*If your path demands that you walk through hell walk as if you own the place.*
"Come on, baby. It's time to wake up," I said softly to Irabella, rubbing her back.
My three year blinks up at me sleepily then promptly closes her eyes and buries her face in her pillow.
"No... Come on. We have to shower," I say, gently grabbing her shoulder and rolling her back over. "We were at the park practically all day and you didn't get a bath when we got back."
We lost track of time at the park and didn't end up getting back to the house until after nine and dad was angry I wasn't there to make him dinner.
"Come on. I'll carry you to the shower and we can get ice cream after I pick you up from daycare," I bribe her.
"But Alex hurt you last night," She replied, shocking me. She knows she's supposed to stay in our room when dad is angry. She calls my dad by his name because he's not her father and I don't want her to know him as her grandfather. "Won't it hurt you to carry me?" She continues, green eyes blinking up at me.
"No, I'm okay, baby. But you know you're supposed to stay in here when Alex gets angry."
"I know, but I wanted to help you," She replied, her voice small. "I don't like it when he hurts you."
"I know... But I'm fine." A lie. My ribs are really killing me, but she doesn't ned to know that. And you stay up here no matter what, do you hear me? I can handle him," I tell her sternly.
"Good. Now let's go shower," I said, picking her up from our bed.
I don't trust my dad not to do something to her in the middle of the night. He used to come into my room when I was little and drag me out of bed just to hit me, he stopped doing it a while ago but I'm not taking any chances of that happening to my baby so she sleeps in my room, which is now our room. She has a chest of toys on the floor at the end of the bed and she is such a neat freak, she doesn't have one toy out of place and everything else that doesn't fit in the chest is lined alongside the wall.
Being a neat freak is not the kind of behavior you'd expect from a three year old, but I guess I got lucky.
I grunt when a sharp pain pierces my ribs after I place Belle on the hip that isn't bruised. When dad didn't get his dinner, he punched me in the face sending me sprawling to the floor then kicked me in the ribs a few times and said that if it happened again it'd be worse.
After setting Irabella - or Belle as I sometimes call her - down in the bathroom and tell her to go potty before she gets into the shower because if she doesn't and she ends up having to go then she'll just pee in the shower.
While she peed, I turned the warm water on in the shower then grabbed two towels from under the sink and set them on the back of the toilet. After she finished and wiped, I stripped her then helped her into the shower and told her to get her hair wet and to just brush her teeth in there to save time, because her hair is going to take long enough to do.
She has long, black hair all the way down to her butt. I've tried to get her to cut it many times but she won't even get it trimmed. Her hair gets horribly knotted no matter what I do, no matter what shampoo I use she always wakes up in the morning with her hair all knotted to hell. I should've cut it when she was too young to say anything about it.
Since she won't let me cut it, I braid her hair or put it in a high ponytail.
I stripped myself naked and examined myself in the mirror. Theres a blackis-blue bruise on my left cheekbone. I'll need to cover that up before school. My whole stomach is covered in black, blue, and purple. Most likely from the steel-toed boots dad was wearing when he was kicking me.
"Mama, are you coming?" Belle called from the shower, snapping me out of my reverie.
"Yeah, Belle. I'm coming," I answered, drawing back the shower curtain and stepping in.
After washing Belle and her hair, I told her to sit on the shower floor and play with her bath toys while I washed, careful to avoid basically my whole stomach. Closing my eyes, I tipped my head back to wash the shampoo from my dark brown, almost black hair, and suddenly felt a pair of soft lips on the side of my bruised stomach. Then, wrapped her arms around me and buried her face in my stomach.
"I'm sorry he hurts you, Mama," She said, her voice muffled.
I grab her chin, lifting it up so she's looking at me and wrap my other arm around her shoulders. "I know," I tell her. "And you know it's not your fault right?"
She shakes her head. "I know."
"I love you, Mama."
"I love you, too, my little Belle."
After we've gotten out of the shower and towel dried, I picked out our clothes, hers which consists of jeans with rhinestones on the back and a pink shirt that says 'I'm cute and I know it' in white letters. My outfit is just black leggings with a black tank top with a black hoodie over it.
I tell Irabella to brush her hair while I put concealer on my cheek to cover the bruise. Once I finish that, I quickly get behind Belle to braid her hair hoping to leave the house before dad gets up. When her hair is braided into pigtails I grab her jacket out of our closet and get my bookbag before I can put her coat on her though, I hear dad's voice.
"McKenzie! Get your lazy ass down here. Now!" He yells from downstairs.
I groan, then grab my phone off it's charger and my earbuds next to it then, tell Belle to grab her five-dollar Wonder Woman backpack full of toys to take to her daycare that is ten dollars an hour so she only goes every Monday and Thursday. The other days I drop her off at our next-door neighbor's house. A nice old lady named Julie. She's over sixy and she used to babysit me when I was little and mom was still here. She watches Belle for free, but she works at her flower shop on Mondays and Thursdays. Today is Monday so she's working today.
Since she co-owns the flower shop called Greenhouse Flowers, she doesn't have to go in all the time. Julie doesn't know that my dad hits me. She just thinks that I'm a happy teen mom living a happy life with my beautiful baby, and I am so happy with Irabella but I don't want her living in constant fear of me being hurt, and I am always worrying if he's going to decide to go after her one day. I don't care if we don't have the money, I will take her and go before that ever happens. Consequences be damned. I've had my eye on an apartment for Belle and I that's not too far from the diner so I can keep working there and making rent and grocery money, but also far away enough so that dad can't find us. And who knows, maybe we'll just travel to Europe.
I've been saving up money from the Cafe since I first got the job at fifteen. I bought what I needed to feed and clothe Belle and get her presents for holidays and her birthday, but I've also put aside a lot of it to save up and three years of getting paid and also getting raises until I'm earning twenty dollars an hour for three hours five day out of the week all adds up to thirty nine thousand dollars a year. But just putting down a deposit on an appartment or house will suck down a lot of that money, plus rent and utilities every month. So, I still need to work to be able to keep paying rent.
Every day after school, I bring Irabella with me and set her up with crayons and some of her toys at the counter with strawberry lemonade, and we have ice cream and lunch on my break, then we walk to the playground across from the Cafe when my shift is over.
I have money to buy us a good place but I'm scared dad will come after us. I ended up in the hospital when I was fourteen and decided to try and leave after I had Irabella. I couldn't raise her in that environment. In constant fear. So, I packed a bag during the night with some clothes and money I took from dad's wallet, which wasn't much, and Irabella's food and baby clothes.
I made it downstairs with Irabella and our things. I set her down on the floor by the fron door to go search for dad's car keys. When I turned the light on in the kitchen to search the drawers, I found dad sitting at the kitchen table. He looked murderous. I still have no idea how he knew I was leaving, maybe he heard me packing even though I'd been careful to be quiet.
He cracked my ribs and threw me across the living room. He was screaming and saying that if I ever tried to leave him again he would find me wherever I was and kill me and Irabella. I haven't tried to leave since. He called an ambulance and told me to tell them I fell down the stairs. I did, knowing I'd be in even more trouble if I didn't, and I was too scared of something happening to me if I told anyone at the ER what really happened.
I'm going to buy a car when Irabella and I have a place to live somewhere safe and far away from here. I haven't bought one now because dad would just take the keys and make it his car.
I hold Irabella's hand as we walk downstairs together and into the kitchen where dad was. "You called?" I said flatly.
"Don't get snappy with me, bitch," He spat back and I cover Irabella's ears. "Make me breakfast."
"I have to walk Irabella to daycare and then I need to get to school, can't you eat cereal?" I reply.
Irabella moved behind me and clutched my leg. She was afraid of dad and I tried to keep their contact as minimal as possible.
Suddenly, dad backhanded me across the face. Irabella cried "Mama!" and clutched my leg tighter but I silenced her by putting my arm around her shoulders and pushing her face into the side of my leg.
"I don't give a shit what you need. I want breakfast. Now, make it," He growled.
Dad left the kitchen and I told Irabella to sit on one of those chairs at the kitchen table, when she kept holding on to me, I told her it was fine to sit. "Your nose is bleeding, Mama!" She exclaimed as she sat down.
I swiped my hand under my nose and sure enough, blood was coming out. I grabbed a paper towel and held it to my nose as I got eggs bacon, and cheese out of the fridge. I quickly made an egg and cheese omelet with bacon on the side. I grabbed a few pieces of bacon for Belle before grabbing her hand and walking to the front door and yelled, "It's done." Before closing the door and walking away from the house.
I zip Irabella's coat on her and hand her the few pieces of bacon then we started the walk to her daycare, Rainbow Children. The walk is twenty-five minutes from the house and thankfully my school is just down the street so I don't have to walk that far, and if anything happens to Irabella while she's at the daycare I can hurry over there.
When we reach the building, I open the door for Irabella then sgn her in at the front desk and she gives me a hug. "Bye sweeties, we'll get ice cream after I pick you up and and we go to the Cafe, and when I'm done working we'll go to the playground, okay?" I ask her.
"Yeah!" She exclaimed excitedly. "I love you, Mama."
"I love you, too."
She ran to the door to the playroom then turned and blew me a kiss. I pretneded to catch it and blew one back, which she caught, put into her pocket, and entered the playroom closing the door behind her.
I laughed and started the walk to my school, preparing to enter another hell-hole. I don't talk to anyone at school, or have any friends and the other students think I'm a freak for it. I sit in the back of the classroom in my classes avoiding the stares of my other classmates and do my work and listen to the lesson, while they make jokes and talk about me like I"m th most amusing thing in the word. I sit by myself at lunch and get napkins and sometimes plastic spoons are thrown at me. I ignore them, for the most part. Which makes them angry.
When I walked through the school door, I heard shouts like, "Look the freak is here," and "Hey freak, it's not Halloween yet, take the mask off." That one stung but I pretended it didn't phase me and feigned nonchalance as I continued walking to my locker, which was close to me my first period class. Thankfully, I'm in my senior year of high school so I won't have to put up with their bullshit after this year is over. I can graduate and forget about this place, and start a new life with Irabella away from my father.
I've dreamt of a life away from my father with Irabella for three years but unfortunately, I've got eight months left of school and my father to suffer through before that happens but It'll all be worth it in the end. When I have a good paying job, doing somehing I love and am able to take care of Belle on my own.
I shove my backpack on the hook in my locker and grab my things for my first-period class After closing my locker I turn to go to my History classroom when I collide harshly with a body that knocked the air out of my lunds when the person hits my ribs.
My stuff scattered on the floor and I clutched my ribs whispering, "Ow," and grimacing
"Do you think you could watch where you're going next time," A deep British voice said sharply.
I blinked up and saw a boy my age with jet black hair, a jawline sharp enough to cut diamond, and hazel eyes glaring at me. He must be new because I've never seen him before.
"What? Me?" I asked him incredulously, thrown off guard by his hostility. If anyone should watch where they're going it should be him, I turned around and he ran into me.
"No, the ghost next to you," He replied.
I automatically looked on the other side of me before looking back at him. He gave me a weird look.
"You know you kind of ran into me," I huffed. "You could say sorry instead of acting like an ass for no good reason."
I straightened myself to my full height, trying to look intimidating. I don't think it was working seeing as I was two heads shorter than his six-foot self. At least that's how tall he appeared to be. Maybe six-foot-three.
He stared down at me for a moment looking me up and down. Not in a sexual way, but like he was sizing me up. He frowned when he saw I was still clutching my side and I quickly dropped my hand and cleared my throat. He brought his eyes back to mine and nodded. "Yeah, I could apologize," He agreed in his British accent that could make any girl weak in the knees.
I waited expectantly.
"But I won't," He finished.
My jaw dropped and he smiled cockily. His eyes raked down my body again and lingered on where I was previously holding my side and frowning again like he knew it was brusied all to hell.
But he doesn't. I reminded myself. No one can know. If someone called Social Services I could get Irabella taken away from me because I'm a minor. We could both go to seperate foster homes and dad will figure out a way to find us both.
"Watch where you're going next time," He repeats and continues walking, leaving me to pick up the rest of my things off the floor and wincing as I bent down.