“You little tramp,” Carol muttered from behind me while I swept the
kitchen floor. I spun around at the sound of her voice.
“What did you have to do to get that?” she demanded, reaching for the
necklace. I backed away, out of her clutches. Her eyes widened with
“You can’t honestly think he cares about you,” she jeered. “He probably
had that from the last girl he screwed.”
The fire ignited within me as I stared in disgust at this pathetic
“Shut up, Carol,” I shot back firmly, towering over her.
“What did you just say?” she demanded, with a ferocity that could
have blown the house to pieces. Her hand connected with the side of
my face with a rocking force. The broom reverberated off the floor.
I turned my head back toward her. The fire fed every muscle of my
tensed body. I raised my fist.
“What, are you going to hit me?” she smirked. “Go ahead and hit me.”
My mind snapped back. I looked up at my clenched hand appaled at
what I was about to do. I pushed away the rage before it swalowed me.
“I have no idea why you’re so twisted, but I’m not you,” I spat. “You
Carol stared at me with contempt. My insides twisted, instantly regretting
my cutting statement. Fear started overtaking the anger, and my
body began to quiver.
She grabbed for my arm, and I shoved her off.
“You fucking bitch,” she grunted, coming at me with a force I wasn’t
expecting but should have prepared for. She pushed my shoulders to
slam me against the door, but I slipped on the broom at my feet. Glass
shattered around me, and fire shot through my arm when my elbow
crashed through a panel of the door.
I screamed in pain, the jagged edges slicing into me. I cradled my elbow
against me. Blood ran between my fingers, dripping onto the
floor. I continued to groan through clamped teeth with the shards digging
into my flesh.
“What the hel is going on?!” George exclaimed, running up the stairs
to the deck. He froze outside the door at the sight of the broken glass
and me on the floor, soaked in blood. His eyes trailed up to Carol, and
he stared at her in abhorrent shock.
“George,” she gasped, “it was an accident. She slipped, I swear.”
“Don’t just stand there,” he yeled. “Get her a towel.” Carol rushed to
the bathroom, obeying his command.
George opened the door as much as he could with my colapsed body
stil in front of it, paralyzed with shock. He slipped through and bent
down to examine the damage.
“I need to take you to the hospital,” he concluded. “There’s stil glass in
the cuts, and you probably need stitches.”
Warm tears slid down my face. George lifted me just as Carol was returning
with a towel. Her eyes pleaded with George. He grabbed the
towel from her without giving her a glance and carefuly wrapped it
around my arm to catch the flowing blood.
“George, I’m so sorry,” she whimpered.
“We’l talk about this when I get back,” he snapped stil unable to look
at her. He opened the door for me, and I folowed him to his truck
wordlessly. He didn’t say anything either as he opened the passenger
door. I climbed in, exhaling with an aggravated grunt as the movement
forced the splinters in deeper.
The silence continued until we arrived at the hospital. We were admitted
immediately and enclosed by curtains in the emergency room. The
doctor examined the cuts before numbing the area to remove the glass
and assess which cuts needed stitches. I sat on the bed mindlessly
listening to the chunks of glass cling as they hit the bottom of the metal
bowl. I couldn’t stop the flowing tears that was dripping from my
chin as much as I tried to swalow them away. I shivered when the doctor
poked and examined the exposed tissue for additional slivers. I
eventualy surrendered to the nothingness while the needle puled the
torn skin together. George tensed when the doctor asked me to explain
how it happened. My lying had become more convincing over the past
couple of months, so the story of slipping backward on the wet floor
spiled out easily. I didn’t care if the doctor believed me, but he didn’t
seem to doubt me. We were there several hours before we were finaly
on our way home.
“I’m going to take care of this,” George stated lowly during our drive
home. “Just go to your room, and let me handle it, okay?”
“Okay,” I whispered.
“There has to be a way for the two of you to live together,” he
mumbled to himself.
I knew by his tone that he stil believed I had as much to do with this, if
not more, than she did. I clenched my teeth, clearly understanding
that he would always side with her, and as long as he did, she would
I expected Carol’s car to be gone when we arrived home. I didn’t know
why I expected it. Maybe I was hoping she would’ve left. But her blue
Jeep sat motionless in the driveway when we puled in behind it. I slid
down from the passenger seat, careful of my bandaged arm, and
lumbered silently into the house. Carol had swept up the glass and
taped a piece of clear plastic to the door, covering the hole the
shattered pane left behind. She was nowhere to be seen as I walked to
my room, closing the door behind me. My arm was stil numb for the
most part, but it was already starting to throb. I lay on my bed, staring
at the ceiling, too exhausted to succumb to either anger or sadness. I
alowed my thoughts to dul, enveloped by numbness, comforting me
like a familiar blanket.
I heard a murmur of heated voices upstairs and the cries of Leyla and
Jack. I closed my eyes to block it out. I thought I recognized her sobbing
voice, pleading with him. Then there was silence. He came down
the stairs and walked into the kitchen. The exhaustion eventualy won
over and I drifted to sleep. I didn’t wake until the morning. I blinked,
realizing I was stil dressed and lying on top of my bedding. I glanced at
the clock; my alarm was ten minutes away from going off.
I propped myself up. The sharp fire shot through my arm. I bolted upright,
drawing in a quick breath through my teeth. The doctor told me
I couldn’t get the stitches wet for the first twentyfour hours, and so the
thought of how I would manage a shower made me colapse onto my
back again with a frustrated sigh. Then I thought of how I stil had to
face Sara and Evan, and I groaned. Wasn’t there any way I could avoid
going to school today?
I opted for a sponge bath, to avoid the impossibility of a one armed
shower, and put my hair up so it wasn’t obvious that I hadn’t washed
it. I noticed the house was eerily stil when I walked out of the bathroom.
I paused in the hal, not hearing a sound except for the hum of
I cautiously walked into the kitchen, listening intently. There was no
movement in the kitchen or the dining room. A bag was set on the island
with a note attached to it, next to a key. This is the ointment to
put on your stitches twice a day. Carol is staying with her mother for a
few days. She just needs space. Everything will be different. Use the
key to lock up when you leave.
I read the note over several times, shaking my head. He realy believed
it was going to be different? The tears weled in my eyes, forcing their
way down my cheeks. I wiped them away and swalowed the lump in
the back of my throat.
I put the bag of bandages and ointment on my desk and gathered my
books before leaving the house to meet Evan. I locked the kitchen door
behind me, struck by the distinct click of the bolt when I turned the
key - a sound that I’d never made before. I continued to fight against
the tears before clomping down the stairs.
“Is she here?” Evan asked quietly after I shut the car door behind me. I
shouldn’t have been surprised that he noticed. As much as I was hoping
the long sleeved shirt would conceal my bandages, the bulky wrap
left a distinct bulge. I suppose my sunken frame clued him in as wel.
“No,” I whispered, looking out the window. “She’s staying with her
mother for a few days.”
“You can’t stay here anymore.”
“I know,” I mouthed, unable to make a sound. My eyes stung as I
blinked back the tears unable to look at him. My mind remained
blank, not wanting to think of what his words realy meant. We drove
in silence the entire way to school. When we puled into the school’s
parking lot, Evan shut off the car and shifted his body to face me.
“Emma?” he beckoned softly, making me turn towards him.
“Are you okay?” I shook my head.
His hand brushed along my cheek, and I colapsed into his arms, sobbing
against his chest. He held me until I couldn’t cry anymore. I
brushed the tears from my face and looked up into his glassy eyes.
Seeing the pain in them tore at my heart. He kissed me softly, keeping
his eyes closed when I puled away.
“Do you want to go now?” he asked, when he was able to look at me
“Now?” I choked.
“Why not? What are we waiting for?”
The understanding of what he wanted to do suddenly weighed heavily
in my stomach. Images of packing my bags and escaping with him ran
through my head, causing my throat to close and adrenaline to rush
through my veins. It was too much for me to process.
“Tomorrow,” I implored, needing one more day to colect my thoughts.
“She’s not staying at the house tonight. Let me have the night to pack,
and we can leave tomorrow, whenever you want.”
Evan studied my face as I pleaded with my eyes.
“No one wil be home when you leave in the morning, right?”
“Then when I pick you up tomorrow morning, have whatever you want
to take ready, and we’re gone.”
My heart skipped a beat as I nodded. Could I realy do this?
Leave everything behind and risk my entire future to escape her?
Alowing her to destroy me didn’t seem right, not after everything I’d
been through. I needed the twenty-four hours to decide what to do.
Evan and I missed homeroom and had to stop at the office for tardy
slips before going to Art class. We were quiet while we walked the hals
together. But he never left my side, holding my hand or wrapping his
arm around me as I floated alongside him to each class. His strength
kept me moving forward, and it was also tearing me apart.
“You’re going to do what?!” Sara questioned fervently when Evan told
her what we were planning. “How is that going to work?
How long wil you be gone?”
I could only stare at her since I didn’t have the answers. She verbalized
the same questions that ran through my head.
“I have a plan,” was al Evan would reveal. “I’l tel you later, I promise.”
Sara shook her head in amazement at what it had finaly come to. She
mimicked my every thought with her actions and words. Before we
could discuss it further, there was an announcement requesting my
presence in the vice principal’s office. Sara and Evan became stil as a
few heads turned toward me curiously. My stomach wrapped itself
around a fiery bal of nerves when I stood to leave. Evan got up to go
“It’s okay,” I assured him. “I’l see you in Journalism.”
My feet felt heavy as they unwilingly carried my body down the hal to
the vice principal’s office. Mr. Montgomery was standing outside his
door, awaiting my arrival. When I entered the room, my chest
flickered with nerves as I glanced around at the faces seated along the
“Emily,” Mr. Montgomery stated with a voice of authority,
“please take a seat.”
Stil staring from eye to eye, I slid onto the chair at the end of the table.
Why were they here? But I knew, clenching my jaw to fight the lump in
my throat. I colected myself before their betrayal could completely
break me. My back stiffened, preparing for what would come next.
“We’re al here because we’re concerned about you,” Mr. Montgomery’s
deep voice boomed across the table, so stiff and diplomatic, without a
hint of compassion. “We want you to explain how you get your injuries.
Is someone hurting you?”
“No,” I shook my head adamantly, my defenses kicking in.
“Emma,” Coach Straw said, her approach warmer than his, but it stil
rang with an accusatory undertone. “We know you’re not accident
prone like you’d like us to believe. We just want to know what’s going
“Nothing,” I snapped back, overly guarded.
“We’re not here to make things harder for you,” Ms. Mier explained in
her melodic voice, empathy pouring from her. “We’re here because we
truly care about you and want to help you.”
Looking into her gentle brown eyes caused the lump to rise in my
throat again. How could she have done this to me?! I swalowed hard.
“I swear, there’s nothing to protect me from,” I protested. My cracking
voice betrayed me.
“Is Evan Mathews hurting you?” Mr. Montgomery
interrogated. I widened my eyes, appaled at his accusation. Ms. Mier
shot him the same look.
“Evan would never hurt me,” I growled, infuriated by the alegation.
My bite made them al sit back in their chairs.
“I know that,” Ms. Mier soothed. “But someone is. Please tel us.”
“I can’t.” I choked on the knot in my throat. I ground my teeth together,
trying to fight against the tears colecting in my eyes with exaggerated
“Emma, I know this is hard,” Ms. Farkis, the school psychologist interjected,
“but we promise that no one wil hurt you because you told us.
We’l make sure of it.”
“You don’t know that,” I whispered. They stared at me in silence, waiting.
I clenched my fists against the table, needing to escape. “I can’t do
I stood up and rushed out the door. I heard the screech of chairs when
a few stood to folow me.
“Let her go,” Ms. Farkis advised.
I ran down the hal in a blur of tears. I wiped my face and tried to
breathe evenly when I approached the Journalism room. I didn’t care
whose attention I got first, one of them had to notice. Sara was staring
out the smal window of the door, so it was an easy choice. She excused
herself to the bathroom and met me in the hal.
“We have to leave,” I blurted, rushing toward our lockers.
“They’re trying to figure out what’s going on, but I wouldn’t tel them.
Sara, I have to get out of here.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Let’s go back to my house so that I can pack; then I don’t care where
“Do you want me to get Evan?”
“Not yet. Not until we can figure out where to meet him. They actualy
had the nerve to ask if he was hurting me.”
“What?! Are they realy that stupid?” she exclaimed incredulously.
We grabbed our bags. I didn’t bother to put any books in it, not knowing
if I would ever need them again. We flew down the side stairs,
avoiding the main doors. Sara ran to get her car while I waited for her
against the side of the building. My pulse raced, and my whole body
quivered, unable to stand stil while I kept watch for her car.
I ran to the car when she puled around and sunk onto the seat, trying
to find comfort now that we were driving away - but I couldn’t. This al
felt wrong, and it was happening way too fast. My brain couldn’t make
sense of it, and I was overwhelmed with fear. Was I doing the right
thing, or was I overreacting?
Sara remained silent during the drive to my house. I was so lost in my
questions and doubting thoughts, that I didn’t realize when we had
turned onto my street. Sara’s pocket buzzed and she looked at her
“Hi,” she answered, glancing at me. “Yeah, we’re going to her house to
get her things.”
She listened for a minute and pressed her lips together.
“Evan, I’m stil not sure that’s the best idea.” She listened again. “Okay,
we’l meet you there in an hour.”
“What did he say?” I asked when she hung up.
“We’re going to meet him at his house in an hour. Em, I’m not sure
that you taking off to who knows where is the best answer. I stil think
there’s a way out of this without you having to leave.”
“I know,” I agreed lowly. “But let’s at least hear him out.”
“Do you want me to come in with you?” Sara asked, glancing at the
“No, I won’t be long.”
“Emily?” George’s voice holered after I heard the click of the back
I continued throwing things in my bags, ignoring him when he walked
into my room. He took in the bags on my bed with confusion.
“What do you think you’re doing?! I received a cal from the school saying
you left upset and that they wanted us to come in to talk with
them. What did you say?!”
“Don’t worry, George,” I turned to face him, raising my voice,
“I didn’t say anything to them! But I can’t stay here and live like this
anymore! I can’t live with her!”
He flinched at the anger in my voice. The alien tone was as difficult for
him to hear as it was for me to project.
“You’re not leaving here,” he stated sternly, between clenched teeth.
“Listen, we wil straighten this whole thing out, but you are not leaving
this house. Do you understand me?”
The underlying threat in his voice knocked me back. Could I walk past
him? Would he let me? Should I sneak out the window after he leaves
I watched his posture soften and sadness wash over his face. I silently
took notice of the resigned transformation.
“I understand you’re upset. And I promise you, we’l figure out a way to
work this out. None of us can live like this anymore. But leaving right
now is not going to help anything. Carol’s staying with her mother
“We’l go to the school together tomorrow and straighten everything
out. There’s no need for anyone to get hurt by this. Just stay until tomorrow,
and if you stil want to leave after the meeting, we’l make arrangements.
My mind raced. Did he mean it? Would he let me leave tomorrow? I
wouldn’t have to fly off to wherever Evan had planned to take me - I
could stay here? Just one more night.
“Okay,” I whispered.
“Why don’t you go tel Sara that you’l see her tomorrow.”
I slowly walked to Sara’s car, stil trying to decide if I was making the
right decision. Something in the depths of my stomach was begging for
me to leave.
“I’m going to stay,” I told Sara quietly.
“What do you mean?” Sara questioned in a panic.
“She’s not staying here tonight. We’re going in to the school tomorrow
morning to clear everything up, and he said that I could leave if I stil
wanted to after the meeting.”
“You believe him?” she asked, stil uneasy.
“I have to,” I whispered, my eyes filing with tears. “He’s giving me an
out without having to hurt anyone or run away.”
Sara got out of her car and hugged me. We wiped the tears from our
eyes when we finaly let go.
“I’l see you tomorrow, okay?” my voice rasped.
“Okay,” she whispered, sniffling. “What do I tel Evan? He’s not going
to be happy when I show up without you. He’s probably going to want
to come here to get you.”
“Sara, he can’t,” I pleaded. “Convince him that everything wil be okay
and I’l see him tomorrow. Please, can you do that?”
“Make him listen. I promise everything wil be okay.”