The Girl Next Door

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Chapter 2: Look Back

I startled awake early in the morning dripping sweat. I had another nightmare. They happened often ever since my dad started hitting me. I sat up and pulled my shoes on. I shoved the mattress under Shaina’s bed and climbed out the window. As I was closing the window, it slipped and slammed shut. Shaina rolled over and looked at me. I gave her a small wave and climbed back down to the grass.

I trudged back over to my house praying my dad was passed out somewhere drunk. Quietly, I opened the front door and saw my dad sprawled out on the couch with an empty bottle of Scotch hanging from his hand. He was out cold.

I quickly changed into some fresh clothes, grabbed my keys and left. I climbed into my truck and decided to head towards by buddy Jack’s place.

Pulling up in front of his house, I saw my other friend, Nick’s, car outside, which, unfortunately, meant they probably got high last night and may not be in the best of moods. I decided to risk it.

I pushed open the front door and found Jack passed out on the couch cuddling a pillow and Nick sitting in the chair smoking a cigarette.

“What’s up, man?” he greeted.

“I needed somewhere to chill until school.”

“Sit down. Light up.”

I sat in a chair across from him and pulled out my cigarettes.

Nick and I talked about stupid stuff for a while until Jack woke up muttering something about llamas.

“Jack, what’s my name?” Nick yelled at him.

“Shut up, Shirley.” he slurred and made his way into the kitchen bumping into things on the way.

“The hell is he on?” I asked Nick laughing.

“Something one of his chicks brought over yesterday. I have no clue what it is but man did it messed him up last night.” he answered chuckling to himself.

“What’d he do?”

“He was talking to furniture and yelling at the t.v. and then he sat on the remote and it changed the settings so the t.v. was just static all night and he sat there and laughed at it for a good hour. And then he started making out with that pillow. Tongue and everything and then he passed out on the couch literally mid-sentence about llamas.”

I was laughing hysterically. “Man, I wish I could’ve been here.”

“What’d you do last night?”

I pointed to the bruise under my eye. “What do you think? Same thing I do every night. Got beat on, ran, found somewhere to stay for the night.” I glanced down at my watch. “Oh I gotta get going. Hey, be sure to throw him in the shower and sober him up. I’ll see y’all at school.”

“Alright, later man.”

I drove over to Shaina’s house and knocked on the door this time. Her mom opened the door, “Matthew? I thought you were upstairs.”

“I left earlier this morning and went to my friend’s house.”

“Well come on in.” she opened the door for me and I stepped into this house. “Why don’t you follow me to the kitchen and we can have a little chat? If you don’t mind.”

I shrugged and followed her into the kitchen.

“I’m going to assume you haven’t eaten anything, yes?”

I shook my head. “No ma’am. I haven’t.”

“Thought so. Sit right there.” she said pointing to a stool at the breakfast bar. She placed a bowl, a box of cereal, and a jug of milk in front of me. “Eat.” she commanded me.

I poured myself the cereal and began eating.

“So, if you don’t mind me asking, when did all this,” she cupped my bruised cheek in a motherly way, “happen?”

“My dad has always had a drinking problem. I was an accident baby. I wasn’t really supposed to happen but I did. My mom left my dad when I was six because she had had enough of my dad’s drinking. And she didn’t care about me, so she left me with him. When I was eight my dad started doing drugs, cocaine, heroine, marijuana, meth, all of it. That’s when he started beating me. He was crazy high one night and thought I was a threat. He started to hit me and he loved the feeling of power and it hasn’t stopped since.” I finished quietly. “I haven’t seen him sober. Ever.”

“Oh, honey.” she came around and enveloped me in a motherly hug. “You’re welcome here anytime; if you need somewhere to stay, something to eat, any type of help, you come here. The door is always open. Okay?”

I nodded. “Thank you, Mrs. Collins.”

“Oh please, call me Janine.”

Just then Shaina came skidding into the kitchen.

“Um hello.” she greeted me flatly.

“Morning, Shaina.” I greeted cheerfully.

She just kind of stood there lost in thought. I put my bowl in the sink.

“Come on, Shaina.” I said breaking her from her thoughts.

“What?” she asked me confused.

I chuckled lightly. “I said come on. We’re going to be late.”

“Um... Well I-I take the bus.” she stuttered.

“Oh Shaina!” Janine exclaimed. “Just let the boy take you to school. My goodness.”

“Fine.” she grumbled.

She followed me out to my truck and I helped her into the passenger seat.

I went around to the driver’s side and climbed in.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked me sighing.

“Just to repay you for letting me hide out at your house last night.” I realized my keys were in my backpack which I had dumped in the backseat. “I probably need keys to start the car.” I chuckled to myself.

I twisted around in the seat and started rummaging in my backpack.

I heard her gasp. “Matthew? What- what happened?” she stammered.

I glanced down and realized my shirt had ridden up and she could see the large bruise over my hip that my dad had left a few days ago. I quickly twisted back in my seat and tugged my shirt back into place. “It’s nothing.” I told her quickly.

“Matt-” she started to ask again.

“I started its nothing.” I growled harshly cutting her off.

“Sorry.” she mumbled.

I felt bad for snapping at her, but I didn’t like people to keep pressing into my life after I told them I was fine.

Suddenly, she laughed out really loudly.

I raised an eyebrow at her. “Everything okay over there?”

“Yup.” she answered me popping the p. “Just peachy.”

“Well what’s so funny?”

“Oh, my friend Chad.”

“You mean that gay kid?” I asked with a little more disgust then necessary.

“Yes, ‘that gay kid’ happens to be my best friend. So you need to shut up.” she said harshly. “Please.” she added quietly.

We were silent for awhile as she ate her granola bar.

“Hey,” I said at the next red light. “I’m sorry about the way I talked about Chad.”

“It’s okay. I just don’t like people judging him because of it.”

I nodded my head in understanding.

We drove the rest of the way in silence.

I pulled into the school parking lot and quickly found a parking space.

Shaina climbed out of the truck.

I climbed out and noticed everyone’s eyes on Shaina. She just stood rooted in place, I grabbed her arm and gave it a gently tug, “Come on. Just ignore them.”

She allowed me to lead her inside.

“Why was everyone staring at you in the parking lot?” I asked her once we had gotten into the safety of the school entrance hall.

“Hm I don’t know.” she answered sarcastically, “Let’s see. Me, Shaina Collins, the quiet teacher’s pet who sits in the front of every class, getting out of the school's brooding bad boy's truck. That’s not weird at all!”

“Shaina, calm down.” I told her quietly, noticing people were starting to stare.

“No! I don’t like people looking at me. I don’t like being the center of attention. So thanks for the ride but just leave me alone.” She hurried down the hall.

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