*Every day you have a decision to make; give up, give in, or give it your all.*
I walk into school on Tuesday morning afraid that Julian has told everyone what a loser slut I am. I keep my head down as I walk to my locker to put my things away, ignoring the regular insults. When I finish getting the stuff I need for my first period, I close my locker and see Julian leaning against the locker next to mine.
"Hey," I said tentatively.
"Hi," He replies. "Why do you look so freaked out? Relax."
"Sorry. I guess I was expecting you to tell everyone that I'm a whore."
His face darkens. "I told you I wouldn't do that. You'll trust me soon enough. For now, how about I walk you to your first class."
"I don't know, people will see."
And when they do he'll get name-called and stuff thrown at him too.
"So?" He asked.
"You don't want to be seen with me. Trust me."
"Don't let them get to you, Kenzie. I don't care what you think and neither should you," He replies softly.
"Kenzie?" I asked.
"Wanted to give you a nickname," He answered. "Now, let's try this again. Can I walk you to your first class?"
I nod and he walks me to my first period, ignoring the stared burning into us from the other kids.
Over the next few weeks, Julian and I have been hanging out more and more. He waits for me at my locker every morning and he keeps the other students away from me. They probably still talk about me behind my back, but no one has said anything to my face, like they're afraid of Julian. He is very muscular and I was close when I thought he looked six-foot-three. He's six-foot-four, so I can see how they're scared of him.
I'm not afraid of him though. I don't think he would ever physically hurt me.
It feels great to have a friend at school to sit and eat with, to food around with, or just talk to. And he sticks up for me when I'm being bullied or talked about.
We talk in the classes we have before the bell rings and he hangs out at the Cafe in the same booth every time after school until my shift ends. I haven't introduced him to Belle yet. I like having him as my friend and I'm starting to trust him, but right now I want to keep my school life away from Belle. That includes Julian. Who knows if we have to move to a different country to make sure he doesn't find us. I hope I don't have to go far, but we most likely will have too and I don't want either of us to get attached.
He hasn't pushed about seeing Belle or tried to talk to her in the diner, so I'm glad about that. He respects the lines that I've drawn.
A week later, it's Friday, and the last bell of the day already rang and Julian told me he would meet me at my locker downstairs. His locker is up here while mine is downstairs and on the other side of the school. I normally wait at my locker for him and walk him to his car. An unspoken ritual between us. He offered to give me a ride but I refused and he hasn't asked since.
When I finally make it to my locker, I'm about to put my folder and notebooks in my bag when they're suddenly snatched out of my hands. I look over to see Spencer holding my things above me in the air.
"You want em'?" He taunts.
I try to reach for them, but my attempts are weak and he pulls his hand back before I reach them.
"Can I please have them?" I asked quietly.
"What?" He asked, holding a hand up to his ear. "I didn't hear you."
"Can I- can I please have them back?" I asked a little louder.
"No, I don't think I want to give them back to you."
"Come on, just give them back to me."
"Excuse me?" He said, walking closer, looming over me. "Are you telling me what to do?"
"No. I just want my stuff back," I answered quietly.
"Why should I give it back to you, freak. You haven't done anything for me." He throw my folder up in the air, causing all the papers to fly out and scatter across the floor.
"No!" I exclaim and reach for the paper. He laughs and starts kicking then all across the floor.
"Stop it you asshole!" I shout at him and immediately regret it when he for a furious look in his eyes.
"The fuck did you just me me!" He yelled back and I shrunk away.
He threw my books on the ground and advanced on me and I didn't have time to run as he violently shoved me to the floor then crouched down in front of me and grabbed my jaw in a bruising grip. "You are nothing," He told me venomously. "Say it!"
I shook my head which only angered him further and he slapped me in the face. I could taste the blood coming from my lip and feel it running down my chin. His hand returned to my jaw with more force than before and squeezed even harder until I thought it was going to break.
"You. Are. Nothing!" He repeated vehemently. "Say it!"
He jerked my face and the pain in my jaw had me me surrendering.
"I am nothing," I whisper, remembering every time dad has called me worthless.
"I'm nothing," I said louder.
"Yes, you are," He said laughing. "Remember that next time you think you can tell me what to do."
"Now I didn't come here to listen to you state facts," He said. "I came here to tell you to stay away from Julian Reed. I don't want to see you talking to him again. You don't belong here, you're just going to drag him down with you. So stop ruining other people's lives trying to better yours. You don't want to know what I'm gonna do to you if you don't"
He shoved me to the ground by my head, finally letting go of my jaw, then stood up and walked down the hall. I waited for him to leave the building then picked up the papers scattered across the floor quickly, so I could avoid seeing Julian. I put the papers back in my folder then shoved it into my bag along with my books, then slammed my locker door shut and bolted from the building.
For the first time I actually feared Spencer. I used to just pity him and the kids at my school for their shitty personalities but I was never actually scared of any of them. Is that what's going to happen now? Is Spencer going to resort to physically hurting me? Will he tell everyone else to physicalla hurt me too?
I carefully touched my jaw and hissed in pain the seconds my fingers made contact with it. I took my phone out of my back pocket and opened the camera. There was a huge handprint on the right side of my jaw that was red and bruising. My lip wasn't bleeing anymore and thankfully there isn't a cut. I can't go to work like this. Tori would ask too many questions.
As I briskly walked in the direction of the house, I called Tori and asked her to cover my shift for today.
"Why is something wrong?" She asked worriedly.
"No," I quickly assured her. "I've just got a killer headache and I just want to get Belle from Julie's house and curl up in bed."
My head was really killing me, but I wouldn't be able to take a nap. Belle and I practice her words and spelling, and sometimes her math. She's reall good at math, it amazes me. She's good with her spelling too she just pronounes words wrong sometimes but that's understandable, most kids her age don't start learning until they're four or five but I want her to get a headstart in school and she seems to like learning new things.
"You can leave Bellie at the Cafe and I'll watch her and drop her when my shift is over," She offered.
"No, it fine and I don't want to walk back from Julie's. Thanks for offering though. We'll be fine."
"Okay, call me if you need anything"
"Love you, girl."
"Love you, too."
I go home before I pick Irabella up so she and Julie don't ask questions about the large-ass handprint on my face. I tip-toe up the stairs since dad's car is in the driveway. I never know when he is taking house-calls, he just leaves randomly so I never know when I can safely come and get food for Belle and me. When I reach my room, I quickly put concealer on my jaw, wincing when I press too hard. I tip-toe back downstairs and hurriedly rush out the door.
I walk next door to Julie's house and knock on the door, then let myself in. I didn't like letting myself in at first, even though I've been coming here since I was a child, but Julie made it completely clear that I was to make myself at home.
"Hey," I said as I walked through the kitchen into the living room. It's very capacious with a black wrap-around couch pushed against the wall, a 72' inch flat screen TV in an entertaintment center. There are stairs on the left side of the room that lead to her children's old bedrooms. She has three kids, two girls and one boy. They're all in their thirtes and have kids of their own now. None of them are older than six though. They visit often and come over on holidays Irabella loved playing with Clary when Julie's oldest daughter Cassandra visits. Clary is Cassandra's daughter.
Irabella and I come over for most holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. We set up an Easter egg hunt for the kids in the backyard, filling that plastic eggs with candy or money, and there's a golden egg with forty dollars and whoever finds it gets to keep the money. There have been some pretty funny places where we've hidden the egg.
Julie first invited us over for Christmas when Irabella was one, she was born May fifth, and Julie has been babysitting her since mid- August. When we went to the Christmas part then, I didn't expect anything, just food and a good time with her and her family, but they all shocked me with presents for Irabella. A bunch of different Barbie Dolls, a Barbie Dream House, and a purple car for the Barbie to ride around in. I thanked them copiously and they said it was no big deal and that we were practically family since they have known me since I was little. But it was a big deal and at the next Christmas party I had saved up and bought all their kid'd presents. Dad was off somewhere drinking himself into a coma.
Julie's kids never judged me for having Irabella, at least not to my face anyway. They were nothing but kind and welcoming and so were there children. They played with Irabella like she was their own sibling. Thanksgiving was the same, minus the presents. There was food and the kids were running around and having a good time, and that's the kind of life I want for Belle, not being afraid to walk out of her room in her own house. Belle is always sad to go because she knows that being in out house pales in comparison to being at Julie's
Julie knows my dad is a drunk, that's probably why she invites us over for the holidays, but she doesn't know he abuses me. No one oes, bad things happen when people find out.
I once told my teacher, Mr. Jones, that my dad hit me when I was in sixth grade and he noticed the bruises on my arms. I thought he would help me, take me away from my dad, and keep me safe.
But he didn't
He sexually abused me until I moved on to the High School which was after eighth grade when I had just turned fourteen. After I moved up to seventh and eighth grade he would find ways for me to be in a classroom with him. He would touch me or jerk off while I sat on his lap, or he'd do it in front of me.
I knew it was wrong, but he told me that if I told anyone no one would believe me and that he'd kill me. I didn't like the way he put his hands on me. Or how it hurt when he put his finger in me. He touched me or himself or both at the same time. He made me stand naked in front of him with the classroom door locked while he jerked off.
He never actually raped me, besides his fingers, there was no other penetration. But what is rape? When you body is being violated. And I felt pretty violated. I still do.
He molested me and it was my fault. If I had hidden the brusies better and neve told him, he wouldn't have known and he wouldn't have molested me.
I never told anyone else that my dad hits me and I especially never told anyone what Mr. Jones did to me. I'm still very uncomfortable around men, ironic that I'm a waitress and that most people I wait tend to be men. It took me a while not to flinch every time I got touched by anyone other than Belle, and it doesn't help that everyone at school bullies me or sometimes when creepy old men come into the Cafe and try to grab at me. I'm still messed up. I'll probably never get over it.
I think Julie suspects that something happened to me I never like getting touched by her or her family, and when I first met them if they came in the slightest contact even by accident I'd flinch violently, then come up with an excuse to cover it up. I was especially scared around her son Miles. He's twenty-eight and tall and muscular which scared me for a while but after getting to know him, and trusting him I know he won't hurt me.
Even now Julie doesn't make physical contact with me unless I'm okay with it, and I silently thank her for it. I don't want to have to explain myself every time I flinch away from her touch. Or give her more reasons that something happened.
"Mama!" Belle exclaims, running up to me.
She crashed into my stomach and I bite back a grunt when she hits my ribs. I must be grimacing because I look up to see Julie looking at me curiously. I quickly paste a smile on my face and say, "Hey, baby." To Belle.
"Guess what!" She smiles at me widely. "Clary came over and we played tag in the backyard and made chocolate chip cookies, and I drew you a picture."
She shows me the picture which is a red heart with us holding hands inside of it. She obviously got my artistic genes because it looks so amazing. "Oh! That's so pretty, my love," I tell her.
She smiles even wider.
"Was she good?" I asked looking at Belle teasingly. I know she would never misbehave for Julie or anyone else, she's a really good kid. Even when she was a baby she was easy to put to sleep, always happy, and easy to entertain. She never even went through her terrible two's!
"I was great!" Belle answered for Jule testily.
I looked up to Julie for confirmation and she nods her head.
"Alright, go get your bag," I tell Belle.
She runs upstairs into the playroom. A few weeks after Julie had started watching Belle, she bought a bunch of toys and got old toys that her grandchildren when they come over.
Once Belle is out of sight I sigh and run my hands up and down my face a few times then ruffle my hair. Julie who had been silently watching asked, "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, everything's fine," I tell her trying to smile but can't quite manage it.
"You sure?" She walks up to me and cautiously puts her hand out like she's going to touch my cheek. I flinch away before she can though. But I know she was only going to point at the bruise on my jaw.
The concealer must have come off a little when I was rubbing my face. Stupid cheap shit.
"What's this then?"
"Some kid at school," I sighed. "He took my stuff and wouldn't leave me alone."
I start tearing up.
"He made me say I was nothing," I tell her quietly, ashamed at how my voice cracked.
I shouldn't let something he said affect me. I hear it every day from my father when he isn't drunk enough to form a coherent sentence and beating the shit out of me.
"Well, you are not nothing," She says like it's the most obvious thing in the world. But sometime I'm not so sure.
If I really wasn't worthless then why does everyone at school try and make it even more miserable for me than it already is? Why does my dad hit me? Why did my mom leave me?
"Yeah, I know. My jaw just hurts," I tell her as an excuse.
She looks like she doesn't believe me. "Who was it?"
"Just some kid," I said nonchalantly.
"Did you go to the principal?"
"No, it was just some kid messing around. It's no big deal."
"This doesn't look like no big deal." She gestured to my face. "It looks like this kid put his hands on you and you should tell an adult. I can't tell you what to do, but something like this happens again you go to the principal. Promise me."
I cross my fingers behind my back. "Promise," I said smiling.
Belle comes walking down the stairs with her bag on her back, looking sad.
"What's wrong, honey?" Julie asked her.
"I don't want to go home," She replied. "I like it here."
"Well, how about I'll have Clary over for the weekend and you girls can spend the night," Julie said.
A smile lit up her whole face.
"Yeah! Mama, can I?" She asked me excitedly.
"Of course, sweetie. Now, come on. We're gonna get something to eat, then practice your words tonight. Say bye to Julie."
"Bye-bye, Julie," She said, opening and closing her tiny hand in a wave.
"Bye-bye, honey," She replied.
"Thanks, Julie," I tell her.
"No problem," She replied. "Remember what I said"
"I will. Bye."
We leave Julie's house and I'm thankful to see that dad's car is gone from the driveway. I tell Belle to get her flashcards and we'll practice them while I make dinner for us and dad. Dad doesn't car what we eat as long as he gets his food.
"Why aren't we going to the Cafe?" Belle asked.
"Cause I don't feel good today, baby. We'll go on Monday alright?"
Monday is when I work again. I have the weekends off unless I have to cover for someone or I want to make money. Or just get out of the house.
She sits at the tale with her flashcards while I quickly make Spaghetti. I quiz her on her words and make the food. When I finish, I turn the stove off, get two plastic plates so I don't have to come down the dirty dishes and chance running into dad, and grab the plastic silverware and take it upstairs for us to eat.
We normally eat at the Cafe and bring home food for dad so we don't have to be downstairs. Sometimes dad doesn't want it and I have to make him food. Belle plays with her toys upstairs when I have to make him dinner and I keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't go upstairs.
After we finish eating and practicing her words, I tell Belle to stay in out room and play with her toys quietly and not leave the room while I nap. My head is pounding and I still don't want Belle napping with me because then she won't go to bed later. I tell Belle to wake me up when she hears dad get home or if it gets dark out and I'm not up by then to put her to bed.
As she plays with her Barbies, I quickly fall into a nightmare filled sleep.
I wake later to Belle shaking me.
"Alex is home," She tells me.
"Okay, thank, baby," I reply.
She goes back to playing wih her toys and I take my phone off the nightstand and check the time. It's a little after fix-forty. Dad is home later than usual from wherever the fuck he goes after I get home from work.
I took Belle to the bathroom and started drawing a bath for her. I got a towel out and tld her to give me her clothes and get in the bathtub. I'll do our laundry over the weekend when dad isn't here We get the mornings to ourselves on the weekends because he goes out sometime after five and comes back past one.
I get some of Belle's bath toys and put them in the tub. I went to go put our clothes in the hamper in our room, closing the bathroom door behind me when I see dad climbing the stairs. I keep walking to my room, hoping he's just going to his room but he walks straight to me.
I try to stay calm as he stands in the doorway, effectively cornering me in my room.
"What do you need?" I ask quietly, not looking at him while I put my clothes in the laundry bin.
"The dishes need to be done. When you're done washing your spawn, I want them done."
"Okay," I reply, still not looking at him.
He walks out of my room, his boots thudding as he descends the staircase. I sit on the end of my bed and wait for my hands to stop shaking. I'm always so scared whenever I'm around him. For good reason, he's hit me so many times and scarred me in so many ways that I should be used to it by now. A normal teenage girl with a normal teenage life wouldn't say that she's used to being beated by her own father, but I'm not normal and I don't have a normal life.
My dad wasn't always like this. Before my mom left us, we used to be happy and go to the park, go to resturaunts, and just go on walks together. But after she left, he started drinking and yelling at me for just being there. Telling me it was my fault that she left. I guess he got fed up with me being there and not mom and he first hit me when I was six. I dropped a glass cup on the floor after I had filled it with water.
Dad was so angry. He slapped me across the face and roughly pushed me to the floor, and I know that may not seem like much, but it only got worse. After that, I tried to do everything I could to appease him and do things right. I played quietly, fixed my own meals, and did what I was told whenever he yelled for me to do something and for a little while, I tricked myself into believing he's only acting that way because he's angry at mom for leaving, that he's not actually mad at me. I held onto hope until I was twleve. Then it all diminished. He would always find some way to punish me. There was always something I didn't do right, or fast enough.
Now I just avoid him at all times unless I absolutely have to be in the same room as him. Belle and I stay in our room and she watches Netflix or YouTube on my phone. I pay my phone bill and the Netflix bill because dad won't and it once got shut off when I found out he hadn't paid my phone bill for two months and I spent the whole day trying to get the Spring company to turn it back on.
I bought the phone and sneakily added the bill to the house bills. When dad found out, he stopped paying the bill and beat me after he had noticed.
I try to give Belle the most normal life I can give her. But she's going to ask questions. She already asks questions now: Why does he hit you? Why is he always so angry? Why is he so mean? I always reply I don't know, baby.
Once I've composed myself, I walk to the bathroom and see Belle playing with her toys. I wash her hair and body and when I finish I drop a lavender bath bomb in the tub and let her play there for a while so I can do the dishes. When I finish and get Belle out of the bath, it's past seven-thirty and it's almost her bedtime. I try not to let her stay up on the weekends then she would any regular day because I don't want to screw up her sleep schedule and have her be all cranky in the mornings.
I dress her in underwear and a nightgown and tell her she can watch something on my phone until the alarm I set for eight thirty goes off and it's time for bed. Most of the time after she's had her bedtime milk (that I sneak from downstairs) and after I rock her to sleep, I stay up on my phone watching Netflix or I finish homework at my desk if I don't get a chance to during the day. Then I lay down, hold my baby, and fall asleep.
I sit up in the back of the wall and take out my math homework while Belle lays down and watches Paw Patrol.
When I finish my homework, I start putting my folder back in my bag when the alarm on my phone goes off. When Belle doesn't stop it after a few seconds of loud ringing, I look over and see the phone face-up on the bed and her sleeping form curled into a little ball right next to it.
I stop the alarm and pick the phone up, putting it on the nightstand and connecting it to the charger. I turn off the bedroom light and cover Belle up with the red comforter then slip under it with her, putting my arm around her tiny body. I don't understand how my dad could ever imagine hurting me when I was this small. I don't understand how he could feel no remorse.
I could never imagine hurting Irabella. I don't even spank her if she does something she's not supposed to, which rarely happens, but sometimes it does and I put her in time-out which is the corner, or the chair or just sitting on the mattress with a pout on her face, staring angrily at the wall. She rarely acts out though and when she does she's normally tired and cranky from a long day at daycare or with Julie.
Eventually, I let my thoughts drift off and I give in to the relaxing pull of sleep.