Dad came home drunk again tonight. I can hear him and mom arguing even though the door is closed, and I’m hiding under the covers. It’s been this way since he was laid off at work a year ago. He would leave early every morning, saying, “I’m going to go look for a job, or I have an interview today.” Then he’d come home drunk and looking for a fight.
Tonight, they’re fighting because he wants mom to ask grandma and grandpa for money again. She says, “No. We’ve just got money from them a few days ago to pay the car payment, the light bill, and put food in the house. You used the rest to go out and drink. I bet you’re not even trying to find a job. You’ve blown through our savings, and we’ve asked all our family and friends for a loan. I’m not asking for more money.”
I hear him say, “Bitch. You’ll do what I tell you to. They have the money so they can afford to give us more.” Then I hear skin hitting skin and know he’s beating her again. I can listen to her cries with each hit, and all I know is when he’s done with mom, he’ll come upstairs looking for me.
I didn't want to be hit again. I get up and go to my window. Opening it as quietly as I can, I throw my legs out, and when I finally touch the ground, I run. I run next door and tap on Joshua’s window. He’s at it a minute later. When he sees it’s me, he opens his window and reaches down to help me in.
As soon as I’m inside, I throw my arms around him and cry. He holds me until I stop and usher’s me to the bathroom when he sees I’m not wearing any shoes. Lifting me, he sits me on the counter and asks, “Did he hit you again?” Shaking my head no, I watch as he gets a rag and washes the bottoms of my feet.
After he’s done, he helps me down and walks me to his bed before we both settle in silence. After a few minutes, he gets up and reaches into the bedside table before handing me a present. A smile stretches across my face when he whispers, “Happy 16th Birthday Bella” and kisses my cheek. Kissing him back, I open the present to find a ring with a diamond heart. Joshua takes it from the box and places it on my middle finger right beside my ring finger.
Leaning down, he kisses it before saying, “Bella, we’ve been friends for a long time. But I knew at a young age that you were the girl I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. I’ll be eighteen in a few months, and I’m going to start saving up to get us a house. This ring is my promise to you that when you turn eighteen, I’m going to take you away from all this, and you are going to be happy and loved the rest of your days.”
If only that were true. Two weeks after that night, dad came home drunk and killed mom in a fit of rage. The last memory I have of Joshua was him standing in the middle of the road, yelling my name as the police car drove away, and our future went up in smoke. I was sent to Georgia to live with my grandparents. Life went downhill after that because I rebelled every chance I could.