The grass felt hard on my bare feet; it had not rained in weeks, and the drought had caused the grass to become somewhat coarse and yellow. I picked up the bottom of my ruffled yellow dress, worried that it would trip me as I ran. The balloons tied to my wrist were blowing madly in the wind, beating up against each other.
I felt so
free. Free. I dont even know the exact definition of the word. But, who does? Isnt it different for every individual? At that point, all I knew was that he was gone. I was out of that mess.
I had a favorite place a special place. It was where I always went when I needed to be alone
when I needed to escape him. It was somewhat close to the wharf, but still a good distance away. The grass was tall and weedy, some of it up to my thighs. It was difficult to run in, but I loved it anyway. It made me feel secluded, isolated. There was a bit of a hill that I would scamper to the top of, and then I could see my place. Standing on the grassy mount, looking down, I could see the river for miles and miles. There was nothing new about that; what was special was a small patch of land beside the shore that was grassy. Between the grass and the water was lots of sand, thick peach-colored sand. But, in one small spot, the grass had continued to grow in the sand. There were two large rocks sitting in the sandgrass, and they were somewhat angled, so they made a small corner on the inside. I liked to lean up against the rocks, squeezing myself into that corner, and watch the river. I would watch the ducks swimming, the geese flying, frogs jumping into the water, the sunset, the wind blowing grass and sand around
anything, really. It didnt matter what I did there, just as long as I was there. Being away from him was good enough for me.
No one had any idea; they were all clueless. Or, maybe they werent. Maybe everyone around me could see what was happening, and they just didnt care. Who knows? All I know is that it was unbearable. The bruises were hard to hide. The scars all had fishy stories to go along with them. Lying became difficult.
I remember the day that was my last straw, so to speak. I always knew to come straight home after school, no dawdling. But that one day a boy stopped to talk to me. He was a nice kid; Id seen him around some. We had never spoken to each other before, but that day he finally came up to me. Hey, he said. His hair was sandy blonde, sort of like the sand beside my special place. He had crisp blue eyes that looked like they could see right into my soul. I had mumbled a hi, or something lame like that, and then he introduced himself. I already knew his name, just because I was a loner, and we loners are very good at listening and remembering things and noticing people.
His name was Justin. Justin wanted to know if Id like to go to the school dance with him in a couple of weeks. Why me? I still dont know
but I really wanted to go with him. However, it was hopeless. I was never allowed to go to those sorts of events. In fact, I wasnt allowed to do anything. I was restricted from dances, ball games, parties, youth groups
retty much any kind of outing, especially with other kids my age. I told him No as kindly as I could, holding back the emotions inside of me. The dance and Justin sounded like fun, but there was no way Id be allowed. Then I hurried off for home, hoping I could still be home at my normal time. Oops, too late.
I got home ten minutes later than I usually did, and my father wasnt happy about it. Where ya been? he asked, chewing a wad of tobacco with his mouth open.
dont know what you mean. I said, trying to look as innocent as possible. For Petes sake, I had only talked for ten minutes after school. Was that such a crime?
He slammed his fist down on the old wooden table. Standing up, he took a step closer to me, What do ya mean, I dont know? Of course ya know! He came closer, inches away from my face. Ill ask you one more time. Where ya been? His breath smelled of whiskey, and his breathing was hard from being so angry.
I stared at him, not sure what to say. I mean, what was I suppose to say? I was talking to a fellow classmate after school? For once, I was being a bit sociable? He would never understand those kinds of replies. I tried to think quickly, processing several replies in my head. Unfortunately, I didnt think fast enough. Before I had time to blink, I felt the sting of his hand across my face. Putting one of my hands on my face as a shield, I felt the burning sensation. He grabbed me tightly by my neck and pinned me up against the wall. You aint gunna answer me, girl? I couldnt speak firstly due to shock, secondly due to him squeezing my neck. I was gasping hard for breath, but only getting a few tiny ones sucked inside of me.
My lungs felt like they were going to explode at any moment, like fireworks. He finally let go of my neck, but only to slap the other side of my face. Grabbing me by my arm, he drug me into his bedroom. He grabbed one of his belts that had been laying on the floor and started folding it. My body tightened; I knew what was next. He snapped his belt inches away from my face, causing me to flinch. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes; I was trying hard to hold sobs inside. I was crouched in a corner of the room, hands shielding my face. Snap! I felt a stab of pain surge through the side of my head, dispatched by the belt. Stop! Please! I yelled, choked sobs escaping my throat.
After eight or nine more whips at my head, arms, and chest, he finally put the belt down. Stay put. He commanded, walking out of the room and into the kitchen. Gently touching the side of my head, I realized it was bleeding. There was warm blood smeared on my palm, so I quickly rubbed it off on my pants. This treatment was nothing unusual
it had gone on for as far back as I can remember. But I never got used to the pain. It was fresh each time, and the blows always seemed worse than the previous ones. I sat hunched defensively in the corner, shaky and crying. This *had* to stop. Everything was suddenly overwhelming. All of this, over being home ten minutes late? Sitting there, I suddenly realized that no one was going to come to my rescue. No hero, like in the movies, was going to burst in at any moment, and save me.
I had to do something. Usually I went to my secret place at night, when my father was drunken and passed out. During the day I was restricted to our house when I wasnt in school. I never dared going to my special place beside the river, because when I came home there would be a merciless beating. I could hear him opening another beer in the kitchen. Our fridge was stocked with almost every kind of alcohol you could buy, and not much food. Some days I was forced to go without eating, which kept me abnormally thin. My only option was to call someone. But who? Who would help me? I had no friends, because I wasnt allowed to socialize. We had no family it was just my father and I. Maybe I could call the police? Then I remembered a woman who had spoken at school, way back when I was an eighth-grader. She was with the Child Protection Services. She spoke to my class, and explained that when someone is mistreated, they call the CPS and get help. Bingo. I was sixteen
how on earth did I remember her?
There was a telephone in my fathers room, and I needed to reach it. I didnt know the number for CPS, but I did know 911. Surely they could connect me. I crawled on my hands and knees to the doorway of my bedroom and peeked around the corner. Just as Id suspected, he was leaning up against the kitchen counter, drinking. His back towards me, I crawled on all fours out of my room, and did a big U-turn into my fathers room. Crawling as fast as my sore body could, I headed towards the phone. Sitting next to the phone, I paused a moment. Silence. He was probably still guzzling the alcohol.
My hands were sweaty; I was nervous. I picked up the phone quietly, dialing 911. 911, whats your emergency? It was a ladys voice she sounded concerned. But, wasnt that a job requirement? In a hushed voice, I told her that I needed help. I explained that my father was a ruthless man who beat me over lots of little things, and that I was afraid of him. Then I heard footsteps, and I knew he was coming. Without a warning or goodbye, I hung up the phone. I couldnt let him catch me using it. Any minute now, he would walk into my room, see that I was gone, and look throughout the house for me.
I quickly scampered under the bed. Footsteps were nearing; peeking from underneath the bed skirts, I could see his brown dirty work boots. The boots were coming closer to me
was he going to look under the bed? Ill never know, because the phone rang just then. Thank god
Muttering swear words under his breath, he picked up the phone beside the bed. What? he practically screamed into the phone. “police? I dunno what the
I blocked out the profanities, knowing that I needed to escape. The lady from 911 had called back, probably because I hung up on her when I hid under the bed.
It was now or never. Hed for sure look under the bed if I stayed there, especially since the 911 lady was on the phone. I shot out from under the bed as quickly as I could, managing to scratch my back on the metal rungs underneath it in the process. I could feel blood matting at the back of my t-shirt. Knocking into the back of my fathers legs as I practically exploded from the bed, I caused him to loose balance, which was to my advantage. He dropped the phone, letting it dangle from the chord. Hey! he yelled.
I darted out of the bedroom, through the kitchen, and out the screen door. I was sprinting as fast as my legs could go, in the process knocking things off shelves and the counter. I didnt care I just needed to get out of there. I didnt dare look behind me, but I knew that he was chasing me. Outside, I headed towards town. Surely, if I could make it to town, he wouldnt dare beat me in public. My legs were aching, but I only ran faster. Finally, I glanced back from where I came; my father was getting smaller and smaller, meaning he was not gaining on me. It probably helped that he had been drinking
the alcohol would slow him down somewhat. After another fifteen minutes of running, town was in clear sight. I could see the tall school building that I went to every day, the grocery store, even the big townhouse.
I sat in my special place, between the rocks in the grass, thinking about the day that I called 911. My yellow dress was gathered around me, blowing up a bit in the wind. Looking back, I realized what a good decision I had made. I looked down at my arms; The bruises will heal, I told myself. Perhaps eventually the scars will go away, or become less noticeable.
The sky was cloudy and getting dark, even though it was only one in the afternoon. The wind was breezy, and it felt good in my face. A flock of geese flew overhead, honking loudly at me. I smiled
something I didnt do very often. Suddenly the world seemed to be a much brighter place, for me, anyways. I quickly untied the balloon strings from my wrist, and held on to them tightly. I continued to clutch the thin strings as I climbed on top of the two rocks. Im sure I looked silly, in the yellow dress and holding balloons, but I didnt care. The yellow dress was the one Id picked out to wear to the spring dance. The foster family that I was living with encouraged me to go to the dance.
The black balloons reminded me of the darkness that Id been in, a captive. I stood on the rocks looking upward, at the balloons. They now fluttered madly in the wind, crashing up against each other, desperate to join the wind current. Taking a final breath, I let go of the balloons. They spun in upward spirals, blowing higher and higher. I watched them until they were out of sight. Yes, the bruises will heal.
This was my new beginning; I was practically starting over. I had moved in with a foster family so far, they were great. There were no beatings, and I was actually allowed to socialize. Wearing my yellow dress, and releasing the black balloons, I was able to let go of the past, and all the dark, tear-stained memories. The balloons were now long gone, and the sky rumbled. It was going to rain! What a perfect ending, I thought. The drought was going to be over, because it was going to rain. Things would start growing again; plants would hopefully prosper.
I rubbed a finger over a scar on my arm. I studied the purple and black splotches on my body, one last time. <>Ill be okay, I really will.</i> And for once, I actually believed myself.