The car door slammed- 3:30 AM. Mom got out of bed and shuffled down the hall in her bare feet. Thirty seconds, then the front door slammed and I heard Dad's gruff voice grunting a drunken hello to my bewildered, sullen eyed mother. "Where the hell have you been, Frank?" she demanded in a whisper, I guess she thought I wasn't awake.
I didn't bother to hear the rest. I tiptoed to my door, shut it without a sound, got back into bed and piled the pillows over my head. The story he was telling my mother at this very instant, I knew by heart already. It was the same thing every Friday night. He told her he was busy at work, felt stressed and stopped by the bar on his way home. He always acted as if it were perfectly normal to come staggering in the door at three in the morning. I knew the real story, and if my mother didn't know by now, then she was probably crazy, or in denial.
The voices in the hallway got louder and louder. I did not hear exactly what they were saying, but I did hear my mother scream. Something shattered and there was an audible thud on the hard wood floor. Everything was quiet. There was nothing but the heavy drunk breathing of my father as he slouched in a chair. One could probably wonder how I could vividly picture my mother knocked out on the living room floor with my drunk father slouched in a recliner, with glass and broken furniture all over the floor. I was a veteran to these frequent scenes. Once, when I was thirteen I had actually walked in to the room and had seen my mother on the floor with a telltale black and blue egg on her forehead, and my father clenching the neck of a value size bottle of vodka. This was not the first time, and it wouldn't be the last, but at least it was only Friday night.
Footsteps in the hall made me tense and I wrapped my blanket more securely around my shoulders as if this would keep my father away. He opened the door and a crack of light shined on my turned back. I was visibly shaking in convulsions and I felt like my stomach was going to go into reverse any minute. Sweat soaked the sheets and my clothes. Shutting my eyes, I prayed like I prayed every night, for strength to be able to survive my perverted family and the will to leave my troubled existence and discover the better things in life.
"Tomorrow night," he whispered, then he was gone.
I waited tensly until I heard the door slam and the car start. It backed out of the driveway and backfired as it sped down the street. I waited half and hour and then crept down the hall. At this moment, he was probably at Loretta's, lying in bed with her and telling her what a wonderful person she was. The thought disgusted me. I turned on the light to illuminate our comfortably furnished sitting room with navy blue plush carpeting and a wide screen TV. The cream-colored leather recliner had been left in a reclining position, and at the moment, our usually immaculate den had been disheveled with broken glass from the nearby wet bar, and a cheap table with a broken leg in the middle of the room. It was the only thing in the house that was cheap, and probably the only thing my father could justify breaking over a quarrel with his wife. He was the stingiest man alive, as well and unfaithful husband and father, and the owner of a distinguished law firm in the outskirts of Washington D.C. He was well respected, praised and flattered by all business colleagues and casual acquaintances. I swear the man had a double personality. The person I most often knew out of the context of the courtroom and the public eye was unpredictable, arrogant and hurtful in every way. No one would ever suspect him. They all assumed him to be a family member and a loving father. Nothing could be further from the truth. My mother laid sleeping on the couch. Numerous cuts and bruises including a black and blue knot on her forehead were visible.
As if in a trance, I ran cold water in the basin of the wet bar sink and mixed ice cubes from a small cooler into it. From a secret medical stash, I retrieved a soft, clean wash cloth, some gauze bandages and Neosporin. Rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, and a splint, I retrieved from the cabinet in the bathroom. Carrying all these, an ice pack and a hot water bottle, I made my way around the broken glass to the couch. The sweat formed beads on her forehead; the bump had swelled to the size of a half-dollar coin. I placed the ice pack over the lump and began nursing the slashes on her face with cold water and rubbing alcohol. The scratches on her face were minimal compared to several deep and bleeding wounds on her arms and legs, and a conspicuous dislocated finger. Carefully, I cleaned these first, and bound them with layers of gauze bandages. I then splinted the unlucky finger and wiped her face with cool water. My mother was beautiful, even when she was unconscious and sustaining wounds and bruises. I covered her with a light blanket and swept up the broken glass, and threw out the remaining pieces of the sacrificed table. I kissed her on the cheek and turned out the light.
Once in my room, I cried until my eyes were dry and my pillow soaked with suppressed fear and uncertainty. At 6:00, I finally closed my eyes. Thank God I didn't have to prepare an alibi for any worried neighbors or friends. We lived in a large house in upper class suburbia where people were more or less absorbed in their everyday lives. As for our social standing, Mom would have healed by Monday when it would be noticed if she didn't show up at the weekly garden club meeting. Makeup would cover the massive bruise, and long pants would not be considered odd in the middle of winter. Having consoled myself with these somewhat assuring thoughts, I committed myself to sleep with a single prayer; that my father would not come home again today.
I slept late that morning, who could blame me? The smell of frying bacon awoke me at 10:00. I slipped into jeans and a sweater and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
Mom was in the kitchen slaving over a frying pan.
"Mom, you shouldn't be up, go back to bed, I'll make breakfast." She turned to me and I immediately noticed that the swelling bruise on her head had subsided and the various scratches on her face were dry and scabbing.
"Good morning Amy, no you shouldn't- you did enough last night, thank you for taking care of your old mother." I bit my lip to keep from remembering as my tears got hot behind my eyelids. My ever-perceptive mother ran to me and held me in her arms. I clung to the only safety I had ever known. "Your father loves you very much, he just has a hard time showing it." That was the last straw. I tore away from her trying to control the oncoming rage.
"No he doesn't!" I screamed at her, "he doesn't love either one of us- if he did he wouldn't come home at three in the morning in an drunken rage, he wouldn't beat you and he wouldn't hurt me the way he does!" "You just continue living in your fantasy, Mother, but sooner or later, you have to wake up!" I ran out of the room, through the living room, and out the back door. I ran until my lungs were about to burst and the wind had dried my eyes. Crouching down behind a bush, I cried for an hour. When would my mother know the truth?
One week later, I got home from school at my usual 3:00 and found a note from my mother explaining that she would be gone until 9:00 at a garden club meeting. I could order a pizza, and would I please call Josh and ask him when he intended to come home for semester break? I dropped my books on my bed and went to the phone in the upstairs kitchen. Making myself comfortable on a barstool with some cookies and milk, I dialed his number and waited for the long distance operator to connect. Josh was my older brother, 18, and blissfully away at college where he didn't have to live with our parents day in and day out. The day after he turned 18 in the summer after graduation, he rented an apartment a few miles from our house and began making plans to move into a college dorm in August. He was accepted to the Boston Conservatory for the Arts, and happily, for him moved away a few weeks before the first semester. I dialed the phone number and waited for the long distance operator to connect. On the third ring, he picked up.
"Hi Josh, it's Amy."
"Hey girl, how's life?"
"Not great. Mom told me to call you to ask when you were coming home for semester break, but I needed to call you before then." He completely disregarded my first reason for calling him.
"Amy, what happened?" he asked. Thank God I didn't have to help him out with the questioning part. All I had to do was talk.
"Dad came back last night." I said in half a whisper. After the first hard sentence, the whole thing came out; Dad's drunk rage, Mom's beating and her subsequent denial, and finally his threat to me that he would come again.
"Amy, you can't stay there," Josh said decidedly. Get out as fast as you can."
"Josh, where would I go?" I was sobbing into the phone. "My friends are out of town, and they live too far away to get there without a car-which I don't have at the moment. Besides that, Mom needs me, I can't leave!"
"If I could, I would come there right now and get you, but it's a three hour drive in rush hour and I would never get there before one of them got home, especially not in rush hour. Do you think you can hold out until I get home in a week?"
"I've come this far," but the minute finals are over you are coming home, right?"
"Cross my heart etc. etc." Josh laughed for the first time since we had started to talk. I breathed a momentary sigh of relief.
"OK, well I think I had better go so I can study." Josh said. "Hang in there- and be careful, don't get either one pissed off at you or anything like that."
"I know, you should see Mom at the moment, one finger is dislocated and she has a bruise the size of a half dollar on her forehead."
"Oh jeez. He really did some damage this time, didn't he?"
"Yeah well, at least I took that first aid course at the recreation center last month."
"Be careful, Amy, keep both of you in one piece till I get home, OK?"
"OK, Josh, good luck on your finals, and get here as fast as you can."
I hung up the phone. I wondered what Josh could do for either of us besides keep Dad away from us when he was drunk. I hoped he had a plan. I wouldn't mind going to live in an apartment in Boston with Mom if it meant being closer to Josh and farther away from Dad. Sighing, I turned on the television for the hour of rest and relaxation before I started my homework. School was easy for me. It was part of the reason no one knew about my corrupted family life. They all assumed I was loved and loved being home. Yeah right! It probably would have helped my cause if teachers had had a reason to check up on me every once in a while.
At six 'o' clock I finished my homework and ordered the pizza. At 7:30 I sat down for some much needed Friday night television and relaxing.
I must have fallen asleep. When I woke up at 10:00, the TV was on mute. I had a splitting headache. I was still only half awake when I decided to do something about it, so I tried to get off the couch; bad idea, the room spun out of control. I moaned and fell back onto the couch. I landed on my arm, which hurt even more. Pulling it out from under me, I saw a huge black and blue mark on the joint of my elbow, as if someone had stabbed me with a needle. Then it hit me, I had fallen asleep with the TV on, I had not put it on mute. I was not alone. My father was here, and he had drugged me.
Oh, God, what am I going to do? I felt the room start to spin again, I was too weak to do anything except pray. I put my head back on the couch and felt the tears run down my face.
Footsteps in the hallway made me try to turn my aching head toward the hall. He was coming.
"Hi baby," he said, in a not too nice way. "How's the high?"
I groaned, with two steps, he was on top of me, manipulating my weakened body around his, holding me, touching me, in a way that no father should ever touch a daughter. I started to cry, he ignored me and proceeded to tear away my sweater and jeans. I distinctly heard the sound of a zipper and felt cold, violating air on my body.
"No, stop, please, stop…stop!" I could only whisper.
"Shut up," Amy, you don't want to get your mother in trouble do you?"
My brain froze, the next thing I knew, he was inside of me, it hurt, God, it hurt so bad, I was wrenched back to reality for a split second long enough to slap him across the face. Then everything went black.
When I woke up, I was lying in bed with no sheets. All I was wearing was the T-shirt my dad had had on. The headache was gone, and for a minute I thought it might all be a dream. A shot of pain wrenched me back to consciousness. It wasn't a dream. I sat up slowly and turned on the light; my bedside clock said 1:00 AM. When my eyes finally focused on the sheets, I thought I had suddenly become a leading character in a low budget horror film. The sheets, which had been the cleanest color white imaginable were now completely reddish dark brown. I fought back the nauseated urge to vomit. On the floor, there was a trail of reddish dark stains going from my bed down the hall. Even in my weakened state, I jumped out of bed and started to run. I could feel the blood start to rush down my legs again. I didn't stop running. In a panicky rage, I tore out of the back door, around the house, and started sprinting down the hill toward the woods in the back, leaving a bloody trail all the way. Fresh tears were mixing with blood on my shirt as I ran. It was cold, really cold. I couldn't feel my feet, the grass felt like solid waste land.
I was getting weaker. Finally, I stopped running, I felt nauseated and dizzy. It felt like someone had torn me apart. I fell to the ground, clutching my knees like an earthquake victim, sobbing, bleeding, and cold. I must have blacked out momentarily with blood loss.
At some point I was conscious enough to hear the distinct crunching of leaves that sounded like a man's footsteps. I knew he was coming for me. Instinctively, I curled up in a fetal position and almost stopped breathing for fear he would hear me.
He was standing over me. I cried out weakly in pain as arms wrapped around me. I jerked away in panic, but the arms were too strong and I was drugged. Inhaling deeply, a loud, desperate sob escaped my overworked lungs. The arms only tightened their grip and I was helpless to protect myself. I screamed, hoping someone would hear me-and save me. The arms were so tightly wrapped around my convulsing body, I could barely breath. I inhaled deeply, trying to prevent blacking out.
Cologne, it wasn't my father's, it was something else I didn't recognize. The arms felt thin and muscular, not at all like the arms of a fifty-five year old man who's arms were characteristically flabby. The warm body was something safe to cling to so I grabbed the t-shirt and buried my face in a muscular chest.
"Shhh, it's OK, I'm not going to hurt you, you'll be OK, hold on." Subconsciously, I followed orders, then, for the third time that night, I passed out.
When I came to, I was lying on a bed with flannel sheets tucked tightly around me. I thought for a horrible instant, that my father had been the one in the woods with me, and that I was once again in the house that I had fought so hard to get out of. Then I remembered, the t shirt, the cologne, and the strong arms. Mostly, what came to mind was the voice that had reassured me that I was not going to die. A light above my head went on, for a minute I was blinded by the brightness of it. Then a face appeared above me. I smelled his cologne, now I could tell it was mixed with sweat. It's funny how good my sense of smell was at a time like this.
"Hi," said the face softly. Then I realized it wasn't a face, it was a person, he was no older than seventeen. I tried to speak, but my lips wouldn't move. I tried to move, but my body wouldn't obey my brain. I was too shocked, I guess. "Don't talk," he said, "just try to drink something." He offered me a straw, which I assumed was water or something like it. Once again, I tried to open my mouth, but nothing happened. He smiled as if he understood, then he raised a moist finger to my lips and smoothed out the chapped skin. I was too weak to do anything but grasp the straw in my lips. He held the straw patiently for me until I finished, which was most of the cup of water. "Good girl, now go back to sleep, I'm staying here if you need anything." He motioned off to a place in the room that was beyond my field of vision. For some reason, I felt safe, knowing he would be there. I attempted a smile as a word of thanks, he noticed my attempt and smiled back. Reassured, I closed my eyes and slept again.
I slept, for a long time I did nothing but drift in and out of consciousness. Every time I opened my eyes, he was there, washing my face, offering me water, and giving me general reassurance that I was still alive. I would be awake for very short periods of time, then I would drift off into an exhausted sleep.
I have no idea when I woke up for good. Everything was a blur. When I finally came to for a long period of time the room was dark. It must have been night. For a minute, I thought clearly enough, "this is the longest night of my life." Then I reasoned, it couldn't possibly be the same night. I shut my eyes and tried to concentrate, my sense of time was completely gone. The light above my head went on again.
"Still here." I attempted a smile. He sat down on the edge of the bed and covered my hand with his. I reasoned that this was the boy that had saved me from freezing to death in the woods and he had been by my side for the past few days, without fail. I realized that I hadn't been wearing anything except an old blood stained t shirt. I was too grateful to him at this point to be repulsed or embarrassed. Even though I hadn't said a word to him, we were way beyond the point of embarrassment for any reason.
I shut my eyes momentarily, bad idea. Suddenly, pictures came back to me. My father on top of me, the bruise on my arm, the splitting, violating pain. Everything came back so fast and sharp, I jerked straight up and moaned in renewed fear.
His hand tightened the grip on mine. I couldn't stop thinking about it. The pictures kept flying around. They spun in my head like ghosts, haunting me, unwilling to leave. Trying to leave the pain, I opened my eyes. My whole body shook, my teeth chattered, I was making involuntary squeaking noises in the back of my throat. I couldn't breathe.
Not for a minute did the warm face above me look scared or shocked. He didn't let go of my hand. He simply held it and crawled over my convulsing body to the other side of the bed. Slowly, he put his arm over me and held me.
"Shhh, it's OK, there's nothing to be afraid of," he whispered. I couldn't stop shaking, try as I might, my body was out of control. I gave up. His arms tightened around me. Sobbing hoarsley, chattering, and shaking, I clung to his shirt and buried my face in his chest. For once, I felt safe.
When I woke up again (how many times had I been awake in the past few days?) I felt weak and thirsty. I was still comfortably warm, at least I had stopped shaking. I knew by now that I had been in bed for a few days. I needed water. My voice still didn't work, I moaned softly and twisted my head to one side. On a cot on the other side of the room, the boy slept. I reasoned he had a right to, he had been unfailingly by my side for the last couple days. No matter what time of day it was, he was there. With a sudden burst of energy, and perhaps stupidity, I threw back the covers, determined to find myself a glass of water if it was the last thing I did. I noticed at once that large places in my legs had been bandaged with clean white gauze. It pained me to think of him patiently undressing and redressing my wounds while I slept. At the same time, I was grateful, here was the reason I had not died of blood loss and shock in the woods. My feet were nearly covered in white. I remembered how cold it had been the night that I ran from the house. It was not surprising that my feet had become frostbitten. Automatically, my eyes went to my arm, the joint where I had been stabbed. The bruise was turning a deep mustard color. Returning to my original purpose, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and stood up. That was mistake number two. I took three painful steps. My legs gave out beneath me and my calf muscles burned. I was too weak to do anything. With a sudden wave of nausea, I collapsed. The noise awoke the boy, who was immediately at my side. He gently lifted me and put me back on the bed. Tears ran down my face, but I couldn't make a sound.
"You stay there," he told me, half an order, half a gentle tease. He reached for a box of tissues on the nightstand and gently wiped my eyes for me. I was glad of this, I don't think I could have had the energy to do it myself. I motioned to my throat, indicating thirst. He nodded, "I'll get you something better." He left, and in a minute returned, with a cup equipped with a plastic straw. "At least we know you're getting better," he smiled. I parted my lips, which seemed easier than before, and accepted the straw. It tasted bitter sweet, not in a bad way, like thin, watery grape juice. I looked quizically at him. "Pedialyte," it's what they give people who are dehydrated. You haven't had anything to drink in five days." Shocked, I asked the obvious question with my eyes. "You've been here almost a week," he answered. Not wanting to know anything else, I sank back on the pillow and finished the drink. "Are you hungry?" he asked, I nodded, suddenly conscious of the sharp pangs in my stomach. He smiled, "good, that's very good, I don't think you should eat anything solid quite yet, you might not be able to keep it down. You're probably still in shock, I'll get you some soup or something."
He left, for a while I was alone. I was conscious enough now to notice the room in which I had been for the past week. The ceiling was made of horizontally laid logs, like a log cabin. The walls were paneled wood, polished, and besides the one light above my bed, there were three or four recessed lights, giving the room a cozy, bright, glow. There was thick, dark green wall to wall carpet on the floor, and a small door, which I supposed led to a bathroom. The bed in which I was laying was a double bed that matched the cabin scheme of the house, the sheets were green and blue plaid that matched the color of the carpet- a forest green. The comforter was black. A pentagon shaped window on my side of the room let in a good amount of light, I supposed when the blinds were not drawn. An identical window on the other side of the very large room was above the cot where the boy had slept for the past week, taking care of me.
A new sense of curiosity came to me. I wanted to know who he was, why he had been out at 1:00 AM on a freezing cold night, and what had possessed him to follow me into the woods. If I had been him I would have called the police, and avoided all affiliation with a raped sixteen year old girl if I was a seventeen year old boy who did not want to be a suspect. Why wasn't I in a hospital? Not that I wanted to be, if he had taken me to a hospital, my father would have found me and taken me home. It seemed safer here where no one knew where I was, or for that matter, who I was. He was taking care of me, I was getting better. When I felt like I could talk, things would be better. For now, I felt safe in the presence of this boy who knew what happened to raped girls in hospitals, and didn't press me for anything I wasn't ready to tell him..
He returned with a steaming bowl and a napkin on a tray. The smell of chicken broth reached me and made my mouth water. It struck me as funny, a week ago I was happily eating two pieces of pizza and drinking a whole soda. Now, the thought of broth made me hungry. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, he placed the tray between us and blew on a spoonful of the steaming liquid before offering it to me. Slowly, I summoned enough strength to prop myself up on the pillows behind me and swallow the broth. Flavored and steaming, it broke up the dryness and disgusting feeling in the back of my throat. After a few minutes of this, he spoke to me.
"Feeling better?" I nodded. "It's just broth, but it should fill you up without making you puke." I continued gulping down the spoonfuls of steaming liquid he offered me. "I need to change the bandages on your legs, I would have my mom do it, but she works both shifts at County Med. She won't be home for a while. I promise not to hurt you." I smiled. It seemed like the only way that I could tell him I trusted him. Anything was better than having nosy doctors poke you and prod you until you wanted to scream.
When I had finished the broth, he put the tray on floor a few feet away from the bed and went into the bathroom. He returned with a tube of Neosporin, a package of gauze pads, and cotton wrapping. I allowed him to peel the blankets off until my feet, with their yards of bandaging were uncovered. He stood over me and gently unwrapped my feet. "You had a really bad case of frostbite," he explained as he peeled away the last layer to expose several healing blisters. He applied rubbing alcohol to the worst place on the blister where the skin had done the most decomposing. I winced, it stung horribly. "Try to relax, I'm almost done," he spoke steadily. When the alcohol had disinfected the blister, he applied Neosporin with a pad and gently rewrapped balls of my feet. He then repeated this with my other foot.
On my legs, he revealed several gashes that I didn't even know I had. I didn't remember getting caught on anything in the woods, it looked more like someone had slashed me with a knife. One went straight down my calf muscle towards my ankle. Another went deeply into my thigh muscle. When I gasped in shock, he reached over and squeezed my hand. "It looks like someone really went out on you." That's all he said, he didn't ask what happened, he wasn't going to until I told him. For his quiet, unassuming acceptance, I thanked God.
When I was comfortable in new bandages, he sat next to me on the edge of the bed and looked straight at me. His eyes were bluish-green, almost turquoise. A lock of brown hair sat stiffly on his forehead. "Let me just talk for a minute, OK?" I nodded. "I'm not going to ask you what happened, it's none of my business, but if you want to tell me, I'm here." He was looking straight at me. "I realize that you can't talk right now, that's OK, just hear me out and try to answer one question for me. What's your name? I'm Jason."
Finally! I had been wondering about his name subconsciously for a long time. In the beginning it hadn't mattered, because I was too weak to care, and all I needed was someone to hold on to. Now I felt better.
"Amy," I whispered. It came out more like a labored breath than a word. Regardless, Jason smiled at me.
"That's OK, I think I got it, it's Amy, right? I nodded. "Thanks, I feel better knowing who you are, it was kind of hard to refer to you in my mind as some sort of mystery identity." I smiled, telling him that I felt the same way about knowing who he was. Looking straight at me with no sign of shyness, but more gentleness and compassion than anyone I had ever known, he continued talking.
"When I brought you here, you were in trouble, I didn't know how much blood you had lost, but you were soaked in it. My mother and I cleaned you up, it was not a pretty picture. My mother told me to take care of you because she has had to work so much lately. Of course, if I needed anything, she would help."
He covered my hand with his and looked directly at me. "I'm going to be completely honest with you." I nodded, a lump in my throat starting to rise. Would he tell me that I had to go to a hospital and give my name to someone who would immediately recognize me as "that girl who ran away from her family?" Would he say that there was nothing they could do for me and I would have to return home? Was it illegal for me to be here?