Ten years later (Cole is now 26 and Jade is 19)
I wake up to the stinging feeling on my cheek, and I realise that the new day has started. My cheek is burning from pain, but I resist yelling out, as I stare up at the person I hate the most. The one who introduced all the pain in my life.
She stands over me, one hand on her hip and the other holding a long, thick cable. Her face is distorted into a look of anger, hate, and disgust. As she raises the whip a second time, I dare to call out to her.
“No! Please don’t! Please!”
But it is of no use. She raises it higher for emphasis, a cruel, sick smirk resting on her lips. As she brings the whip down, I try to cover as much of my face as possible. The sound comes first, then comes the pain that spreads throughout my arms and what was left uncovered of my face, like a burning fire trail. I call out in pain, my body already aching beyond belief.
“You worthless piece of shit! I woke up an hour ago expecting food to be on the table, and what do I find?! An empty table, and here you are, lying in bed, like a dumb bitch!” She yells in my face, spittle flies out and lands on my face, but I don’t dare to move. If there is any way to minimise my torture this morning, I would take it. I don’t think my body is capable to go through another round so soon.
“I..I wasn’t, I swear! My alarm clock didn’t go off, and I slept in! I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” I plead with her to show me mercy, but I know it’s a far stretch. She just smirks down at me and shakes her head.
“No, you’ll make it up to Simon after school. I’m sure he’ll be happy with that. For now, get your worthless ass downstairs and make the breakfast. Oh, and as punishment from me, you can go to uni hungry today.” The venom in her voice is clear as day, and as she leaves my room, her hips swaying in harmony with the whip in her hand, I shudder in disgust. She actually enjoys torturing me. Her daughter. How sick is that?!
I roll out of bed and made sure my body is properly covered. And by that, I mean black Adidas sweatpants and an oversized grey pop-up sweater. I rush out of my room and downstairs to the kitchen, where I spot Simon sitting at the table, looking at something on his phone.
Simon is my stepfather. After my father left my mother and I, my mother married Simon shortly afterwards, and that’s when my life went backwards. Fast.
I duck my head in fear and go around the kitchen, gathering all the ingredients and tools to make pancakes. Although I never really had cooking lessons, being forced to cook everyday really does speed up the learning process.
“Good mornin’ beautiful. Already started the day off with a bang haven’t you? Well, lucky for you and me, I’m lookin’ forward to when you get home. We’re gonna have a lot of fun together in the bedroom later, I can assure you,” he cackles, a hint of lust and amusement in his voice. I shudder in disgust, my mind bombarding me with horrifying memories and flashbacks, making it hard for me to concentrate on what I’m doing. My hands shake as I crack the eggs and add them to the batter.
I keep my back facing Simon, trying my best to make sure he can’t sense my fear. That only makes the game all the more amusing for him.
But I know he can tell, because I hear the abrupt scrape of his chair on the wooden floor, and his heavy footsteps making their way to me. I make a silent prayer to whoever might be listening, hoping I’ll get through the morning without his grimy fingers touching me.
“I can see how nervous you are. Don’t worry, you’re perfect the way you are in bed. No one makes me feel powerful like you do. Whatchin’ you scream as I take you, over and over. The only thing you need to improve on is screamin’ my name. Remember that for later,” he whispers into my ear, his hands leading a trail down to my ass, his fingers grasping at it and squeezing, to the point that it’s painful. I gasp out in pain, but he takes it as one of pleasure.
Prayer denied, I guess.
“Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from,” he says harshly, suddenly spinning me around and pushing his hips into mine, letting me feel his disgusting arousal restrained by his jeans. I let out a whimper as I squirm to get as far away as possible.
“Please let me go. Please..I.. I have to get to Uni,” I murmur quietly, tears forming in my eyes, blurring my vision. But even then, I see his fist raise and come swinging at my jaw, sending immense pain through my face as I crumple onto the floor. I watch from between my soaked fingers as his leather boots make their way out of the kitchen, causing me slouch into the cupboard door in relief. I sit there for a few minutes, then stand up and wipe my wet face and hands on my shirt.
I know that that was my punishment for denying him this morning. And if I try to again, it will be much, much worse.
I quickly finish making the pancakes and place them on the table, covered up, and hobble upstairs to my room. I grab a pair of faded-out boyfriend jeans, a cream knit sweater and my underwear. I walk out and into the hallway, going into the bathroom and making sure the door was locked behind me.
As I wait for the shower to warm up, I strip from my pyjamas and look at myself in the mirror, finding all my scars, bruises and cuts, trying to see if any were infected. They all seemed okay, so I look upwards and see the wreckage on my face.
My slender cheekbones are red, and are starting to turn into a disgusting yellow already. My lips are cracked and bloody, probably from the blood that came out when Simon punched me. My green eyes have bags under them, the result of sleepless nights, where I would hide under my blankets, the fear of him taking advantage of me while I’m sleeping, too strong for me to sleep . My long, brown wavy hair is a mess, hanging around my shoulders, knotted and matted with sweat.
I try to hold myself together as I examine my body. I can’t even remember how it looked without all the bruises and scars. Some had faded into white lines, but others were still raised and red, as a result of poor treatment.
After highschool had finished, I hadn’t had any reasons to leave the house, so it was during this time that I acquired most of my marks. And now, thankfully, Uni had started, and I had another reason to stay as far away from them as possible. If only for a few hours.
The bathroom was quickly filling up with steam so I get into the shower, careful to avoid the water splashing directly onto my body. I slowly wash my body with water, and pick up the bar of soap, breathing in a sharp breath. This is the part I hate the most. It will go into my cuts and it will sting like shit.
I scrub and wash as fast as possible, trying to avoid direct contact to my open wounds. Although they might get infected without the right amount of cleaning, I also can’t risk them becoming inflamed and red from irritation. That will only bring more attention to me than I need right now.
Stepping out of the shower, I grab my towel and dry myself off as quickly and gently as possible. My hair is quite wet so I rub it vigorously and keep it hanging out for a little longer, hoping it would dry enough for me to tame it before school.
I grab my underwear and slip them on, then reach for my jeans and pull them over my hips, wincing slightly as the material brushes my sore skin. I pull on my sweater and tuck it into the front of my jeans, hoping it would hide my bruised stomach.
I quickly apply the layers of concealer that will make me look half-way normal, and rub some lipgloss over the bumpy terrain of my lips, as well as hurriedly applying some mascara to my eyelashes. I rush out into my room, stuff all my books into my book bag, and lift my picture slightly off the wall, double-checking behind me that my door is shut. I take a deep breath and try to steady my shaking hand. I reach behind the medium-sized frame and feel around in the hole in the wall, grabbing a bank note or two, and stuffing them into my pocket. I get out the house as fast as possible and start my fifteen minute walk to school.
My mother never gives me money, and neither does Simon. But every month, on the 15th, a parcel is mysteriously shoved under my bed, full of money. Every month, it’s the same amount: five hundred dollars.The first time it happened, I thought Simon was leaving it there to cover up a crime he might’ve done. But after I read the note that had come with the first parcel, I became even more confused. It had said,‘Dear Jade, this belongs to you, as do the ones coming. Don’t let your mother or anyone else know about it, or you will be in danger. You’ll find out everything soon. Goodbye.’
I know what your thinking. If I have money and I’m in collage, why don’t I just leave and never come back?
But it’s not that simple. If I run away, my mother and Simon have promised to chase me down. I’m not allowed to find my own place. Otherwise they’ll kill me.
So being abused is better than dying. Cause if I’m still alive, then there’s still hope. Like that letter.
I memorised it, as it gave me hope that someone out there was trying to help me in any way they could. It made me hope that one day, I would be able to be free from my mother and Simon.
I walk through the front doors of my University, The University of Melbourne, and I try to look as carefree as possible, not that anyone really pays attention to me. I’ve realised that Uni is different to highschool, in the way that nobody could give two shits about your life, or you. And sometimes, I really do think it’s better this way.
When I walk into my first lecture, Ancient History, I look around, and finally spot a familiar mop of platinum blonde hair. I smile and walk towards it, drop in the seat beside the guy and turn to face him.
Jace had been by my side since we were little, and he had always been there for me whenever I needed him. But he didn’t know. He didn’t know about what my life was like outside of school, or about the money, or anything. I felt so bad for keeping secrets from him, but I didn’t want to involve him in anything. His life was perfect, as it should have been. He had a loving mother and father, and his family was well off, able to give him anything he wanted. If I couldn’t have that life, I wanted to make sure my best friend could. So I kept it hidden from him, to let him live a normal and carefree life. Not all of us have to mature quicker than normal to survive.
“Hey Jace!” My smile is genuine, as I smile at the carefree boy beside me. Well, I don’t think I could call him a boy anymore. It’s obvious that over the break, he’s matured quite alot.
“Hey Princess. What’s up? You look really spaced out. You okay?” The concern in his voice is very touching, and I hold back tears as I smile and nod my head.
“Of course I’m okay! Why wouldn’t I be? We just had six weeks break. I’m ready to get back into it,” I reply. Jace smiles and shakes his head, pulling me into his side.
“Of course you would say that, Ms I’m-so-ready-for-school-again. Nobody else would want to go through this, but you do. Typical,” he sighs, as if not quite sure why he is my best friend anymore.
I laugh as he smiles down at me, his blue eyes dancing in the sunlight. I can’t imagine my life without Jace. He’s the closest thing I have to a family, and even though he doesn’t know about all the shit that goes on at home, I know he regards me as his family as well.
Jace is the only person who can make me laugh anymore. I’d given up a long time ago on my life ever being a happy life anymore, but throughout highschool, as the beatings and abuse at home got worse and worse, I began to depend on Jace to cheer me up at school. To be my sunshine in my gloomy life. We sit quietly throughout the lesson, listening intently, often sharing small, meaningful smiles here and there.
After the lecture has finished, we walk down the hall to the front doors, weaving between the loud and crazy-looking crowds in the hallway, chatting excitedly amongst each other, girls giggling away and guys shouting out to each other loudly. As we pass by a more rowdy group, a young man is shoved into me by another of his friends, making me lose my balance for a second too long. I try to reach out for Jace, but my fingers grasp at air as I crash to the floor, my vision now consisting of an interesting, yet deadly, view of various shoe styles. My body is squashed underneath the guy who was shoved onto me, and I’m having trouble breathing.
Suddenly, the guy is pulled off me and shoved down the hall, an angry Jace watching him run away. Iquickly pull myself up and turn to face him. I send him a grateful smile and dust the imaginary dust from my jeans.
“Well, I’ve got to go. I’ll see you tomorrow right?” I really didn’t want to go home to a probably waiting Simon, but I knew if I was late, my punishment would be worse.
“Oh..yeah ok. I was going to ask...uh..do you want to do something on the weekend? I heard a good movie was going to be playing in the cinema,” he says, clearing his throat and looking at me hopefully. My heart sinks, as I already know the answer I’d have to give him.
“I’m so sorry Jace, but I can’t. My mum isn’t feeling well and I have to look after her. Maybe another time.” I quickly reached up and kissed his cheek, hugged him, and sped down the steps and across the road, starting the long walk to my house.
I feel really bad for lying to him, but I can’t let him know the truth. My mum would never let me out the house except for school. My priviliges are already few enough. The last thing I need is to be permanently locked inside the house, at the mercy of my mother and Simon all day, everyday, inflicting me with punishments I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
I reach the house, letting myself in with my spare key, and walking quietly to my room. When I open the door to my destroyed bedroom, I know I’m in immense trouble.
My bed is flipped upside down, my dresser wiped clean of all my concealer and lipgloss bottles, my mirror cracked and my closet doors pulled open, the few clothes I own strewn across my room. But what scares me most is the fact that my picture frame is thrown on the floor, the glass smashed, and the frame cracked. The hole behind it open for the world to see.
I look inside, dreading what I would find. Or rather, what I wouldn’t find. I stare in disbelief, not comprehending that it really happened. All the money was gone. A sinking feeling is now making my stomach ache with a terrible feeling. The feeling that this will be the worst punishment yet.
Suddenly, my bedroom door flies open, and I jump in fear, pushing myself against the wall, in a failed attempt to protect myself. Simon walks in with an angry look on his face, one of his fists clenched, the other fist holding a bag I recognise all too well.
“Where the fuck did all this money come from? Huh? Did you steal it from your mother? Or did you rob a store? Answer me you bitch!” He stomps over and punches my jaw in the same place as this morning, making me groan out in pain.
“I...I didn’t steal...from anybody. It’s mine,” I whisper out, looking up at him from behind my hair.
" LIAR! How could all this be yours? How the fuck would you have gotten your hands on all this money? Do you know how much this is?“he yells, shoving the bag under my nose and shaking it, making my sight go fuzzy.” There is twenty fuckin’ thousand dollars here! More than your mum and I own all together! So I’m gonna ask you again. Where did you get this money?”
I look up at him, determined to keep my mouth shut on my secret. When he notices the look on my face, he sighs and looks up at the ceiling, as if what he was going to do next would cause him physical pain.
Yeah right. I’m sure it will give him the exact opposite feeling. The thought makes my throat close up in disgust.
“Aw right then. If you won’t talk, then I’ll fuck it out of you. You stubborn bitch.”
He pulls me up by my hair, and throws me out the door and towards his bedroom. He kicks the door open and throws me onto the bed, following me and standing above me, grabbing the knife from the bedside table and twirling it between his fingers. He looks down at me and looks as if he’s pondering over something, then shoves the knife into my thigh. I arch my back as I scream in pain, writhing around, as if it would help with the pain.
He pulls it out, and stabs it into my arm I had laid over my thigh to cover the wound, earning anther scream from me. I hear the blade fall to the ground, and his hands start to pull my jeans down my sore and bloody legs, my shirt quick to follow. I lay there, in his disgusting and perverted gaze, ashamed that I won’t be able to cover myself from him. Not when he’s got this much power over me.
He slowly unbuckles his belt, and pulls it out from the loops. When he winds it around his fist, I realise what’s going to come, and I try to prepare myself for it. The belt buckle comes down and strikes my breasts, sending pain through my whole body. His eyes appraise my exposed body as he pulls his pants off, along with his boxers, and advances, licking his lips.
He rips a piece of cloth from the bedsheets and gags me, then pulls what’s left of my clothes off. I’m screaming into the cloth for help but no one can hear me. I plead with him with my eyes, but he just climbs on top of me and whispers in my ear.” If you scream my name into the cloth maybe I’ll have a bit of mercy on you.”
The last thing I remember is a sharp pain shooting through my lower area, before everything goes black.