I snuck out of our room early Sunday morning, making Bridget lock the door behind me and only opening it when I gave her the signal that it was me. Carson’s door was closed and I could see his car parked in the driveway as I crept my way into the kitchen to make myself a coffee and put some toast on for Bridget and I.
There was a note on the table from Mum indicating that she had been called into work and wouldn’t be home until after 5pm. I could forgive her for leaving us to take on an extra shift, she had bills to pay and was also supporting Carson, who was too lazy to get off his arse and get a job himself. What I didn’t like was that Bridget and I were essentially trapped here for the day now.
If I had my car then we could escape but a punctured tyre ruined that plan. Unfortunately the coast had one of the worst transport systems too. There were the trains but they only stopped at our station every two hours on a Sunday and went nowhere near the mall or entertainment places like the movies, the buses didn’t even run at all on Sundays, it had something to do with the council trying to save money by restricting all government run departments to working Monday to Saturday, therefore freeing up money in their budget to throw into a giant football stadium...that fewer fans could get to when games were played on Sundays. I ran Sim City better than what the government ran these small, coastal towns.
I smeared peanut butter on the toast and placed it on a plate, made my coffee from the ground up dirt powder that my Mother kept in her house and made my way back to the bedroom, knocking once and announcing to Bridget that it was me. She opened the door, peering out into the short hallway before stepping aside to allow me in.
We sat on her bottom bunk, the plate of toast between us as we each grabbed a piece. I was starving after only consuming a small bag of potato chips for dinner.
“Carson’s home” Inform her, her eyes go wide as she squirms on the bed, “It’s alright, he’s still in bed but we will just stay in here today and if you need to go out there then move fast but quietly.” She nods her head, she knows the drill well, I really don’t have to explain it to her anymore, this is normal for us here.
“I have a lot of homework to do anyway so I could use a day locked away from the world” Bridget says sadly, making the best of the bad situation.
I lay in my bed all morning listening to my Blink 182 CDs while reading Looking for Alibrandi, even though I had read it many times before, reading it as a study for English made it a different read this time. By the time I had reached the end of chapter 10 my stomach had started growling, I knew I could get by with the snacks that I had packed but I felt I needed something a bit more substantial, plus Bridget would need more than potato chips to push through and finish her Commerce assignment.
I pressed stop on my Discman and leaned over my bed, peering down to Bridget’s but she wasn’t there. She must have snuck out to the bathroom without me even noticing. I climbed down from my bunk and opened the bedroom door at the same time a loud thud came from the dinning room followed by Carson screaming and Bridget crying. I grabbed my phone and bag in case we had to make quick escape and ran out of the room, towards the dinning room.
“You went in my room you fucking little dyke” Carson screamed at Bridget. He had thrown her down on the floor and was standing over her.
“No, I didn’t” Bridget sobbed, terrified.
He pulled back his foot and swiftly ploughed it into her ribs and she cried out in pain as it connected but he didn’t stop, he just kept kicking into her as she lay there defenceless against him.
I ran up to him and attempted to pull him back from her. He turned his attention from Bridget on the floor and threw me up against the wall, holding me in place with his thick fingers wrapped around my neck. My bag dropped to the floor.
“Bridget...run....take my bag and run” I commanded her as I struggled to free myself of his grip that tightened the more I squirmed. Bridget grabbed my bag, using a dinning chair she managed to pull herself up off the floor and slowly make her way to the front door.
Carson’s hold on me was closing in and I was having trouble breathing as I fought against his grip and then instinct took over, without realising I rose my knee and drove it deep into his groin, his hand dropped and he fell to the ground, yelping in pain.
The air burned my throat as I breathed it in quickly, trying to catch my breath. I ran as fast as I could go, not looking behind me, out of the house and into the front yard where I caught up with Bridget, leaning herself against the brick letter box, wincing with pain as she struggled to hold herself up, her face stained with tears.
We had to get far away from here, it would only be a matter of time before Carson would recover and come after us with a vengeance. I took Bridgets frail arm and wrapped it around my neck, placed my arm around her waist and began walking us towards the train station at the end of the street, moving so slowly as we limped along.
It was only a short walk but it felt like it took forever to get there as I almost dragged Bridget’s limp body beside me. Once we arrived I placed her down on one of the empty benches and told her to wait while I went to go buy tickets.
“We can’t go home” She cried, “We can’t tell Dad, Mum will yell at me if I tell Dad”. I knelt down in front of her as she hunched over.
“We need to tell someone Bridget, you need to get to a hospital” I stressed to her but still she shook her head,
“No, they will call the police and it will make everything worse” She winced as she spoke. I feared that this was more than just bruising this time, he may have broken something.
“Then who can I call?” I asked her, panic rising inside me.
“Sam” She tells me firmly, “Call Sam”
I step up to the ticket counter, keeping a careful eye on Bridget as I purchased two single tickets to Claremont and then I took out my phone, preparing to call Sam.
I’d called Sam twice during the week, both calls had gone unanswered and I worried that this would be the case if I attempted to call him from my mobile. I looked around the platform and found a payphone up the end.
“Bridget, I need to call Sam from that phone” I told her, pointing to the payphone, “Stay here, don’t move” She nodded her head
I sprinted to the payphone, placing $1 into the coin slot and dialled Sam’s mobile number, silently praying that he would pick up. It rang once, twice and then on the third ring I heard his voice cut in.
“Hello?” He answered, unsure of who would be calling from an unknown number.
“Sam, it’s Veronica, don’t hang up, we need your help” I shouted down the phone.
“What’s happened?” He asked me panicked, I can hear the sound of clanging behind him and my Dad’s voice ask him if everything was alright.
“Meet us at the Claremont train station, our train will be here in 5 minutes and should take an hour.” I instruct him before asking, “Is your Dad at the hospital today?”
“Yeah, he is, why?”
“I need you to take Bridget there but not tell her where we are going or else she will protest and try and fight against you, I need you to just do it. Call your Dad and let him know we’re coming, tell my Dad too, tell him to call the police” I ramble quickly, watching Bridget struggling to stay up.
“I’ll see you in an hour” Sam says before ending the call. I race back to Bridget’s side, laying her down on the bench with her head propped up on my lap. Fortunately we are the only passengers at the station so there’s no one watching us.
The train arrives and I help Bridget to her feet, holding her once again with my arm wrapped around her waist as we climb aboard the train, taking our seats close to the door. Bridget sitting uncomfortable upright in the seat, her head slumped against my shoulder.
We arrived at Claremont after what seemed like the longest train ride ever. Sam was waiting for us on the platform as I struggled to get Bridget off the train. The pain was becoming all too intense and her body couldn’t handle it, she was fighting to stay awake. Sam stepped forward to help me get her over the gap between the train and the platform, taking her small arm and wrapping it around his neck he lifted her with ease and walked her to his truck, placing her across the backseat.
I climbed into the passenger seat in the front, exhausted from the day we had endured.
“Your Dad is meeting us at the hospital, he’s called the police and they said they will meet us there too, they will want to interview you and will take pictures” Sam explains but it all sounds like white noise to me as he speeds out of the station car park, heading towards the local hospital in the city centre.
Sam parked his truck in the emergency bay, My Dad and Dr Lions were waiting out front with a gurney. Sam and Dr Lions helped Bridget out of the truck, placing her down on the gurney that Dr Lions wheeled inside the hospital. Dad wrapped his arms tightly around me, holding onto me as I sobbed uncontrollably in his arm.
“It’s alright now pumpkin, you’re safe now, you’re both safe now” He whispered to me. He stepped back from me, allowing Sam to take his position as he raced inside.
“The police will get him Veronica” Sam tried to reassure me, without even needing an explanation of what happened. He knew already and I was so grateful I didn’t have to relive it.
Sam wrapped his arm firmly around my waist and led me inside the doors of the hospital, gaining us mortified looks as we passed everyone. Standing just outside the gift shop were two large, stocky police officers. Sam walked me over to where they stood.
“Hi miss Kreslin, I’m Officer Taylor, this is my partner, Officer Harris” One of the two men introduced himself and his partner to me, “would like to come with us and have a chat? Your boyfriend is welcomed to sit in with us while we talk”
I nod my head at the officers and look up at Sam, I was so embarrassed that he was going to hear about how fucked up my family was, how damaged I was. I’d spent years hiding all this from everyone, even Kate didn’t know the extent of Carson’s violence towards Bridget and I, she knew of the minor ongoings but nothing like how he held my head under water until I couldn’t breathe or the time he smashed our mirror and held a shard of broken glass up to my neck because I had eaten the pizza pocket that he had deemed his without ever telling anyone.
I was taken into a small room on the ground floor of the hospital, Sam and I were offered beverages, I don’t remember asking for a coffee but somehow one appeared in front of me and I sipped it slowly, letting it’s bitter taste replace the other bitter taste I had in my mouth.
“Am I in trouble?” I asked the officers, it was a natural reaction to me for whenever I’d spoken up in the past about the abuse, it was always met with such anger and hate thrown at me so I simply stopped talking about it.
“Not at all Miss Kreslin” Officer Harris assured me, “We need to arrest whoever did this to you and your sister but we can’t do that without evidence and eye witness accounts”
“Carson Kreslin did that to my sister” I spit out before I have time to process it.
“That’s your brother right?” Officer Taylor asked me, Sam took hold of my hand and I was so grateful that he was there with me.
“Yes, my half brother, he lives with My Mother” I confirm, giving them the address as well as a very detail description of what happened.
“I want to make it clear to you that neither your sister or yourself is in trouble here, I have to state that before I ask my next question” Officer Harris says, I nod my head to show I understand but inside I’m just a scared, little girl, afraid that I’m going to be punished for speaking out against my family, “Veronica, can you think of any motive that would have driven Carson to attack your sister today?”
I look over to Sam, tears falling from my eyes as he gives me an encouraging nod. I’m doing this for Bridget, to keep her safe, to keep us both safe.
“A week ago Bridget, Sam and I went to my Mother’s house when we knew no one would be home. Bridget had left her diary there and needed to retrieve because she was afraid Carson would read it. When we got to the house she searched our room but couldn’t find it, she went into Carson’s room and found it on his desk. He had defaced the diary and written a homophobic slur on one of the pages” I explain.
“Do you still have the diary?” Officer Taylor asks me.
“Yes but...” I trail off, looking at Sam, guilt washing over his face as he realises.
“I destroyed the page” Sam tells the officers, “I didn’t want Bridget having to read that, I’m so sorry, I didn’t think that we’d need it ever”
“It’s alright son, Veronica’s statement alone, plus the photographs of both girls injuries will be enough to put this bastard away” Officer Harris tells us.
“I’m fine, I don’t have any injuries” I say, Officer Harris hands me a mirror so I can see the extent for myself, theres a visible hand mark imprinted around my neck, it’s nothing compared to Bridget’s though.
One Officer placed a call in for Carson’s arrest while the other produced a small camera and proceeded to snap many pictures of my neck before letting us go.
Sam and I found Dad in the waiting area, coffee in hand as he paced the cold, hard floors back and forth. He pulled me in for a tight hug when he saw us.
“They’ve taken her in for X-rays” He explained, “This is all my fault, I failed my girls”
“This isn’t your fault at all, Carson is a monster, you know that” I reassure him. I hate that he blamed himself for this.
“I’ve been fighting the system for years, trying to get full custody of you both knowing that he could hurt you but without any proof the courts kept knocking me back and you know your Mother, she’d lie and cover up just to save her own reputation” He stresses
“Well now we have proof and we can take it back to court and you can get sole custody of Bridget” I promise him, it’s probably the only good outcome that will come out of today.
We took our seats in the waiting room, my hand in Dad’s as we sat in silence. Dr Lions bursting through the doors after around a half hour.
“Ed, Veronica” He greeted us, small, polite smile on his face, “The x-ray shows a fracture in the lower rib cage, on the right side with mass amount of swelling to the area. I’ve administered pain relief and would like to keep her in for observation for the next couple of days”
“Can we see her?” Dad asks the doctor.
“Yes, in fact I think the police are waiting on you too, they wish to interview Bridget and take some pictures for their records but they need you present” Dr lions says, “then I would like her to rest. If you wish to stay we can set you up with a fold out bed, she’s in a private room with a bathroom attached and the nurses will set you up with something to eat”
“Will you be alright if I stay here tonight?” Dad asks me.
“Yes, of course” I promise him, dreading the thought of being home alone tonight. What if they don’t get Carson? What if he breaks in to my house and finishes what he started today? I didn’t want to worry Dad any further though, he had enough on his plate.
“Veronica can stay at my house Ed” Sam says to Dad and Dad nods in agreement.
We’re about to leave the waiting room when the doors swing open with such force and in walks my Mother, her face a storm that is about to rain down shit upon everyone.
“What did you do?” She screams at me, I cower slightly behind Sam as she makes her way over to where I’m standing, “Your brother got hauled away in a police car, he’s being held at the station right now all because of your bullshit lies”
“Susan step back” My father warns her, stepping in between us.
“I told you Ed, I told you she’s a trouble maker and the other one is just an attention seeker.” She continues her verbal assault against Bridget and I, “Are you happy now Veronica? This is what you wanted? You wanted to have me end up all alone”
Beverly walks in the waiting room, taking in the scene in front of her before rushing to Susan’s defence.
“Veronica you’ve upset your Mother terribly, she’s been crying from the moment we got to the police station” Beverly states, wrapping an arm around Mum shoulders. Typical Susan would find a way to make this all about her.
“Susan your daughter is lying in a hospital bed with a broken rib and bruising, your son attacked her for no other reason than because he’s a fucking monster and the first thing you did was go see him over coming to see her?” I yell at my Mother before turning to Susan, “That’s right Susan, you’re defending a monster, helping Susan cover it up every time but what happens if one time he turns on Clara?”
Beverly stands there shocked, my words sinking in as she steps back a little from Mum.
“You’re not taking my children away from me Ed” My Mother says to Dad.
“You don’t even care about us, you only have us there because you think everyone would judge you for the part you’ve played in the abuse” I say, getting up in her face, “Well guess what Susan? They already do judge you, maybe not to your face but certainly behind your back” and with that I walk off with Dad and Sam by my side, following Dr Lions into an elevator.
I didn’t get to see Bridget for very long that night, I just needed to confirm that she was safe before I left her with Dad and the police.
Sam wrapped his arm around my waist again and guided me out of the hospital, all the way back to the truck that I didn’t even realise he had left to park in the carpark. He paid for the parking while I sat in the passenger seat, my head resting up against the window.
I don’t know when it was that I fell asleep but I woke up in his bed, surrounded by his intoxicating scent even though he wasn’t there. I sat up in the bed, resting my head in my hands.
“Hey” Kate’s voice whispered softly from somewhere in the room making me jolt. It took a while for my eyes to find where she was sitting in the dark, perched on the desk chair, watching me closely.
“Sam?” I asked her, unable to form a full sentence, my head felt heavy and my body felt weak.
“He said he’d be back soon, asked me to stay and watch over you” She explains vaguely, “Wanna talk about it?”
I shake my head, not wanting to drag more people into my saga tonight. I’d tell her eventually but not tonight. She gets off the chair and comes to lay in the bed beside me, wrapping one arm around me. I’m grateful for the comfort and I’m glad Sam brought her here.
I hadn’t been inside this room for over a week yet everything felt so different being here now. I look to the side of the bed and see that the bin has since been emptied, I sit up, opening up the drawer on the bedside table, the drawer where Sam kept the condoms, I know this should be my last thought right now but I have to know for sure.
“What is it?” Kate questions me, switching on the lamp next to the bed, it casts a dim light throughout the room.
“Petra said that Lucas told her he saw a fresh condom in Sams bin on Monday” I tell her, pulling the opened box out of drawer and emptying the contents onto the bed.
“It was probably yours, from Thursday” Kate tries to reason with me.
Sam and I had only had sex twice, he had bought a pack of twelve but as I counted them up I only counted 9.
Which meant Lucas had seen one that was used with someone else.
My heart felt like it was breaking and it was my own fault.