The loud banging from the front door makes me jump and I almost spill my soda down my t-shirt. I hesitate in the kitchen, not wanting to answer the door, but afraid not to in case it sets Dad off. His moods are unpredictable at best, and most days Mom and I have to tread carefully around him.
I sigh as the banging intensifies, accompanied by a man’s angry voice outside. I’m still debating what to do when Dad finally drags his ass off the sofa, muttering under his breath as he shuffles to answer the door.
I start to make my escape upstairs but falter in mid-flight as a man pushes his way angrily through the door and into the house.
The intruder has a swarthy complexion, his greasy black hair flopping over one eye, dark stubble crawling up his neck and around his jaw and mouth.
A shiver slithers down my spine as his eyes fall on me, his hot gaze roaming greedily up and down my body, making me wish I was wearing more than the shorts and t-shirt I’d changed into when I got home from school.
“Go to your room, Prue.”
Is that fear I hear in Dad’s voice? I have no idea who this man is or what he’s doing in our house, but Dad seems to know him, and not in a good way.
I don’t need any further prompting. I don’t want the other man’s eyes on me for a second longer so I turn and quickly continue up the stairs to the safety of my bedroom, closing the door firmly behind me. Dad never has visitors so I’m both surprised and unsettled by the arrival of the stranger downstairs.
For someone who’s been out of work for as long as I can remember, Dad’s hardly ever at home. I don’t know where he goes during the day and I’m pretty sure Mom doesn’t either, but it’s a relief when he’s gone, not to have to deal with his ever-shifting moods and unpredictable temper.
It’s been hardest for Mom, staying in her sham of a marriage. She gave up her dream of a degree in counseling to hold down two jobs - waitressing at a local café, and cleaning at a nearby high school. The income from both jobs combined barely keeps us afloat week to week.
She’s made so many sacrifices to keep a roof over our heads and clothes on my back. She’s still young. She should be living her life to the full now instead of working herself into the ground. She’s fought so hard to keep us together as a family, but the truth is, we haven’t been a real family for a long time.
Dad wasn’t like he is now when he and Mom met. He was her high school sweetheart, and she fell pregnant with me when she was seventeen. They decided that getting married was the right thing to do and things were okay until Dad lost his job.
Then it all went to shit.
Dad fell into a depression and withdrew from life, withdrew from us, and years later we’re all still suffering the consequences.
As soon as I’m eighteen I’m out of here, off to college. It can’t come a day too soon. Five more years until I can make that a reality, but it feels like an eternity.
I hope Mom will finally find the courage to leave him then. Maybe she could even come with me so she can be close by while I’m at college. We could get a small apartment and we’d be happy, just me and her.
The rumble of voices drifts up the stairs, shaking me from my thoughts. The conversation downstairs seems to be getting heated.
I crack open my door, trying to make out what they’re saying.
“…what the fuck you’re playing at?” the stranger demands with a heavy Spanish accent.
“I’ll pay it back, with interest, I promise,” Dad replies, his voice pleading. He sounds…scared?
“So, what you’re telling me is, you been chasin’ the dragon with the boss’s junk? The same junk you were supposed use for the drop off? You’ve already been warned once, you stupid prick!”
“I..I just needed a little for myself. If you can just give me a few days...” Dad says desperately. The fear in his voice makes me nauseous.
“Okay. Let’s say I give you your few days. What you gonna give me in return, eh?” the man asks harshly.
“I got a little pineapple or…um…some chocolate rock,” Dad replies, his voice trembling.
I have no idea why the two men are talking about food, but alarm bells are going off in my head as I listen, rooted to the spot by the door.
“I ain’t talkin’ about that, you fucking idiot! I’m talkin’ about that piece of virgin ass you got tucked away upstairs.”
“What? No, no, you can’t! She’s got nothing to do with this! Just…shit, man, put the fucking knife down! Just give me a few days. Please!” Dad begs.
My hand flies to my mouth. The man has a knife?
“You know what? I’m feeling generous, so I’ll give you those few days to make things square,” the other man says.
I release a shaky breath of relief.
“But, fact remains, you stole the boss’s shit. Nobody steals his shit. So, now I’m gonna need a little down payment as a sign of good faith, you understand?”
I can’t hear Dad’s reply but I’m sure it wasn’t anything good.
“So, this is how it’s going to work. I’m gonna go upstairs and fuck your daughter, and you’re goin’ to stay down here like a good boy. You don’t move, you don’t make a sound. If I even hear you breathing too loud, I’ll cut your fuckin’ dick off and feed it to you. This is where you learn there are consequences to your actions.”
There’s a pause and then the stairs creak with the sound of booted feet and my brain suddenly catches up with what I’ve just heard.
Shit! Oh, God! No, no, this can’t be happening!
I’m galvanized into action as adrenaline kicks in. I look around my room desperately, my eyes landing on my second-hand oak desk with my homework scattered across the top. It’s heavy, but I get my weight behind it and push with all my strength, sliding it in front of the door just as the door handle moves.
He pushes the door open and it bounces off the desk, leaving a small gap. His hand comes around the door and he shoves it hard, sending the desk skidding back like it weighs nothing at all. He’s not a particularly big man, and manages to push his body through the gap, but while he may not be big, I know without a doubt he can still overpower me with little effort.
“Don’t touch me!” I scream at him, backing up into the room as far as I can until my back hits the windowsill.
“Now, now, chica, let’s not make this any harder than it has to be,” he sneers.
His tongue sweeps across his mouth as he moves towards me and the sheen of his saliva highlights the scar on his top lip.
I turn quickly, reaching for the window latch but he’s on me, grabbing the back of my t-shirt and hauling me away from the window.
He wraps his hand around my throat from behind, squeezing my windpipe as he pins me back against his body and I whimper as I feel the blade of a knife against my ribs. The smell of stale cigarette smoke and rancid sweat hits my nostrils, making the bile rise in my throat.
“Don’t be trying to run from me, chica. You’re goin’ to like this. I’m gonna fuck you real good. Maybe then your daddy will think twice about stealing shit that don’t belong to him.”
He grinds his hips against me. The hand that’s gripping my throat moves down over my breasts, squeezing them roughly before heading down my stomach towards the waistband of my shorts.
“No!” I struggle against him, feeling the edge of the knife against my skin.
I stamp my foot down hard on his foot and he curses. He retaliates by bending his head and biting me hard on the neck. I cry out in shock and pain, feeling a warm trickle of blood where his teeth have punctured my skin.
“You like it rough, eh, chica?” he growls, his breathing labored with the excitement of what he’s about to do to me.
The stench of his breath washes over my face and the grip of his hand on my body becomes punishing as I struggle against him.
“Dad!” I scream. “Daddy, please!”
Darkness threatens to swallow me and I know I’m going to pass out. A strange sense of relief washes over me, knowing I can escape this living nightmare in blissful oblivion.
“Daddy ain’t gonna help you, honey.”
“No, but Momma is!”
“What the fuck?”
He staggers back in surprise, releasing his hold on me and I turn to see Mom standing behind him holding a metal baseball bat. She’s breathing hard and looks like an avenging angel - a very pissed off one at that.
“Take your fucking hands off my daughter!” Momma grits through clenched teeth.
“Bitch! You think you can...”
Mom doesn’t wait for him to finish, swinging the bat and aiming for his head. He’s too quick and intercepts it with his arm, sending it clattering to the floor.
“You’re gonna regret that, you fucking whore!” he snarls.
He lunges at Mom and grabs a handful of her hair, using the leverage to twist her head back as he holds the knife to her throat.
Without thinking, I grab the bat from where it fell on the floor. “Get away from her!” I scream, swinging it with every ounce of my strength.
There’s a sickening crack as the metal connects with the side of his head. He slumps to the floor and doesn’t move.
The bat falls from my nerveless fingers, and shock settles over me as my brain tries to figure out what has just happened.
Mom scoops me up in her arms and I cling to her, sobbing.
“It’s okay, baby, it’s okay,” she croons, stroking my hair. She tilts my face up to hers, so she can look directly into my eyes, “Go pack a bag, quick as you can, honey. We’re leaving.”