This is something new and a little...okay, a lot darker than I've written before. I'm sort of toying with the idea, so let me know what you think. Suggestions are always welcome.

WARNING: contains beating and molesting. Like I said, not a pretty start. But it gets better...promise...girl scouts' honor.

~*~

Delilah Carlisle glanced at her watch as she fled down the steps that led out of her high school. Shit. It was already five o'clock and she still needed to run by the grocery store to pick up something for dinner. A familiar knot formed in the pit of her stomach, but she ignored it. She *would* be on time. She had to be.

She flung the door to the grocery open so fast that a small tornado of leaves flew in behind her.

"Hey, hey, what's the rush?" asked the girl behind the counter, not looking up from her magazine.

"Dinner," Delilah managed to gasp. The girl looked up.

"Oh, God Lil, it's late. I thought you'd be home by now. But here, I picked something out for you just in case." The girl reached under for a plastic bag full of spaghetti noodles and sauce.

"You're a lifesaver Rachel." She forked over the money. "Here, it's all I've got. I'll repay you if I have to."

"Don't worry about it, girl. Just run!"

Delilah bit her lip as she rushed out of the store. Rachel was the only person that knew the truth about what went on in her house. She hadn't meant to tell her, it had just all come out, and now they were best friends.

She shook her head in disgust. She didn't know what it was about her that drew the perverts like flies to a dumpster, but there it was. Maybe the whole town actually knew about it, they just didn't show any sign. Other than siccing their child-molesting science teachers on her.

Maybe it was her blonde hair, thick with natural red highlights, which she learned the hard way not to cut off, and usually wore it in a tight French braid that almost reached her wait. Or maybe it was her eyes, green as grass, and seemed almost too large for her face. Or perhaps her skin, white as porcelain, and just as smooth. All were gifts from her mother, and all combined to give her a childlike, fragile look- even at the age of seventeen- that perfectly suited her name.

But she wasn't a child anymore, she reminded herself. Seven months.then she'd be eighteen and she could leave. And there was nothing he could do about it.

A relieved sob burst out of her lips when she saw there was no car in the front driveway. She jammed the key into the lock and made a beeline for the kitchen, dropping her bag off at the front door.

She put a pot on the stove to boil and was just getting out the skillet to brown the ground beef when she heard the distinctive sound of Doug's truck. It was hard to mistake; it sounded like it was going to fall apart any second.

Knowing it was too late, she turned the burner down so the water wouldn't boil out and didn't even bother to turn on the front burner for the beef.

"Where's my dinner?" came a booming voice down the front hall. Delilah cringed. He hadn't had a good day. And this was only going to make it worse.

"Delilah, why aren't you dressed for dinner?" he asked, nearly yelling the question.

"Because it's not done, sir," she replied, keeping her head down. She had refused to call him Dad or Father since the first time he'd come to her room after he'd beat her. He liked beating her, and he did what he liked.

"Why not?" he bellowed, despite the fact that she was standing not three feet away from him.

"Because, sir, my science teacher needed to see me after school so I could make up the quiz I missed last week when I went on the history field trip to the museum." She said it very quickly and quietly, trying to make sure that all of the questions were answered before he asked them.

"You know I don't like waiting."

"Yes, sir, I do, but my science teacher-"

"That's no excuse!" Delilah winced slightly as the harsh tones echoed off of the tile floor and bare walls.

"Yes, sir, I know. I can have dinner ready in ten minutes."

"Good," he grunted. "And be dressed for it, too." With that he dismissed her by going to the garage where the beer fridge was kept, grabbing two Bud Lights. Not that the 'light' actually did anything for him. Doug Carlisle was your stereotypical, underpaid, small-town plumber. Pot-belly, receding hairline and all.

She turned back to the stove, setting everything on high. The water was soon simmering with softening noodles and the ground beef sputtered in the pan as she added the red sauce. She put the noodles in a strained in the sink to drain, put the sauce on 'warm' and rushed upstairs to change into something nice. She had begun to dread wearing nice clothes, and thus all the boys at the school thought her either a tomboy or a lesbian, though she was neither.

She came back down in a crisp white blouse and a pink and white skirt that she had bought cheap from the Goodwill store, where most of her 'nice' clothes came from. She didn't dare wear anything that had once been her mother's, or that her mother had given her, and she spent the majority of her money (which she earned working at the stables) to feed her horse, Merle, which meant 'blackbird' in French. He was a little thing, black of course, and her escape from everything.

They ate dinner in silence, Delilah keeping her eyes on her plate as Doug wolfed down his food, leaving flecks of sauce and beer all over the table, which he would punish her for if not cleaned by the time the dishes were in the dishwasher.

She cleared the table silently, piling the dishes in the sink before wiping the table down and rinsing them off, placing them in neat rows in the machine. She started it and went to wait by Doug's armchair.

"You know what has to be done, girl."

"Yes, sir."

"Do you know why?"

"Yes, sir."

"And why is that?"

"A good daughter should have a meal on the table when her father comes home after working all day to support his family," she quoted, carefully keeping her sarcasm in check. And his alcoholism, she added silently.

"And you failed to do that simple duty today, didn't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Therefore you must be punished." He took great pride, especially when he was drunk, at coming to conclusions like these, as if justifying beating his only daughter would keep him from going to Hell.

He got up slowly, and Delilah closed her eyes, waiting for the first blow. He smacked her upside the head, making her eyes fly open and colors dance in front of them. Then he grabbed her shoulders and shook her sharply, as though rattling her brain would make her obey him. She knew the ten purple marks would be there in the morning, just as she knew that she would cover them up.

He slid the belt out of his jeans with an ominous rasp of leather against cloth. The first strike was to her lower back, and she hissed out a breath. He worked his way up, Delilah retreating into a small corner of her mind where there was no pain.

She had often thought about running when she was in this corner. It was kind of like viewing herself as others saw her, and she knew that technically, she could have run without being criticized.

But she wasn't 18, which cut her creditability down considerably. Plus, Doug was well known, and liked, though only God knew how he could fool so many good people. The only person that would hide her would have been Rachel, and she couldn't impose on her. Besides, if her father had found out, he would have dragged her back to Doug, and she'd most likely been beaten to within an inch of her life. They didn't live in a big city, and the nearest one was thirty miles away, which meant the nearest social worker was thirty miles away, and she wouldn't have driven that rusty old pickup even if she did know how to drive stick shift. Plus, since Doug was so well liked, the town would spare no effort in searching for her, convincing the social service worker that Delilah was just making it all up.

There was a resounding smack across her bottom and Delilah gasped, coming back to harsh reality and the stale scents of old alcohol and Doug's sweat. His white tank top was plastered to his thick frame and the front of his jeans was tight. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, which did nothing to calm the growing sense of nausea in the back of her throat. She swallowed the bile that was threatening to come up, knowing that it would be worse if she didn't.

Rough hands fondled her breasts through her thin shirt and she bit her lip to bite back a whimper, hot tears prickling the back of her eyelids. Why her? she thought to herself for what seemed like the hundredth time that month. What had she done wrong?

Doug was grunting now, and Delilah dared not open her eyes. She felt her clothes being removed harshly, and heard the rip of fragile fabric. Doug dared not actually do anything to her in that way, because it was too easy to use as evidence in court, should she ever get the nerve to do. Instead, one hand roamed her body while his other.Delilah swallowed again.

Finally a warm liquid rushed over her lower abdomen, and Delilah caught another, sweeter scent above the stale room. Doug collapsed on the carpet beside her, and she waited for the snores before she moved a muscle, then gathered her clothing and walked to the bathroom.

She left a polite note on the refrigerator in the garage, which he was sure to see, not out of any sense of responsibility or that he'd worry about her, but just because it was yet another thing she could be punished for. Grabbing a light jacket, she took up a brisk walk towards the stables in the only tight-fitting jeans she had, along with a nice pair of leather riding boots that she hid under a loose plank in her room. Being an avid reader helped her hide everything she wanted to from him.

"Hey Delilah," Paul said cheerfully from one of the horses' stalls. He was the groomsman around during the weekends, and it was Friday. "You're here late."

"Yeah, I know. But it's the nicest weather we've had for a while and I thought I'd take a short ride under the stars."

"Sure. I polished Merle's tack for ya."

"Thanks, you're a doll."

The younger boy, only about fifteen, blushed slightly and continued to groom the impatient palomino in front of him.

She continued to the back of the barn, where a familiar dark head popped over the stall door and whickered a greeting. She paused for a moment to pet the velvet nose, letting herself think about nothing but the smell of hay, leather, and horses, and the feel of the gelding's fur under her fingertips.

"Let's go for a ride." She went to grab his tack and a body brush, quickly but thoroughly going across every inch of him. He knew what was coming and pranced like he was still a stallion, eager to be out. She slid the saddle on, cinching it tightly, then the bridle. His hooves clopped loudly on the cement floor before they encountered grass, and the familiar sound made her smile, soothing her nerves a little. Checking the girth one more time to make sure it was tight, she vaulted into the saddle.

The small park where the stable was located was woodsy and clean, and within a few minutes, she could believe she'd left everything behind her and was back in a time where there were no cities and if you had an only daughter, your only interest was to marry her off. Not that that would necessarily be a good thing, but then, at least your father wouldn't be the one-

She shook her head abruptly. She was not going to think about it. She let Merle out a little into a trot, then a canter. She stopped at the edge of a long oval clearing, with her on one end of the longer side. Bending down over the gelding's neck she whispered, "Let's run."

As thought the horse understood her, he became tense. Delilah held him back for a few seconds, then spurred him on. He took off like a rocket, making her laugh delightedly, and instead of stopping him at the tree line, which came way too soon, she let him navigate around the dense clusters of trees, swerving in and out of the thick trunks. She finally pulled him up, and he stopped with a snort and an annoyed toss of his head.

She didn't know where she was, but that wasn't what bothered her. It was the tingling sensation in the air, like it was electrically charged. Merle must have felt it, too because he shifted uneasily. She dismounted and tied him loosely to a tree branch, then followed the almost palpable trail of the electric current as it got stronger. She could almost see the light leading her towards...something.

She stopped when she heard muffled sounds of chatter and laughing, and what she was sure were more horse hooves, except they were on concrete. The sounds were slight, as though heard through a door that wasn't quite soundproofed, and she couldn't make out anything distinct. She took a hesitant step forward, and her lungs seemed to constrict, making it harder to breath. Her heart beat faster with adrenaline from the sense of fear and adventure, but instead of taking a step back, she took another one forward, and it was as if she had stepped from backstage onto the set: a whole new world.

She was still wearing her same clothes, but it was daylight, the sun streaming down through the treetops. Ahead of her, she could dimly make out the bustle of people. Walking forward cautiously, she soon picked out a cobblestone road, lined with carts, like a market place. Across the street were a few thatched roof huts, and the people that converged on the carts were brightly dressed, matching the colorful nature around them so that they almost seemed part of the scenery.

There were lone men, merchants, yelling out advertisements for their goods. Women dragging along young children that were begging for sweets. Slightly older children that ran around in packs, and she had to cover her mouth when she saw a clever-fingered boy dressed in nothing but a brown tunic and rags slip some coins right out of a man's pocket.

It was then that it hit her. No one was wearing jeans. All of the women were in some type of dress. She could see no paper money anywhere. And, if she listened closely, she could hear individual conversations that she could barely understand. An uneasy feeling crept over her and she turned back the way she came, using the same method as before to find her way back to...to the...whatever it was. Portal, she decided. Back to the portal.

The cool night air enveloped her, and she took a minute to get her surroundings, following Merle's anxious whinnies. She mounted and made her way back to the barn at a leisurely pace, contemplating what had happened. If such a thing had been even remotely possible, she would have said that she had traveled back in time. But that was impossible...right?

She absentmindedly put Merle up, brushing him down and wiping off his tack before heading home. She found Doug had just moved to the couch, and the note still attached to the door. She removed it, tore it up, and put it in the trash before retiring to her room.

She was exhausted, but she couldn't sleep. She kept thinking about the portal, or door, or whatever it was, and one word kept echoing in her mind as she thought about it: escape.