Then You Look At Me

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Suppression

~How unfair, it’s just our luck. Found something real that’s out of touch. But if you’d searched the whole wide world, would you dare to let it go?~ Birdy.

Chapter Theme Song: ‘Not About Angels’ by Birdy.

••

Third-person POV

It wasn’t that her mom didn’t know. She did.

The Monday morning following the week Jeff begun his abuse, Miranda waltz into Rainey’s room, frowning when she saw that her child had not gotten dressed for school yet. Rainey was proven to be quite mature than other kids her age, and most mornings she would rouse before Miranda, take a bath and get dressed. Without a doubt, if her school were in proximity from their home at the time, Rainey would have taken herself to school as well; she was remarkably independent.

However, that was not the case that morning and Miranda was pissed to find her daughter logging behind of time. She had subtly noticed a change in other areas of Rainey’s life as well; how she played with her food as if lacking appetite or how she did not seem to enjoy things she once did. Miranda thought it was only puberty and since Rainey behaved more developed than other kids, she just thought she was growing up a bit too early.

“What are you waiting on to get dressed? You’re a big girl, do you need me to put your clothes on for you?”

Hissing, she moved over to her daughter, her expression disapproving as she reached for the small skirt lying on the bed. As she grabbed hold of her daughter’s arm, her eyes caught something on her thin legs.

Red hand marks.

Miranda stared at the pink bruises in horror, swallowing a huge glob of saliva before looking at her child. “What happened to your legs?”

Rainey’s eyes filled with fear. “Uncle Jeff did it. I told him I didn’t like it, but he keeps doing it.”

Miranda stiffened as her little daughter kept babbling on.

“Will you be mad at me? He said if I told you, you would hate me, and some really bad people will come for me and take me away from you. I don’t want to be away from you…” She was on the verge of crying and Miranda stiffened as all the color drained from her face. She cleared her throat and lifted her child off the bed.

“Turn around.”

Rainey whirled around and Miranda took notice of the long stretch of bruises at the back of the child’s legs. She pressed a hand to her mouth as tears bubbled in her orbs. She had seen many cases like this before and immediately concluded that Jeff was abusing her child in more ways than one.

“Will you hate me, mom?”

She hung her head, fighting back the tears as she shook her head.

“No, Rain. I will not hate you. Let’s get your skirt on.”

Miranda took Rainey to school that morning, which was a usual duty done by Jeff but after what her child told her and the bruises she saw, she was reluctant. Once they arrived at school, Rain told her teacher that she preferred her mom dropping her off and that she did not want Jeff to do it anymore. The teacher looked at Miranda inquiringly, but she forced a smile and just said “Kids.” Choosing not to reveal the situation.

Miranda drove back home that day and emerged from her car in fury. She plunged the door open with force. Jeff who was on the couch watching Tv, swung his head around in bewilderment as she stormed toward him.

“What’s up with you?” He stood to his feet just in time for Miranda to have slapped him hard across the face.

“WHY THE FUCK IS THERE BRUISES ON MY KID?!”

He sighed, using a palm to rub the side of his face. His expression was one of zero remorse or care.

“Are you fucking insane? Do you want to get me into serious trouble? What if child services find out? I would get all the blame; I am the one who brought a man home on my child. I have a reputation to uphold, you asshole!”

“Relax, Miranda…it wasn’t me.” He tried to grab hold of her arm, but she moved away, shutting her eyes with gritted teeth.

“Don’t lie…do not lie to me, Jeff.”

He exhaled heavily.

“Are you sick? A child, Jeff? Really? You are insane!”

“Fine…it was me. I will not do it again, mm? Come on, forgive me? I know I don’t deserve it and what I did was wrong…” He stepped toward her and she stepped back.

“No…leave. Pack your shit and leave.”

“Miranda.”

“Leave! And make sure to leave the keys for the car I bought you on my fucking counter. I never want to see your disgusting face again.”

She turned away to walk off, but Jeff’s arms were already around her, tightly gripping her to him. He planted a kiss on her cheek as she attempted to wriggle out of his hold. Frankly, she was not trying hard enough.

“Listen, I am sorry. I have no excuse for why I did that, but I am sorry. Forgive me, please? Look at all we have been through, Miranda. Thick and thin. Just forgive me. The media already knows about us…our relationship is in fashion magazines. We are the ‘power couple’ in the fashion industry. Do you want to throw it all away? People will think you can’t keep a man, Miranda. I mean you just got divorced and for you to break up with your young lover is just too soon.”

Jeff knew how to get inside people’s heads; he and Greg shared that malicious talent, and Miranda was a weak, selfish woman who cared greatly about what others thought of her. Hence, it took nothing for her to forgive him. His passionate speech, a cocky smirk, and muscular arms encircling her body were all it took for her to sell her soul.

And abandon her child.

Hence, it went on. Jeff kept abusing Rainey as she grew, and Miranda continued to turn a blind eye. He would indecently touch her at every chance he got, and her mother would catch onto it but not say anything. She did hear the soft cries of her daughter at night and she would feel when the bed slumped as Jeff slid out to embark on his sinful mission but she dared not utter a word, for her reputation and relationship would both be tarnished.

She quietly cried in bed a few nights, but gradually the guilt and sympathy for her child got corrupted by her ‘love’ for status and this man.

Slowly, but surely.

Soon, it felt like a norm for her and she did not really care as much as she used to. Her soul was long gone.

Rainey bore it all alone. She did not try to tell her dad because Jeff would brainwash her with silly ultimatums that made her quiver.

“If you tell your dad, he will be mad and he will want to kill me, and then he’ll go to prison. Do you want that?”

“If you tell anyone, they will take you away from your mom and you won’t see her again.”

“If you tell your teachers, some really bad people will come for you and take you far away from here, where you will never see your daddy or mommy again. They will give you a new daddy and mommy and they will beat you, starve you and lock you in their basement.”

When Rainey became about twelve years old, she became very numb to it all and would no longer cry whenever the man would indecently touch her. She would stare at the ceiling with a blank face or gaze in space, mentally pretending that she is not the one experiencing this turmoil. To cope with it all, she started smoking, getting piercings, and partying but she would detest the idea of a boy touching her. Not only was she insecure about her body but she also felt disgusted by the thought of sexual intimacy.

She still tried to tell her mother about the abuse, but Miranda would quickly sway the topic; pretending as if she is oblivious to her daughter’s pain.

When Rainey became fourteen years old, things took quite a drastic change. After school, she stopped by the Tattoo parlor with Riley and got the artist to design an eagle with shackled feet on her back. She got home late that evening and entered her living room to see Jeff sitting on the couch with a bottle of beer.

“You’re late.” Were the words he uttered, glaring at her in obvious disapproval.

She had a long day and was not in the mood to talk and so she proceeded to move toward the stairs. But Jeff was not having it.

“I am talking to you, Rainey!”

“Could you please, for the love of God, LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!” She practically screamed, burying her hands in her strands, almost as if she wanted to tear them out. “Like just get the fuck off my case, I am sick of it, I am sick of you. Goddammit!” She angrily prowled up to her room, slamming the door behind her in quite a rage.

She laid onto her stomach and shut her eyes, taking a deep breath to calm the fury within her. In the darkness of her mind, she saw herself repeatedly stabbing Jeff, his blood smeared all over the knife and her hands as she smiled over his body. She squeezed her eyes tightly as she jerked her feet, counting to ten slowly to get rid of the sinful thoughts. She could not kill someone and ruin her future.

The door to the room thrust open, interrupting her meditation. She turned around and propped up onto her elbows to see a shirtless and livid Jeff standing in front of her.

Her prior confidence wavered when she saw the look of evil in his orbs.

“Who the fuck were you talking to?”

She swallowed.

“I am the man in this house, and you should respect that. How old do you think you are? You think because you are growing up that you can fucking talk to me however you like and get away with that? Oh, you’re a big girl now, huh? Do you know what comes with being a big girl?” He scoffed. “Then maybe it is time I step it up a notch, maybe you are ready for a higher level. You’ll get what big girls get.”

He began to undo his belt and the color drained from Rainey’s face. She got up, quickly chasing for the door when he grabbed her arm and hauled her onto the bed. Immediately he hovered over her petite body, and Rainey desperately beat at his chest.

“GET OFF ME!”

“I’ll teach you who runs this shit. I am the man around here and you will respect that!” He grabbed her arms as she squirmed away, crying at the top of her lungs.

“Get off me!” Tears were already springing from her eyes.

She knew that no-one had ever come to her rescue; that Jeff always had his way in the end. So, she feared what was to come, scared that she would lose the only thing she had left.

“Don’t touch me! Stop…daddy!!”

“Shut up, have your daddy ever came to your rescue? No! He’s much too busy for that; for you.” He attempted to kiss her, and she steered her face away from the assault, wriggling beneath him as he painfully gripped her jaws and pull her face to him.

“Keep still!”

He tried kissing her again, but she spat in his face. He shuts his eyes as he swallowed hard, using a hand to wipe the saliva away. When he reopened his orbs, a look of pure evil whirled within them. He slapped her across the cheek, the impact so hard that her face tilted to the side. He grabbed both her arms and pinned them above her head as he fumbled with the buttons of his jeans.

“Jeff?! Rainey?!” Her mom’s voice sounded from downstairs and Jeff glanced behind in surprise. She wasn’t supposed to be home from work that early.

Rainey took the opportunity to sink her teeth in his arm, and while he hissed in pain, she slid from beneath him and chased for the door.

“Shit.” Jeff scrambled off the bed quickly to stop her.

Her socks skidded against the slippery floor as she scurried down to her bewildered mother.

“Rainey?”

She sprung into her confused parent as she tightly wrapped her arms around her, burying her face in her shirt. She was crying, shaking. Her hair was like a bird-nest now and her clothes looked ragged. Miranda tried to catch sight of her daughter’s face with furrowed brows. “Rainey?”

Jeff, who was hoping to have caught her before she descended the stairs, stopped in his tracks, clenching his jaws in pure guilt as he stood by the foot of the stairway.

Miranda looked at him then her daughter in suspicion. “What is it, Rainey?”

“He…he…” She could hardly find words as she sobbed loudly. “He tried to...”

Miranda didn’t need to hear anything else; she immediately knew what her daughter was trying to say. She looked at Jeff, noticing that his belt was undone, and his expression appeared culpable.

She paled, clenching her teeth. “Rain…” She pulled her daughter back, as she cried in her palms.

“Go to your room, okay?”

Rainey looked at her in fear. “But he’ll…”

“It’s okay, go to your room. I’ll come up soon.”

Rainey sobbed but did as she was told, cautiously walking past Jeff whose eyes followed her as she moved up the stairs.

Miranda marched over to him as he opened his palms. “Miranda, I can explain, I was just—”

She slapped him across the face. “Am I fucking not good enough that you have to aim for my fourteen-year-old daughter?”

“Miranda, come on.”

“You are taking this too far, Jeff. You are taking this to a whole other level, and I cannot do this anymore, please leave.”

It was always like this; she would tell him to leave but they both knew that he wasn’t going anywhere.

“Please Miranda, I was only teaching her a lesson, that’s all. She spoke rudely to me and I just wanted to scare her.”

“Leave, Jeffrey!”

“I won’t do it again; you know you can’t live without me, come on. I was only scaring her, that’s all. I wasn’t going to do it. Miranda, please.”

And just like that—without much effort—Jeff gained her forgiveness.

He had Miranda wrapped around his finger, and her being easy to give in to him only gave him the strength to harm her daughter. Miranda was too selfish to care about that, however.

She made her way up to Rainey’s room after a session of sexual intimacy with her man. She found her daughter sitting against her bed with swollen eyes, and she sat at her bedside as Rainey earnestly drew closer to her.

“Mom. Please let Jeff leave; I don’t want him here. He came in and was trying to—”

“Jeff says he’s sorry and that he was only playing around with you. He only came in here to speak with you about the consequences of staying out late, but you misunderstood and ran away from him as if he were trying to touch you.”

Rainey stiffened. “W-what? That’s not it, he—”

“Rain…” Miranda breathed, shifting to face her devastated daughter. “Let’s just live in peace, okay? I have gone through so much these past few years with the divorce and work, and I am exhausted. I just want to be happy; wouldn’t you want me to be happy? I am having a hard time and Jeff keeps me sane. I need him around here, so please just cooperate. He was only trying to talk to you, he was not going to hurt you, so do not make a big deal out of this. I know you feel a bit paranoid since Jeff is not your real dad, but I can assure you that he will not hurt you. Rainey, I need to keep my dignity and my status in the business world, without it we can potentially lose money. You understand that, right?”

“Get out…”

Miranda sighs. “Rain.”

“GET THE FUCK OUT! Now! Get out, get out, now!” She throws her pillow at her and Miranda raises her palm, exhaling sharply before getting up and leaving the room.

Each sob came from deep within as Rainey cried at the top of her lungs, crumpling her duvet in anger.

She was hurt, livid, mad.

Her mother knew what she was going through, yet blatantly turned a blind eye and tried to make her daughter look stupid. Like she was the one overreacting, like what Jeff was doing was all in her imagination.

Rainey called her dad that night, asking if she could stay with him. Unfortunately, he was not in the country. He asked her what was wrong, but Rain decided not to tell him. She did not want to interrupt his business trip and getting involved in the matter may not end well for him. She decided that she would just have to fight back until she was old enough to move out and live on her own.

Rainey hated to admit it but deep down she feared going out into the world. It was a scary thought to grow up happily sheltered then prematurely embarking into a world of unknown possibilities. She feared the injustice that probably awaited her and that these two men would somehow find her and easily have their way with her. Though her mom did nothing to protect her, Rainey felt safe to know that she was under the same roof as her. Being alone opened so many rooms for the men to hurt her without interruption. Then there was the sad notion that perhaps if she stayed, her mom would someday start loving her again, start treating her the way she once did when she was married to her dad.

So, Rainey took matters in her own hands. She got a man to drill in some Bowley locks on her door which are unique-shaped locks that are designed to shield the pins inside a lock. Only a specially designed key can angle its way to the shielded pin system, thus making it impossible for Jeff to pick it and gain access to her room. Sometimes she would forget to close her door, but she did not make that mistake at night since that was when the monster normally visited her.

She steered far from Jeff and Greg, but her body would still run chills whenever she would pass by them to head through the door.

However, despite her efforts to keep herself safe, Jeff was not done trying his luck. When Rain got home early from school one day, the house was empty and so she quickly made her way to the kitchen to make herself dinner. Jeff got home to find her alone and immediately approached her from behind. He attempted to put his hand under her blouse, but things did not end well for him this time. Rainey reached for the cutting knife and stabbed him in the hand he had pressed upon the counter. She shoved him away from her as he clutched his bleeding hand, grunting in pain. It was the first she had ever retaliated that way and the violent response shoved Jeff into a state of bewilderment. Rainey’s eyes were fearless as she pointed the knife at him, and Jeff noticed the genuine threat dripping from her tone as she gave him a warning.

“Touch me again and I will kill you. I am not ten anymore and I am not that weak girl I once was. So fucking try me if you want me to cut your throat, you disgusting son of a bitch.”

Jeff knew then that she was growing up and he would not be able to manipulate her as before, hence carrying out his abuse got quite difficult. He could not find a way around her and since she began staying out late or keeping locked up in her room, it got challenging for him.

So, the fact that he has not assaulted her in three years is not due to him somehow developing sympathy for her, but more of a case where he just could not find the loophole to carry out his detestable mission.

She knew that no-one was there to protect her and so she had to protect herself.

••

Rainey somehow managed to mumble out the details of her painful past to Ansel. Her voice is brittle, still a little uneven from bawling her eyes out. Her back is still facing him whilst his arms encircle her spent body. The position awards her a bit of courage to speak since she is not able to see his pitiful expression.

She hates sympathy, she hates feeling like a sad case or the weird girl being abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Perhaps that is another reason she kept it hidden away. Hiding the abuse makes her feel normal and it saves her the faces of pity.

Her eyes are swollen and red. Each sob came from a faraway place where she had buried the pain that only got worse as days went by. She had never cried that hard in a long while—in front of anyone—and not only does it make her feel weak but she feels as if Ansel now has a large piece of her that she has never trusted anyone else with.

It makes her feel vulnerable, pitiful…and weak.

She hates feeling weak.

“I am sorry, Rain…God, I am so sorry.”

She shuts her eyes, a delayed teardrop slipping down her face as she swallows the burn in her throat.

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” His tone is desperately remorseful, and Rainey squeezes the sheet tightly in her palm as she exhales through her nose.

“Why, Rain?”

Her shoulders barely raise in a shrug as she wets her lips.

“It already happened…” She utters, so soft that Ansel almost missed her response. “It’s already a deep wound in my mind that won’t leave…”

“It will leave…I’ll help you to forget about it all, okay? All the pain, all the hurt…they’ll go away soon.”

Will they? She isn’t sure about that.

“I wanna go home,” she whispers.

“Now?” Ansel is slightly confused at her abrupt decision to leave. He props up onto his elbow, trying to catch sight of her face.

“Yes…” Rainey sits up and reaches for her blouse while Ansel gets up beside her, holding onto her hand.

“You’re not okay yet. I don’t think you should.”

“Well, I think I should…” She mutters, pulling her hand back to put her shirt on. He cannot help noticing the pain and aggression in her voice. She is still hurting; it is brightly obvious.

He sighs. “You should stay…with me.”

“I don’t want to.”

Ansel tilts his head to the side. “You don’t want to?”

“I just need time…that’s all…”

“Respected. I’ll take you home.”

“No. You don’t have to.”

She gets up and grabs her knapsack, turning away to leave his room.

“Rain…wait.”

She whirls around to face him, immediately noticing her black bra hanging from his forefinger. “I think you left this…”

Her cheeks heat up as she quickly moves over, reaching out to take it but Ansel pulls it back from her reach, staring up into her eyes as she gazes at him.

“You don’t have to suppress it. It’s okay to feel hurt, you know? I won’t think you’re weak.”

His eyes are drilling into hers as if he is seeing her naked soul. She feels greatly vulnerable, and she’s not sure how long she can stay in his presence.

“I am fine, actually...”

Ansel keeps his eyes on her a while longer before sighing and extending her garment to her. She retrieves it and stuffs it into her bag.

“Bye...” She mumbles as she turns away and leaves his room. When she closes the door behind her, Ansel exhales heavily and reaches for his cell on the nightstand. He dials his brother’s number as he lays his head against his headboard.

“Alex. Take Rain and Riley home for me.”

••

Rainey

Maybe it’s my insecurity. Leading me to believe that I am only a burden to Ansel and his family. When I examine my life and compare it to his, the contrast is vastly obvious, and I cannot shake off the feeling that a person like me will only bring him misfortune.

After all, my existence seems to be a magnet to destruction and bad luck.

As I am here staring at my reflection in the mirror, my mind logs back to all that has happened since the moment I have met Ansel. He’s always getting me out of some ordeal, and I can’t imagine how stressful that has been for him.

The fat cop on the night of Tate’s party.

The ketchup stain incident in the gym.

Jeff’s embarrassing behaviors.

My mom’s words of verbal abuse.

Jace’s bullying.

And the list goes on, half of which I would rather not remember. But today sealed the deal. As if my previous dilemmas weren’t overbearing enough for the poor guy, I have now shown him how much of a messed-up, weirdo I am who freaks out at the mere touch of a guy. Honestly, if he should avoid me after this, I would not blame him. I would stay far away from me too.

Ansel has managed to fully break apart my shell and now I am bare and cold, vulnerable, and open to being hurt. My protective case had offered me such warmth and control and now that I am without it, I feel susceptible.

I have now shown him a huge part of me—my secrets and scars— and if he does decide to leave one day, he will be walking away with a chunk of my soul. I am scared of that.

“Are you okay?” Riley raises a brow, gazing at me from the magazine she’s reading. I have been noticing her odd stares and inquisitive gazes since I abruptly told her I wanted to head home.

I sigh. “Yeah…” I reach for the pair of scissors from my dresser. “Can you cut my hair for me?”

I have always wanted to cut my hair and now it feels like the opportune time. I’ll use it as symbolism, signifying that the old me from my dark and desolate past is gone.

Riley gets off the bed, regarding me with skepticism. “You want to cut your hair? Why?”

I sigh. “Just for a change.” I hand her the scissors. “Right below my earlobe.”

“That short?”

“Yeah. It’ll grow back in no time anyway.”

She shrugs complyingly. “Alright, I respect your wishes.”

She gathers a few strands and begins to clip my hair. I imagine each clump of brown hair that falls to the floor as a part of me being stripped away, leaving space for the new me that is to come. I don’t want to live in the past and reliving the torturous moments earlier showed me how dark and lonely that place was. I want to move past it all and perhaps changing my appearance would be the first step.

“Woah…it actually looks really good.” Riley grins as she places the scissors on the dresser to trail her hand down my hair. “You look badass!”

I chuckle. I do look a lot better with short hair. Instead of clipping it to my earlobe, Riley stopped just mid-neck, but I decide not to chastise her failure to follow instructions since it doesn’t look so bad after all.

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