I touch the back of my head gingerly, wincing from the pain of the bruise. My arms have a few dark spots forming and my shins have a bunch of cuts and bruises on them already.
I hear Tobiah knock on the bathroom door.
“Am... Amabel? Are—are you okay?”
I look down at the sink, my body aching and tears still in my eyes. I wipe them away and take a breath as I open the door.
“I’m fine,” I smile as the lie slips out from behind my teeth.
“Look, I’m… I didn’t mean—”
“It’s fine,” I tell him as I waddle to the stairs. “I’m fine,” I say more to myself.
“But Amabel, you fell d—”
“I said I’m fine, Tobiah,” I smile again as I place my hand on the stair rail, the sensation of falling down the stairs makes my chest tight and I can barely breathe.
Each step sends excruciating pain through my body, but I muscle through it. I can’t show him he hurt me. He’ll feel so guilty... and I can’t live with making him feel like that. One day this will all be forgotten and we can go back to our happy plastic selves. We can pretend like this never happened and move on.
I stop at the top of my stairs and hold in the tears. I can’t cry. I won’t.
The inclination to my room hurts even more, but my reward comes when I lay on my bed. My muscles relax and a sense of relief washes over me.
What am I going to do? I have to go to the movies with John... And I can’t go like this. I could cover it up with makeup and hope it doesn’t rub off by the end of the night.
I hear more furniture turn over and crash onto the floor in my brothers room, loud thumping and cracking sounds making their way to my room. How did this happen to him? How did he get so mixed up in all of this? I’ll have to ask him some day. If it ever comes up…
I let the tears fall.
So much crying. I’ve cried so much these past few days. It’s so hard... but I shouldn’t be complaining. There are people who have it worse off than me. I shouldn’t be pitying myself.
The doorbell rings.
“Shoot,” I whisper as I look at my phone.
I hear Tobiah Rush down the stairs and pause at the door as I rush into the bathroom to get ready, limping the whole way. John’s footsteps get closer to the door as I rub makeup on the bruised areas gently to hide them.
“Amabel?” I hear John’s voice, soft and sweet.
“Just a minute,” I call through the door.
I hear him chuckle and it makes me forget about what happened today. I open the door and he smiles at me as he hands me a yellow rose.
“Aw,” I smile and take it. “It’s beautiful.”
“Just like you,” He says and kisses me on the forehead. I pull away slightly and he gives me a strange look. “Are you alright?”
I look up at his beautiful face.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” I lie. “I’ll be right back.”
I rush up into my room and put on a red dress and a black headband. John waits for me at the bottom of the stairs and smiles up at me as I come down. Tobiah has disappeared behind is bedroom door again as we leave.
We decide to watch a comedy and I laugh until I cry. Everything is okay for now. Everything is all right.
We walk back out into the dark of the night, the moon shining down on us and the stars twinkling.
“Did you like the movie?” John asks as he takes my hand and we walk down the strip filled with shops and restaurants.
“I loved it,” I smile up at him.
He smiles and leans in to kiss me. My heart skips a beat and my stomach fills with butterflies. He makes everything okay. He takes all the pain away.
“I love you,” I say after he pulls away. I mean it. I can feel it in ever part of me. It’s like a new sensation washing over me and making me happy.
He smiles again his hire perfect teeth shining in the moonlight.
“I love you too.”
He kisses me again and I feel the smile creep across my face. I can see the smile on his lips as we walk on.
We talk about the movie, laughing and talking and holding hands. I love this time with him. We haven’t done this with each other in forever. It’s been too long. I needed to get away. I needed to be with him.
“I love you,” He says and smiles at me.
I laugh and say it back as he opens the door to a Chinese restaurant for me to walk through. We’re led to a table in the back and handed two menus. Chinese is our favorite food, and the first place we ever went on a date.
I find myself smiling as I think about it. He was so handsome with his dark hair and bright eyes… He still is. He’s amazing and wonderful and everything good. I’m so lucky to have him.
“I remember our first date,” He glances up at me from his menu, smiling.
“Oh yeah?” I ask playfully, leaning on my elbows and laughing. “Do tell me about it.”
He laughs and sets down his menu on the table.
“You walked down the stairs in a yellow dress and your hair was curled. I was so nervous…” He laughs and takes my hand. “And I fell for you so hard that moment. And by the end of the night we couldn’t stop talking.”
“About you,” I interrupt and stick my tongue out, laughing.
“Well, you kept asking questions,” He teased back. “You were so interested in me.”
“Well, I did have a crush on you for the longest time,” I laugh as I play with his fingers. They’re rough and calloused from playing the guitar. “Ever since… I don’t know. Just as long as I could remember.”
“Yeah, I know,” He laughs. “You were so shy… You’re never shy.”
I give him a look and he chuckles and lets go of my hand to pick up his menu again, as if he needed it. He eats Chinese so often he practically has the menu memorized.
We order, talking about the past and our relationship and things at school and next year… Senior year. It seems so far away, but it’s so close.
He drives me home and he walks me to the door. He kisses me goodnight and tells me to call him later. I nod and watch as he pulls out of the drive.
My dad’s car is here.
My heart speeds up. This can’t be good.
My mom’s is here too.
“Oh, no…” I whisper as I turn to the door that holds my nightmares inside of it. “Oh no…”
Unlocking the door, I swing it open, the echo of my parent’s voices blaring through the house. They’re yelling. They never yell. Never.
“Well, Sarah? How long has this been going on?”
My mom’s slurred words.
I perch myself behind the wall that leads to the kitchen, listening to the argument happening between my parents. My heart sinks in my chest as if tonight never happened. As if there were no John.
“No, Sarah! Why have you been doing this? You are harming your body, and I’m sure God would not appreciate it.”
“You… you hypocrite!”
I’m taken aback by my moms sudden clarity. I hear her stand and start to walk out towards the dining room, which is connected to the kitchen.
“What?” My dad asks, his tone low and threatening.
“You heard me!” My mom shouts, and I hear liquid pour into a glass. “Hypocrite.”
I squeeze my eyes shut and move back to the door, opening it and slamming it shut. The kitchen stays silent and I hear my dad clear his throat. I walk into the kitchen, acting like I want to get a drink.
My mom finishes the last sip of the liquid in her glass as I step into the room.
“How was your date?” My dad smiles, like nothing happened.
“It was great,” I smile, trying to bring the warm and happy sensation John gives me. “We ate Chinese.”
“Chinese is good,” My dad smiles and looks at my mom. “Sleep well, Amabel.”
He dismissed me. Really?
“Amabel!” My mom cries out suddenly, making my dad and I jump. “What happened to your arm?”
I look down and see that some of the makeup has rubbed off.
“Um, I, Uh…”
“He didn’t do this to you, did he?” My dad presses in on me.
“No—no, dad. I fell down the stairs.”
“You fell down the stairs?” My mom asks, taking me by the hands. “Oh, honey. Mark, I told you that stairs were a bad idea.”
“How did it happen?” My dad chimes in again.
“I just—“ Tobiah’s face slips into my mind, angry, frantic, crazy. I shake it away. “I missed a step.”
“Oh, darling,” My mom coos and wraps me in her arms, the smell of alcohol all over her. I hold my breath. “I’m sorry.”
I pull away and nod. “It’s okay. I’m fine. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight honey,” My mom says. “I love you.”
“I love you too mom and dad,” I say sadly, but I wear a smile on my face to cover it up.
I walk out of the room and hear them go their separate ways. My dad mutters something about work and eventually I hear his car turn on and leave. I touch my bruises, feeling torn inside. I don’t know what to do.
I could run away. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t do that to them. They need someone to look out for them. They need someone there for them when they don’t know it.
They need someone to love them. That’s what I’m for.
My phone rings, John’s voice ringing out over the silence in my room. I had recorded him singing and playing and used it as his ringtone. He hates it because he thinks he’s a horrible singer, but it doesn’t matter to me. It’s him.
I answer and we stay up talking for a few hours before we decide to turn in for the night. We pray and I keep the incidents to myself for praying about later when it’s just God and me. They’re things that John doesn’t need to know about yet. Not until later. Years later.
I have trouble sleeping, thoughts running through my head. I’m half tempted to call him back and tell him everything, to spill everything to him, to make him understand, but I can’t. I can’t do that to him. It’s too much weight on his shoulders to know all of this. I can’t burden him with my problems. Not yet. I don’t want to drive him away. Not now.
My eyes close and I eventually sleep.
Something in the back of my mind, something in my subconscious tells me that it’s only going to get worse; that none of it is going to get better.
But I don’t believe it.