take a deep breath and pray for strength. I close my eyes and for a brief second pretend I’m someone else entirely.
“Stephanie?” His whisper sounds strained – like he’s fighting back tears I know will come. I motion to him with my hand, not really wanting to get up and feel the tender spots continuing to let me know their existence. His face breaks through the bushes and registers my shivering frame. His shoulders collapse and for a brief second, he buries his face in his hands.
“Oh sweetie. Oh Stephanie. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I promised, I know. But I couldn’t help it. Please don’t leave me. Please.” His earnest words weren’t new to my ears; I knew his learned drunken behavior warranted this scene. It always did. I hate this part more than any other - even the fists against skin. How can you not help it? How can you not help hitting your own flesh and blood? I don’t get it. His arms reach to lift me off the grass and I shrug away - pain shooting up my ribs and radiating off of my knee.
“Leave me alone.” I say it without thinking. My heart stops and I hold my breath. Stupid, stupid, stupid I think to myself - waiting for the inevitable backlash. In my haste and anger, I allowed my voice to be heard. It was the exact opposite of what my dad expects from us. Reconciliation is nothing to him - we reunite on his terms. If I don’t feel like it, well...I have to at least act like I want to forgive and forget.
His response to my mistake is immediate.
A switch flips and my dad’s face blanches in anger. He stands up straight - his hands on his hips and his eyes wide with disbelief. You would have thought I physically slapped him. A sneer crawls across his face slowly and he laughs.
“What? You want me to leave you alone?” The change in behavior comes suddenly, but not unexpectedly. My father could be the poster child for borderline personality disorder triggered by alcoholic stupor. His eyes darken and I grimace against the melting ice. He turns around and starts walking back to the house, grumbling the whole way there about my lack of appreciation for what I had been given. “You want me to leave you alone?” he says over his shoulder, “I’ll leave you alone. Find somewhere else to sleep tonight you waste of space.”
I stare at his retreating figure for a half second before I realize what just happened. Without thinking, I jump up and run after him, crying the whole way.
“Daddy, daddy – no wait….please! I…I didn’t meant it.” My voice starts shaking with hysteria. I trip on a dip in the road, landing hard on my knee. Blood immediately starts forming tiny rivers down my jeans. “Please….” I whisper, broken.
He turns around and walks towards me, a smirk of satisfaction on his face. Taking the hand he offers, I wince at the force he uses to yank me to a standing position. He brings his face within inches of my own, his breath nearly knocking me over. He reaches out and grabs my arms with such brute force, tears threaten to spill out against my will. I bite my lip, fighting to keep them under control. He wrinkles his lips in disgust. “I regret the day you were born. You mean nothing to me. Nothing. You’re the worst mistake of my life.”
His words cut to the deepest places I hide from everyone. Within seconds, my father manages to reach inside and rip open every single wound from every single harsh word ever spoken to me. His retreating figure broke my heart before. Now? I am shattered. Without saying a word, I wriggle from his grasp and turn and walk into the house, ignoring the apparent absence of my mother. I make my way to my room, welcoming the haze starting to form around my brain.
I am nothing. I mean nothing. Closing my eyes, I let the darkness sweep over me as the tears finally gain the freedom to take over. My body, exhausted from the night’s events, begs for rest, but my mind wants nothing of it. I spend the rest of the night in a comatose state and it’s not until the first light starts peeking through the corner window that I wake. With an urgency that can only be explained as lunacy, I shower and change clothes in record time.
The sunrise. I need to see it. I need to remember.
I leave the house with minutes to spare and am instantly rewarded by one of the most stunning displays of color I have yet to see. I lock the door behind me, stuff my hands in the pockets of my jacket, and begin the long walk to school, eyes glued to oranges and reds and pinks, fighting for a piece of the sky.
Want to keep reading? Check out Come Alive on Amazon - available on kindle as well!