I fold my arms over my chest, squeezing my fingers deep into my arms as the police officer bangs onto the front door of my house.
“Is that really necessary?” I snarl at him.
“Would you rather me arrest you for underage drinking?”
I bite on my lip, glancing at my feet as a light flickers to life inside the lounge--it happens so quickly that I’m wondering if they were sat up waiting for me anyway. A few seconds later, the door gently opens, and I see my mother’s long, bony fingers tap against the frame in agitation.
“Good evening, officer,” she says, pretending not to see me. “What can I help you with?”
“Are you Amelia Sanchez?”
“I have your daughter here.” He flicks his eyes to me, and I nervously walk over to his side, to where my mother stares straight at me. “Were you aware she attended a party tonight and has consumed alcohol unlawfully on the premises?”
I roll my eyes away from him, taking a deep breath as I fidget. I know he’s only trying to help me, like he probably does every single night with countless other teenage girls, but he has no idea that the devil itself hides behind my mother’s friendly, shocked expression.
“I had no idea,” my mother says. “I thought she was in bed.”
The officer laughs slightly. “Yes, well, we hear that a lot. I thought it would be in your daughter’s best interest for me to drive her home, as the boy she was with was arrested.”
I widen my eyes, glaring up at the sky in disbelief as I fall to the verge of tears that try to weaken me.
“A boy?” my mother repeats, her eyes are now well and truly scorned into me and there’s no escaping it. “I can assure you officer, Elizabeth will be punished appropriately for her actions tonight. Thank you and God bless you for bringing her home safely.”
“My pleasure, ma’am. Have a good evening.”
He begins to turn, but just as he does, I grip my wrist into his arm and I force him to look me in the eyes.
“Don’t leave me, please,” I beg. “Don’t leave me with her.”
The officer widens his eyes, confusion washes over his face at first, but then he sees something in my eyes, something in my face, something in my fear that he recognizes immediately as though he has seen it on a thousand other faces.
“Come along now, Elizabeth, I’ll make you a cup of tea and we’ll talk about this.” My mother takes my shoulders and starts stirring me back towards the house, every moment that I’m in the officer’s line of sight is a safety net--and as he stares back at the front door, with his eyes just a tad narrowing, I hope somehow that he has heeded my cry for help. But he doesn’t come for me, he doesn’t stop that door from slamming shut which causes my body to jolt in terror. I count my heartbeats that are bursting through my chest, it wasn’t that long ago when I was listening to Nathan’s heartbeats, now I might never listen to them again. I might never see him again. And I still have no idea how much trouble he’s in.
Just like he has no idea about me.
My father stands in the kitchen doorway--pulling a long, leather belt back and forth between his fingertips. I stand as far from them as I can, I keep my arms crossed, my eyes down, trying to focus on anything else other than their glares.
“Do you wish to repent?” my mother says calmly, she strolls across the back of the couch, trailing a finger along the back-board.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “What I did, it was immoral and unforgivable.”
“What did you do?” she says.
“I attended a party down the street and-”
“You lied!" she screams, charging for me with her finger stabbing at my nose. “You recited the passage in which one should not lie and you lied while speaking it! You are not ill.”
I stand still as she observes my eyes, she widens her dark, blue holes of evil into mine like she’s searching for my soul.
“You have the devil inside of you,” she says, then spits down at my feet. “You are riddled with sin.”
I don’t know why I say what I say next, but I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of their judgement, enough of their abuse, enough of their ramblings. Anger curses through me like a lit match, it reaches every part of my body, pushing me to the limit of my self-control.
“I would rather have the devil inside of me than your God!” I spit back at her.
My mother remains still, emotionless, as she takes in my outburst with no instinctive reaction. If anything, it seems to amuse her, she turns around eyeing my father in the doorway, and he steps forwards--stretching the belt between his hands.
“You think that will scare me?” I ask. “You think that will hurt me? You have done much worse to me every day of my life.”
“Your father saw you leaving the house with that boy tonight,” my mother says quietly. “Have you sinned with him?”
A smile spreads across my face. “Yes. I’ve had sex with him, mother. And I liked it.”
She pauses half way across the lounge and spins on her axis. I’ve finally ignited a reaction from her, I’ve finally cracked her. “You are hanging on by a very thin thread right now, Elizabeth. We have been patient with you, guided you, and have done nothing but protect you from the dirt of the outside world, but yet, you don’t seem to be grateful of our sacrifices.”
“Sacrifices?” I whisper, my hand begins to shake. “Sacrifices! You water-boarded your own daughter!”
“And you still didn’t listen,” she says. “I’m afraid, she is beyond our help now, Jonas.”
My father nods in agreement.
“It is time to take the necessary action.”
I stare down at the belt in my father’s hands and although I’m afraid of how far he will take it, I know that the physical wounds will heal. I know that it won’t break me, not anymore. I have Nathan now, I have something to fight for, something to hold on to, something to bring me to the near edge of fearless, I just have to be brave enough to cross that path by myself. I straighten my body, looking my father at eye-level, confident and ready.
“You may go now, Elizabeth,” my mother says. “You will not receive the belt this time.”
This is a trick. It must be a trick. I flick my eyes between the two of them, waiting for the catch, waiting for the real test.
“Why?” I say.
“You will see the light by yourself. We cannot guide you anymore. The Lord will judge you.”
I take a breath, relaxing my body as relief captivates me. I’m still unsure about what she means by that, because punishing me is something they’ve always found pleasure in. Whether that be hitting me with the belt, with the back of a shoe, dumping my head into a sink of water or smacking me across the face--they always punish me.
So, as they share a look with each other, both of them frowning with a strange disappointment, I begin to wonder something else: what could be worse than the belt?