Chapter 1: New Beginnings and Fresh Starts
As I was confined to the filthy dining chair, I stared at the endless amount of holes and cracks that covered the piece of furniture from top to bottom. Over the years, the chair had become disgusting and the wood slowly rotted away, administering a foul and unpleasant smell to my sensitive nose that was now caked in dirt and grime to the point where even breathing was a difficult task.
The thick piece of rope that bound me in place and the pain it inflicted on my wrists was the only thing that tied me to my sanity. My palms began to sweat as the twine seemed to be becoming tauter against my pale, sickly skin. My arms were stiff and immovable from being strapped behind my back to the chair, the position making me sore all over and the agony far from ending.
Tears welled in my eyes, temporarily causing my eyesight to become blurry and my surroundings distorted. The heavy rain outside pelted down and the thunder was barely noticeable as my eyes were glued to the window and refused to look at anything else. I watched curiously as the tiny droplets of water descended from the smoky colored clouds that blanketed the sky in a gray sheet of nothingness.
For a minute I felt the corners of my lips curve upward in that tiny moment of observing the skies from the rust-covered window.
When the door slam echoed throughout the house, and even in the basement where I was kept, I immediately knew he was drunk. It was always like this, a constant cycle of pain whenever he arrived at the house so wasted he couldn’t remember a single thing until late evening of the next day, but then that was the time he went out to drink yet again.
I shut my eyes tightly, relishing the few moments of alleviation I had left before his footsteps bounded down the staircase heavily. My father was a hefty man, tall and extremely arrogant. He blamed me for my mom’s suicide. I was incriminated ... his scapegoat whenever he felt like it.
It was times like those when I couldn’t bear to live anymore. The torture and suffering became too much for me to handle. Inflicting pain on myself was so easy and normal, so I never felt it when the razor-edged blade pierced my skin. It was the only way I knew how to relieve my daily stresses and torments mentally without having to talk to anybody about my problems.
My eyes peeled open immediately as sweat covered me from head to toe even from wearing the tiny pajama shorts and tank top whose straps were slipping from my shoulders. I quickly pulled it back up and ran my slender fingers through my hazel colored hair, undoing the knots that appeared when I was asleep. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of my forehead before I wiped it away with the back of my hand.
A tear fell on a scar I still had on my inner thigh that was obtained when I was twelve years old after my mother committed suicide in her bedroom by overdosing on painkillers. My father came home late that night and found her body in the bathroom, eyes open and body stiff. I wanted to think my father cared for my mother but that meant a heart was somewhere inside him, and I knew better than to assume it was. He didn’t display a single hint of remorse and pain; he never did. Instead, my father stared at my mother’s lifeless body, grabbed a knife, and turned to me.
I remember everything that happened that night. Before I fell asleep, I was crying in the bathroom while examining my deep cuts and wounds. Some scars were recent but never healed properly. Others were from long ago and most were from self-harm.
My father wasn’t always the man he was. From the family photos of vacations to California, he seemed like an ordinary, happy husband with a beautiful wife and child. Then, the arguments began. They argued throughout the day and sometimes in the evening when he returned home from work with that same frustrated look every time. My mother always avoided the topic or changed it when I brought it up, constantly saying he was just tired from a long day at the office. At first, I believed her because I thought our amazing family could be that happy again, but I was terribly wrong.
He came home so drunk one night and started yelling in the house. I woke up to the sound of glass breaking and a woman’s cry. I ran down the stairs to see my father hovering over my mother. His eyes were red with drunken rage while she was on the floor, hands in the air to cover her face protectively. I stood there wide-eyed with terror as I watched the scene unfold in front of me.
After my mom’s suicide, I was the one he released his anger on. It became more frequent after her death. I was pushed down the stairs, grabbed by my hair so hard my scalp ached the next day, whipped, beaten repeatedly, and left alone on many occasions when he decided a bar was the best place to be, which was all the time.
No matter how far I traveled to get away from his grasp, I ended up in the same exact place where I began. No matter how hard I tried, escaping was just too difficult. No matter how fast I ran, his face was always appearing, a constant reminder that no matter where I went. A part of him was always with me, but I still believed somewhere, deep inside, there was the same man I knew and loved under that thick and black-filled soul of his. However, it was so polluted with darkness, so much darkness that sometimes I could feel he would never be that person again. It was an endless and pointless cycle of thoughts that circled my head.
Then, my mind shifted to the door of my room. I glanced at my clock and threw the bed sheets off my sweaty frame in a hurried manner. I threw on a simple pair of leggings and a white t-shirt covered by my favorite hoodie.
I reached for the door, unlocking it. Every night I would do the same routine because I was too scared of my father who haunted me every second of every day. I despised him, but he filled my dreams and even my thoughts. I was so terrified of him I had to lock my doors and windows at night, hoping that the simplest actions could free me from him, but they never worked.
My nose welcomed the scent of toast from the floor below me as I followed the aromas down the stairs and into the kitchen where my adopted sister, Gracie, was flipping pancakes on a pan. My two adoptive parents, Thomas and Samantha, sat peacefully on the couch in the corner of the living room holding hands while one was reading the morning paper and the other was sewing a piece of clothing.
“Hello, Thomas, Samantha,” I greeted, calling them by their first names. “Hi, Gracie.”
“Hi, darling,” Sam replied as she studied my outfit, a look of approval written on her face.
“Morning, Em,” my adopted sister answered.
The Waters took me in when I was fifteen after I had been in the foster system for about a year. Gracie was twenty-six, eight years older than me, and majoring in psychology. Thomas worked as a history teacher while Samantha remained at home, baking and selling her pastries in order to maintain a good amount of money and putting it into savings for my college tuition.
I could never bring myself to call them ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. To me, they would always just be my adoptive parents because I felt Samantha was replacing my mother, and I wasn’t ready to move on even years after her death. I didn’t want a different person to be my mother because I felt as if she was being replaced.
I loathed my real father with every ounce of my being, but even after being through all the crap I had to endure, he still offered me shelter, food, water. I could remember the days when he nearly starved me to death. When I was so dehydrated and he never noticed. When my injuries were so serious and in dire need of urgent care but his emotionless expression never yielded. He was so stern, so abrasive all the time and the drinking and going out was ceaseless.
“Emily?” Samantha’s soothing voice snapped me out of my daze.
“Sorry,” I bit my lip, something I often did when apologizing.
“No problem, darling. Gracie will take you to school.”
I nodded, following my step sister out the front door and skipping breakfast, not even bothering to take a glimpse at the meal she prepared for me. I immediately regretted my decision to go to school the minute I stepped into her truck.
“Something wrong, Emily?” Gracie asked. I hoped the short drive would be filled with silence, but she always said something to break the peacefulness.
“No need to apologize. Are you thinking about your first day?”
“I’m a senior in high school. I shouldn’t get nervous.”
“Emily, everyone gets nervous on their first day, and you especially because this counts as your first full year of high school.”
“So what if I’m nervous?” I sank lower into my seat, praying we weren’t there yet. As the car pulled to a stop, I automatically knew we had arrived at the high school. I pulled out my phone to check the clock. I was about thirty minutes early but the school seemed packed already. Students were entering and exiting the building with their social groups and heavy backpacks carried on their shoulders. Everyone had a smile plastered on his/her face except me.
“You’ll do fine,” she said, putting a hand on my shoulder to placate me. “Just try and make new friends.”
I nodded, stepping out of the new vehicle. I plugged in my earbuds and paid no heed to anyone and anything around me. The meeting with the counselor I took last week was definitely overwhelming. School was a new element for me, and I could tell why the moment I walked through the doors.
Students bustled around while either talking to old friends or gathering books and supplies from their locker. I made no eye contact with anyone, not that I even attempted to. I pretended to be occupied with something on my phone while typing a fake message to a random number on my phone. When I arrived at my locker, I struggled with the combination. Confused, I rummaged through the contents of my backpack until I found the sheet of paper with locker instructions.
Clockwise to 31. Counterclockwise and pass 31 and go to 15. Then clockwise again to 43.
I attempted to unlock it one more time and the locker made a satisfactory clicking noise, indicating it was open. It was a fairly clean locker other than the scrap piece of paper in the bottom corner. I picked it up and tossed it into the trash bin nearby and proceeded to place all my textbooks into it, organizing them by class. With the materials for my first period in the bag, I rechecked everything before closing the door to my new locker.
When I reached the room number of my classroom, I took one step inside and wanted to crawl back into my room and hide in there forever as all pairs of eyes were focused on me.