BWERV! BRAYNK! BRAYNK! BRAYNK! BRAYNK!
My phone vibrated against the hard surface of my nightstand, letting me know it was time to get up for the day that lay ahead. Unwillingly, I opened my eyes and forced myself to sit up in the cot and stretch. When I reached for my phone to kill the alarm, the sudden light from my phone blinded me for a moment from sleeping in a completely dark room with no windows. I reached for the small lamp on the nightstand with my free hand to turn on the light. When I pulled the little chain, the light scared the darkness away and dimly lit the closet-sized room. My entire body felt almost as if it was made of lead as I stood up from the old uncomfortable cot and stretched. I was always impressed with myself when I could get any sleep at all from sleeping on the cot because it was so stiff and uncomfortable. I can’t complain too much when it’s the only place Mom’s current boyfriend, Kendal, would allow me to sleep in his apartment. It was supposed to be his spare bedroom for his friends if they had too much to drink and couldn’t remember where they parked their car.
I straightened up my baggy tee-shirt and sweat pants before I ventured into the narrow hallway of the apartment. I flipped on the hall light as I walked down the hall and saw the huge mess of beer cans and garbage all over the floor from an unexpected party that happened during the night while I was sleeping.
“Damn it… Not again,” I groaned to myself as I made my way to the bathroom. Mom and I had just picked up the apartment the night before and had the entire place in the cleanest condition it could possibly have been in. Kendal and his friends trashed the whole place in just a few hours after her and I had fallen asleep. I kicked the cans and garbage out of my way to get to the bathroom. I didn’t have time to deal with Kendal’s usual mess that day. I had more important things to worry about.
I made my way to the opened bathroom door at the other end of the hall. Before I walked inside, the subtle odor of mildew, mold, and neglect burned my nostrils. I wrinkled my nose in response as I stepped inside to turn on the light. The light had shown the grime that was caked on every square inch of the bathroom. No amount of scrubbing would ever be able to remove all the grime and filth it was so caked on from years of neglect and abuse. The tiles were full of many cracks and holes from things being dropped or Kendal punching the walls during his fits of rage.
I kept my toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and hair brush in a large plastic bag to keep everything clean since the shelf everything sat on was covered in just as much grime as the walls and floors. I pulled out my toothpaste and toothbrush and quickly brushed my teeth then rinsed my mouth with the funny tasting water from the sink. I looked at my reflection in the scratched-up mirror. I saw the exhaustion all over my long and pale face. My chocolate brown hair was all over the place almost as if I had been to a hectic party all night long. Even my electric green eyes were dull from not getting a restful night sleep. I rubbed my face with both of my hands, trying to wake myself up before I grabbed my hair brush out of the plastic bag. As I started the attack on my hair with my brush, trying to tame the wild tangles; I thought of what happened a few nights ago between Mom, Kendal and me. That was the night that Mom finally grew a backbone and realized what would be the best for the both of us.
It was a bitter cold night and the living room of the apartment was packed full of men that reeked of alcohol, tobacco, pot, and any other nasty scents that polluted the air. They chattered amongst themselves just like monkeys about all kinds of pointless topics that only blurred together as Mom and I served them. Mom was handing out the sandwiches while I was standing at the kitchen counter, making the sandwiches with my back turned to the small living room.
“Becky! More Beer!” Kendal shouted in his drunken stupor as his voice cracked from the decades of constant smoking and drugs.
“Honey, you’ve already had twenty beers. You’re already going to have one hell of a hangover in the morning and it’s going to get worse if you keep drinking more,” Mom timidly handed the sandwiches to Kendal’s friends.
“You useless ’ore! When I say more beer, I mean more beer!” He flung his empty beer bottle at Mom’s head, but he missed her and the bottle shattered against the kitchen wall, missing my head by only a few feet. I almost jumped out of my skin from the sudden loud noise against the wall. Mom stood still for a moment while the other men finished taking their sandwiches before she dared look back to Kendal.
“I’m sorry, I’m getting you some more! Just hold on a second,” Mom dashed over to the kitchen side of the apartment and placed the large empty plate on the small, nasty kitchen table and walked over to the fridge. She opened the door and pulled out a large unopened case of beer. It took all her strength to heave it to the living room and dropped the case down on the floor in the middle of the men and pushed the empty case off to the side and out of the way. The entire time, she moved like a frightened deer, trying to hold back the tears welling up in her eyes. It made my blood boil whenever he treated her like that.
“Where’s that dumb kid o’ yers? She needs to keen up that mess!” Kendal hiccupped. I loathed that man with every fiber of my being and it disgusted me to listen to him speak. I was well over my boiling point with him and it sickened me to my stomach the way he treated Mom. She was the only family I had ever known. I didn’t know what had gotten into me that night, but I finally had enough and snapped.
“Why don’t you clean it up?! It’s your mess you bum!” I growled as I finished making the last of the sandwiches and turned to give him a dirty scowl. My arms were tightly crossed over my chest and I was digging my nails into my arms. If I didn’t do so, my fingers would’ve found their way around his fat, greasy neck in a heartbeat.
“You can’t talk like that to me you lil’ ’itch!” He barked and jumped out of his chair, almost falling over from being too drunk to see or walk straight. “You do as I says or you out in the streets wheres you belongs!” He managed to stumble his way over to me and hovered over me. I held my breath, but my eyes were starting to tear up from the intense stink leaking from his pores. I didn’t say a word, afraid that I would breathe in too much of his stink and pass out. Up close, I saw all the grease and sweat that had built up all over his exposed tan white skin and was gunked up in his short black hair, proving that the man rarely ever bathed or knew how to practice good personal hygiene. The same went for his clothing; he always wore the same one-white, wife-beater tee-shirt and filthy jeans even though he had a closet full of clean clothes. His round face, his double chins, and the nasty attitude he carried made him the ugliest man on Earth in my opinion. His beady little black eyes burned through me, but I didn’t care. I was fed up with all the things he did to Mom and me. I was ready to rip him to shreds.
He suddenly grabbed me by the neck and squeezed hard. It took every ounce of strength I had to hold my breath. I grabbed his arms and attempted to pull them away from my throat. The anger was growing stronger inside of me and something deep down was telling me to rip out his throat and tear him limb from limb. I started digging my nails into his skin and squeezed his fat arm hard, trying to force him to let go. I had a firm grip on his arms and I felt my nails digging into his skin as I squeezed harder and harder. He was struggling to stand his ground as I pushed back.
“Kendal stop! Don’t hurt her! Ava will clean up the glass! Just please don’t hurt her!” Mom shouted hysterically. She ran up to Kendal and grabbed at his shoulder with all her strength, tears were falling down her sunken cheeks. I grit my teeth hard and squeezed his arms to the point my fingers had disappeared under the fat on his arms. I felt my nails digging into his nasty, greasy skin, but I didn’t dare let go in fear of what he might do if I did. He didn’t seem to realize that I was holding my ground or acknowledge I was a human being as he gave me an angry scowl and was gritting hard on his rotten teeth. He had the look upon his face that he wasn’t entirely sure why he was squeezing my neck, just that he enjoyed attempting to choke the life out of me as he tried to put me in my place.
“Come on dude, lighten up on the kid,” one of his friends called out from behind him. I calmed down slightly from being thrown off from his friend telling him to back off. He turned his head slightly and tried to see who it was that said that before returning his attention to me. The look in his eyes reminded me of a crazed wild animal. He finally jerked his hand away and my nails scratched his skin, but he was too drunk to realize that I had scratched up his arms. It appeared that he had gotten into a fight with a feral cat and the skin around the scratches were starting to bruise where I squeezed his arms with all my strength. He turned and walked back to his chair and the chatter started up again as if the incident between him and me had never happened. I was trying to catch my breath as I gently rubbed my neck where he roughly grabbed it. I wanted to rip his head off so badly, I could almost taste it.
“Ava. Everything is okay. Please calm down and take a couple of deep breaths,” Mom jumped in front of me and started checking me over to see if I was alright. She worried over me almost as if I had just gotten out of a bad fight. I did as she said and took several deep breaths and tried to relax, trying to please her since her cheeks were still wet and her eyes were red. After a moment, I could calm myself down enough that the urge to kill Kendal wasn’t worth my time.
“I’ll be fine Mom, I promise. I’ll clean up Kendal’s mess since he’s too childish to do anything himself on his own,” I hissed quietly, only loud enough for Mom to hear. Mom gazed over her shoulder over to Kendal before looking back to me. Her eyes were slowly returning to their normal color as she remained calm after being extremely upset.
“Ava. Please wash your hands before you clean anything,” I looked down at my hands. There was only a little bit of skin and blood under my fingernails. My fingernails weren’t too long, I always thought they were about average length. I just assumed I squeezed his fat arms harder than I thought I did and shrugged it off. I walked over to the kitchen sink to wash the skin and blood from under my fingernails. I felt the drunk bastard should’ve gotten a lot worse than just getting slightly clawed up a bit by a teenager.
Then, suddenly we heard a bunch of chairs moving and feet shuffling across the carpet floor from the living room. I turned my head as I was washing my hands and saw all the men were grabbing their coats off the back of the couch and filling out of the front door.
“Where are you going?” Mom dashed towards the men, trying to get Kendal’s attention.
“It none o’ yer bizness Becky! I’ma be back when I wanna!” He slurred as he put on his coat backwards, but he didn’t seem to notice. He grabbed his car keys and slammed the door behind him as the last of his friends walked out of the door. The last noise we heard from them was their obnoxious stomping feet down the stairs of the apartment. Mom stood still in the middle of the living room for a moment, almost as if she was waiting for him to come back and apologize to her for behaving like such an ass to her and promise he would change his ways. I finished washing my hands and dried them off before approaching her.
“Mom... I think we should talk. Kendal is going to be gone probably for the rest of the night or so. We’ll be able to talk in private,” I gently lead her to the couch so she would be able to sit down while we talked.
“Oh Ava, everything is going to be alright... He’s just drunk right now he didn’t mean all the things he said and did,” her voice choked slightly as she tried to think of excuses for Kendal’s actions so we would stay with him. He was no different than the previous abusive boyfriends she had in the past.
“Mom, he’s rarely ever sober and he’s out of work and the Government checks he gets he spends it all on his junk... Mom you’re already working twelve hour shifts down at the store six days a week and barely making ends meet trying to pay his bills and your bills. I’m worried for your health and well being here,” I sat down next to her and gave her my best serious glare as I tried to get her to come to her senses.
“But... I think I can get him to come to his senses and be the good man I know he is and he’ll help take care of us,” her voice trailed off. She had said these things many times before whenever she tried defending her many abusive boyfriends I had known growing up before she gets the sense and guts to leave them. She always had a little bit of help from friends. She wouldn’t leave them on her own, she needs a slight push from someone she trusts.
“Mom, we’ve been living like this since March and its December now... He’s not going to change, otherwise he would’ve done so by now. I honestly think he has gotten worse over the last few months. I hate to tell you this, but it’s time to leave him behind,” I placed my hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her the best way I could. She gave me the same hurt look she always gave whenever someone tried talking to her about leaving the current abusive boyfriend. Anyone could tell that she was arguing with herself in her head whenever she looked at me then down to her feet and hands. I saw that she knew she should listen to me, but she still thought she could fix Kendal like she thought she could fix the previous men in her life. “Mom, I’ll let you think it over until you decide you know what you want to do,” I stood up from the couch and brushed off the debris from my pants that were on the couch. “I’ll be in the kitchen.”
I’ve talked with her like that several times and I’ve watched her best friend talk with her about the same things when I was little. The both of us found when Mom was starting to argue with herself over the situation, it was always best to leave her alone to her thoughts. Most of the time she would come to her senses and leave the cruel and abusive men behind, but there were always a few times it took a few tries before she did decide to leave them.
I had cleaned up the broken glass, finished washing the dishes, and had started collecting the trash around the kitchen when Mom had come up to me and tapped my shoulder to get my attention.
“You’re right Ava... We can’t afford to keep doing this and Kendal isn’t going to change his ways for us,” she sighed with disappointment as she finally said those words. “I’m going to try to get a hold of my friend, Kendra, and ask her if we can stay at her place while she’s on vacation. Hopefully, we’ll be out of here within the next few days. Just make sure your things are packed up and ready to go when I tell you that everything is ready,” she was calm and collected. The tears had dried up and she carried herself a little higher than she did before. I dropped the trash bag to the ground and gave her a strong hug.
“I’m proud of you Mom,” when I pulled away, a smile had returned to her face. I has not seen her smile since before her and I moved in with Kendal back in March. For the remainder of that evening, we got a head start on packing up everything that belonged to us, preparing for the day we would finally be out of that hell hole.
“Today is the day,” I whispered to myself as I finished brushing my hair, returning to the present. Mom told me the night before that she had everything taken care of and now all she needed to do was officially break it off with Kendal then we could leave for her friend, Kendra’s apartment. Everything I owned was already packed away in my suitcase and ready to be put away in Mom’s old car. The only things I had left in the apartment was the plastic bag I had my brush and toothbrush in and a change of clothes.
I went back into my bedroom and grabbed a plain black tee-shirt and a pair of old blue jeans. I threw my baggy t-shirt, my sweat pants, and my plastic bag into my suitcase under the cot, ready for Mom to grab once she got off work and told Kendal off. I went back into the bathroom and looked in the mirror again. My hair was nice and neat unlike the mess it was before. My bangs went halfway down and around my face so I could see where I was going. I looked down at my blue stone necklace around my neck I had never taken off since it was given to me as a small child. It was a smooth bright blue stone that was cradled within a shiny silver metal swirl. Mom had given it to me for a birthday present and told me my biological father had given it to her and she decided to hand it down to me. It was the only thing I had of my father since I had never met him and Mom spoke very little about him. She told me he had died before I was born and was the kindest man she had ever known before changing the subject. That was all she ever said about him whenever I asked her throughout the years.
Once I felt I appeared presentable to the public, I turned off the lights in the bedroom and bathroom and made my way into the kitchen.
I sat down at the small wooden kitchen table and moved the garbage to get to my old-school bag and books, knocking several items onto the floor. I didn’t care that I was making such a mess of the place, it wasn’t going to be my problem anymore and Kendal seemed to like the apartment in such a disgusting state to begin with. It felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off my shoulders, knowing I wouldn’t have to come back to that nasty apartment or deal with Kendal daily anymore. I looked at the time on my phone, seeing that I still had more than half an hour before I had to leave to catch the school bus. I picked up my school bag off the kitchen table to take it over to the couch so it would be easier to grab once it was time to walk out of the door. I got on my hands and knees to reach under the couch for my shoes and jacket. I kept them there so they would stay in one place, otherwise Kendal would’ve thrown them in the trash or it would’ve took me forever to find them under the mess his friends made during the night. Once my fingers found my jacket and shoes, I pulled them out and brushed off the dust bunnies that stuck to them from being under the couch. I pushed the garbage off to the side to give myself some space to sit down and put on my shoes. I grabbed the remote off the heavily stained coffee table to turn on the television when I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I had received a text message from my friend, Elizabeth.
‘Good morning miss sunshine. Is her highness out of bed yet?’ I responded to her ‘good morning’ text after I turned on the television to a random channel for background noise.
‘She just did a few minutes ago. She’s currently rushing to get her make up on and get dressed for the day before the bus gets here,’ she sent back.
‘Why am I not surprised haha,’ I replied.
‘I know Mom would have a heart attack if Malvina ever got out of bed before six in the morning.’
‘I know I would haha. Hell will freeze over before that happens,’ I snickered to myself as I sent the message. I noticed that it was getting closer to time to leave for the school bus when I checked my phone’s clock. I slipped on my jacket and placed the shoulder strap of my bag over my shoulder before double checking my things to make sure I had everything I needed for the day. Once I was sure I had everything I needed, I pulled out my key and walked out the front door. I locked the door behind me and dashed down the stairs to get to the parking lot outside. The second I pushed open the glass door that lead outside, I felt the cold air nip at my cheeks and fingers. I shoved my hands into my pockets as I walked carefully through the slick parking lot, trying not to slip on ice and be forced to go to school in cold, wet clothes.
My surroundings were silent with the occasional gentle gust of wind that shook the bare branches of trees and sent chills down anyone’s spine. The sky was completely gray with tiny snowflakes drifting carefully to the ground. I had the sinking feeling that a snow storm was on its way from the way the gray sky loomed overhead.
Once I had reached the entrance to the apartment complex that met with the main road, I found that I wasn’t alone. There were a handful of other high school students already standing in the driveway, waiting for the school bus to arrive. They either stood in one place, completely silent and on their phones or talking quietly amongst themselves. I shuffled my legs back and forth to keep myself warm by continuously moving. It didn’t take long for the familiar loud growls of a yellow school bus to come from around the corner and stop in front of the apartment entrance. All the students quickly shuffled towards the bus doors, ready to be out of the winter cold. Once the doors open, they quickly filed onboard and I followed closely behind them. I felt the heat coming from the vents on the bus and the bus driver gave me his usual warm greeting. The old man was friendly towards everyone that rode his bus, even if they were rude to him. I often felt sorry for him because of the kind of students he had to deal with every day. They would often get into silly fights or harass another student for no good reason and he would have to break them up. There had been a few times either I or another upperclassman would have to help him break up the freshmen or sophomores that would get into a silly dispute because he wasn’t assertive enough to handle them on his own.
I walked down the aisle until I found an empty seat to sit down in. I felt the bus jerk forward once everyone was seated and the old bus driver continued his morning route. I gazed out the window in my seat, watching trees, houses, and other things go flying by as the bus driver drove along the main road. I had tuned out the quiet chatter from the others and just sat silently in my thoughts. I was extremely relieved that another abusive man was going to be out of my life and it would just be Mom and I again. I felt a grin slowly stretching out over my face the more I thought about what possibilities laid ahead for Mom and me in the future. Anything new at that point was better than living in that nasty apartment with that poor excuse of a man.