10. Doll Face
I miss the entire week of school.
The week after that is a mess. Everything is planned and I can go to almost nothing, and everyone keeps rubbing the memory and the truth of John being gone in my face, making me bleed in every way but physically. I put on my doll face and pretend I’m okay, pretend his death doesn’t weigh on me as hard as it should, pretend everything has changed at home. But really the only change has been my mothers’ overprotection. She still drinks and tries to hide it, but I can smell it on her as soon as she walks in the room, almost.
My dad is always gone still, though I can’t tell if he’s home any more than he used to be.
I can’t smell anything when both my parents leave for the next series of days and it’s just Tobiah and I at home, but I never hear him leave. I wonder if he’s doing crack at those times or not, or if he’s just sleeping...
Depression hits me hard. I’m not afraid to admit it and there’s not anything else to call it. I mean, what do you call that emptiness in your body, in your heart that completely devourers who you are and all you stand for. What else is it that makes you wish you didn’t exist?
If depression isn’t the word then I don’t know what is.
Do I wish I was dead? No. I know God put me here for a reason.
But I do wish I were never born...
Dahlia says nothing to me until she blocks me off from leaving the classroom. I abruptly stop using my crutches, leaning on the top padded part of them.
“How are you?” She asks.
“I’m fine.” I say a little more sassily than I mean to. “I’m going to be late for class.”
She sighs and moves out of the way to let me through.
And she also makes the decision to follow me down the hall.
“How are you really?” She asks.
“I told you.” My irritation is growing as she walks beside me. “I’m fine.”
“But you’re not.”
“Look Dahlia!” I explode. The hallway falls silent. “I’m fine. I don’t need any pity or something to make me feel better, I just want to be left alone!”
“Listen here, Barbie,” She hisses. “You can’t keep pretending like everything in your little life is perfect! you can’t hide forever, Amabel!”
“Yeah? Well you would have no idea what I go through each day. Your little family of adopted kids is happy and you have nothing to hide.”
I start to walk away, as much as I can walk on crutches.
“Everyone has something to hide, Barbie. Especially you.”
I shake my head as I get farther away from her.
“At least I don’t have to hide my flaws!” She calls as I turn into a classroom.
People can’t stop glancing at me as I walk by them. I can hear their voices as they turn into whispers when I pass by them.
Tyrice, Dahlia’s brother blocks off my path as I make my way to my history class.
“No one talks to my sister like that,” he says, his face hard and his eyes locked on me as if I were a lions’ prey.
“Look, I’ve been through a lot--”
“Does it look like I care, Barbie?” So he calls me that too. “It’s not my fault that your brothers a crack head and--”
“Hey!” I shout, but he keeps on talking.
“--that your mom is an alcoholic--”
“--and that your dad is a dirty, rotten cheater.”
I stare at him, not knowing whether I want to cry or scream at him. I can feel the warm tears in my eyes and my throat start to hurt as I try to breathe through my runny nose.
“That was low,” I whisper.
The hallway had fallen silent again. Everyone stares at me. They pity me. They hate me.
The only sound I can hear is the clicking of my crutches and the sound of my heart pounding inside of me. Everyone knows. Everyone knows...
My doll face is broken and everyone can see through it now.
The bowling alley isn’t far from the school; I realize this as I Google it on my phone. I end up crutching my way there, growing painfully tired and I disappear into the building. I sit and watch the people at the alleys make strikes and gutter balls and it makes me feel okay for a moment in time.
I ignore my brothers calls. I don’t think I can handle anyone talking to me right now.
It’s probably not a good decision to do that to him because he’s my ride home, but I don’t want to go home. Suddenly I feel this hatred and this despise for my family. Why do they have to do what they’re doing? Why can’t they be normal? Why can’t they see what they’re doing to themselves? To me?
I don’t know how long o stay in the bowling alley, but soon they start to close and I make my way to the front of the building. My phone rings again and I press the reject button, even though it’s my mom that’s trying to reach me. The little percentage in the top right hand corner says my phone is about to die. Maybe I should head home now... Maybe I should call my brother.
I unlock my phone and pull up my call app, when I hear something behind me.
I turn, expecting it to be someone from the bowling alley coming back because they forgot something.
Instead, there is a man, clothed in rags and his beard is greying. He wears an orange baseball cap that is old and torn in different places and he holds a beer in his left hand, some of the liquid falling from his mouth.
My heart pounds in my chest and I realize I can’t run.
I pretend not to notice him and I tap on my brothers name. It starts calling him.
He answers immediately.
“Amabel--where are you? I looked everywhere--”
“I’m at the bowling alley. Please come get me.”
“Yeah--yeah I’ll be there in a minute. I’m close by. Give me five.”
“Hurry,” I say quietly as the footsteps behind me get closer.
The phone dies.
“What’s your name?”
The voice of the man sends chills up my spine and I feel like I can’t breathe. I can’t run from him. I can’t run.
I don’t look at him. I don’t speak to him.
“Hey I asked you a question,” he slurs, and I can smell the alcohol now. He’s even closer than before. “Hey!”
He grabs my shoulder and flings me around, making me fall to the ground. I cry out in pain as I land on one of my badly injured wrists and I try to stand up.
“What are you doing here, little lady?” The man smiles. He’s missing his two front teeth and his gums are dark.
“Waiting for my brother,” I squeak, having trouble standing.
I finally get on my feet and he grabs my arm.
I pull and twist, hitting him and trying to get away. I cry out for help.
But no one is here.
“Stop,” he growls. “Stop struggling.”
“Help!” I scream as he touches my face.
I hit him straight in the nose with my good hand and hobble off, my leg hurting with each step.
There’s a sharp blow to the back of my head and I hit the ground. The world spins around me and I feel hands on me. They flip me over and he man sits on me. I feel something sharp and cool up against my throat and a new wave of panic washes over me.
I feel hot tears start to stream down my face. I start to pray to God. I don’t know if it’s out loud or if it’s in my head, but I try to let him hear me, to let him let me live.
“I said stop struggling,” the man hisses, pressing the blade harder against my throat. I start to feel my breathing get shallow and my vision go blurry.
I hear a car pull up.
“To...” I gasp.
A car door slams.
“TOBIAH!” I shriek.
The man is thrown off me and my brother looks down at me. The man stands back up drunkenly and Tobiah approaches him.
“Leave.” He says, and turns back to me.
He offers me a hand and helps me stand on my leg.
“Are you okay?” He asks. His eyes are perfectly clear. He’s okay.
He jerks forward and cries out loud.
The man pulls the knife from Tobiah’s back. I catch him as he falls forward into me. Everything goes numb. Everything goes silent. Even my screams. Even my sobs. Even the drunk man’s footsteps. Even the mumbles he grunts as he walks away.
I dig in his pockets for his phone and dial 911.
They answer. Tobiah is barely breathing. He looks at me with tired, pained eyes, and I see the brother I once knew. Before my parents became dishonest. Before the drugs.
“I’m… sorry, Amabel,” He whispers, the blood seeping onto the pavement.
I shake my head as the person on the other line starts to talk to me and ask me questions.
My brother dies in my arms.
I can’t finish telling the woman what happened. Tears take me over and rivers flow from me. He lays so still…
I stare at him as the tears fall, hoping this was a joke. Looking for the slightest hint of a smile. Of a breath. Of life.
The ambulance shows up. They bring me with him. Someone asks me questions. I don’t know who. My body has gone numb. My insides hurt like they are being crushed. My parents are distraught, even my dad. But I don’t notice any of it.
John’s gone. My brother’s gone.
And it’s all because of me.