A sense of alertness flashed over me, but my head ached so fervently that I didn’t want to open my eyes in fear of light streaming into my vision. I squinted and sat up sluggishly, and a pain radiated from my crown and snaked down my sore neck. I leaned back, and a hard surface prevented me from laying back. My neck fell limp and fell over the edge of the chair I realized I was sitting in. A strong light sat above me, and I immediately recognized it as the light in the master bedroom. I wanted to rub the sleep from my eyes, thinking everything was just a blurred dream, but my hands couldn’t move. I glanced down to see them tethered tautly together with the twine my mother used to decorate her wreaths with for the summer. I pulled apart my wrists, but the metal dug deeply into my flesh, my pulse pounding within my wrists. I rolled my neck forward, and my heavy head stabilized as I tried to maintain orientation. However, my whole vision spun, and the urge to vomit increased the longer I kept my eyes open. I shook my head in hopes of getting rid of the funk or the strength of the impurities in my brain, but nothing seemed to work.
“How are you feeling, Devin?”
I clenched my jaw as I heard his venomous voice spit my name as if we were familiars. My eyes snapped to him angrily, and I bared my teeth like a caged animal. And then a feral growl came from my belly and ripped through my voice.
“Now, now, Devin, that isn’t how you should treat your father.” Jude came into the light and knelt down in front of me, patting my knee with one of his large hands. Prison had indeed changed him. His muscles—new and ripped from the boredom of the cell—rippled under a button-down shirt. His ember eyes had become wild and enraged. His hair had been cut short and trimmed to the sides of his head, less to grab onto I guess during the brawls I heard Esther often describe to me after she visited him. He never got in one but observed many.
I spat in his face.
He smiled solemnly and turned behind him. “I told you she was a fighter.”
I glanced up and immediately recognized the janitor from the hallway at school. I furrowed my brow and stomped my foot down, noticing my legs were bound to the legs of the chair. I roared with agitation and frustration as the janitor came into the light slowly, still wearing our school’s stupid grey jumpsuit. His left eye was swollen shut and bruised. Pride rose in my chest as I knew that was my handiwork from the way it had yet to swell to its full potential and how the blood still seeped to the area for repair.
“Yeah, I noticed, Jude. Real scrappy.”
I fight dirty for a reason.
Jude turned back to me and pointed at the janitor with a smug expression on his face. “I see you have already met Manny. He does good work, you know, but he got in the wrong crowd and had to do some jail time.”
I continued to stare at Manny as he cracked his knuckles quietly behind Jude as if he was going to beat the shit out of me—an unfair fight with me bound to a chair. His hazel eyes met mine, and he gave me a sheepish smile.
“He just wants to talk some,” Jude finally confessed. My eyes darted to him. Honest and vulnerable, one could have thought he was an actual human being who felt an inkling of guilt in his dark heart. Peering into his amber eyes, one could swear that he would protect his family and loved ones. One meeting, and one could be under his charm.
“Bullshit,” I hissed.
Jude glared at me, anger boiling inside of him again. He growled, “Such coarse language for a little girl. You shouldn’t talk that way—such cacophonous, rugged diction.”
A fist whipped into my abdomen, and I doubled over, my chest against my quads. The oxygen ripped from my lungs, I struggled to regain my respiration rhythm. My eyes watered from the fierce impact, but I promised myself I would not show that he had broken me. It would give him such a smug pride that I never wanted him to feel. I whispered an explicative to myself and curled into my legs.
Strands of hair fell against my face, and my heart stopped. The blonde strands had been dyed brunette. My eyes searched frantically in my lap for a reason or an explanation for why this happened, and maybe my vision was going out. But the brunette hair impacted me in a way I had not anticipated—it affected my identity and who I was.
The only thing that separated me from my family of brunettes—the only physical difference between my sister and me.
“Don’t foul-mouth me, child. You have no idea the hell you put me through for the past two years. You don’t think I suffered in there, waiting for your mother and sister to visit me on the weekends just so I could gain some relief? How do you think I felt when I found out Heath died, hmm?”
My eyes turned up to him, and he smiled.
How dare he soil such a beautiful name.
But he never really cared about him anyway.
“I laughed when I found out your mother was going to abandon you; she understood the betrayal you put me through and said she would have done it sooner if it weren’t for state laws.”
I crumpled back into my legs, acknowledging the fact that my mother abandoned me so easily, the way she furtively drugged my water so I wouldn’t see her leave me, the way she left me nothing to survive off of, the way she did not even say goodbye to me. The way she left like a coward, but the way she embraced me before I went to my room after grabbing that one bottle of water also remained engraved in my mind.
Who was she? Which one was she?
“Don’t pity yourself. You deserved it. You imprisoned your mother’s husband and your sister’s father. Esther deserved to have a father figure in her life even if you had to endure pain for me to remain free.”
I caught my breath at the notion I destroyed my sister’s perfect life. I ruined our relationship with my secrets, and I ruined her relationship with our father by shoving him in a prison cell because I couldn’t endure the punishments anymore. My chin quivered as I tried to prevent the tear from falling, but it fell and shattered my composed façade.
I couldn’t survive another episode, yet there we were.
Manny whined childishly, “When do I get to have some fun, Jude? I got her out of school like you said, so I want my reward.”
My eyes flickered to Jude as a smug smile swept across his face. He batted his eyes derogatorily at me and put his fingers in a steeple. “You can go ahead. I’ve got a few errands to run.” Jude got up and sauntered to the door and waited a moment, whispering something into Manny’s deformed ear.
I roared angrily, “Jude! Jude, get back here! I’ll do anything to get out of this! Please! Jude! Jude! JUDE!!!”
He easily ignored me and strolled through the frame and slammed the door shut. I imagined how he pulled out a cigarette and lit one like he did when I was a kid after we did our business. I imagined him flicking the lighter guiltlessly and probing the flame with a cigarette end gently, cupping the flame even though he was out of habit.
I screamed, beginning to plead as Manny’s eyes fixed on me diligently, “JUDE!!! PLEASE! I’M YOUR DAUGHTER! HELP ME!”
Manny took a step further into the light, and I warned him, “If you take one more step near me, I swear to God you are going to regret ever finding me.”
He cracked a smile and inquired, “What are you going to do? Fall over in your chair? You have nowhere to go, Dev.”
Fury grew inside me like an embryo upon hearing my nickname. I growled, “Don’t you ever call me that again.” My fingernails dug into my palms as I clenched my hands into taut fists, my nails digging into the calloused flesh.
Manny scratched the patches of his beard quizzically and stood before me, our toes touching, after he lurched closer to me. His hazel eyes absorbed my appearance as if he had to memorize my features. His hand fell on the inside of my knee and tried to slide up my thigh, but I collapsed my legs shut. His bones crumpled from under the sudden pressure, and he howled as he tore his hands away from my genitalia. “Goddammit.”
I did not reply, just glaring at him and intently analyzing him for foreshadowing actions or thoughts. My blue eyes pierced him as I noticed his pants tighten around his groin, and my heart dropped as I realized what Jude was doing.
“Devin, you better do what I want, or I’ll kill you with my bare hands.”
“Let me guess, you got in prison for drug possession, right? And it was your friend’s, not yours.”
Manny, stunned, stared at me incredulously.
I declared, “You don’t have the gall to kill me.”
A fist slammed into my abdomen again, and I doubled over my legs. “I may not have the balls to kill you, but I sure as hell got the capability to do it.” He cracked his knuckles as he stretched his back by arching it backwards. He let out an exasperated sigh as I began to spit up from the nausea.
The acidic smell permeated my pores as I had nowhere to spit up but on my legs. Green bile settled on my legs as my stomach clenched violently, suddenly. The headache stretched across my forehead and pressed in as if my skull was collapsing, and I thought I was dying. I remembered trying to place the significance on the situation. “I think I have a concussion,” I confessed.
“Concussions don’t mean anything in business.”
I glanced up, and Manny unzipped his pants and pulled them down to his ankles. I quickly sat up and tried to kick him in the groin, but my feet failed to reach far enough to attack him. I cursed in frustration as the twine dug deeply into my flesh, pulling my blood from my body.
Manny cracked a smile. “You can’t fight too much when you’re tied up like this. You may have tried to make me your little bitch earlier today, but you’re my bitch now. You’ve got nothing to do but take it.”
I clenched my mouth shut and glared angrily at him, daring him to come near me with my icy gaze. I felt my abs contract and cramp as I held my breath from all of the excitement, and my head pounded from impact of the toilet against my crown what seemed like years ago.
He pulled his plaid boxers down just below his erect penis and let it sit there. He straddled the chair, his groin at eye-level to me. His hand gripped my crown and pulled my head back fiercely. His eyes pierced into mine and unveiled a monster inside a man who could have passed as anyone’s dad, uncle, husband, friend. Just an average guy. He explained, “I’m going to enjoy every moment of this, you little bitch.”
He pulled my head forward toward his tumescent dick, but I twisted away. His genitalia pressed into my cheek. I clenched my eyes shut, not wanting to see any of this happen. I did not want to be terrorized by this memory for the rest of my life.
A swift hand impacted my cheek, forcing my neck to crack in the other direction. He slapped me back again fiercely. He snatched my bangs and ripped my face upward. He roared, “Do it. Blow me!”
Manny pressed his penis against my mouth, but I clenched my mouth shut as tautly as I could muster. My lips curled in. The head pressed against my closed lips. He realized he could not pass my barricade and took his thumb and index finger to my nose, clenching my nostrils shut.
The veins in my forehead bulged as I tried to hold my breath as long as I could while he mashed his penis against my face. I finally peeled back my lips and wheezed through my teeth. His fingers peeled away from my face. “Goddammit!!!” he roared furiously, “Why are you making this so hard?! Do you want some foreplay? Is that it?”
I meekly stared at him, stunned at him for actually considering someone else during his moment of pleasure, but I returned to utmost disgust when he tried to kiss me. He leaned in towards me and opened his mouth, and when he was close enough, I whipped my head as hard as I could into his. He stumbled backward hesitantly, his hand cupping his forehead, blood dribbling down his face.
My orientation spun again as I tried to regain my hold on reality. Everything spun and whipped around as if I was stuck on a ride.
I eventually got a grip once I focused primarily on Manny holding his head like a child. His gaze twisted back to me, and the fierce grimace that contorted his face nailed me in place. He marched over to me and stood over me, his penis a few inches away from me again. He placed his hands on his waist and whispered, “You will do what I say.”
“I’ll bite your fucking dick off.”
His thumb and fingers landed on my nose, and he gripped heartily on my nostrils and cartilage. In one smooth motion, he snapped my nose to the right, and the pain radiated into my sinuses and my eyes, watering and oozing. Blood rushed from my nose and poured down the front of my sweatshirt and pants, and the maroon paint flooded down my chin like the juice of an apple. I cried out in pain, and then he shoved his genitalia in my mouth.
I just sat remotely still as the veins of his penis rolled in my mouth, and his loose, frail skin rubbed against the inside of my cheeks. Blood dribbled down onto his penis as he clasped my crown and pulled me back and forth across his genitalia. I bared my teeth to irritate the organ, and Manny replied by again grabbing my snapped nose and yanking it in the wrong direction.
I cried out in immense pain as he peeled his hand away from me. “No teeth.”
He continued to rock back and forth, and then he warned, “You better swallow.”
He finished, ejaculating in my mouth what seemed like a gallon of semen. The white, thick liquid dribbled down the back of my throat, and my gag reflex kicked in. He pulled out of my mouth and manually shut my jaw. He tilted my head back, and I panicked as breathing became impossible from my broken nose and clenched mouth. I began to hyperventilate without oxygen and whimpered. He put himself away and then stood over me again. His face only a few inches away from me, he commanded, “Swallow.”
More tears collected in the corner of my eyes, streaming down my cheeks like tiny little rivers down the mountains of my face. I shook my head slowly, the sour taste of the semen seeping towards the back of my throat.
He snapped my head back, and I unintentionally swallowed his cum just so I could breathe again. I heaved in huge breaths as my lungs expanded delicately, and the way my diaphragm contracted made me become a little less restless. “Oh God, oh God,” I whispered in a rhythm to catch my breath languidly and gain my repetitive breathing pattern.
Manny glared at me suddenly and hissed, “You freaking whore.”
I didn’t care as I continued to gasp for air.
Manny quietly stared at me intently, and my heart skipped a beat. He murmured, “Good thing I have something else for you.” He reached in his back pocket and pulled out a piece of metal twine and wrapped it around my right leg, tying my quad down to the chair so I couldn’t clench my legs shut. I whispered, “What are you doing?”
His hands fell to my jeans and unzipped my pants slowly, yanking them down to my knees. I flailed my legs, but he ignored my actions and then grabbed underwear, sliding them down to my thighs. “Stop,” I murmured.
Our eyes met, and he cracked a smug smile. “I’m a nice guy—I’m going to get you off if it takes me all night.” His fingers traced up my knee, my inner thigh, to my groin. His hand cupped me suddenly, and then he shoved a finger inside me. His fingertip rubbed against my insides slowly and then hastily. He leaned into me, breathing into my ear, his breaths condensing on my ear.
I dipped my chin and furrowed my brow as I felt him move inside of me. I gritted my teeth, the mucous and blood dripping onto the curve of my bottom lip.
“Oh yeah, you feel so tight. I wish Jude would let me inside of you.” Manny flicked another finger inside of me, separating the tissues inside of me as he stretched his fingers and then scratched my walls.
A fierce pressure came into my stomach, and I doubled over my lap as the pain radiated up my spine back into my brain. He snatched my crown, throwing me back onto the chair, and he scolded, “No, Devin, you don’t get a break.”
He continued to massage my insides with his fingers. I snapped my vision to the ceiling, staring at the chandelier desperately and waiting for this to be all over. Waiting for this awful incident to be hidden with a veil of alcohol. My hair fell down my back and tickled my arms. I clenched my eyes shut.
I was in a field full of tulips; yellows, purples, oranges, pinks tantalized my eyes… The clouds, wispy and thin, barely fell across the sky…
“God, you are so tight…”
I knelt down in the field and smelled a few of the flowers. I sighed contently as I felt the leaves and stems brush against my skin. My fingertips brushed over the frail, soft petals gently, velvety and soft.
“We got to fix that.”
And then he shoved his fist inside of me.
I arched my back as the pain overwhelmed me, and I hoarsely cried out. A sudden breaking of tissue—at least the sensation—came over me, and I thought he was destroying me from the inside-out. “Oh God! Stop! Stop! Please stop!” He shifted his wrist, and my legs fought to close in vain. A pop resounded, but he kept readjusting his arm inside of me, blood dripping down his arm as he continued.
My neck rolled forward, and I bit down on my lip as hard as possible. His eyes flickered to mine and must have seen something guilt-worthy because he stopped for a moment, staring intently at me. A small smile crept across his face as he confessed, “I expected to get laid, but this is okay, too.” I furrowed my brow and began to cry out for him to just stop, begging and pleading as I felt his arm tense up again.
He sharply twisted his hand.
I almost vomited. I wailed instead and dipped my chin into my clavicle in vain hopes to ease the pain or just get rid of it. I stomped my foot against the floor, the twine digging into my bare legs. I clenched my eyes shut as he continued to tear away at my insides with his fingers and nails.
I remember wondering who or what was going to destroy me. I wondered who was going to find my body in a ditch or a lake—or if anyone was going to find me. And then again, who would’ve cared?
I opened my eyes as I felt his hand roughly slide out from me. I gasped for air and heaved a sigh of relief, resigning myself to just enjoying the simple moments when I wasn’t be tortured. I was nearly a hundred percent sure I was going to die that night. I was going to die alone, and no one would know about it—lost and forgotten in the world. “Thank God,” I whispered.
Manny pulled away and slipped my underwear back to my waist and shoved my pants back up. He tidily zipped my pants and pulled my shirt down over my pants like it originally was. He murmured, “God, you are such a bore.”
I finally deduced, “You raped girls before me, didn’t you?” The way he knew how to handle me and the way he knew how to initiate every little violent action. It was like a procedure, but I fought back. And he didn’t like that.
He smiled, “I just got time for possession of illegal drugs, and then I got out just like your dad.”
Our eyes met.
“Those the drugs you used to rape them?” I honestly inquired.
He threw a fist into my neck, and I crumpled in the chair. I gritted my teeth, anticipating another assault. He merely mumbled and then abruptly left me alone in the room.
I stared at the wall that used to hold a large portrait of my sister and me from when we were younger, the wall discolored from not being exposed to light for such a long time. I confess, I pondered if my parents ever truly observed that piece—how the photographer had to keep the two of us still and try to maintain our essence still in the piece, the way Esther unveiled a toothy, innocent smile and I meekly stared at the male photographer. Would my mother have seen it? Did Mom ever notice?
And then my heart dropped because if she noticed, I wouldn’t have been there.
A dead-bolt locked, waking me suddenly from my slumber I did not intently fall into. My mind just slithered off into a dark place and never came back—one of those moments of falling asleep due to exhaustion and shock. I raised my head, trying to see where I was, but a coat rubbed against my hair, static electricity raising it.
I immediately noticed I was no longer bound, my limbs no longer pulsating from the indecent pressure separating my flesh and veins. I crawled on my hands and knees before smacking into a wall, and then I guided myself to the door with one hand guiding me.
A muffled voice seeped from under the door into the darkness, and light streamed into my little coven. I forced my face into the carpet and tried to see through the crack. A pair of leather shoes sat across from me, and I could have slipped my fingers underneath the door to touch them. I purred, “Help me… please…”
The feet slowly swept away from me, pivoting on their heels.
“No, please… please come back.”
They began to stroll away, heel-toe, heel-toe.
I whined, “Please come back. Come back.”
The feet ignored me and then hastened.
“Wait,” I cried loudly, “wait!”
The creak of a door and the locking of a deadbolt resounded in the small room. My heart stopped, horrified that I was all alone again, waiting for more torturous opportunities. I screamed, “HELP ME! HELP ME, PLEASE!” My fists slammed into the door repeatedly like a child throwing a tantrum. I wailed and cried out with no response from the outside world.
And then I heard a car engine purr to life from the garage.
My eyes glared at the light streaming into the closet, and I knew it was my chance to get away. This was my sole opportunity to run away from him. I grabbed the knob of the closet and pushed the door with my feet pressed to the wood, hoping to utilize my leg strength to open up the door. The knob snapped off the door, and my hopes faded away. Tears streamed down my face as I knew I had to succumb to defeat. I had to accept my fate.
I whispered solemnly, “Help me, please,” to no one in particular. I almost felt like it was a wish to God—not exactly a prayer but perhaps a request. I couldn’t hold myself together long enough to pray as I had to choke back panicked hyperventilation and rugged sobs.
My finger nails dug into the door, splinters shattering into the nail beds, and then I began scratching at the door as frustration and overwhelming fear motivated me to do whatever I could to get away from this hell. My scratches dug deeper and deeper into the wood, but the inch of wood would always win against my frail hands. My knuckles crunched and crackled from the pressure I exerted on my hands to bust through the wooden door like a magician.
I squealed as half of my nail ripped off my middle finger, but I continued digging vehemently through the door like a dog having an anxiety attack. My breathing wavered and labored as a nail completely tore off my right thumb, and then the dead tissues broke and tore off one by one until my fingertips were covered in blood and splinters. And then I slapped the door for nearly an hour, forcing more splinters into my palms as my frustration seeped from my abuses and attacks.
Finally I stopped beating myself down with the door and stared intently at my barricade separating me from the outside world. I whispered, “Goddammit,” before I broke out into harpy-like screams and squeals littered with curses and unintelligible words for what seemed like days, my throat running dry and broken.
I remember making a covenant with myself, believing that I would fight back as long as I could, and when I couldn’t physically do it anymore, I would forgive myself. When I couldn’t handle it anymore, I would forgive myself. However, I would not promise that I would deny myself a good fight. I would not deny myself a chance at surviving whatever was going to happen to me.