“I can hold my breath. I can bite my tongue. I can stay awake for days, if that’s what you want. Be your number one. I can fake a smile. I can force a laugh. I can dance and play the part. If that’s what you ask. Give you all I am. I can do it, I can do it, I can do it but I’m only human and I bleed when I fall down. I’m only human and I crash and I break down. Your words in my head, knives in my heart, you build me up and then I fall apart ’cause I’m only human”. With my eyes screwed shut and my legs pulled up to my chest, I sang the lyrics trying to erase the silence that surrounded me.
I heard the soft clicks of shoes along the concrete and my body stilled, listening out to see if someone would introduce himself or herself.
“Sophia-Jane”. My mother’s soft voice floats to my ears and my eyes stung with tears but I quickly screwed them shut and clenched my hands into tight fists. I ignored the strong need to plead and sob for freedom. Nothing good would come from it, nothing good at all. I learnt that the hard way. “I’m sorry honey; I’m just trying to do what’s best for you. That is all I’ve dreamed for you since you were born, so has your father. You know our rules, don’t talk to boys we don’t approve of. We even gave you the chance to break your friendship and stay away from that boy but you still talked to him”. I opened my eyes, glaring at her through my tears and the wooden door separating us.
I hate how she says ‘that boy’ as if he’s some sort of wild, feral animal that’s supposed to be locked away in a cage instead of having the same freedom rights as her and anyone else she deems ‘acceptable’ company.
“Maybe a night in the prayer room will do you some good and make you see your mistakes, but don’t worry sweetheart, your father and I aren’t angry at you, I promise”. As I listened to her walk away, my blood boiled. Prayer room? That’s what you’re calling it now? Not a dinky cupboard in the cold basement of your home where you lock me in every time you think I deserve it.
My anger continued to climb higher and higher to the point my clenched fists turned white and shook slightly. I clenched my jaw as my nails dug deeper into my skin decreasing my anger lightly since the pain was distracting me.
One month Sophia, that’s 30 days, what’s 30 days against the last almost 18 years you’ve already spent with them already.
The thought calmed me a little and I released a breath I didn’t realise I was holding in. 30 days and they wouldn’t be allowed to report me to the police as a missing minor. No, they will have to report me as a missing adult that’s just turned 18. I mean, come on, the police would look at that and think I was just another kid trying to get away from their parents and brush off my parents claim.
I’d be free. Wow, I wonder what that is like. Freedom. Not having to walk around on eggshells afraid of ending up in here. 30 days. A smile curved my lips and for the first time ever, I relaxed in this cupboard. I never fell asleep in here but I guess things at changing. My eyes grew heavy and I had to force myself not to yawn but instead kind of half yawned, I mean can anyone actually stop a yawn. I closed my eyes, falling asleep with my head on my knees curled up into a ball.
The sound of the door unlocking startled me and I sprang into a sitting position, staring eagerly at the door. The door swung open, my father stood by the cupboard while my mother stood by the basement stairs, giving me a cold stare. I climbed out of the cupboard, wincing as my body stretched out after being locked in the cramped space for hours.
I keep my eyes on the ground, not having the courage to stare either in the eye. I fidgeted with my top. “I’m sorry, I should’ve listened to the both of you. I was just trying to give him the benefit of the doubt but if you don’t like me being his friend ill stop. I promise. I’m sorry I disappointed you and lied to you, it won’t happen again. I’ve learnt from my mistake”. I added the last, hoping the last sentence would please my mother since they were close to the words she spoke to me last night.
“Oh, honey”. Mother said. “You know where not disappointed in you, we understand that you have a good heart, that’s why we didn’t want you around him. We didn’t want him to ruin that. We’re just glad we were able to help you see clearly and understand your mistake”. My mother’s voice filled the silence and her expensive perfume wafted around my nose as she pulled me into a hug. I smiled on the inside knowing she bought it and then pulled away from her and turned to my father, relief flooded through me when I saw he believed me too.
“I love you, sweetheart”. He said kissing my cheek and I grimaced on the inside. 30 days, Sophia, 30 days. I thought, reminding myself.
“Let’s go have a family breakfast together before you have to go to your college lectures”. Mother said and I groaned inwardly.
“Sounds great”. I said, lying through my teeth. 30 days, I thought
“Bye”. I said and jumped out of my father’s car and he drove off. I walked towards the building where my first lecture was being held and stopped quickly at the coffee cart on the way there. I ordered a caramel cappuccino and chocolate chip muffin. I was starving, I barely ate the breakfast mother made for me because I felt so sick to my stomach with their lovey-dovey act that I saw right through.
I sat in one of the middle rows on the edge. I pulled a chunk off my chocolate chip muffin and shoved it into my mouth. I ate the rest quickly, pretty much inhaling it since I haven’t eaten since 1 o’clock at lunch and it’s around 10 in the morning now. Yes, they starved me, making me hate them a little because I love food. I may not eat a lot but that’s because I have a small stomach, not by choice though.
They may be my parents so I will love them forever because they are the reason I exist and they raised me but it doesn’t mean I don’t know that this isn’t wrong. I’m their daughter and I know they shouldn’t treat me this way no matter what they think I’ve done. To be honest, last night was the first time I ever actually thought of leaving and still stand by it this morning.
They have gotten worse since I graduated from high school on my 17th birthday, a lot worse. I think it’s because I’m not going to the Christian college they wanted me too. Which if Christian colleges are anything like Christian high schools then they should be glad I’m enrolled at Chicago’s school of the art institute then at their stuffy Christian college.
I had since movies of the American public and private schools and the students weren’t nearly as bad as Christian school students were. That may not be what it’s actually like but if it is I don’t see why my parents were bragging about the students being so well behaved at my Christian high school. Huh! Behaved. Good Christian school student is just code for sneakier and more malicious.
I was snapped out of my thoughts by someone touching my arm and I looked up seeing Caleb with his usual megawatt smile.
“Hey Soph, what were you thinking about?”
“My Christian high school”. I said and he made a disgusted face making me giggle. “It wasn’t that bad”. I said and he sent me a sceptical look, scoffing.
“I will never understand you, Soph”. He said shaking his head and I looked at him confused.
“What do you mean?” I asked and he sighed.
“I don’t know a lot about your living situation with your parents, actually I know fuck all because you won’t tell me”. I winced when he swore. I wasn’t a big fan of swearing but since he was angry, I let it go since I understood. I know it makes him angry thinking about parents because he doesn’t actually know what’s happening so he’s only got his imagination to go off of. “But how you can still believe in god and all that other stuff is beyond me”. I looked down trying to piece the sentence together before speaking, luckily enough we were alone still so no one could hear our conversation.
“I still believe in god because I need someone to believe in, Caleb. That’s all it is”. I said and paused, taking a deep breath before continuing. “And since I don’t like feel like telling anyone my problems because then I’ll feel like a burden, I turn to him so I have someone to tell”. His expression almost broke my heart.
“You’re not a burden Sophia, nor will you ever be. Your problems are the burden, not you. If only you could see that so you would get help and let someone, anyone in so that weight would be lifted off your shoulders”. He said strongly, his words making my eyes burn slightly as the tears started forming. “I just wish you would tell me so I could truly see what you’re going through and I don’t have to deal with my imagination”.
“Only if you tell your parents about you”. I said and the fear appeared in his eyes.
“Sophia, mine and your problems are completely diff-“. He started arguing but I cut him off.
“Not really different, Caleb. You fear telling your parents just like I fear telling you”. I said and he went to speak but I cut him off. “Mine may be an irrational free, but it’s still a fear, one I am trying to get past but it may take me years to get rid of”.
“Okay, okay. They may be the same but mine isn’t hurting me, you keeping this from me is hurting you, I could help you if you told me what’s happening”.
“Okay first of all, what could you actually do until I turn 18 and second of all, how can you say this isn’t hurting you. Of course, it’s hurting you, Caleb. You kissing and sleeping with all these women to prevent your parents from thinking your gay is hurting you”. I said and he looked away from me. “And don’t say it isn’t. we may have only meet 6 months ago but I feel like I’ve known you all my life. My pain is a physical pain but it doesn’t mean your emotional pain is any less important or damaging. Bruises and cuts heal, Caleb. The thing you need to worry about when it comes to me is the psychological scars that’ll be left when this is all over”.
“It’s impossible to argue with you”. He groaned out, running his hands through his hair and I smiled softly. He glared over at me, almost as if he knew I was smiling. “You should become a lawyer”. He said and I scrunched up my face before shaking my head.
“Nah, to brainy for me, I’ll stick with my graphic design dream thanks”. I said and he scoffed, rolling his eyes.
“Please, to brainy for you? Says the girl who graduated from high school a year early”. He said and I whined at that comment.
“Shut up”. I said just as the door opened and our professor walked in. he looked over at us stunned.
“What are you two doing in here?”
“Don’t look at me professor, she was in here first”. Caleb said and I smacked his chest lightly making him wince and he poked my ribs making me gasp in pain. Caleb’s eyes widened to the point that resembled saucers. “Shit Soph, I’m so sorry”. He grabbed my hand, squeezing soothingly.
“Miss Montgomery, are you okay?” Professor Hurst asked and I nodded my head slightly.
“I’m fine”. I forced out. “Being as skinny as me doesn’t help when some bully pokes you in the ribs”. I said glaring at Caleb and he looked at me guiltier. The professor chuckled and continued walking to his desk.
“Alright Miss Montgomery”. He answered.
“I’m so sorry, Soph”. Caleb said again and I smiled slightly.
“Its fine, Caleb, really. I was only joking, you didn’t know”. I said and he clenched his fist, thankfully not the one that was holding my hand. I didn’t need another problem.
“How did it happen?” he asked and I looked back at my memories last night. My father had managed to keep his temper under control all the way home after he saw me walking with Caleb. It wasn’t until we had reached inside the house and the door slammed that things turned ugly. He grabbed me by arm and dragged me into the living room where the basement door is.
I was dragged past my mother – who had been reading until she had heard me begging my father to loosen his terribly tight grip on my sensitive arms – towards the basement door all the way down the stairs. Everything was relatively fine until I tripped. I had been wearing ankle boots with a little heel since I’m only 5’6. My body had slammed into the railing the bottom of the railing.
Unlike most basements I had seen, the one under my parents’ home was fancy, very fancy and was done up like any other room in the house. The staircase and railing – being like the one that leads to the second floor of our house – had this solid wooden ball on the bottom end of the staircase which was what my body had slammed directly into.
“It was an accident, Caleb”. He looked at me sceptically. “I swear he didn’t mean it”. I said but he still looked angry.
“I don’t even know how he couldn’t even fucking hurt you, Sophia. You’re so small compared to him”. He said raging, his fists were clenched and the look on his face would have terrified me if I didn’t know how much of a teddy bear he actually was.
“Everything will be fine in 30 days”. I assured him and he looked at me with confusion.
“30? What’s in 30-“. He cut himself, thinking. “Your birthday, hang on a minute you said something about your birthday before, something about not until your 18”. He said confused before I smiled, waiting for it to click. His confusion grew until suddenly his eyes sparkled with realisation. “You’re actually going to leave”. He said, his voice barely a whisper.
“I am”. I said determinedly. He looked at me, still in shock.
“What brought this on?”
“You actually”. I said and he looked at me confused again making me laugh softly. He gets confused a lot. “Well, actually, my mother helped, a lot. She said something about you that I didn’t like and it made me realise that they shouldn’t be people I’m surrounding myself with but as I said. We have to wait till I’m 18, the police see that I’ve just turned 18 and realise that I’m just a teenager that’s just turned into an adult and they’ll come to the conclusion that I just went the dramatic way of leaving my parents”. I said and he looked at me happy before being confused again.
“What did she say about me?” he asked and I sighed.
“Things I really didn’t like. Look I told you from the start what they’re like and they’ve automatically assumed that because you have a few tattoos and piercings that your bad influence”. He smiled softly.
“You’re an amazing person, Soph”. He said, looking at me in disbelief. “I’ve only met a few people like you who have been so welcoming and kind. Most people see the tattoos and piercing and think I’m some horrible person”. I smiled nervously, looking down at my lap and weaved my fingers together, playing with my thumbs.
“I guess it’s like judging a person for their skin colour or gender or religion, the only things that I separate people from are sometimes age and gender, but it just depends on the circumstances”. I said and he smiled at me.
“You’re too kind, it’s going to get you into trouble”. He said and I poked my tongue out. The door opened and I see people finally start coming in, their heads down, avoiding the professor’s lethal glare.
“You’re late”. He snapped making the students jump.
“Relax teach”. One of the guys said and his friends chuckled. Caleb and I looked like we were at a tennis match. Our eyes darting between the students and the professor, making sure not to miss a second of the entertainment.
“Teach?” the professor’s voice echoed through the room. “Do you do realise who you’re talking too?”
“An old geezer”. The student answered who I’m going to call idiot from now on. The professor chuckled sending a cold shiver up my spine.
“You do realise that I will be the one grading your work, Mr Mathews? The work that determines whether or not you graduate this year and go on to work at your dream job”. The professor threatened and idiots face paled dramatically.
“y-you wouldn’t do anything”. He snapped, trying to keep this voice angry but it wavered. The professor went to speak again but idiot cut him off. “Besides, even if you do, do anything. I have like 50 witnesses to back me up and say that I didn’t deserve the grade”. Idiot said, getting smug again.
“Yes, that’s true. You do have witnesses that will see an F marked next to their names as well if they say anything”. Professor Hurst said calmly and idiots face drained of colour again. “Now sit down, shut up and don’t talk unless I ask you a direct question”. Professor Hurst snapped and idiot nodded his head quickly and sat down in the back row. The rest of the students scrambled to sit down, afraid he yells at them next.
Caleb smiled at me with a twinkle in his eyes and I pursed my lips to stop the laugh that wanted to escape. I turned my head away from him towards Professor Hurst who was already looking at us like Caleb had just been looked at me. I lowered my gaze to my feet and crossed my arms over my chest, trying to ignore both of them for the rest of the class.
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