Jade was walking home from school down Chestnut Lane which once had been embellished by fierce chestnut trees but was now desolate and crime infested.
She dreaded going home after school. Not only did she have to walk two miles through this forsaken neighbourhood but it also meant going back to her family after being free of them for at least eight hours. The house where she lived was in no way her home, if anything it was her hell.
She lived there with her father, stepmother and half-sister. Her mother had died when she was just five years old, that was ten years ago now, but she still remembered everything about her. The way she smelled like fresh roses, how her hair curled in the rain and the way she hugged Jade tight whenever she was in pain. But the sweet woman that her mother had occurred to be had been struggling with a dark secret. Underneath her mask lay darkness, depression even, and after years of struggling with it she had finally taken her own life.
Being left to fend on his own hadn't done her dad any good. The feeling of being abandoned hunted the both of them but it had turned her father into a bitter man right from the start. She never saw him smile anymore. He never showed any signs of his love for her nor did he do more than was necessary to keep her healthy. She learned to cook her own meals at an early age and took care of herself, yet not understanding why her dad couldn't stand to look at her.
When he had found Teresa, her stepmother, two years ago she thought it might get better but it didn't. After they married Teresa moved in but she too hated Jade, despised her even, simply for being present. Jade was scowled at, yelled at and even worse.
High school was her only outlet. She had three close friends, though they knew nothing of her living situation, all the teachers liked her and she was a bright and promising student.
But nothing had changed for the better about her home situation, if anything it had gotten worse. Her father expected her to be perfect at everything, and to DO everything she could possibly do. That's why she had joined so many clubs, that and the possibility to come home at a later hour. He wanted her to be top of her class and she was punished if she wasn't.
Her stepmother still obliged her to do all the work around the house and if she didn't do her chores there was hell to be paid.
Just when Jade had thought things couldn't get any worse Teresa had gotten pregnant and now, a year after the baby's birth everything had taken a turn for the worst. Jade now had to do everything; cook, clean, laundry, her schoolwork and on top of all that she now had to take care of her little sister Sarah.
Jade loved her baby sister but she was sleep deprived. She was only allowed to go to school but she had to come home straight after and there was no leaving the house after she'd come home. She even wasn't allowed to do grocery shopping. Partly because they didn't trust her with their money and the other part that they didn't trust her to come back home.
She was extremely busy with all she had to do and often stayed up until far after midnight. When she finally did sleep she had to get up every few hours to put Sarah back to sleep and she woke up at six so she could feed her as well.
And it was catching up with her. Her grades were slowly slipping and she feared the wrath of her father. This afternoon was one of these days where her legs could barely hold her weight and she dragged her feet forward. She had gotten her report card today, which her father knew. And there were a B and a B- on there. She was going to be punished.
The moment she walked through the front door of their little townhouse her father came staggering through the living room door exhaling the so familiar smell of strong liquor, he had been drinking.
"Do you have you report card? Lemme see!" He half yelled at her, his voice a bit thick.
She gave him the card, flinching as his hand touched hers. She shivered as he took the little paper in his hands and read it. It surprised her that after all this booze he still was able to speak and read, but she doubted he could also think clearly, not that it would matter much.
Suddenly he extended his arm and before Jade could escape his hand he grabbed a fist full of her blond curls and dragged her into the living room. In the living room he threw her on the ground behind the couch and started yelling.
"You filthy child! How dare you disgrace me like this! I told you to get outstanding grades and yet you chose to keep ignoring me, why must you taunt me like this?! I didn't want to do this but you leave me no choice! Get up!"
She stood slowly, trying to leave as much room between her and her father as possible but she couldn't back down any further because of the couch.
A fist hit her in her stomach and she immediately bend over clutching her hands to her belly. But she knew it was far from over. Her father's hand grabbed her hair again and he slapped her across her face multiple times. He had learned to remove his wedding ring long ago, careful not to leave any marks. He punched her stomach again and this time with so much force that she toppled over on the ground to her knees. He kicked her in her ribs as soon as she was down and she lay there in a fetal position until he was finally done kicking her ribs.
When he was finished he stumbled to the kitchen, presumably to get more booze, and Jade stayed on the ground. She slowly closed her eyes and tried to block out the pain but before she could really focus a voice shrieked at her.
"Get up you good for nothing fatass! The baby needs feeding!"
So she obediently got up, careful to move as little as possible so she wouldn't feel her ribs too much, she was quite sure that a few were seriously bruised. She heard a cry nearby and saw her stepmother standing in the doorway with Sarah on her arm. Sarah looked as though she could do with a bath and a clean diaper so Jade took her from Teresa with clenched teeth in order to keep in a scream of pain. Her ribs were definitely bruised badly.
To avoid any more conflict she quickly moved herself to the staircase and made her way up to the bathroom. She changed Sarah's diaper and bathed her. She fed her in the kitchen with some fruits that she mashed together and then put her to bed in Jade's bedroom, which they shared.
Having done this she finally sat down on her bed and pulled out her homework. But she couldn't focus yet, she had to look in the mirror first. Her step monster, as Jade liked to call her, had called her fat and Jade couldn't disagree with her anymore. She was heavy and she looked awful. She had never really noticed before but realised she had to do something so it wouldn't get out of hand. She would eat less, starting with tonight's dinner. She hardly ever ate dinner anyway so it wouldn't be difficult to go without and she'd do anything to make herself pretty.
Her mind was set at ease as soon as she had made the decision and she could now concentrate on her homework. She pulled her history textbook closer and started reading. She had a lot to do and the night a head was going to be long. But she set to work resolute to finish everything. She wasn't going to get B's again, she'd give her father no cause to hit her again. And even though she knew she was lying to herself she worked till half past one, occasionally getting up to comfort Sarah, when they both finally fell into a restless sleep.