Papa is hitting mommy. I wait for him to turn around and start on me. I know he will, he always does. Then, he does. He turns around screaming that I don't deserve a life. He says other stuff but it is hard to hear through mama shouting at him to stop.
Finally he does. He tells me to go to my room. I do, just so I can get away from him. I can still hear them fighting.
"Jacob she's only six!" Mama yells, "You don't have to hit her."
Mama takes my side, for that I know she will be beaten again. Sure enough, I hear a loud SMACK!
"Don't tell me what to do Jane. She has do know what the real world is like!"
"But she's too young. She's too young."
I can hear the hurt in her voice as she pleads with papa. I know it will do her no good to beg. Papa's heart is as cold as ice and as black as coal.
Well we'll see if she's to young," papa screams, "Emily get in here! NOW!
I run for the living room not wanting to make him madder than he already is. I stand in front of him afraid to talk. Papa stares at me and asks.
"Emily how old is you?"
"Six sir." I say trembling
"Emily would you say that your too young to know what the world has in store for you?"
I know the answer right away. "No sir." I see the hurt in mama's eyes as I say that. I have hurt her and that is worse than all the hits that papa has given me over the years, but I keep my mouth shut. I know that if I talk her and we will be beaten again. I fight back tears as papa smiles smugly at mama.
"And would you say, that, if I sent you out into the world for one night, would you survive?"
"Yes I would." Only because I would go to the neighbor's house I think to myself.
"You see Jane she is a big girl. Now, Emily go to your room."
"Yes sir." I answer turning away. Papa stops me. He hits me one last time tonight. I go to my room in silence. Once in my room I break down in tears. I missed the old days when papa did not hit mama and me. I do not know when the change started. One night papa just came in my room and started beating me. When mama tried to stop him, he hit her too. I cried all night.
I could hear mama and papa going to bed now I know that when papa is asleep mama will come into my room and kiss me goodnight. I will stay up until then just like every other night. Mama finally comes into my room. I ask what happened to make him so mean. Mama is taken by surprise by the question. She does not ignore me, but she takes a long time to reply, finally she opens her mouth.
"I don't know. It just happened. One day he was nice and did not hit us, the next he was a monster."
"I know. I hate him!" I scream. Mommy is scared that I woke him up. We are still as we listen for the sound of papa getting up. Nothing.
"Emily that was close, do you know what your father would've done if he found me here?"
"He would beat you some more."
"No, he would kill me!"
I am scared now. Not because mama is mad at me, but because I do not want mama to be killed cause then it would just be papa and me. "Please don't leave me mama. I'm sorry for making you angry." I sob. Mama is stunned.
"Oh baby I didn't mean it that way. I am not leaving, I would not leave you here with him. Never."
"Ok mommy." Mama still sees that I am hurt. She hugs me and brushes my long blonde hair away from my face, saying that she is going to get us away from him soon. As soon as she can, she will take me. I love hearing her say this even if I know that it probably will not happen. It shows that she loves me. That she does not want anything to hurt me. If she could, she would stand up to papa, and tell him that she has had it, she would tell him. The only thing that holds mama back is that if she does he will kick us out and we have no money. Papa would try to get custody too.
"I have to go Emily. Goodnight." Mama tells me.
"Goodnight." I say sleepily. I am very tired.
It is morning. I get up early to get ready for school. I love school. It is the only place that I can escape to. Mama is home with papa. I feel sorry for her, but am glad that I don't have to be there. I have no friends at school; no one wants to be friends with a grubby girl like me. The only thing that keeps me in school is my grades, for I am very smart. Today we were learning how to subtract big numbers, when the principal came in. He had a new student. In our school, we have a buddy system. I did not think much of it. I knew the new girl would hate me too soon. The teacher asked for a show of hands that would be her friend. I never raise my hand, so it surprised me when the teacher called my name.
"Yes Mrs. Cole?"
"Would you like to be Isobel's buddy and show her around?"
I knew I had no choice. It is against the rules to say no to a teacher.
"Yes I'll be her buddy." I said sadly.
"Splendid! Now everyone this is Isobel Soma, I want everyone to be nice to her. Isobel why do not you take a seat besides Emily. That one will do."
She led her to the seat right beside me. She looked at me and smiled a little but then it was gone. Like she would get in trouble if she smiled. I knew how that felt. She did not talk like other new kids. She just put her head down on the desk.
After class, it was time for recess. I was to show Isobel were everything was. I did not care if I missed recess. All I would be doing would be sitting in the corner of the playground. I showed her where the bathroom was, where the lunchroom was, and where the library. I love the library. I can escape there when everything is just too much. Surprisingly I find myself talking. I tell her about all the great books and how nice Mrs. Cole is.
"Are you ok? You seem quiet. Most new kids aren't as quiet as you." She looks at me and stares.
"Yeah I'm ok." She finally answers. "I am just thinking about my old house."
"Oh." I reply stupidly. "Well if you want to go you can. I've showed you all that there is."
We walk to the playground in silence. When we get there, I go off to my normal spot. I watch and see where she will go. She heads to the tree on the far side of the playground. Nobody goes over there. I wonder why she does not go play with the other kids. She was so quiet when I was showing her around. I had never seen a kid besides myself as quiet as her.
As I walk home, I wonder what lies for me at the house. I know that papa will be there. He is always home when I get there. I walk in the front door. Papa is sitting on the couch. He looks at me and frowns.
"Where were you? You should have been home ten minuets ago."
"I'm sorry papa. I had to show a girl around school. Mrs. Cole assigned me as her buddy."
"Sorry don't cut it missy!" He screamed at me "Get your ass over here now!"
I run to him. He stands up. He comes closer to me. I know what is coming. I am too slow though. His blow hits me right in the face.
"NOW ARE YOU GOING TO BE LATE AGAIN? ARE YOU?" He is screaming. I cannot hear though. His hand has hit my ear. It is ringing. It hurts so much. I'm crying in pain.
"Stop your whining! It doesn't hurt that bad," he is yelling. "Shut up! You whiny little brat! I should just give you away right now! I'll do it, I swear I will!" He threatens. I know he will not do it. Then he will not have anyone to beat up because I know that mama would come with me.
"Daddy stop!" I scream. I am still having trouble hearing. "I'm sorry. I did not mean to be late. It will not happen again. I promise!" I am crying now. He does not care. He just looks at me and laughs.
"Go and do your chores. And if I hear one more word about your ear, you will wish you were never born!"
Too late, I already do. However, I answer, "Yes daddy." I run off to the kitchen. I know that mama will be there. When I see her, I run right into her arms.
"It's alright, it's alright." She tries to sooth me. However, I know that it will not be all right.
"It hurts mommy. It really, really hurts."
"I know baby, I know. We are going to get through this, together." She says smiling at me. I smile wiping away my tears. I cannot help but smile when mama does.
As I start my chores, I tell mama about my day. "I met a new girl today. I was assigned her buddy."
"Really that's wonderful!" She exclaims.
"Yea but she isn't like the other new kids. She is so quiet, and she just wants to be left alone like me." Mama stares at me.
"Like me." She whispers.
"What is it mama."
I stare at her wondering what she was about to say. I do not ask because I know that papa does not like us talking that much. Mama starts the dishes as I put the silverware away. I notice that mama is limping I decide to ask her later when we are alone.
"How was your day?" I see mama trying to take my mind off what she said.
"Good." I answer. I turn back to my dishes surprised to find none left. I must have worked faster than I knew. I look around for something else to do so I would not have to go into the living room with papa. Mama sees this but cannot find anything for me to do. She is done too and we stare at each other in fear. Slowly and silently, we go into the living room. We stand in front of him waiting for him to speak. Finally he does.
"Are you done?"
Mama is the one to answer.
"Yes Jake we are. What do you want us to do now?"
"What do I want you to do? What kind of stupid question is that?" He is mad. He hits mommy. I make a big mistake and tell him to stop. He does but he turns on me. Mommy is looking at me. I see fear in her eyes.
"What did you just say to me? Did you just tell me no? Get your little ass over here now!" He thunders. I am very scared. I walk up to him slowly. I stand in front of him trembling. He starts hitting me everywhere. I fall to the ground. I try to get up but I cannot. He yells for me to get up and face him. I try again but I fall. I cannot get up. I look at mama pleading with my eyes for her to help. She moves but he stops her with a blow to the face.
"Don't help her! She needs to learn. Now get up!" He screams at me. I try to try but I keep falling. I am scared now. What if I can't get up ever again? I do not want to think about it. He roughly pulls me up and then he pushes me onto the couch. He starts hitting me again. I know that I will not fall now that I am on the couch but I cannot get away either. I start to cry.
"What is this? Tears? Don't you start crying! You have no reason to cry. You defied me, you deserve this!" I try to stop but I cannot.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to!" I cry out at last. "Please stop. I did not mean to. I deserve this, but please, stop!" He finally does. I am hurting everywhere. I cannot move. I just cry and sit there. Not moving, just sitting. Papa leaves and mama runs over to me.
"Oh, baby where does it hurt?" She asks. She runs her hands over my body trying to find a spot that does not make me cry out. It does not happen.
"Mommy I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that."
"Oh, baby its ok. I know you didn't mean to. Shh, just don't think about it." She tries to sooth me. I still cannot stop crying.
"Why does he do this? Why? What did we do to make him so mad?"
"I don't know, I don't know." I still cry. I cannot think of anything but my aching body. Papa comes back into the room and sees mama on the couch with me. He looks at us for a whole minute, all the while we are we are scared of what he will do. Finally, he says something.
"Go clean yourself up." I stared at him amazed. Was he being nice to me? I was mystified as Mama picks me up and carries me to the bathroom. I was still wondering about papa's weird behavior when mama said that she was done. I was startled. Therefore, I asked mama.
"Mama was daddy being nice?"
"Yes darling. He can be nice when he wants to."
"Why hasn't he been nice lately? Why is he being nice now? Is he gonna stop hitting us?"
"So many questions, not enough time to answer them. Now go to your room so I can talk to your papa."
"Yes mommy." I go to my room but I am quiet so I can listen. This is what I heard:
"Jacob why must you hit her? She is devastated. She cannot even tell you about her problems at school. She has been assigned a buddy."
"Jane you must not let her fill your head with all this nonsense. They would not assign our daughter a friend when I told them that I did not want anyone being nice to her. She is a problem child."
"Well why you think she was late then. Cause you and I both know that Emily is not a problem child. That is a lie that you made up so she wouldn't tell anyone how you treat us."
"Shut up! Don't you dare say that to me? You know that we have a little bitch on our hands and you just want to baby her. She needs to learn by herself. Let her."
"But, Jacob she isn't a problem. What the problem is that you are having problems at work and choose to take them out on Emily and me! That is the problem. If you would just get another job then maybe she would not be scared of you. You know what she asked me today. She asked me why you were being nice. If you would start being nice all the time. She misses you Jake. She really does. She misses how you use to read her a story before bedtime, how you use to sing to her when she had a nightmare, how you use to tickle her, and how you called her your little princess. She misses you Jake. You aren't you." Mama was doing well. I was amazed at how much I had showed my mother. She knew me almost like she could read my mind. I did miss papa, I did miss how he called me his little princess or how he kissed me goodnight. I missed my papa. It took all I had not to run out there, hug papa, and beg him to come back to me.
"Those were the old days. She's too old now."
"To old! She's six for heavens sake! She's too young not to have a father. She needs you, I need you, and the baby needs you." At this mama froze. I could hear the sharp intake of breath as she realized what she said.
"What did you say?" Papa sounded angry or maybe he was scared.
"Oh I didn't want to tell you yet. The doctor said it might be false."
"Jane is you telling me that you have a baby on the way?" Papa was breathing hard.
"I might. Oh, I did not want to tell you so soon. Please do not be mad. I have been throwing up, having cravings, and everything. The doctor said that there is a 95% chance that I am."
"How long?" I was confused. What were they talking about?
"I could be three months." Papa was breathing so hard I thought that he would start coughing and wheezing, but all he did was go to his room. I could hear mama crying. Why was she crying? Papa did not hit her. He did not push her or anything. When I thought the coast was clear, I ran into the living room and hugged her. She was startled at first but then she hugged me back and started crying all over again.
"Why are you crying mama?" I asked.
"Oh baby, I'm pregnant. You are going to be a big sister, but I do not want this baby to have to go through what we are going through. I do not want him to harm this baby. However, I do not want to leave. If we leave then he might take the baby away. He might take you away. Say that I am not right in the head. Tell them I'm dangerous and I shouldn't take care of you."
"Tell who mama?" She did not answer. That was the way of telling me that she did not want me to know.
"Go to bed darling. I'll be there soon."
"Ok mommy. I love you." In addition, for the fist time I went to bed before mama came to kiss me goodnight.
It was morning again. I got ready for school. Dreading it more than ever. I had to help Isobel again. I knew that it had made papa mad when he heard. I decided that I would tell Mrs. Cole that papa did not want me to have a friend. However, when I got to school all of that changed.
I was walking into the school and I saw someone in front of the office. In addition, who I saw made me stop. I saw Grandfather! I was so happy. I ran up and gave him a hug.
"Oh Grandfather why you are here?" I asked.
"I'm here to take you with me today. I get to see my granddaughter once in a while don't I?" My heart stopped.
"No you can't!" I yelled. Everyone around me stared but I did not care. I did not want to think what would happen if papa found out. "Papa wouldn't like that. He would be mad." I started shaking.
"Now I can see you if I want to. Here let me call him." He pulled out his cell phone and was dialing before I could say a word. "Hello Jacob. This is Al. I was going to tell you that I am going to take Emily to my house today. I only bothered calling cause she was so against it. Saying you would be angry." Grandfather listened for a minute. "Now really, I can see my granddaughter if I want to. You can't stop me." He listened some more. "Well thank you." He hung up. "Come on we are going."
"Did he say yes?"
"No, but I'm taking you anyway. You can say I'm kidnapping you." He winked at me.
"I can't go. Please he will be mad." I sound scared and grandfather notices.
"Now, darling, tell me, what's the matter? Why are you scared of what your daddy will do?"
I wish I could tell him. Oh, I wished I could. However, I did not want to get into trouble with daddy.
"I just don't want to miss school." I lie. I know it is wrong to lie but I could not think of anything else.
"Hey, skipping is ok. I'll even sign ya' out." He sounded so promising that I could not say no. He walked into the office and talked with the woman in the office. He came back out and smiled at me. He grabbed my bag in one hand, grabbed me in the other, and walked out the door. I never felt so safe in my entire life. As he walked me out to his car he asked, "So how is life at the house? You doin' ok?" This was the question I had been dreading. He always asked, and this was the first time I had no answer. I had always answered, 'Yes everything is fine.' However, this time I was wondering if I should tell him about Mama being pregnant. He startled me by repeating, "you doin' ok?"
In my rush I said, "Yes everything is fine. Why do you ask?" A bit to high. He looked at me and was looking at my face very hard.
"Are you sure? You aren't acting like yourself."
"I said everything was fine! Leave me alone." I said too harshly. Grandfather flinches. I slump my shoulders. I didn't mean to lash out like that at Grandfather. Have I turned into papa? I shudder at the thought.
I try again. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you." I smile hoping that he won't look to closely. He doesn't and smiles back at me. We ride in silence until we get to Grandfather's home. I see Grandmother and I run up and give her a hug.
"Oh, is that my Emily? She's so big. Last time I saw you, you were in diapers!" I smile shyly. I am always shy around Grandmother because she asks so many questions! "Now how have you been? Are they feeding you alright?"
Yes they are. I think. But papa hits me and mama every night and mama is pregnant! Oh, how I wished I could tell them. How I wished. But I knew the rules. I wasn't allowed to break the rules. So I simply answer, "Yes Grandmother, I'm doing fine." I smile up at her, and she smiles back. I feel so loved right now that I want to tell them everything, but I know that is never going to happen. Me, mama, and mama's new baby are going to live in fear forever. As soon as I can, I run away from them and back to school. I left them a note. A note that said:
Grandmother and Grandfather,
Please don't come get me. But I had to get to school.
You see, I have a person I have to show around school.
So I have be there. I love you and will see you again.
But, right now I have to go. So goodbye.
I finally got to school. Grandfather doesn't live to far away from the school so I got there as the bell was ringing. I ran into the classroom and took my seat before the teacher entered. She started class and I soon forgot about Grandfather and Grandmother. After class Ms. Cole took me and Isobel aside. I worried that I was in trouble, and it looked like Isobel thought so too.
"Now," began Ms. Cole, "I know that coming to a new school is hard Isobel. That is why I put you with a buddy, and Emily I know how hard it is for you to make friends. That is why me and the Principal thought that you two would be good together. You can start over. So please try to get along with each other. I saw how you were both sitting alone on the playground yesterday. Maybe you can sit together instead of alone."
I couldn't believe this. The teacher was trying to ruin my life! Well she didn't know of course but I still couldn't believe it. Ms. Cole must of saw something on my face coz she said.
"Now Emily, I know what your father said, and that you weren't to be friends with anyone, but everyone needs a friend."
I knew I had to answer, "Yes ma'am, I understand." I say this so sad that I don't think Ms. Cole believes me. But she just ignores me and turns to Isobel.
"Isobel, I know how it can be to be the new kid. Your scared and shy of making new friends. Well that is what the buddy system is for. We bring the friends to you. Do you understand?"
"Yes ma'am." Isobel's voice is so sweet I am still getting use to it. It is like a soft rose petal. So fragile but firm.
"Ok, now you two go play. I don't want to see you alone on the playground today." She looked so stern that I knew I would have no choice.
I sighed, "Yes ma'am." Isobel was playing with her hair, a thing that she did when she was nervous, so she was as scared as I was. Well I doubt as scared as me. I could only think what papa would do if he found out. Ms. Cole walked us to the lunch room and made sure that we sat together at the table before she left. Since we had to spend the day together I decided to learn something about her besides her name.
"So, where do you live?" I asked
"Near the park." she responded quietly. She shot me a sideways glance and what I saw was anger. Why was she angry about this arrangement? I had a reason, but I was trying to be nice. Not her. What was her problem?
"Oh, ok. Do you live with your mother and father?" I pressed. If she was gonna get mad at me then I might as well get as much as I can.
"My mom. She is…nice."
"Oh what happened to your dad?"
"He left. When I was real little. I don't remember him." She was lucky. I wish I didn't know my father.
"Who do you live with? Mother or father?" Ok she was gonna try me now. Don't give anything away. I thought.
"Both. But I wish it was just my mom." Opps didn't mean to say that. I cringe as she looks at me.
"Oh, ok." She moves her arm to get her fork and I see something.
"What is that on your arm?" She looks up surprised and looks at her arm. Her eyes go big. She looks at me and then back at her arm. She does this many times before she speaks.
"Oh, I must of fell. An accident." I don't believe that. So I tell her.
"It looks like someone hit you."
"No, she don't hit me! She don't hit!" She looks scared at this. Like she gave to much away. She did. I pull back my sleeve and show her my arm.
"Yea she does. But he hits me. It sucks." She looks at me in wonder. I look at her in wonder. Can there really be some other person besides me and mama who go through this? Can Isobel be hit by her mommy? Can it be true?
Isobel finally says something, "He…he hits you," she stutters, "Does he?"
"Yeah. And your mom hit you? Why? My mama loves me."
"I don't know. My dad won't do anything."
"I thought he didn't live with you."
"He doesn't. He moved out and still lives in my old town in my old house. So I guess me and
mom were the ones who moved out." She sounds so sad I wonder if she misses him. I start to wish that I was as close as with my father as Isobel seemed with her father. When the whistle rang for recess I jumped in my seat. I nearly screamed.
"Well I guess we gotta go outside now." Isobel said.
"Yeah, I guess so." We started to get up and walk outside. But we were stopped by Anna Marks, the school bully.
"Hey, why are you hanging out with her? She's weird." She sneered.
I just stared at the floor. I was use to this, but I wished it didn't have to happen in front of Isobel. Anna was mean. Just plain mean. I thought that Isobel would be scared of her too, like everyone else, so I was startled when she said something to Anna.
"Why did you say that? I like her. She is my friend! So leave her alone." She was screaming by the time she was done. I just stared at her in shock, so was Anna. That was the first time anyone had stood up to Anna. Anna ran off. It looked like she was dazed.
"If you can do that, why can't you do that to your mom?" Then I remembered that grown-ups are bigger than Anna Marks. Who is pretty big. We go out the door to the playground, not paying attention to anyone else. When we get out to the playground we don't know where to sit. I head for my usual spot and Isobel follows. As we sit I notice another bruise on her. I start to ask what happened then I remember bout her mom. So I keep my mouth shut. We are quiet for a long time. We don't know what to say. I have never had a friend and I doubt Isobel has either. Then I see Ms. Cole looking out the window. I know that she is pleased that we are sitting together. When I see her go away from the window I feel relieved. She is going to leave us in peace now. Then I see her coming across the playground. Heading straight for us. I wonder what she is doing. I nudge Isobel and point. She sees Ms. Cole and frowns. I know she is wondering why she is coming too. We watch her as she comes closer and closer. She finally stops when she in right in front of us.
"Hello Ms. Cole," I say trying to be polite, "Why are you out here? You don't have recess duty today." Which is true. She has recess duty on Wednesday and it was Friday today.
"I know but I wanted to talk to you two some more." this worried me. What did she want to talk about? Did she see me and Isobel at lunch? Did she hear what we were saying? She continues, "I know I said to spend time with each other, and what I mean by that is I want you to talk about yourself. Get to know each other."
Isobel started talking then, "We were in lunch but now we don't know what to talk about. I've never had a friend before."
"Neither have I!" I chirped in.
"Well then. I guess I'll have to get you started. Emily, what is life like at your house?"
I keep quiet. I look at Isobel and she looks at me. We both know that I can't answer this question. So I don't talk.
"Emily we are waiting." Ms. Cole sounded impatient but I can't say what happens at home out loud. I know that the best thing to do is to keep quiet. But the way Ms. Cole is looking at me, I know that I will have to say something.
"My mommy is nice." I say for it is the truth, glad that I thought of a way around her question.
"How is your father?" presses Ms. Cole
"Um…my daddy is…going through hard times at work." remembering what mama had said the night before.
"That's nice but how is he to you?"
"Um…my daddy can be nice when he wants to. But right now he is upset about his work problems. So he don't have time for me." What I say is the truth but I worry that I have said to much. I look at Ms. Cole waiting for the asking, but I doesn't come. All she says is oh and moves on to Isobel. I watch as she asks Isobel and see what she comes up with.
"What is your family like Isobel?"
Isobel smiled at answered simply, "Oh, my family is split up but I prefer my dad even though I live with my mom. He is way nicer than her. Is that enough for you or do you want to dig deeper?" She surprised me with all that sass. As Ms. Cole walks away I see Isobel smirk behind me.
By, Tabitha Ruff
More to come.