That one word usually meant a lot to people.
Family were the people in your life in which you could count and rely on. They were the people you loved, who loved you back.
My family used to be amazing. Key words: used to be.
It was my mom, dad, brother and I. While we were a small family, we all had a great relationship with one another. My dad was the jokester, the one who always lightened the mood, the one who always had an appropriate joke ready at the right moment. He had the ability to make anyone laugh and bring a smile upon their face.
My mother was the person who looked after us all. She stayed at home with us if we were sick. She helped us study. She was involved in all of our lives. She was always worrying about us. She made us feel loved; even simply being in her presence gave you that feeling. I felt protected around her, like nothing could ever hurt me. My mother was who I always went to if I had a problem. She never shouted or raised her voice at us.
And my brother. . . Devin. Unlike most brother-sister relationships, we got on very well. I looked up to him, and tried my best to be like him. He was a sort of role model for me.
I had heard the phrase that you don’t understand what you have until it’s gone. . . It wasn’t one I had understood for a long time. But, life had plans for me, and I quickly learnt what that meant at a very young age. I never thought my family would end up shattered and so quickly.
My once perfect family, disappeared after my mother’s death. She died of cancer. . . She wasn’t even aware she had it until it was too late. There was nothing the doctors could do to save her.
Everything almost seemed like a weird. . . illusion. I could only vaguely remember what it felt like to be loved and to be part of a family. The feeling was so foreign and alien like to me.
Since then, my life had changed drastically. I couldn’t remember the last day where I had gone to sleep or woken up relatively happy. It had been a long time, years even.
Life hadn’t exactly been kind to me. In the beginning I thought maybe I could do this. Just endure everything for a few years and I’d leave. Unfortunately, I soon realized I wasn’t strong enough. I was tired and drained. My body felt heavy and my shoulders ached with all the stress I was dealing with everyday.
I never imagined the emotional and mental strain that one’s father could put their child through.
I was woken up with a start, as ice cold water was poured all over me. I gasped, my eyes flying wide open.
I began spluttering and coughing as I scrambled off my make-shift bed on the cold wooden floor. The skimpy blankets that were worn and had numerous holes in the were soaked in water. My small body shivered violently as the ice cold water dripped, pitter patter, on the floor. The hairs on my arms rose as my body desperately tried to retain my body heat.
I slowly glanced up and saw John looming over me and I instinctively cowered away, bowing my head in submission. It had become a habit over the years. It was sad and pitiful that I was terrified of my own father, but after everything he had inflicted on me, my body couldn’t help but try and protect itself in any way possible.
John was my father but I refused to call him that anymore. No father would inflict such pain on their own child. I stopped calling him Dad or Father years ago. He didn’t notice or care.
John was a young enough, good looking, successful man. He had set up his own business in town and he was a very well respected man among many. However, I doubted he would be that highly looked upon if people were aware of the kind of person he was at home. It was almost like he had two personalities; a smart, sophisticated hardworking man when at work, and in short, a monster at home.
Many years ago, my father and I used to have a good relationship. He was always someone I could rely on for anything. He was extremely kind, endearing and caring, but then my mother passed away and he couldn’t handle it. He was never abusive towards my mother. He loved her a lot. They would always tell me the story of how they met and fell in love while they were teenagers. They both went to the same school, but didn’t notice one another until their final year at school.
My father accidentally bumped into my mother in the hallways; my mother always said my father was kind of rude to her at first but he always denies it. Eventually, the two of them talked more and more, and my father admitted he liked her. Although, my mother rejected him at first, my father didn’t give up, and in lack of words, wooed her until she finally agreed to go on one date with him. It blossomed from there on.
He was devastated when she died. She died so suddenly, that none of us really got the chance to say goodbye properly. I had gotten two minutes with her before she took her last breath and closed her eyes. The distinct sound of the monitor flat lining would always ring in my head, I could never forget that sound.
It was also the first time I had seen my father cry. He wasn’t one for being emotional, but I saw the heartbroken look in his eyes, as he clutched her hands, begging her not to leave him. He was never the same after she passed away. My mother had brought out the best in him. He was always trying to impress her in one way or another.
His almost charcoal black eyes blazed with fury, and he clenched his fists at his side. He had a small vein pulsating near his temple as his face grew red in anger. I watched as his fist slowly rose higher and I knew what was coming and my body instinctively braced itself for what was to come.
“I’ve been calling you for the past ten fucking minutes!” He spat, his spit landing in my face.
I internally cringed, but kept my face straight. I shrunk further away from him, my heart pounding in my chest, but he only grew angrier with my prolonged silence.
He breathed harshly through his nose. He almost reminded me of those cartoon characters you would see on television, when they had smoke coming out of their ears. He bared yellow stained teeth at me, the horrible smell of beer wafting towards me. I wrinkled my nose slightly and moved back slightly. It was only eight in the morning, but he was already slightly intoxicated, most likely from the night before. His stained, grey shirt was wrinkled, the first few buttons broken off.
“You’re not gonna say anything, huh?” He gritted out, breathing heavily. His eyes narrowed on mine. The rate at which my heart was pounding overtook all my senses. All I could hear was the thudding of my heart in my ears and the pumping of my blood. It was difficult to focus and concentrate on John and what he was saying.
I shook my head lightly and clenched my eyes shut knowing what would be coming. There was nothing I could say that would get me out of this. I had tried. After all, he always did this. It was the only way he could get his anger and frustration
Hitting his own daughter.
And as always, he didn’t disappoint. He raised his fist and swung it heavily towards my face. It didn’t happen in slow motion as someone people thought. In less than second. . .
The stinging pain and force of his hit sent me flying back and I slammed my head hard against the wall. Intense pain blossomed throughout my head. I slid down and pressed myself against it. I let out a quiet whimper and lifted my hand to the back of my head. My vision blurred for a second before it straightened out. I felt something wet and sticky and I looked at my hand to see it covered in blood. I hated the sight of blood. While one might think I would’ve gotten used to the sight of it after all these years, blood had always made my stomach queasy.
“P-please,” I whispered quietly. My head was pounding and my face felt like it was on fire. I blinked up at him blearily, trying to focus on him. John glared down at me and a cruel smirk played on his thin lips. I was sure he got pleasure out of hurting me, something I could never comprehend. How could you go from loving your daughter to hating her to the point of beating her black and blue?
"Please?” He snorted disbelivingly and shook his head, “You’re pathetic. Look at you, you can’t even get up,” He raised his booted foot and slammed it into my stomach hard. I slouched forward, crying out and grasped my stomach in pain. I tried to grasp my stomach in order to ease the pain, but nothing seemed to work.
As much I tried not to, tears streamed down my eyes. John smirked evilly and leaned down closer to me, grabbing a fistful of my hair and harshly dragged me straight up. I let out a small whimper of pain but he ignored it. His brown eyes looked black and empty as he stared at me with disgust.
“I don’t expect much,” He sneered, his spit landing on my face. “Just clean the fucking house and make me food, but you just can’t seem to do that can you?” He rolled his eyes at me. “You’re absolutely useless and a waste of space.”
“I didn’t mean to sleep in,” I croaked out pathetically, trying to move out of his grasp but he just pulled my hair tighter making me wince.
Sometimes, I had bald patches on my head when he forcefully pulled chunks out. At times like those, I either wore a hat or I did buy a wig online until my hair grew back. I naturally had thick hair, so it was never that noticeable, but I felt better covering it up. John had drilled into my head the consequences that would occur if I told anyone. I feared John and he knew that. He knew that whatever he asked of me, I would do it.
He felt powerful. He knew the amount of control he had over me. He was aware all he had to was look at me and I would bow my head in submission. It was pathetic of me, I knew that. But he had sucked any sort of will left in me, years ago.
He glared at me for a few more seconds before he carelessly tossed me to the floor like a rag doll. My shoulder hit the floor painfully and pain rocketed through my arm. I bit down on my lip painfully hard as I tried to keep in any sounds wanting to escape.
“Don’t do it again or you won’t like the punishment.” He warned before stalking out of the room and slamming the door shut behind him. The thin walls shook slightly at the force he used.
I let out a shaky breath and curled up weakly into a ball. I lifted a hand and massaged my aching scalp. I could feel the back of my head bleeding but I knew it wasn’t serious.
My room was silent but I could hear John slamming doors and other things downstairs. Each time I heard a bang my heart rate would skyrocket and my body would start to panic. I had learned certain techniques over the years, to calm myself down but sometimes, my panic attacks would just get too much. There was only so much a person could handle on their own. Although I thought I was doing okay, given the circumstances.
What had I done to deserve this? The thought regularly crossed my mind. Everyone else I knew, had loving families. Their mothers and fathers would wait patiently for them after school, and ask them about their day. When they went home, they had a warm dinner waiting for them. Their parents didn’t look at them in disgust. Their parents turned up for the parent teacher meetings. It was embarrassing as every year, I had to come up with an excuse as to why my father couldn’t attend. I couldn’t say, Sorry Sir, he’s drunk at a bar, that’s why he’s not here, or Sorry, my dad just hates me and doesn’t care about me so he didn’t turn up.
After a few moments of collecting myself, I forced myself to stop crying, wiped my tears away and uncurled myself. No one else was going to do this for me. I learnt that years ago. It was better to depend on yourself than others because nearly always they got tired of you and left. Depending on yourself, meant less pain in the future.
Carefully, I stood up and but I swayed slightly. My vision blurred again for a moment and I felt a searing pain flash through mystomach. I had to grab the wall to support myself before I fell over. I clenched my eyes shut in agony. Waves of pain passed through me and I breathed deeply in and out through my nose. It hurt so much. I took another deep breath and opened my eyes after the pain had lessened.
Once I felt like I could move, I took small steps over to my broken mirror, thanks to John when he smashed me against it one morning, and lifted my top. A large bruise was already forming on my stomach, blending in with the other ones. Barely any of my own pale skin was visible at this point. He never gave me a chance to heal before pummeling into me violently.
I sighed heavily and started pulling out some of my makeup to cover the bruises on my face and arms. No one would ever guess that my own father beat me. Although, I didn’t have any friends at school that would care anyways. No one wanted to be friends with a freak. It only helped John’s case that I didn’t speak with anyone at school. I didn’t need to be coming up with excuses all the time as to why I was limping, or hurt.
However, people can be so oblivious sometimes. The amount of students, teachers and adults that looked me in the eyes everyday and couldn’t see the pain and desperation in them. I was screaming internally for someone to help me, but at the same time, I didn’t want people to find out. I didn’t want someone to help me. But at the same time I did. I was contradicting myself, I knew that, but it wasn’t something so simple to explain.
I didn’t really have an explanation as to why, but I still loved my father. Even after everything. Maybe that was why. I made no sense, I realized that. Maybe this abuse was getting to my head. It was difficult to explain but John was my father and I would always still have some part of me that loved him because I had spent so many years being treated like an angel by him. He was family, whether I liked it or not. Maybe I was stupid for thinking like this, but I couldn’t help it. While a part of me detested him, a small part of me, did love him.
I looked at the small cracked alarm clock on the floor and sighed. Time for school. I placed my concealer down on the table and stood up carefully. I would rather go to school like this than stay at home with him. Anywhere was better than here.
I TRUDGED SLOWLY into school, my head still pounding. I eventually had to stop and leaned my head against my locker. If I didn’t, I knew I would keel over and John would win. I would prove that I was strong.
I knew I was already late, so it wouldn’t matter if I was a little more late right? The cool metal felt amazing against my head and my headache eased slightly. I knew if anyone saw me, they would probably give me a weird look and it would only reinforce the fact that I was a freak and an outcast.
Gulping, I took in a shaky breath and opened my eyes, feeling slightly better. I can do this. I tried encouraging myself, although I wasn’t too sure if it was working.
Finally, I headed to my first class, Chemistry. The hallways were deserted and I wrapped a hand around my stomach, trying to ease the searing pain that shot up my body with each painful step I took. As I reached the classroom, I slowly lifted a hand and knocked lightly before entering. Immediately everyone shifted to look at me. I felt my cheeks heat up in embarrassment as the teacher turned and raised an eyebrow at me. Her hand froze mid air as she stopped scribbling on the board.
“Why are you late Ms. Montez?” She asked tiredly. “Again?”
Miss Holland wasn’t a strict teacher, and often let me off being late. She had been very kind to me all year, and I had feared that at one stage she was aware of what was happening at home as one day, she kept me after class and had asked me multiple questions about my home life and John. I panicked at the time, but I made up a story on the spot and she never asked me about it again. Although I remembered the look of pity in her eyes as she realized I wasn’t going to be talking.
“I slept in, I’m sorry Miss. It won’t happen again,” I muttered quietly and played with my brown hair. I avoided eye contact with her but I could tell she was staring intently at me.
After a silent few seconds, she sighed heavily and waved me off. “Just sit down Anastasia.”
I nodded quickly and headed over to my seat, but someone was already sitting there. I froze and stared. I frowned, and saw Jax Simmons sitting in my seat.
I had only spoken to him a handful of times a few years ago. He was quite arrogant and had a quick temper, as far as I could remember. His parents were very rich, but they were actually very down-to-earth kind of people, unlike Jax. He could worm his way out of any situation, no matter how bad it was. He wasn’t someone who dated a lot, which surprised me. He kind of kept to himself and only hung out with three or four people.
I cleared my throat quietly. “Excuse me Jax, that’s my seat,” I whispered lowly, trying not to attract attention.
He barely acknowledged me, and simply said, “I’m sitting here now go somewhere else.”
I opened my mouth to reply but Miss. Holland cut me off. “Ms. Montez! Do you want detention? I said sit down! There’s a seat free beside Victoria over there,”
I glared at the back of Jax’s head, cursing him in my head as I headed over to my new seat. I turned and started walking towards Victoria.
She didn’t like me much, I could tell by the not so subtle glares she was sending my way. Everyone had turned back around at this point and I slumped down in my seat next to her, her strong smelling perfume invading my senses. Although she could be a little self centered and rude, she was very pretty. She wasn’t someone who wore a lot of makeup, she dressed simply in jeans and hoodies most of the time and she was incredibly intelligent. Giving me one last side glance, she turned her attention back to the board and continued scribbling notes down in her small copybook.
When the teacher turned back to the board, I rested my head in my palm, and shut my eyes briefly. I was so tired, and I struggled to keep my eyes open. I tried to keep myself awake by writing down the notes as well but that only made me more tired. Before I knew what I was doing, my eyes closed shut and I was drifting off into a small nap.