My pencil dug into the paper of the notebook, as I boredly drew a darker and darker spot as the seconds ticked by. Ms. Livingston continued to drone on about the history of different businessmen, her words turning into white noise in the background. The sleeves of my hoodie dragged against the paper, because I kept them pulled over my hands.
The lead of my pencil snapped, the sliver of lead rolling across the paper in slow circles. I glared at the smudge it left behind. “Finneas!” My head snapped up at my name, finding Ms. Livingston frowning at my desk, her pointer slapping the top of my desk “Is the sheet of your paper more important than my teachings,” she snarled.
I ducked my head “No m’am.” Several low chuckles filled the classroom, I only tucked my head down farther. Ms. Livingston shook her head as if wiping her hands of me before she moved back to the front of the class.
The bell rang through the room dismissing the class. I shoved both my notebook and pencil into my ratty messenger bag that was practically falling apart at the seams before leaping to my feet, and racing out of the classroom as fast as humanly possible.
The halls crowded with people, the jocks huddling in one big circle in front of a batch of lockers, the cheerleaders lingering around them, while the “rebels” hung in the corner of the hall. People slammed their lockers and shoved and elbowed through the bodies filling the hall. I was careful and managed to keep to the wall as I moved silently through the openings left between people. The occasional elbow dug into my ribs causing a ripple of pain to flash through my side a reminder of the bruises littering my skin.
I took the steps two at a time managing to make it to the second floor where my english class resided. I ducked into the class two doors down, and quickly moved to the back of the room finding my usual corner spot. As usual I passed the girl who sat in the center of the room, her light brown hair reflecting the shine of the light from the fluorescent lights lining the ceiling. Her both dark and light brown eyes stayed focused on the front of the classroom, ignoring the people that moved past her. Her notebook was already laid out on her desk, opened to a clean page, with her pencil laid neatly next to the book.
Everyday she sat in the same seat, her attention on the screen in the front of the room, everything she needed for the class already laid out on her desk. Her entire attitude screamed perfectionist. The kind of person who would have a 95% or above in every class, AP classes taking up the majority of the schedule, and scholarships already laid out to most likely receive a full ride.
She was going somewhere in life. Whereas I would most likely fail through high school and would end up with a shitty entry level job on top of the two I already had, living in some crappy apartment. While she would end up on the east coast running her own business with a steady income.
The class started with Mr. Redman playing a video of a recent speech by some random celebrity that everyone seemed to know, but I had no clue existed. I tapped my foot on the floor fumbling with my hoodie sleeves, watching as the clock ticked. Waiting for the hour hand to tick one to the right signaling the end of the day, and that’s how I continued the rest of the class.
The second the bell rang I was out of my seat and out of the room. I jogged back down to the first floor and ducked out of the first exit I could find. I quickly walked to the parking lot finding my old rusted Toyota in the back of the lot. I tossed my bag into the backseat before leaving the school behind in my rearview and heading downtown to my job at the local grocery store that I worked at on weekdays.
I pulled up outside the door with five minutes remaining to my shift. I quickly tugged on my work shirt over my sweatshirt and locked my car before jogging in through the front doors towards the employee room where I clocked in. Once logged on I headed directly to the back to start piling boxes on a cart that I would distribute around the store. I ignored the dull ache that resounded through my body as the cuts and bruises up and down my frame were pulled. I grabbed a box cutter before heading to the produce section to stock the lettuce bags.
I ignored the occasional glance that was sent my way by the people shopping through the store, as they took in my old sweatshirt covered by the store’s t-shirt with its logo covering the back. Once the lettuce was fully stocked I moved on stocking the shelves as I went.
By the end of my shift I was exhausted and practically dead on my feet after the six hour shift. I shrugged the work shirt off, tossing it into my back seat before collapsing into the driver’s seat. I turned the key in the ignition allowing the air conditioning to blow a steady stream of cool air across my face. My dirty blonde hair blew away from my face as the air rustled through my hair. I left the downtown area being careful of the psychotic late night driver’s as I drove to the east end of town where the trailer park that I called home was.
I quietly pulled up into the lot turning the lights off before I pulled up outside the trailer, to avoid either of my parents seeing me pull up outside. The last thing I wanted was a run in tonight. I turned the car off as quietly as possible before grabbing my messenger bag from the backseat, I lightly closed the door only causing a small thump. I turned and quietly walked up the gravel path, I walked around the trailer to my window where I left the window cracked. I pushed it up farther before checking into my room to make sure it was all clear. Once deemed safe I tossed my bag to the floor, before climbing through the window. I closed and locked the window behind me before dropping to the bed not even bothering to change clothes. I was out before my head even hit the pillow.
I wasn’t as lucky the next morning. After finding my father in a particular bad mood, I ended up with new bruises to add to the list already littered across my body. I laid sprawled on the floor of my room, blood dribbling from my split lip. My head pounded from where I slammed it against the corner of my bed.
The front door slammed closed as my dad left probably in search of another bottle to drown in. As far as I knew my mom was still out.
I struggled to pull myself up, hissing as I went with my arm held tightly to my ribs. I likely either had a bruised or cracked rib. I dragged myself to the bathroom, grabbing the first aid kit I kept in my desk drawer as I went. I flicked the light on sucking in a breath as my eyes fell on the person being shown in the mirror.
This person looked shattered, the pieces scattered too far apart to fit back together. That person was broken. But I was far from it, I had to be to survive. I couldn’t give up, I wouldn’t. So I pulled myself into the bathroom, and shakily opened the kit. I snatched the bottle of Paracetamol and shook two into my palm. I dropped them onto my tongue swallowing that with my head pressed back into the wall. I kept my eyes closed waiting for the pills to kick in before turning back to the kit and grabbing a piece of plaster. I wrapped the material around a cut on my arm and taped it closed. I pulled out some cotton balls and pressed one half-heartedly against my lip to staunch the bleeding.
There wasn’t anything I could do for my ribs or the hit to my head. It’s not like I could go to the hospital, social services would be called. And that was the last thing I wanted, I would likely end up somewhere worse. I was seventeen, I just had to get through the next few months before I was free.
I glanced at my cracked phone screen finding that class had started over a half hour ago. I cursed and raced back to my room and shrugged on a clean shirt and jeans before snatching my messenger bag from the foot of my bed. I opened my window a crack, before leaving the room. I jogged out the front food and slid into my old Toyota.
I tore out of the trailer park driving down the same roads and streets I took every morning, the traffic not as bad as it was in the mornings.
I arrived at school in time for the second period. I scanned in before I made my way to my math class. It was only as I entered the room, that I debated whether or not I should have just skipped this class. In the end, it was too late anyway being that I was already in the class.
The teacher slammed the door as the bell rang and instantly began shouting for students to find their students and ‘shut the hell up’. I definitely should have skipped this class. The cranky old man continued with his tirade, before moving into the lesson which consisted of numbers and random letters that all looked like an entire different lesson. I was barely passing this class with a D+. Why the fuck was this class required anyway, who the hell was going to need to find x, in later life.
I continued staring at the white board for the rest of class trying to figure out every step Cranky old man did to answer each question. It all looked like gibberish, and by the end of the class I had given up.
I was nearly ecstatic when the bell rang dismissing the class, thank god. I shoved my notebook and pencil that I hadn’t even used back into my bag, and left the room behind for my next class. Woodshop. The class about how to not cut your finger off, so far I was doing pretty good. Minus the one time I had nicked my finger with the saw, that had hurt like a bitch.
I dropped my messenger bag with a thump next to my station and pulled the end table I was working on on top of my desk. It was slightly lopsided, but overall I was pretty proud of my work. I grabbed a sander from one of the drawers along the side of the room. I rubbed the sander along the top of the table watching as wood dust began to form with every swipe. I sanded the surface until I deemed it smooth enough, before moving on to the legs. By the end of the class my table was smooth and ready to be painted.
The rest of my day moved similarly. I would enter the class, and instantly find a spot in the back. Do my work quietly. Wait for the bell to ring. And then leave. Simple enough. That is until I arrived at my last class of the day, only to find out we were doing speeches done by famous people. In front of the entire class. Fuck.
Mr. Redman handed me a speech. I gripped it in my hands and quietly walked to the back of the class to my usual seat. I glanced down at the paper finding that I had received the “We choose to Go to the Moon,” speech by John F. Kennedy.
I quickly scanned through the paper, frowning at the length of the speech. The last thing I wanted was to stand in front of the entire room for an unknown amount of time rambling about wanting to go to the moon, when really I didn’t give a shit. All I wanted was to stay in my peaceful corner with my empty notebook and dull pencil watching as the rest of the class continued on without me.
Instead I had to watch as each name was called, and one by one people began presenting. My only hope was maybe just maybe, I would go tomorrow or better yet completely forgotten.
Instead my name was the third one to be called, whoever was looking at me from above, or whatever, was a piece of shit. I forced myself to my feet gripping the piece of paper tightly in my fist.
I walked past the desks noting how many people were in the class, a dreadful twenty-seven. At the front of the room, I stood at the stand my paper laid out in front of me. My hands shaking at my sides. I worried at my lip watching as every stared up at me from their desks, no doubt judging every detail about me.
The small scar on my forehead, the random streaks of light brown through my blonde hair. The large sweatshirts I always had on. The cut across my lip, that was still slightly swollen. The way my eyes were too large for my face, and the fact that my nose had a slight bump from it being broken two years ago for what had to be the fourth time I’d broken my nose.
I gulped, as I stared down at the page. Mr. Redman gave me a nod to begin. “We Choose to Go to the Moon, JFK,” I said, stumbling over my words slightly. A few low chuckles sounded in the room. “Why choose this as our goal?” I began “And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because they are easy, but because they are hard-”
By the end of my speech I was a trembling mess who stuttered over every other word. By the time I finished the last line “-and one which we intend to win, and the others too.” I felt like curling into a ball in the corner. In fact I considered just that, glancing to the corner of the room longingly.
“Very good Finneas,” Mr. Redman said with a clap of his hands. I ducked my head and hurried back to my seat in the far back of the room, my only safe haven in this moment. I felt as if I could breath once again, the second my ass hit the seat.
A new name was called, and like that the class continued forgetting every second of the humiliation that was my speech. I only wished I could do the same, but for the rest of the class I was a restless ball of nerves jumping at any and every sound.
I could’ve whooped with joy when the bell rang signaling that we were all free for the rest of the day. I shoved my stuff back into my bag and hightailed it out of the classroom without looking back once.
I tossed my ratty-old messenger bag in the backseat of my car before sliding into the driver’s seat. I then left the parking lot and like every other day of the school week drove downtown before pulling into Downtown Grocery’s parking lot towards the back of the lot just like every other day.
Once again, I shrugged my work shirt over my sweatshirt before heading into the store. Once I was logged in, I headed to the back of the store and started my six hour shift of lugging around boxes and tossing random shit onto the appointed shelves. And again just like every other day by the end of my shift I was dead on my feet. Only wanting one thing in life, sleep. Lovely, beautiful sleep.
I trudged to my car cursing myself for having not parked closer. I shifted my car into drive before turning out of the lot towards the east end of Delton, Washington where I lived. Like every other night I flicked the lights off as I got closer to the trailer. I quietly walked across the gravel path being careful not to make any noise. I glanced through my window, thankfully, finding my room empty. I shoved the window open and tossed my bag to the foot of my bed. I slipped into my room, closing the window behind me. I stood still, listening for any signs that either of my parents were still up and moving around. I hoped above all hopes that they had passed out after their day of drinking.
My mom wasn’t as bad as my dad, she just didn’t care. For all she cared she had no son. My father, though, hated my very existence and blamed me for his shitty life.
I could hear the sounds of rustling in the kitchen and knew one of them was awake and likely looking for another bottle to drown in. The slamming of the cupboards was heard, and the sound of pounding footsteps filled the trailer. I closed my eyes, knowing exactly what was coming. I flicked the switch in my head, that shoved all emotions aside. My door burst open. My father stepped into my room, his nostrils flaring and eyes widening in rage. “Where’s my fucking booze,” he roared.
“You drank it all,” I responded coldly, refusing to show the slightest bit of emotion.
“Don’t talk back to me boy!” he roared, spittle hit my cheekbone.
I looked away from him, but was still aware of every move he made. “Where’s the money?” he snarled, his beady eyes flicking across the room as if he was searching for a check.
“I don’t get paid until next week,” I said slowly. He backhanded me across the face. My head swung, as pain blasted across my cheekbones. Tears filled my eyes at the stinging sensation. My father grabbed me by the shoulders before slamming me in the wall causing stars to burst across my vision.
“Worthless,” my father spat. He slammed his fist into my stomach before I could manage to block it. The air left me in a whoosh. I struggled to regain my composure, and get in oxygen. Instead he slammed my head back against the wall, causing the wall to crack. Everything went dark. I fought to keep myself conscious. My father continued his raging, screaming about the fact that I ruined his life, and the least thing I could do is pay the bills.
The last thing I remember was being tossed to the floor, before being kicked in the side. After that everything is blank.
I woke up, an unknown amount of time later with a pounding headache. I pressed a hand against the back of my skull, my fingertips coming away red. I definitely had a concussion. I shifted from where I laid, and struggled to my feet. Keeping my hands held tightly against my waist.
I glanced at the clock on my phone. The time Three-thirty flashed back. Shit, I was late for work. I didn’t even stop to think that I had been unconscious for over twelve hours, or the fact that I had missed school. I only raced to my car, shrugging my work shirt on, on the way.
I ignored just about every traffic law imaginable as I sped down the streets to downtown Portland’s grocery store. I arrived ten minutes late to my shift and stumbled into the store scanning in before heading towards the back of the store where the boxes to stock waited.
I began to shove boxes onto my metal cart, hissing beneath my breath at the agony that spread along my side where I likely had a broken rib or two. My co-worker Chris watched me for several minutes before he snatched the box I was lifting from my arms, placing it onto the cart himself.
“You can’t work,” he said, his tone holding no-nonsense.
“I’m fine. It’s nothing,” I said gritting my teeth against the ache that continued to spread through my waist.
Without a word Chris pressed his finger into my side causing me to let out an unwanted yelp. I held my arm more tightly against my side. “Yeah, you’re definitely fine,” Chris glared.
“I can’t miss a shift,” was my only response.
He stared at me for a long moment before he nodded. He pushed me aside before continuing to stack the boxes onto my cart. “You can fill in cashiering for me today. I’ll stock.” My eyes widened at his words. He was helping me. He cared. I’m pretty sure my expression gave me away on my shock, because he shook his head with a chuckle. He smirked “I hate cashiering anyway.”