PROLOGUE


The worst feeling in the world is knowing you aren't wanted. Knowing, without a single doubt, that there isn't a single person in the world who'd care if you died tomorrow. It starts out as a nagging ache in the back of your mind and gradually builds until the pain is a constant companion, mocking and cruel. You have to fake okay, because it's what everyone expects and it's the only thing you know how to do right. It's the only thing that gets you through a long day of cigarette smoke killing your lungs and going to school with the same jeans as yesterday and the day before that. It's the only thing that keeps people from completely ripping you apart; people are like dogs, in that way. They sense weakness. If you haven't got any evident weakness to show them, then they'll growl and look dangerous and gnash their sharp teeth, but they can't attack if they don't know where to bite. And if you fight back then they're likely to leave you alone.

Fighting back is something I learned to do early. Sure, they can grab your arm and twist it behind your back and spit out nasty comments, but so many times and you can weave your way out of their grip with lithe ease and the retorts are second nature. Your dad can threaten and raise his fists ad bring them down, but he wants you to cry and whine and be a helpless little child, because of his insatiable craving for control; once you show bullies that you aren't helpless and weak, they either do one of two things. One, they leave you alone. Two, they try harder. Number two is a bitch, so hope they don't choose the latter.

You learn to rip people apart, easy, before they can do it to you. The world can be pretty, but it can get so ugly you can hardly tolerate looking, so bare your teeth and square your shoulders. It's not going to get any easier. I learned that early, too. What I was stupid enough not to catch onto, like a puppy dog kicked too many times that still begs for food, is the fact that hope is dumb and futile, and being naive isn't cute and it's not going to make people like you. Catching on fast is a must-do. You learn from it all. It's life. Life kills and no one gets out of it alive.

The wind is refreshingly cold, tonight, and it's blowing my hair into my face, distorting my view with dirty blonde tendrils of pin-straight hair. I feel dirty and tired and alone, but at home a fist is stretched back, waiting for it's chance to ram itself into my face, and the should-be meaningless words are reverberating around in my head, like a broken record theme. You stupid, worthless piece of shit. That I know all too well. You'll never amount to anything; you can't even have the fucking house clean on time!

Doesn't really matter that I'm the lesser piece of shit residing in that house which isn't a home. Doesn't matter that I don't pick on those less than my size because I know I'll win. Doesn't matter that the house was so dirty that two hours of cleaning couldn't fix it and that my homework still needs to be done. No, all that matters is that because he's fucking weak, he thinks he can order me around and leave bruises and cigarette burns and expect me to take it without a word.

Well, I'm not that girl anymore, and as soon as I'm legal, I'm getting away from here and never looking back. This town, this place, that house, has never been a home, and these people have never been my friends. It doesn't matter if I don't have enough money saved up for a house. I'll live on the streets, or something, because atleast then I could probably sleep through the night without fear of the front door slamming, without a drunken voice screaming obscenities and sudden pain snatching me from sleep.

I'm damaged, I guess. Not worth much of anything, really. I'm trash. I'm filthy. I'm a loser. But none of this matters. Society's names for me are meaningless. All I really care about is being able to take the wheel, being able to control my own life. I have all the freedom I could ask for. Concerning curfews, and being allowed to drink and smoke, anyway. Dad doesn't care about where I go and when I come home, unless he's in one of his drunken rages and suddenly a clean house or my grades or my apparently being a whore becomes so freakishly significant.

I want out, and I want it now, but there's not enough money in the bank for a car and I've only got my permit. Therefore, I am reduced to wandering the empty streets alone at night, with a bloody lip and a black and blue eye, and my whole body aching and trembling with barely suppressed rage. I wish I lived somewhere like New York City, where sleeping in a park or an alley wouldn't be considered abnormal. Here the cops cruise the streets and catch us when we smoke pot and get drunk and they act the good Samaritan by telling our parents.

If they found me catching sleep at the park, they'd question my black eye and think I got raped. I'd come home with a police escort and how do you think dad's gonna like that? As soon as good Samaritan leaves feeling accomplished, like he's finished a good night's work, I'll have a few new bruises to add to my collection. Before anyone else could ask inconvenient inquiries, we'd move again, to another place, different yet in principle the same. It wouldn't matter, really, I just don't have it in me to feel like bothering with shoving a whole new set of people away, hearing the gossip about the bitchy new girl.

I'm not okay, and no one will ever know. It's cold and pretty soon I won't be able to feel my fingers or my toes. I have to pee, and my head feels like someone's pounding countless nails into my skull. Consequently, I'll have to sneak back into my window, when he's snoring away on the couch, dead to the world and uncaring. There's no one else's place to crash at, and even if I could find a good secluded place outside, I'd wake up half-frozen and be too stiff to walk to school. I feel as if the ground is going to rise up and meet me, and my stomach is churning unbearably with nausea. I have to wrap my arm around it and force the characteristic steel into my eyes.

Steely eyes and a head raised high. You have to work to perfect your cold, unfeeling attitude. Your tough-as-nails fa├žade that can only go so deep as old scars run. However, my scars run pretty damn deep, and the dark hurt laced through my system will never fully be erased. It'll fade with time and turn into nothing but a healed-over cut, but the story behind it still exists and the memories don't grow fainter. The darkness can hide my weakness from everyone but myself, but even I don't want to know who I am.

Thankfully, I don't think I ever will.