A Broken Picture
No matter what, I always remember the worst day of my life. It happened eleven years ago, when I was five. It was a nice spring afternoon, and my mother and I were playing with little superhero action figures that I borrowed from friends. Things seemed pleasant until my dad came in, bellowing at my mom. He grabs Mom by her shoulder and they started arguing about something; it was probably about money or the house but whatever it was, my dad wasn't happy.
His face turned magenta and he began hitting my mom in the face. She started to bleed but he didn't even care, he just kept whamming his fists into her mouth. I jumped up and tried to pull him away from Mom, being the scared little kid I was. Dad reared his scowling face at me and picked me up. He shouted and cursed at me, calling me a worthless brat that didn't deserve being his son. And that's when he began removing his belt, loop by loop while my mom was sobbing, blood streaking her cheeks. That's when I wriggled free of his grasp.
Dad chased me up the stairs, belt in hand, and I climbed into the attic, screaming and forgetting about my mother, who was left in the living room, crying. I was breathless for a while and then I started to relax. Then I panicked again when I realized Dad locked me in the attic. I was left in there for six hours. The only sound I heard was my parents fighting again downstairs. Starving, alone, and scared, I started crying, wondering if my mother was okay. Finally, my mom let me out. She was tired, scared, and wounded all over. But even in her moment of pain, she swept me up in her arms and sobbed into my hair.
"I promise," she squeaked as she carries me downstairs. "We will get away from him. We can start over, just you and me, and we can forget all the scars he left on us."
That was a promise broken four years later, when I woke up one morning and she wasn't there. My dad flew into another rage and he broke a couple of things and hit me in a couple of places. Then he dropped me off at Maya's house telling me to stay put while he went searching for Mom. I knew that he didn't want her back because he loved Mom; he wanted to get her back so he can teach her a lesson. He went on a two-week-long road trip around Texas but he came back empty-handed. Dad started to get even harder on me, punishing me without reason and beating me up every night. That's because I was the splitting image of my mother, from our similar appearance to our everyday behavior. He wanted to watch me suffer because it'll be like watching my mom suffer. He hated my entire existence, seeing me not as his son but as a burden that sleeps on his furniture and eats out of his fridge. I wasn't his son; I was her son, as Dad seems to pretend we weren't blood-related at all. I don't even know why he bothers to keep me around; he probably just needs another punching bag that can scream in pain. And no matter how much muscle I gain from baseball; I can never beat him at fighting. It frustrates me that he will always have power over me, even when I was just as strong as him.
I hated my father, but not as much as I hated my mother. She may have been the only family member I had that cared about me, but what gave her a reason to leave me behind? Why did she love me for all those years when she was plotting to run away from me? I think I know why, because despite me being her son; I was still the offspring of her evil husband. She wanted to forget everything that involved my dad, and that included me.
My friends don't know about my dad and it's best that it stays that way. I can't let anyone know that I'm so weak, that I'm afraid of my own father. Plus, he's the only family member that can take care of me; it's either this or foster care. It's only two years until I can leave Austin for a better future, one where my father is nothing but a distant memory.
I loved the time between 8 AM and 5 PM, solely because that's when my father is at work and won't be bothering me. I search through my drawers, trying to find the souvenir baseball I borrowed from Brandon. My hand finds something, but it wasn't a ball. It was a framed photo of my mom and me. She and I almost look happy. I try hard to fight the tears. She left, I tell myself, If she truly loved you, she would've taken you with her.
My cell phone rings and I pick it up. Riley's voice answers.
"I have to tell you something," she says quickly.
"What's up?" I ask, hoping she's not breaking it off with me. It's been so long since I had a girlfriend and Riley really makes me happy. She's filled with hope and sunshine and she makes me forget about all the pain my father gives me. We've been dating for three months now, our first date was in October and right now it's mid-December. Riley turned sixteen just last week.
"My family wants you to join for dinner on Friday!" Riley blurts out breathlessly.
"So, what's the big deal?" I ask. How bad is her family? It's not as messed-up as mine.
"My dad is really strict, my mom doesn't like it when I date bad boys, and my brother is really weird," she panics it was the end of the world.
"I'll be on my best behavior then," I say. "Are you ashamed of dating me or something?"
"NO!" she cries. "You're the best thing that ever happened to me. It's just that my parents are overprotective freaks! I live in a house full of clowns!"
"Then I'll be on my triple-best behavior," I say. "If your parents let you be friends with Maya, then they'll accept me. I promise."
Riley calms down and says, "You're right, what's wrong with me? I'll call you later."
"Bye," I say and she hangs up.
Downstairs, I hear the screen door slam and a drunk voice bellows, "Lucas! Where are you?"
Hopefully, Riley will never have a chance to meet my dad.