It took me a few blinks to remember where I was when I woke up in
the queen bed, with the sunlight beaming behind the shaded skylights.
I roled over to find Sara in the bed across from me, stil asleep with the
down comforter puled up around her. She groaned as the alarm
beeped to wake us so that I could get home in time to do my weekend
She grumbled, flopping her hand down on the snooze button. She revealed
her blue eyes reluctantly, peering over at me with her head stil
on her pilow. “Hey.”
“Sorry you have to get up so early,” I offered, with my head propped
up by my elbow.
“I know how it is,” she replied with stretched arms above her head.
“Em, I’m realy sorry I bailed on you last night.”
I shrugged, not wanting to think about it. “It’s not like I’l be going to
another party any time soon.”
“True. So, Evan, huh? This is realy happening, isn’t it?” Sara ran her
fingers through her long hair as she sat up in the bed, propping a pilow
“Not realy,” I contradicted. “I mean, I’m talking to him, or was. Who
knows what he’l think of me after last night.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s stil interested. Please don’t give up on him. I
don’t know al that happened last night, but I stil think he’s good for
you. Give him a chance. Try to be friends, or at least use him as an
emotional punching bag. He seems to be able to handle the backlashes
that you can’t unleash on anyone else.” She said it like being reprimanded
by me was a privilege. She studied my face with a soft smile to
make sure I understood.
I returned a half smile, trying to digest her words. Knowing I wasn’t
going to say anything, she flipped back the covers and swung her feet
to the floor. “Wel let’s get you back to hel before the devil realizes
you’re not home.” It would have been funny, except that it was too
close to the truth for me to laugh. When I walked in the back door, the
house was strangely quiet. With George’s truck missing from the
driveway, I guessed he and the kids were getting the Saturday morning
donuts and coffee. That meant she was here, somewhere - my stomach
dropped. I focused on getting to my room without having to see her.
Just outside my door, I was abruptly stopped in my tracks with a sharp
pain shrieking through my head. I winced as her claw dug deeper into
the fistful of my hair, tugging my head back so that my neck snapped
awkwardly, forced to face the ceiling. She hissed in my ear, “Did you
think I wouldn’t find out that you went out last night? What did you
do, screw the entire footbal team?”
With an unexpected amount of force, she thrust my head forward
without giving me a second to resist. The front of my skul colided with
the doorframe. A thunderous bolt shot through my head as the hal
blurred around me. Black dots filed my eyes as I attempted to focus.
Before I could find center, her vise grip tore the hair from my scalp
and drove my head into the hard wood again. The corner of the frame
connected with the left side of my forehead. The stinging burn above
my eye gave way to a flow of warmth that ran down my cheek.
“I regret every second you’re in my house,” Carol growled with contempt.
“You’re a worthless pathetic tramp, and if it wasn’t for your
uncle, I would have shut the door in your face when your drunken
mother abandoned you. It says a lot when she can’t even stand you.” I
slid down the wal, colapsing on the floor with my bags by my side. Something
landed on my knees. I made out my navy blue soccer jersey
from Thursday’s game crumpled on my lap.
“Clean yourself up before they see you, and get rid of the stench in the
basement. You’d better be done with your chores and out of my sight
by the time I get back from grocery shopping,” she threatened before
I heard the truck pul into the driveway and the doors closing, folowed
by the excited voices nearing the back door. I didn’t want them to see
me either, so I clumsily tossed my bags through the open door of my
room and pushed myself to my feet. I stumbled into the bathroom
with the support of the wal, as I heard Leyla announce, “Mom, we have
I pressed the shirt against the left side of my head, trying to stop the
bleeding as the cut pulsed under my hand. My head pounded as I tried
to regain control of my balance. The sensation that I was about to lose
consciousness seized me. I gripped the sink, fighting to focus, as I took
deep even breaths. A minute passed before I was able to stand up
straight. The dizziness subsided but the claw of pain dug into my head.
I slowly let up pressure. The side of my face was covered with blood
that ran down my neck, seeping into the colar of my turtleneck. I
couldn’t quite tel where the opening was. I took a few tissues and exchanged
them with the shirt so I could run the shirt under cold water.
I wiped the drying blood from my face with the damp jersey and revealed
the smal incision above my left eyebrow. It wasn’t very big, but
it didn’t want to stop bleeding. I applied more pressure with the shirt
as I searched in the medicine cabinet for bandages. I puled out two
butterfly bandages and applied them to the gash, puling the sides together
so it could heal - hopefuly leaving a minimal scar.
In the center of my forehead, along my hair line, was a large lump that
was already turning purple. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it – the
unwavering pain was making my eyes water. I knew I needed to put
ice on it but couldn’t figure out how to do that without being seen.
I leaned against the wal across from the mirror and closed my eyes. I
couldn’t hold back the tears that roled down my cheeks. I struggled to
maintain a steady breath so I wouldn’t cave in to the ful out cry that
the lump in my throat yearned for. The images of what happened
flashed through my head. I didn’t hear her come up behind me. She
was obviously waiting for me.
As much I tried to be invisible, she was inescapable and her wrath was
crushing. I wanted nothing more than to destroy her as I stared into
the mirror at my seeping eyes, aglow with fury. I looked down at the
bloody jersey in my hand. Her blitz attack had nothing to do with the
footbal game, or my dirty laundry; it had everything to do with me. I
knew al I had to do was make one phone cal, or walk into the school
psychologist’s office and utter one sentence, and this would al be over.
That’s when I heard the squeal of laughter in the kitchen from Leyla,
accompanied by a chuckle from Jack as she said something to make
them laugh. It would be over for them too, but in a way that would
damage them forever. I couldn’t ruin their lives. Carol and George
truly loved them, and I wouldn’t take them from their parents. I swalowed
hard, determined to compose myself, but the tears refused to
I opened the cabinets under the sink and puled out the cleaning supplies;
with my lips quivering and hands shaking, I scrubbed the tub,
swalowing against the sobs. The built up pressure from keeping the
cries contained infuriated the pain in my head. My whole body ached.
I was back to my numb, emotionless state by the time I finished cleaning
the sink. I blankly stared at the water running down the drain,
rinsing away the chemicals and blood. My raging thoughts were quiet.
“I’l be back in a couple of hours,” I heard Carol announce, closing the
door behind her. The kids were watching TV in the living room. I
couldn’t hear George.
I looked at myself in the mirror and mindlessly wiped the remaining
dried blood from around the bandages before I opened the bathroom
door. I stepped into the hal to retrieve the broom and mop from the
hal closet when George rounded the corner. He stopped and his eyes
widened. But his shocked expression quickly dissolved.
“Bump your head?” he asked casualy.
“That’s what I get for walking while reading,” I droned, knowing he
would convince himself of anything except for the truth.
“You should put some ice on it,” he recommended.
“Mmm,” I agreed and walked back into the bathroom to complete my
After my chores were completed, I returned to my room to find a bag
of ice waiting for me on my desk.
I gently put the bag of ice on the lump and watched Jack and Leyla
chase after George in the backyard through my window –
sworn to silence in my hel.
I awoke in a panic around midnight. I stayed pressed to my pilow, my
eyes fervently searching the room. I was breathing heavily; my shirt
was damp with sweat. I tried to detach myself from the nightmare that
had awoken me. It was hard to push away the urgency of the dream
that had me pinned beneath the water, drowning. I took in a deep
breath, confirming that I was stil alive as the air passed easily through
my lungs. They weren’t burning for oxygen as they had been in my
dream. I had a hard time faling asleep after that. Sleep finaly found me
just before the sun rose. I was awoken by a hard knock on the door.
“Are you going to sleep al day?” the voice barked from the other side.
“I’m up,” I mustered in a rasp, hoping she wouldn’t come in. I looked
at the digital clock next to my bed that read 8:30. I knew I had to take
a shower before nine o’clock or do without. I slowly sat up with the
throbbing pain, a reminder of my living nightmare. I needed to find a
way to ice it again so the lump would be gone by the time I went to
school tomorrow. I knew there was nothing I could do about the dark
purple bruise. Thankfuly the area around the cut wasn’t bruised.
Sara’s new hairstyle was going to come in handy with covering up
most of it.
I gathered my clothes together and slipped into the bathroom without
being seen. Washing my hair was more painful than I anticipated. I
hadn’t realized how sore the back of my head was from her iron grip of
my hair. I felt blood scabbed over where some of the hair had been
forcefuly removed. I was so focused on the contusion that the back of
my head didn’t register until now. I gingerly used my fingertips to rub
the shampoo into the front of my hair, but it stil felt like a form of torture.
I turned off the water before the knock and proceeded to dry off
and get dressed. After gently drying my hair with a towel, I discovered
that brushing my hair was worse than washing it. Tears filed my eyes
with each stroke of the brush. There was no way I was going to be able
to blow it dry. Reluctantly, I made the decision not to wash my hair
the next day despite how atrocious I knew it would look after sleeping
on it. I wasn’t wiling to go through the pain again.
“Does she know about this afternoon?” I heard Carol ask George from
the kitchen as I sat at my desk engrossed in my Trigonometry
“Yeah, I told her yesterday,” he replied. “She’s going to the library and
wil be back for dinner.”
“And you believe she’s going to the library?” she asked doubtingly.
“Why wouldn’t she?” he questioned.
I didn’t hear a response from Carol.
“I’l be back around one,” she finaly said. Then the back door opened
“Want to go outside and play with Emma?” George asked the kids.
“Yeah,” they screamed in unison.
“Emma,” George belowed through the closed door, “do you mind taking
the kids outside?”
“Be right there.” I grabbed my fleece jacket and was greeted warmly by
jumping, cheering kids.
The rest of my day was actualy fairly pleasant. I kicked the soccer bal
around in the postage stamp backyard with Leyla and Jack. George
and Carols’ house was modest, puny compared to Sara’s. The section
of town we lived in was typical middle America, but compared to the
Pleasantvile of the rest of Weslyn, it might as wel have been the other
side of the tracks.
I rode my bike to the library while George and Carol took the kids to
the movies. I spent the remainder of the afternoon hidden in the
stacks completing my assignments or in the computer room typing my
English paper. I avoided human interaction at al cost, fearful of the reaction
I’d receive at the sight of me. I finished with a few minutes to
spare before I had to start home, so I caled Sara on the pay phone.
“Hi!” she exclaimed, a little too overzealous for someone I had just
seen the day before. “How are you caling me?”
“I’m at the library, on the pay phone.”
“Oh! I’l be right there.”
“No,” I blurted before she could hang up the phone. “I’m leaving in a
minute, but I wanted to prepare you for when you pick me up
“What happened?” Sara asked with concern, almost panic.
“I’m okay,” I calmly assured her, trying to downplay her reaction. “I
fell and hit my head, so I have a bandage and a little bruise. It’s realy
no big deal.”
“Emma! What did she do to you?!” Sara yeled with a mix of fear and
anger in her voice.
“Nothing, Sara,” I corrected. “I fell.”
“Sure you did,” she said quietly. “Are you realy okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay. I have to go, but I’l see you in the morning.”
“Okay,” Sara replied reluctantly, before I hung up the phone.