My heart is pounding in my chest but I try not to breathe, not make a sound. I sit in darkness on my bed, my arms wrapped around my legs giving a silent prayer to anything or anyone that might be listening. Please don’t open my door, please don’t open my door. I can hear Jeremy, my stepbrother, thud heavily down the hall towards his room, which is directly across from mine.
The thought of him makes my skin crawl and sends bile to my throat. I hold myself tighter in hopes the nausea passes. My mother married Ben Stewart last year and along with the marriage came his son, Jeremy. Ben owns several restaurant chains across town and has done very well for himself. My mother, in between jobs and constantly out of luck, applied for the manager position in one of his restaurants.
For as long as I can remember it was always just been mom and I. My dad was never in the picture, he left a few months before I was born and my mom never saw him again. She got pregnant with me when she was 18. She was raised in the foster system since the age of 6 because of drug addict parents. When she was finally 18 and able to be on her own she shacked up with the first guy that was half decent to her. I guess you could say we never got a fair chance. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but we certainly never had it easy. We always lived in sketchy apartments, ate in soup kitchens and she dated sleazy guy after sleazy guy, until she met Ben.
Ben was nice, a little nerdy and successful. Traits that I thought I would never be saying about a guy my mom was with. They fell in love after a few months of my mom working for him, he proposed and they got married. My mom seems genuinely happy and I couldn’t be happier for her.
Ben’s son, Jeremy, from a previous marriage, is the same age as me, 22. At first he seemed nice, maybe a little too obnoxious but weren’t all guys at some point in their lives? It wasn’t until a couple months after mom and I moved in with Ben and Jeremy that Jeremy had shown his true colours. Our parents were out on a date and Jeremy had a few of his friends come over. Three 22 year olds playing Xbox, harmless enough. Then one of Jeremy’s friends pulled out a bag of cocaine. Frozen in my seat, unsure of how to respond, the guys each took turns snorting lines. They asked if I wanted to have some fun, I declined and pretended to be reading my book.
When I tried to get up from the couch to slip off to hide in my room, one of Jeremy’s friends grabbed my wrist.
“Where do you think you’re going?” He asked, pupils dilated.
I tried to pull my wrist away but his grip was strong. The other two guys started laughing, including Jeremy.
“Man, Jer, I don’t know how you live in the same house as this one. Step-sister or not, I would be bending her over and fucking her on this couch,” he says as he runs his finger up my arm and tucks a loose piece of my brown hair behind my ear.
“Trust me, it’s all I think about,” Jeremy slurs.
“Maybe we all should have a little fun then, hmm?” He roughly grabs my chin and plants a wet disgusting kiss on my lips.
Immediately I push him off me, “don’t touch me!” I scream. My whole body is trembling in panic and sheer terror.
“Come on, Maddy,” Jeremy calls out, “I see the way you look at me. You’re always wearing those tight little shorts, begging me to tear them off you and give you a good fuck.”
“Such a little tease,” the other guy tuts at me, waving his finger.
Before the scenario could go from bad to worse, our parents walked in the front door. The three guys sit back down on the couch and quickly grab the bag of coke off the coffee table. Jeremy looks over at me and puts his finger to his lips, telling me to keep quiet. He pulls up his shirt and reveals a gun in his jeans waistband and gave me pointed look, as if to say, or else.
Fast forward a year and everything just progressively got worse. Jeremy would try and corner me every chance he got when our parents were in the other room or out. He didn’t have to balls rape me but he sure liked to get off on touching and kissing me as I was paralyzed with fear, thinking this is going to be the time he forces himself into me. I became depressed, stopped talking to all my friends and would just sit in my room 24/7. I withdrew my acceptance to College for journalism and told my mom and Ben that I just wanted to work a couple more years to earn some more money and gain more ‘worldly experience’. Ben talked my mom around into agreeing with the idea, “how does she expect to become a good journalist if she doesn’t broaden her horizons, experience different points of view?”.
I watched Jeremy and his friends go down the rabbit hole of drugs, theft and gang involvement, completely oblivious to Ben and my mom of course. I could see them from my bedroom window all the time, sitting in the garage through the skylight, selling drugs and making deals on stolen goods. Ben turned the garage into an apartment for Jeremy for his ‘business’. He told our parents that he was doing web design and needed a private space for clients and work.
Our parents were busy opening another restaurant location in the city which meant they were gone majority of the time. I started to waitress at Ben’s restaurant in town just so I could get out of the house and be away as much as I could from Jeremy. I wanted to tell my mom everything that was going on but I didn’t want to ruin the relationship between her and Ben. She finally has someone good and deserves her happiness; I can’t be the one to rip it all away. Besides, Jeremy would just say I’m lying and no one would believe me anyways.