Hard Knock Life
I gripped the rifle once again, adjusting my position before looking through the scope. I clenched my jaw tightly, trying to ignore the pain of the heavy weapon against my shoulder. I knew if I said something or looked as if I were in pain, he’d say something. I didn’t want to hear his mouth again. His voice drilled through my head like the drill sergeant he ached to be.
“Line it up. Take a deep breath and hold it in, exhale after you push the trigger.”
I closed my eyes for moment, feeling the soft breeze fly by. I had to adjust the calculations. Thankfully I was skilled at this part.
“Richie, what are you two doing?”
I heard my Uncle’s voice from a few feet away. I didn’t dare to look away from the target that was half a mile into the woods.
“Training her, what does it look like?” My father grunted.
Once I fixed the calculations so the wind wouldn’t interfere, I looked through the scope once more, my blue eyes lined up with the wooden target in site.
I inhaled and pressed the trigger. The bullet flying out, ripping through the air and passing the large tree’s while the recoil of the weapon made me grunt as I bit back a pained yelp. I exhaled, seeing the bullet hit the target in the center. Much better then the first time around as I missed the center by three inches.
“Training a ten year old with a highly dangerous military rifle? For what?” My uncle’s voice boomed through the space between us.
I finally sat up, rolling my pained shoulder with a wince before I looked toward my Father and Uncle. My Father put down the binoculars with a grin and nodded in satisfaction.
“How many ten year old girl’s you know that can make that shot, huh?” My father asked as he looked over at my Uncle, a hint of a proud smile on his face, that's rare.
I swallowed hard and stood up, carrying the heavy weapon with both hands towards the men folk. “Hey, Uncle Frank.” I greeted.
My Father took the rifle from me. “Thats enough for today, sweetheart. Go wash up for dinner. I think your Mother is making pork chops tonight.”
I nodded at him and smiled up at my Uncle. I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks. He’s usually over once or twice a week, takes Bryan and I out someplace fun. He bent down a bit and I hugged him tightly. I can see he was pissed at my dad, but he hid it well around me.
“I missed you, boogerface.” His English accent made me laugh.
“Missed you too, tea cup.”
We pulled away from each other and I walked into the house before my father had to repeat himself.
My mom was in the kitchen already cooking, Bryan setting the table. Mom told me to wash up, that dinner was almost ready, while Bryan just gave me a quick glance. He understood. Dad never pushed the training hard on him like he did with me. He hated the training.
Walking into the bathroom to wash my hands that was filled with grease and dirt, I heard my Father and Uncle arguing from the open window. After I washed the soap off, I turned off the water to eavesdrop better.
“She’s only ten years old, Richard. Let her be a kid for once!”
“Don’t tell me how to raise my daughter, Frank. She’s old enough to train.”
“For what? The apocalypse?”
“You know damn well what's out there Frank. My kids are going to save lives like we have.”
“You mean Arabella? Cause you know you don’t train Bryan half as hard as you train her.”
“She’s a girl. Obviously I have to train her harder.”
I looked out the window through the curtain to see Uncle Frank shaking his head.
“You’re insane, you know that?”
“Aren’t we all?”
A knock on the bathroom door made me jump and I quickly opened it, seeing Bryan. His blue eyes scanned me over quickly.
“Are you okay?” He asked in a whisper.
“My shoulder hurts.” I whispered back.
He looked behind him and then grabbed my wrist, pulling me gently out of the bathroom and into my room. He closed the door quietly and lifted up my sleeve and winced. I hadn’t looked at it yet, too scared to see. He tighten his jaw as he examined my shoulder, touching it gently but I flinched at the pain.
“I’m so sorry, Ara.”
I could see he was in pain himself. He had protected me against dad several times during the harsh training sessions. His last failed attempt was a bruised chest and ego after dad decided to give him a brutal martial art lesson.
“It’s okay, I’m used to it.” I half shrugged my good shoulder.
“Well, Uncle Frank said he’s taking us to the fair this weekend and I think dad’s gonna be out on a hunt.”
I did my best not to get my hopes up. I actually enjoyed when dad went on hunts, it gave us a break away from him and we saw more of Uncle Frank. But, by the way they’re arguing outside, I doubt those plans will last.
I pulled my sleeve back down, hearing mom’s voice call out that dinners ready.
“You want me to tell mom about your shoulder?”
I shook my head. “It’s fine, I’ll wrap it before bed.”
Bryan flashed me a sad look before sighing in defeat. He knew how stubborn I was.
“Fine, lets go.”
The bell rang, letting everyone know that it was lunch time. The teacher told everyone to close their books and grab their lunches, if they came with home food and to line up. Hazel eyes from the other side of the classroom met mine along with a pair of green ones. I ignored them and slammed my history book closed before getting my sweater that draped on the back of the uncomfortable metal chair and stood on line.
One by one, each student, including myself, waited on the lunch line from every grade. Today was chicken nugget and fries day, the best day for lunch. We usually had this once a week and everyone lived for it. Nobody liked sloppy joe day, and we made do with pizza day, but only if they had pepperoni.
Grabbing the tray of chicken nuggets with french fries, I grabbed a bottle of water and my eyes searched for a seat. This was the first year I wasn’t with Bryan, as he graduated to middle school. I didn’t have much friends either, stuck to myself really and the only kid I would consider an acquaintance is home sick from school. Go figure.
I took a seat next to the window and opened the packet of ketchup. I preferred BBQ sauce with my nuggets, but I’m not going to get picky now. I eyed the two boys giggling as they by passed my table. Devin and Luke. Devin was a chubby little dick, always picked on me. I think its mostly because our fathers got into a heated argument once a few years back. Bryan had said he might have a small crush on me, after he threatened the little porker to stay away from me. He did, for a while. But now that Bryan wasn’t here this year, he’s been like a pesky little fruit fly that won’t fly away. Luke, his BFF, was tolerable, but just as bad if Devin worked him up.
The two bandits stuck their tongues at me as they walked by making me roll my eyes and continued eating. I rolled my shoulder, it was really sore today. I had it wrapped and tried not to show any pain so nobody would notice, especially my teachers. Last thing my father or mother wanted was another knock on the door from child services. Our first case was officially closed.
When I was finished with my lunch, I threw the tray in the trash and put my sweater on, nice and slowly as I walked out of the lunch room and into the playground outside where kids were already playing. Some were playing handball, others jump rope, hula hoop and running around the track. I zippered up my sweater, feeling the nice chilled air of October and started to walk to the other end of the playground, away from everyone else.
And thats when I felt it.
The small little ball hit the middle of my back. My lip snarled up as I paused in place, hearing the giggles again coming from behind me.
“Wanna play, Arabella?” Devin’s voice sing-songed.
I made the mistake of playing handball with him once. I won and he got mad. A girl beat him. Boo hoo. Now he taunts me for a chance at redemption.
“Go away, Devin.”
“Oh, Whats the matter? Too good for a rematch?”
The ball hit my back again and I growled in anger, turning around to face him.
“Why? So you can cry like a little bitch again because you lost?” I rolled my eyes. “Go away, I’m not in the mood today.” I warned, crossing my arms over my chest.
Devin and Luke began to laugh and Devin tossed the ball towards me again, this time I caught it with one hand before it hit my chest. I flashed a fake smile at them and tossed the ball to the other side of the playground, almost hitting a teacher as it bounced.
“Go fetch your stupid ball.” I turned back around and began walking.
Devin placed his hand on my bad shoulder and pulled me back. “No you go get it, freak!”
I winced in pain as he pulled my shoulder back roughly, almost knocking me to the ground but I caught my footing. Devin pushed me this time, making me yelp out in pain as his hand hit my bad shoulder again.
All I saw was red now.
I swung my right foot up to his crotch, kicking him in his sorry excuse for balls. As he bent over in pain, crying out, I kicked my knee up to his face, making him fall on his back. A few kids that saw what happened were calling out for help as Devin curled up in a fetal position, crying and whimpering. I turned to Luke as he stared at me wide eyed.
“You freak!” He yelled at me and rushed to his friend as a female and male teacher ran over.
“Arabella Callahan! You’re going to the principal’s office!” Miss Sawyer grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards the school building.
I winced as I rolled my bad shoulder, feeling the pain shooting down my arm now. I wasn’t scared as we entered the building, what I was scared the most of was my father, who was most liking to be coming when they called.
I sat in the office, my arms crossed over my chest and I rocked my legs under the chair. The office lady kept glancing at me, to make sure I was still there. I was just reprimanded by the principal, telling my side of the story before she told me she was calling my parents as well as Devin’s.
The door opened and I glanced up at the man who entered. I wasn’t sure if I should be surprised or happy to see that it wasn’t my father, but my Uncle Frank instead. I flashed him a small smile but he just glared down at me sternly before looking at the office lady, giving her a polite smile.
“Can I talk to her alone? We’ll be right back.” He asked her.
“Sure. I’ll tell Principal Atlas you’re here.”
Uncle Frank nodded and looked back down at me. He nudged his head towards the door, and I jumped off my seat and walked out of the office. He put his hand on my upper back to guide me to a empty corner of the building before he crouched down to my height.
“What happened, Ara?” He asked, looking down the hall to see if anyone was coming.
“It was self-defense, Uncle Frank. He pushed me, hurt my shoulder. I got mad and hit him back.” I explained.
He looked at me, his hazel eyes looking at my shoulder. “What's wrong with your shoulder?”
I looked around us. “Don’t tell dad.” I whispered. “The gun from yesterday recoiled hard and bruised my shoulder. Bryan helped me wrap it up this morning.”
His jaw became hard as he inhaled deeply, shaking his head. “Shit.” He mumbled. “Why didn’t you say anything to your mother?”
“Because then she would have yelled at dad for pushing me too hard during training and then he’ll get on my case again. You know how he is.”
He stared at my shoulder, contemplating something.
“Where is he anyway?” I asked curiously.
“Work. Mom went with him.”
I couldn’t help but smile when his words set in. He looked up at me, tilting his head to the side.
“Well don’t look so thrilled. We still have to deal with them.” He nudged his chin towards the office door. “I think you broke the kid’s nose.”
“He deserves it. He’s always picking on me. Ask Bryan.”
Frank let out a sigh. “Alright, lets get this over with, booger face. Then we’ll pick up your brother from school early and do something fun for the weekend. How’s that sound?”
My smile grew and I nodded. “Sounds good. So I’m not in trouble?”
“Nah. You said it was self-defense. Might have taken it a little hard, but you’re not in trouble with me. I’m proud of you.” He pinched my nose and stood up. “Lets go face the music.”
As soon as we entered the principals office, Devin and his mother came inside as well. Ms. Atlas, told us all to sit, so we did.
“As I told the two children before, we don’t tolerate this kind of violence in this school.” Ms. Atlas explained.
“I’m aware.” Frank said. “I do apologize for Arabella’s actions, and I’m sure she’s sorry.” He looked at me. “Right Bella?”
I looked at him. I wasn’t sorry, and he knew I wasn’t either. But I had to play the role to get out of shits creek. I nodded. “I am sorry. It won’t happen again.” I said to Ms. Atlas.
“Sorry isn’t going to fix the fact she broke my son’s nose.” Devin’s mother hissed. “I want her held accountable.”
“For what? Frank asked, leaning up from his seat. “She’s ten years old. Want her to pay a hospitable bill or something?”
“I want her expelled.” Devin’s mom told Ms. Atlas, ignoring Frank.
“I was thinking a few days suspension, Mrs Laine. Expelling a ten year old for a school fight like this for the first time is a little extreme. If this was a reoccurring theme, then yes.”
“She could have killed him!”
I tried my best to not roll my eyes and start laughing.
“I think this is a one time action, Mrs. Laine.” Uncle Frank said. “Next time, tell your son not to pick on my niece and she won’t have to feel the need to defend herself.”
“Excuse me?” Mrs. Laine turned towards him. “Are you calling my son a bully?”
“Yes I am. I’ve been told numerous times about his bullying against Arabella. She said he put his hands on her and hurt her. A person’s mind goes into fight or flight mode. Her's went into fight mode. She defended herself. She said she was sorry. I think we are done here.” He stood up. “I will let her parents know about her suspension.” He informed the principle as I stood up, following him out.
We both ignored the shrieking of Devin’s mother as we walked out of the office and out of the building.
“She was a wild one, huh?” He asked with a smirk as he held the car door open for me.
“Yeah, you can say that.”
He closed the door and rounded the car, getting into the drivers seat.
“So, what do you want for lunch?” He asked as he pulled away from the school.
“I can go for some pizza.”
“Pizza it is, darling.”