He held me by the throat with his strong arms as I kicked my legs and tried to get my voice out helplessly. I was turning redder and redder by each passing second, and as the air began to go out my lungs, each second seemed slower, each minute seemed like it was my last. I tried to gasp and I tried thrashing my arms around but neither did the man flinch nor did his arms let go.
The tears were streaming down my cheeks and all I could do was shut my eyes and pray that I’d make it out alive. Not for me. But for everyone else. I tried to say something, to beg them to let go of me but to no avail. No words came out. After all, he held my throat really tightly.
Black dots swam in my vision and I could feel myself slipping away slowly. My movements became weaker and slower and I struggled to keep my eyes open. It felt like all the energy had drained out of me and I was nothing but a dead body.
I was about to let go of all hopes of staying alive by the end of this when he let go all of a sudden and I dropped on my knees, gasping frantically for air. Still shaky and visibly weak, it felt almost impossible to run away and he picked me up by my collar again. “Listen, girl. I’m giving you two options. Stay out of this or take what you want and leave.”
His breath smelled of alcohol and I put all the energy that was left in my to turn away from his face that was slow close to mine. But he slapped my face back and roared, “Look at me while I’m talking to you!” I groaned in protest but all that earned me was another slap on the other cheek. By now, I was sure that there were going to be bruises both on my neck and cheeks.
Mom and dad had both gone to California to meet grandma as her health was deteriorating and they wouldn’t be back for at least a week, but with all the blizzards and snow lying around, I’m not sure if they’d be able to catch a flight back home even then.
My head hung back as it seemed like I had no control over it anymore. He, seeming enraged by this act, raised his fist and punched me in the face. A metallic taste filled my mouth and it made me want to spit it but I kept it in my mouth to keep the little bit of respect I’ve had in for me for all this time. When he punched me again, I thought:
Oh, to hell with respect.
And I spat it out. And I couldn’t see him clearly anymore. All he was to me was a blurred figure and by the time he punched me yet again, but this time in the abdomen, I was completely on the floor. I told myself to get up and give him the punch he deserved-- or, rather, the complete torture he deserved-- but my body, clearly in pain, opposed the idea.
“I think that’s enough for now. But don’t you think it’s the last time. . .” he threatened. “Do as told and give us what we want or the next time, I’ll beat you to a pulp or your parents will be spitting out blood the same way you are now.”
As soon as the word ‘parents’ came out of his mouth, I told myself that the next time I saw him (even though I hope I never, ever see this guy again) I was going to kill him. my face turned into those of disgust and I didn’t even bother hiding it. The thought of them getting beaten hurt me more than all he did to me so far. He smirked, knowing that he hit a nerve.
“I hope we don’t have to meet again,” he lifted my head up by my hair, as he was in a squat position. As soon as he was at the same level as me, I spat at him. I spat my freaking blood at him. There was a red splash that was on his left cheek, some covering a part of his nose and I felt the satisfaction as he wiped it off slowly, looking at me with a ticked jaw the whole time.
“Actually, I do hope we meet again. I enjoyed this all very much. And now that you’ve dared to do that, I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it even more the next time. Oh, I forgot to mention your parents. They’re supposed to be coming on the 19th of December, aren’t they? I’m pretty sure I can clear my schedule to have a,” he cleared his throat, looking at me straight in the eye, ”word with them. Don’t you think?”
I spat at him again. “Don’t you dare,” I choked out in a raspy voice.
He let out a humorless laugh. “And that was the last straw.”
He kicked me where he already punched me before and stood up and kicked me a couple more times on my sides. I coughed and spat out even more blood. Every time I groaned, he smiled. That’s how sick he was. He stepped on my hand and moved his foot around while I screamed. I screamed loud.
And then we went back in the same position we were before. He held me by my hair and forced me to face him. This time I couldn’t even bring it in me to spit at him again; that was how drained I felt. His face was close to me once again, the smell of alcohol lingering in the air. “Bad choice, wasn’t it?” he asked, an evil smirk on his face.
“Just remember what I told you,” he winked and added, “we wouldn’t want the Andersons’ to be on our news channel yet, do we? Car crash? Burning house? Come on, one’s already gone. How many more do you and your brother want? You have no idea what we can do. You’re messing with the wrong people here, Samantha.” he warned.
And then he concluded it by another punch on the jaw, but this time it knocked me out cold.
I woke up, startled. At first, I was shocked at what had been a memory, or should I say nightmare, but then I started to wonder even more about when I had possibly fallen asleep. I looked at the time on my phone. The light that shone hurt my eyes for a second and I was forced to squint them as all the words blurred. After my eyes adjusted to the brightness, I could see everything fine. 1:35 A.M, it read.
Hmm, I pondered, I suppose I could call it a nap instead.
I mean, after all, I was awake for sure at around 2:15 as I was playing games on my phone and I must have dozed off somewhere around that time. With Ceci now sleeping on the bed, I sighed and wondered what I could do for the rest of time.
I wasn’t going to be going to my “safe haven” (god knows why I named it like that) because I was too afraid that if I went there almost every day, I’d get tired of it. Then what would I do for hours on the end when I wake up at night due to lack of sleep?
So instead of that, I did what I did every night back at home when I couldn’t sleep. I took out his picture from where it was kept in my mini purse. Yes, it did, unfortunately, require that I get off the bed, take four very long steps and open my bag to get it out but I guess it was worth it. It was my brother’s picture. The very picture that kept me from going insane. Or maybe, the one that made me feel like lunatic everytime in a way as well.
“Hey, Seb,” I smiled. I was whispering, my voice so low I could barely hear my own self. “Did you know? I’m going for practice, silly. Can you guess what practice? Football. Now before you go all crazy with the questions. Let me tell you this, I’m going as a coach. Well, a half-coach, if that even is a word which it probably isn’t, but whatever. . .”
I looked at the picture closely again. Observing every single feature. We were quite alike. Twins, to be precise. Our facial features were almost identical. I laughed for no apparent reason. Just felt like it. I think I laughed because I had no idea what to do next. Did I want to say sorry to him? Did I want to ask him to give me another chance in proving myself? I didn’t know anymore. I don’t think I know him anymore. And who’s fault was that? Mine. Everything was because of me.
I remember being sent to a therapist before. I remember obeying because I couldn’t blame the rest-- hell, even I thought I was going crazy. But that day a tear had fallen from my eyes and I looked at my parents who were hugging me. I found out that it was harder to accept the fact that even they thought I was mental. Going crazy. They told me that they were sorry, they wanted me to get better. They said they tried everything they could, nothing worked and that therapy was their only option by then.
I didn’t last long there. The first day, I answered all the therapist’s questions patiently. The second day, I answered them again. The third day, I got fed up. The fourth day, I got angry. The fifth day, I shouted at her. The sixth day, I couldn’t take it anymore. The seventh day, I cried. The eighth day, I didn’t talk anymore. Fell completely silent.
She said my reactions were normal. That it was okay to be feeling like that.
I looked at her like she had grown two heads. What do you mean that I was OK? I wanted to ask her. My reaction was “normal”? My parents certainly aren’t acting like me. They went through the same thing. Are you going to call that abnormal, then?
No one answered me. I still want to know the answer to that question, honestly.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen at practice today. I’m gonna admit it, I’m kinda scared. I haven’t quite played since. . .you know what. And all of a sudden, there’s this whole team that I’ve got to help. And, oh god, you should have been here to see the reaction of Alex. He was furious I joined. And he’s the quarterback,” I let out a small laugh. “He asked me if I knew what a quarterback was. I’ve played quarterback for three years. Give me some credit.” A tear slipped out of my eye. I don’t think I could’ve held it back for long.
I could almost feel him laughing with me. “I’m just nervous about how the others would react. I mean I’ve only seen one of them. What if the rest are like him? How can they expect me to help them if he’s going to be like that? Hopefully, I’ll be able to prove that I can actually play today. Maybe then they’ll change their minds. . ?”
I knew it was all in my head. I was thinking too hard about this. If Seb was here, he’d probably say something along the lines of I’m going to stuff a pillow in your mouth and then I’m going to throw you under a bus if you don’t shut up.
Got that, Seb. My lips are sealed. And no more thinking about it. But why a pillow?
I don’t know. Just go with the flow. Yup. That’d probably be his response.
I said some pretty meaningless things after that. I talked about the weather. The weather. The freaking weather. How bored could a person be? I talked about how they should change the colors of the walls in the bathroom. They were an ugly shade of brown. Disgusting. I even talked about how they should put in some directions in this place. It was huge and so confusing at times. We can take an example of my first day here. Disastrous.
And I met Alex. Ew.
Yup, they should definitely add directions.
Next thing you know, it’s 6:03. Everyone’s awake. Ceci’s finally came out of the bathroom and we’re ready to start the day. Unfortunately, Ceci has just found out that I’m on the team and she really looks like she’s about to murder me for not telling all of this before. Well, in my defense, it had been quite an eventful day yesterday and on top of that, she had fallen asleep.
“I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me,” she whined.
“I’m sorry, Ceci. But it’s a plus point that you know now, right?”
“Ugh,” she groaned, “life is so unfair. I had to spend fifteen minutes with Brad last night. Out of all of the people, of course, he just had to be sitting there waiting for Alex. And I don’t even know what got over him. Something to do with me being the cousin of a prince. Seriously, how old is he again?”
“That’s what I asked him!” I raised my hand up for a high-five when she just stared at the palm of my hand blankly for ten seconds and I was forced to retreat. “Killjoy,” I muttered under my breath.
“Oh, Sam. Don’t go there. I’m in a really bad mood today. Don’t want to write your name on my ‘to kill’ list already.”
My hands shot up in defense. “Got that.”
“Now, stop making us late and get going. Geez, you take so long,” she flipped her hair back and walked out the door, leaving me in the room with my jaw dropped and thinking what the hell? She just came out, dressed. I was ready an hour before her. I ran behind her wanting to give her an answer to that.
“I never came out late. Actually, forget late. We aren’t even late and on top of that--”
"Sam,” she gave me a warning.
"Ceci,” I imitated.
“Sam, I’m going to kill you.”
“Go right ahead. There’s a camera right on that plant that’s behind me you know. You’re going to jail for a long time.”
She raised her eyebrows in suspicion and slightly looked past me and this time her jaw was wide open. “How did you know?”
“I’m observant,” I winked.
She sighed. “Sam, what am I going to do with you?”
“No, the real question is: what are you going to do without me?” I winked again.
“Stop flipping your hair back like a drama queen whenever you’re mad.” That couldn’t stop a smile forming on her face.
“Fine, you win. I won’t do that anymore-- well, I’ll try not to.” She patted my head like she would to a dog and I slapped it off in irritation. She just laughed. “You better stop with the smug look as well.”
She showed me the time on her watch. “Now, are you happy? We’re actually late.”
“Oh, Ceci, you don’t want to start that with me right now.”
And with that, she ran away from me and I just stood there looking at her go and wondering if I could have possibly gotten weirder friends in my whole life. Because she didn’t know that her watch had stopped working last morning itself.
Walking like a normal person to our chemistry class, I saw a ticked off Ceci sitting there alone with Ms. Smith talking to her about some sort of equations. For a second, I felt sorry for her and then shrugged it off. She ran. Her fault. But I still felt like I had to somehow save her from all of this torture.
“Ms. Smith, good morning.”
She gave me a warm smile. Now, Ms. Smith wasn’t a bad teacher, none of the teachers were bad actually. It’s just the subjects they teach that are boring, nothing else.
“Good morning, Samantha,” she looked at both Ceci and me alternately, “Why are you both early today, girls?” One thing to make a note on, the teachers call me Samantha here. This isn’t high school where I could give death glares to the teachers when they called me that. Not anymore. Now I have to learn how to adjust.
“Oh, nothing. We woke up early, that’s it.” And I woke up way too early, I wanted to add but I stopped myself from talking any more than necessary.
“Alright, do you guys want to start now? The others should be coming in any minute now so I suppose we can.”
“Yeah, sure,” I nodded my head. Believe it or not, I actually wanted to raise my grades up in chemistry. I wasn’t exactly failing, but I felt as though I couldn’t reach my hundred percent potential in class either. Chemistry used to be one of my favorite subjects in high school, but now. . .it felt as if I couldn’t get higher than a B. It was always a C or a B.
And I was here on a scholarship. I had to raise my grades up a little bit if I wanted to remain worthy enough of that title.
I sat beside Ceci for a moment. “Could you help me with last lesson’s work after I come back from practice? I didn’t understand it at all.” I gave her a pleading look.
She didn’t even think twice about. “Yeah, I coming with you to see the practice as well. So, definitely.”
“Will he let you in?”
“No, but he’ll listen to you.”
“And what makes you think I’ll let you come along?” I challenged, a teasing smirk on my face.
“The love you have for me. Oh, and the help you need in chemistry,” she smirked back.
“You got me this time, Ceci.”
“Believe it or not, I always do,” she blew me kiss and I shook my head at her with a smile and got up to go to my assigned seat as the bell rang and the students began piling up into the class one by one.
“I’m scared,” I held her hand tightly. For your hand as well, Ceci. “Like, really, really scared. I don’t feel like going in anymore. I don’t want to go in. You know what? I’m not going in,” I turned around when Ceci pulled me back and gave me a threatening look.
“Sam, shut up. Think about all those guys you can own. The Coach must have seen something in you. Don’t feel afraid. I’ll be there, the whole time. And I’ll get up and slap anyone if they dare make a comment about you.”
“You’ll be having to do a lot of slapping then,” I joked, trying to find the humor in this even though the last thing I could find all of this was funny.
“I’ll do it. Just go in there. I’ll drag you in if I have to. You signed a contract, remember?”
I nodded. “For the contract, then.” And my brother. I held her hand even tighter as I went in. The boys, who were stretching, stopped, and the Coach’s face broke into a grin as he saw me enter.
“Come in, Sam. Boys meet Sam. Sam, meet the boys.” he moved his hands around. “Now, continue stretching and I’ll do a proper introduction later on.” He pulled me aside. I could feel all the boys staring at my back and. . . well, Ceci’s too.
“Is she going to have to come in as well?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at me and pointing at Ceci who was just awkwardly standing there and waved stupidly at us when he pointed at her.
“I was hoping so.” I gave him a small sigh.
“No one else,” he told me and let her come in. Ceci almost squealed. I pursed my lips together and turned around towards the boys who all looked like they weren’t pleased about having me there. I took a deep breath in and looked at Ceci who was giving me a thumbs up and an encouraging smile from the bleachers.
Let the practice begin.