*Please note this is written in British English so some things are spelt differently*
“Look what you did, you idiot!” She snarled, her crooked teeth were bared, like a menacing dog about to attack its prey. A predator ready to eat its meal, towering over me.
“I’m sorry.” I sobbed, tears streaming down my face, my eyes sore from the tears. I knew what was coming, I knew attempting to escape was futile, I was simply a bird locked in a cage.
“You’re always so god damn sorry aren’t you? Well, guess what? I’m sorry you were ever born!”
My mother’s large hand came down on my upper arm, hard enough to instantly leave a red mark in its wake. The pain burned the area; as if I’d been hit by something scalding hot, it would bruise, I’d have to wear hoodies for the next week or two now, although I always did.
“Please,” I begged, although I knew it was useless, but yet I did regardless, a plea of desperation.
“You’re nothing but a worthless piece of meat taking up oxygen, and we should’ve got rid of you when we had the chance.” She spat at me, the evil burning all too brightly in her eyes. “You don’t deserve anything but the worst in this life, and you will live out your days in misery until life finally takes pity on you and ends it for you. You disgust me. You clean this up, and then you can go up to your room and rot, no dinner for you tonight.”
She turned abruptly on her heel and walked away.
I looked up to the man standing watch, standing tall, his slender arms folded across his chest, shaking his head before he too turned away.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, my words were weak, shaky, and timid. I curled myself up, wrapping my arms around my knee’s, pulling them against my chest. I was worthless, pathetic. I was nothing.
“Scarlet! Scarlet wake up!”
I suddenly woke up with a jolt, my breathing laboured, sweat covered my whole body. My face was wet, from sweat or tears I didn’t know, but I knew I was crying. My heart hammed against my chest hard and at an unhealthy speed. “It’s okay. I got you. You’re here, and you’re safe, they can’t hurt you.”
Warm arms enveloped me into them, the smell of bergamot, cedarwood and rosemary body spray mixed with an aftershave that gave it a fresh laundry smell invaded my nose. These arms were safe. The scent was safe. It let me know I was okay, I was home. I held onto him, letting the tears fall onto his freshly laundered t-shirt as he ran his fingers through my bob-length dyed blue hair.
“I want to forget why can’t I forget.” I whimpered after a long silence as I waited for my tears to subside.
“Oh, Scarlet.” Fenix sighed deeply, sadness evident in his tone. “I wish I could take it all away, I wish I could make it go away, but you’re here, with James and with me, you’re safe, they can’t hurt you again.”
I wanted to believe him, but I couldn’t. Although I was finally free from the hell and torture I’d known for all my life, they still hurt me, emotionally. The scars, the nightmares, the flashbacks and their cruel, harsh words plagued me daily. Even after a year, the memories haunted me, although the horrors weren’t as often as they once had been.
“I just want to be normal.” I pulled away from Fenix’s arms a little, just enough to look up at him. I saw the worry and pain etched into his dark chocolate brown eyes, his full lips twisted in concern.
“Normal is overrated, you’ve been through hell Scar. There would be something seriously wrong with you if you could come out of that smoothly like it didn’t happen. I know it hurts, and I can’t even begin to imagine what a burden like that is to bare, but you’re strong. You’re so very strong.”
“I don’t feel strong,” I mumbled, using the palm of my hand to rub tears from my eyes. I never felt strong, no matter how many times he told me I was. Most of the time, all I wanted to do was crawl away and hide.
“Look at yourself. When we pulled you out of there, you were this scared little girl, all skin and bones. You barely spoke, spent most of your time shut in this room, refusing to go out, refusing to talk. You would flinch every time James or I would raise a hand or approach you from anywhere other than directly in front. Leaving the house would usually result in a panic attack, you slept no more then a couple of hours every night, and you barely ate.” Fenix pushed me back off of him slowly, keeping his hands on my shoulders as his eyes met mine, “Now look at you. A year later, you have a job, you haven’t had a serious panic attack in almost a month. You smile, you sleep, you talk, sometimes way too much. You’ve gone from this scared little skinny girl to a beautiful, strong woman. You don’t give yourself enough credit.”
He was right, I knew he was deep down. I looked at my arms that used to be littered with bruises and resembled twigs that could snap under little pressure. Now they were full, bruise-free and toned. Although to me it seemed so small, the steps I’d made to better myself, and my life, to recover from the hell had been tremendous.
“Then why don’t I feel strong Fenix?”
“You will, in time. Most people in your shoes would’ve quit, but you don’t.”
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you both.” That was a matter of fact. Fenix and James were like brothers to me. I’d met them back when I was fifteen. After school, twice a week, I’d take my battered skateboard to the nearby skate park for an hour. On Tuesday’s and Friday’s, no one would be home before five PM. On those days I took the opportunity to escape, ride the skateboard I’d found dumped in the alley one afternoon coming home from school, it was the only sense of freedom I’d ever gotten back then.
I came to know the two when I was attempting a trick I’d seen some of the other kid’s do. That’s how I learned, by watching, but the board was too battered, the suspension had been broken on it. I’d fallen on the hard concrete the small ramp sat on. They’d seen me fall and instantly rushed over to see if I was okay.. After they were happy I was uninjured, they offered for me to use their boards. From then on, I met them there when I was able too, teaching me what they knew, helping me learn tricks without hurting myself. They had no clue what going on at home.
It wasn’t until I was just eighteen they found out. Fenix had said he always thought something wasn’t right, but it wasn’t until he saw me one evening, creeping to the store to get some first aid supplies, with a black eye and cut lip, he caught on.
The next time they saw me, they asked what was going on, and I’d broken down, sobbing, telling them almost everything. That had been a mistake, however. Fenix had gone to mine in a blind rage, threatening to tell the police. The fight between him and my mother had been awful, she was too strong for his slender self and had broken his nose saying that if he ever told, she’d kill me, and then him, or the other way around.
I begged for him not to tell, telling him I’d be okay, he’d get hurt, and I couldn’t bear that, so he didn’t. However, after that, I became even more of a prisoner than I had been before. She went to every length to make sure Fenix nor James could see me again.
“We did what we did because we love you, you didn’t deserve any of that, we are only sorry it took so long.” Fenix looked at me sadly, a look of regret for how long it took.
It wasn’t until one night; I’d managed to sneak out of the house while everyone slept; I saw them again. Fenix had told me where he lived, and I’d gone there. I missed him, I needed them, I was ready to give up on life completely. That’s when Fenix told me not to sneak out again, don’t risk getting caught, but he gave me a small mobile. A burner phone, and told me to hold onto it, don’t let my mother see it, he needed some time, but to keep it on me.
Almost a year of hearing nothing, hiding the phone in a rip of under my tatty, old mattress I felt the phone vibrate under my pillow, vibration from a text at ten pm one night.
“Sneak out once they’re asleep, bring what you can, but only a small bag, meet me down Gerald Road, we’re getting you out of there.”
That, long story short, was how I ended up here. Fenix and James had pooled enough money to rent a three-bed house, a little over an hour away and brought me with them. We checked news reports and public police databases daily for the first couple of months. My parents never filed a missing person for me. They were glad I was gone, and so I was. I changed my name by deed poll. I had my hair cut and dyed, and stayed with them. Fenix did some other things, to keep my true identity hidden, but he never told me what exactly, just promised even if they came looking, they’d never know Scarlet Cole, was Charlotte Edwards.
The first year had been no less than rough, but slowly, over time with their help, things got better. Josie, Fenix’s girlfriend helped me get a job in the small bar she worked at and things were beginning to look up for me.
“Thank you.” I gave Fenix a small albeit weak smile.
“And as I always say, you don’t need to thank us. You’re like a sister to us, and we’d do anything for you, you know that. Now, dry your pretty brown eyes, grab a shower, get dressed, let’s get some hot chocolate from your favourite cafe. I’m off work today, so I’m all yours. James will be home about three. You working tonight?”
“Yeah, got to be in at six.” I nodded softly, twiddling with my thumbs in my hands, still feeling low and drained from the nightmare. It was a Friday, and we had an epic line up of local bands, including Fenix’s band, Reminiscent, so tonight was going to be busy.
“I got to be there at six as well for sound checks. Need to restring my guitar too, one of the strings looks a little weak, and I don’t want it snapping on me halfway through the gig.” He laughed a quick, brief laugh. “I’m not drinking tonight, so I’ll drive us over, James will meet us there at some point. Now, come on, a hot choccy with whipped cream and mini marshmallows out there has your name written all over it.”
I smiled at him and nodded. He always knew how to cheer me up, even if he couldn’t take the pain away, he made it just a little better and knew how to bring me back down to stand on my own two feet again. I knew I couldn’t depend on them forever though; I had to learn to stand on my own and stay standing, pick myself up, I couldn’t burden them forever, it wasn’t fair. I was determined that this year was going to be different. My first step was figuring out what I wanted to do long term. I couldn’t work in a bar forever, even though I loved the job.
Fenix wrapped me in another warm embrace and placed a soft kiss in my messy blue hair before getting himself up off the bed. “Fenix?”
“Yeah?” He looked at me expectantly.
“I love you.”
His face broke out in a small, sweet smile, “I love you too Scar. Now shimmy that butt of yours.” He gave me a wink before walking out of my bedroom, leaving me to recover myself and get ready.