b e a t i n g s
“Just because you don’t cry doesn’t mean you’re not afraid.”
My alarm rings loudly and with a groan I roll out of bed and onto the hard floor. Big mistake.
Pain shoots through my body and I grimace as I push myself into a sitting position and stretch. My desk lamp is still on, with my book laying open next to it.
A unfinished cup of water perches on the end of the nightstand and I am quick to move it, before it can fall and wreak disaster upon the wooden floors.
I tiredly make my way to the bathroom, not bothering to change my clothes. I undo my braids and my hair falls in waves to my ribcage. One quick brushing of mascara and chapstick later and I’m ready to go, pulling my heavy backpack over my shoulder and dazedly walking down the stairs.
Dorian is standing before me, tapping her foot.
“What?” I say, trying to recall anything that I’ve done that she hasn’t already yelled at me about before. My mind comes up empty. She groans with frustration.
“You never ate last night.”
I shrug. “So?”
She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “Athena, you cant keep doing this. I can see you getting thinner and thinner. I know things aren’t ideal... but I need you to be strong.”
I glare at my feet before grabbing an apple off the counter and biting into it viciously.
“There. Now can we go?”
I have to be the first one to class.
If I’m not I will get jumped in the halls or outside the school. I don’t make the same mistakes twice.
Dorian bites her lip but nods and I follow her outside to the car, a rickety old Toyota.
I hop in shotgun and examine my nails, hoping that Dorian doesn’t try and talk to me. Talking is hard.
After a few minutes of silence she opens her mouth to speak. “We are having someone over for dinner tonight,”
My eyes search her face.
“A coworker.” She replies vaguely.
“And?” I prod her.
She gives me a look.
“I’ve been out to lunch with him a few times and decided it was time for you to meet him. He knows about our situation and is even buying the food... isn’t that sweet?” Her voice softens.
For her sake I paste on a smile. “Yeah, okay.”
It’s not okay.
He’s probably going to be big and buff and handsome. Three things that terrify me. Because of him.
Because of the boy who broke me.
Dorian smiles at me gratefully. “Thanks, Thena, I love you, okay?”
I force a smile in return. “I love you too, Dori.”
I hop pout of the car and make a beeline for the school, not looking back. It’s all a race now.
My pace quickens as I speed up, nearly sprinting. My legs wobble underneath me, my strength severely drained from lack of sleep, malnutrition, and the beatings I put up with.
I’m too early. The doors to the school are locked.
I squeeze my eyes shut, willing myself not to cry in fear.
Laughter echoes from nearby, dark masculine laughter.
“Is she gonna cry?” A mocking voice sing-songs.
I force my eyes open and they clash with a pair of sharp grey ones. A shiver runs through my body. It’s my tormentor.
“L-leave me alone D-Derrick,” I choke out.
He steps forward, taking my chin in his large hand and gripping it hard, forcing me to look up at him.
The smell of his dank breath fills my nostrils and I cringe away.
“Is the kitten trying to be a tiger?” Derrick taunts, his other hand wrapping around my wrist and squeezing hard on the pressure point. I let out an involuntary cry of pain, trying to pry his hand away from my wrist.
His eyes glitter.
“Can’t take a bit of pain, can you? Count yourself lucky you have a such pretty face or I would have busted it by now.” His first collides with my sunken stomach and I grunt in pain, whimpering.
“No Athena... I think not.” He punches me again, in my side. “Stop!” I yell in pain, my voice coming out as little more than a weakened whisper.
School buses pull away from the parking lot, setting off to pick up the wild teenagers that will soon fill this place. Derrick casts a weary look towards them before turning his sharp eyes back towards me.
“I’ll see you soon, kitten.” He bites out, before vanishing.
I’m left leaning against the school wall, my chest heaving and my stomach aching.
The door handle rattles and is pulled open by a flax haired janitor dressed in simple light blue clothes. He casts me a odd look as I sigh in relief and slip past him, already heading for my locker.
How twisted that the one place most kids consider a prison is my safe place.