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Mr. Smith guides me over to stand by the side of the bed, continuing to touch my back, patting me gently. I try to stop the loud sobs that keep bursting from my mouth, but for some reason I can't. Usually I can dry my tears up quickly, I had to learn how to do that early on living with dad, but I can't this time... What is wrong with me tonight?

I hesitantly glance up at Mr. Smith, wondering when he's going to get mad at me for still crying, but I only see his caring gaze, not an angry glare. I suddenly start to cry even harder. Fuck... I can't stop this time because of Mr. Smith. I'm not sure why though... It's like he makes me lose control of my emotions when I'm near him... That makes me feel so scared...

Losing control of your emotions gets you in trouble... Like the time I got mad and yelled back at Dad for screaming at me. He choked me until I passed out and when I woke up my nose and ears were bleeding; he had almost killed me...

Or like the time I started crying and couldn't stop when I was begging Uncle Eddie not to fuck me because I was tired. He decided to use my mouth instead, to shut me up; I couldn't talk right for over a week after that mistake, it had made my throat so swollen...

I'm good at controlling my emotions now.

But apparently not around Mr. Smith...

"I-I'm s-s-sorry," I gasp out past my sobs, struggling to breathe right.

Mr. Smith quickly shakes his head. "Don't apologize, Alex, you can cry as long as you need to. Just try to breathe," he tells me quietly.

He's giving me permission to cry...? It doesn't annoy him to hear me sobbing like a little baby? Why not...?

I continue to fight against my own tears while Mr. Smith stands by me patiently, gazing down at me with his nonjudgmental eyes. How can he just stand there listening to me bawl my eyes out and not get upset at me!? Why doesn't he just tell me to shut up? To suck it up and be quiet? I could probably stop if he told me to...

"Would a hug make you feel better...?" He suddenly asks softly.

A hug...? Uncle Eddie always hugs me when I'm crying after Dad beats me. He tells me to hush and hugs me tight, pressing my face into his chest to muffle my sobs so that Dad won't hear them and decide to beat me again. Then he pulls me into his lap and starts petting me soothingly; it always makes me feel so much better... But then his hands start to wander... And I usually end up naked, straddling his thighs, wishing he hadn't hugged me at all...

But I think a hug would make me feel better right now... And it will be completely different with Mr. Smith... Right...?

I nod slowly and move closer to him hesitantly. His arms come up and hug me gently, carefully embracing me in a tender way that feels so different from Uncle Eddie's tight, possessive hugs. I lean into Mr. Smith's chest and I like how clean he smells, no trace of booze or pot, or his cologne...

I close my eyes and gradually relax, my shuddering sobs becoming less suffocating. Mr. Smith pats my back and stays silent, allowing me to cry as long as I need to, just like he said I could. When I finally calm down enough to breathe properly, I reluctantly pull away from his warm body... It feels so good to be near him...

"Thank you," I tell him quietly, glancing up at him from under my bangs.

He smiles and pats my arm gently.

"You're welcome, Alex. Do you feel like putting the gown on now, or do you need a few more minutes?" He asks softly.

He's giving me a choice...? I look at the white fabric with tiny blue designs on it, where Mr. Smith had set it back on the end of the bed when I started to throw up. I swallow hard. I have to do this if I want to feel better... I don't have to hide my bruises and scars anymore... I don't have to be afraid of being punished anymore... How many times will I have to remind myself about that before I don't feel scared anymore...?

I nod, looking back up at Mr. Smith.

"I'm ready..." I whisper.

He smiles a small smile and carefully reaches down to help me take my shirt off. I close my eyes tight and gasp softly when I feel the cold air hit my bare skin, wishing I didn't have to be in my own body; I don't want Mr. Smith to see what's been done to me...

He doesn't gasp or say anything like I expected him to, so I open my eyes a peek to look at his reaction. His face is blank, other than a barely noticeable grimace, but his eyes speak volumes. He looks at my damaged body for only a second, before he begins to help me into the gown, but I can see the rage and disbelief in his gentle, green eyes. I look down at my chest before it's completely covered to see what he sees in the bright white lights and it's the same sight I see all the time: dark, multicolored bruises all over; knots on my rib cage where my ribs have been broken and didn't heal right; and a few scars from burns and cuts that were given to me as punishments by my father's cruel hand... The constant reminders of the pain I've suffered through most of my life.

I have to turn around to let Mr. Smith tie the gown closed and I wait for his reaction to seeing my mutilated back, but again I hear only silence. I glance at him over my shoulder and see that he looks sad this time as his eyes briefly travel down my thin body before he quickly closes the gown.

The scars are really bad on my back, from the many beatings I've received from Dad's thick, leather belt. I can feel them when I move, pulling my skin tight, always reminding me to stay in line and obey my father if I don't want more scars to be added to the collection.

Uncle Eddie likes to trace them with his cold fingers when he's behind me, slamming into my body over and over again. One of his big hands always stays tight on my hip, digging fingerprint bruises into my skin, and the other hand stays free; free to wander to wherever Uncle Eddie wants to touch me...

"The doctor is going to have to do a rape kit on you, Alex, so you're going to have to take your pants off," Mr. Smith says quietly from behind me, startling me out of my thoughts.

I slowly turn back around to face him and nod in understanding, lowering my eyes; I knew they would want to do something like that...

"Do you need help...?" He asks softly.

I hesitate, but then nod again, feeling embarrassed; I don't want him to see me naked or see the bruises down there, but it's really hard getting pants on and off with only one hand...

He gazes down at me for a few seconds with his lips pressed together like he's thinking, then he nods.

"Here, we can do it while you're lying down," he says, patting the mattress.

I wonder why he didn't just pull my pants off while I was standing up, but I don't argue and try to climb onto the bed. It's pretty high up, so Mr. Smith helps me by picking me up and carefully laying me down. I wish I wasn't so damn short... The bed is tilted up slightly, so that I'm sitting up, and I watch as Mr. Smith pulls the thin sheet and blanket up to my waist.

"Hold on to the rail with your good arm and lift your bottom up a little bit," he instructs.

I do as I'm told and he quickly reaches up under the sheet and then easily slides my pants down my legs and off in one smooth move, barely touching me, while also giving me privacy. He's treating me so good... I really like Mr. Smith.

"There we go," he says with a small smile, pulling my pants out from under the covers.

I give him a tiny smile back, but then I frown when I see my pajama bottoms: they have a lot of blood on them, I didn't realize I had been bleeding that bad...

I'm used to seeing blood after I've been fucked; in my underwear, on my sheets, coating my thighs. Uncle Eddie never seems to care if he makes me bleed... So the sight of my bloody pants this time doesn't really bother me.

But apparently it bothers Mr. Smith.

When he sees them his eyes widen and he actually looks angry this time, with his jaw clenched tight and his brow creasing deeply; showing the first physical reaction to my abuse that I've seen him make since I've met him.

"Shit..." I hear him hiss, and he looks away from the clothing in his hands.

I feel myself blush at his reaction and I shrink down into the bed, feeling so small. The fact that he can't stand to look at what happened to me tonight makes me feel like a bad person. I hope he doesn't think I liked it like Dad did; for some reason I really want Mr. Smith to like me...

"I'm sorry..." I mumble softly. "I know they're gross... You can just throw them away if the hospital has something else I can wear later," I tell him in a whisper, my voice weakly trailing off into nothing.

Mr. Smith abruptly looks back at me and he shakes his head almost frantically; he looks upset and worried now.

"No, Alex. No, no, no!" He says hurriedly, his voice gentle and soft, as his free hand quickly comes up to touch my arm carefully. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have reacted like that in front of you. I'm not disgusted by the sight of your blood. Not at all! I'm- I'm just extremely angry that this happened to you... That's why I'm upset. You haven't done anything wrong, Alex, you don't need to apologize about anything. I'm so sorry..." He tells me gently.

I don't really know what to say to his sincere apology or his explanation, being so unfamiliar to having someone actually worry over me, so I shrug slightly.

"Um, it's okay... It's happened before..." I admit softly.

I quickly look away from his very concerned gaze when I hear the words leave my mouth. Shit... I almost told him another secret that I was supposed to keep, about the time at the drug dealer's house when I was nine...

"Y-you can still throw them away, though... I don't want them anymore," I tell him quickly, wanting this conversation to just end.

I hear Mr. Smith sigh softly and I glance over to see a pained expression on his face. He stares at me for a long time, making me feel uncomfortable, but then finally stops when he steps away from the bed. He sets the pants on the counter instead of throwing them away and I wonder why he wants me to keep them. When he turns back to look at me his face is blank again, back to normal, with only his eyes holding that sadness they had before.

He notices my confused expression as he picks up my shirt from where he had set it on a chair near the bed and he speaks to me.

"The detectives will want to keep your clothes so that they can have proof of who hurt you, Alex," he explains gently while putting my shirt beside my pants.

What? Detectives...? How many people are going to see me tonight!? That question makes me feel sick again...

Mr. Smith sees my nervous expression and pats my arm.

"We'll get you some more clothes to wear before we leave the hospital," he assures me, mistaking my real worry completely.

I don't voice my fear though and simply nod, remaining silent, like always. It's not like it matters if I don't like what's going on; adults always do what they want, I learned that a very long time ago...

Mr. Smith watches me for a moment longer, studying my face, and I wonder what he's looking at so intently. He sighs again softly, then suddenly turns to walk towards the door.

Seeing him walking towards the door as if he's about to leave sends a horrible wave of panic through me.

"Mr. Smith, I'm sorry! Please don't leave me!" I blurt out loudly, quickly sitting up in the bed to reach for him, suddenly on the verge of tears again.

He stops abruptly and turns back to me, his surprise from my outburst obvious on his face.

"Alex, I'm not leaving, sweetheart," he says softly, walking back over to me.

He called me sweetheart... Why is he being so nice...?

I stare up at him and feel the tears spill down my cheeks when he reaches the bed. He puts his hand on my shoulder comfortingly, looking at me with a small frown.

"What are you apologizing for?" He asks softly, looking confused.

I swallow hard and bite my lip nervously.

"I-I thought you were mad at me and decided to leave..." I mumble, glancing up at him guiltily.

Mr. Smith sighs and shakes his head.

"Your nurse came in when you were crying into my chest and stepped back outside to give you some privacy. She motioned to just come get her when you were ready. That's all I'm doing, Alex. I meant what I said about staying: I'm not going anywhere, unless you ask me to," he tells me seriously.

I look away from his face and wipe at my stupid tears with my good hand, feeling ridiculous for crying so much; if I was at home right now I wouldn't be crying like this, Uncle Eddie doesn't even tolerate me crying this much.

"I'm sorry... I'm stupid," I whisper.

Mr. Smith suddenly puts both of his hands on my shoulders.

"Alex," he says in a gentle, but stern voice, making me look up at him. "You are not stupid. There is nothing stupid about crying or feeling afraid of being alone. No one here is going to get mad at you for anything tonight, okay? You can stop worrying about that," he tells me.

I make a face at his promise. I want to believe him, but that's impossible...

"Everyone always gets mad about something," I whisper, speaking from experience.

Mr. Smith looks a little upset at my words, but then he sighs again and shakes his head.

"Not everyone, Alex..." He says softly.

I turn my gaze to my lap. He's a liar...

He sighs once more and gives my shoulders a gentle squeeze.

"I'm going to poke my head out the door and tell your nurse that you're ready, okay?" He tells me.

I nod and watch from under my bangs as he walks away. He opens the door a crack and speaks quietly to someone in the hall, then the nurse from before comes in with several things in her hands. She smiles at me sweetly as she sets the items on the bed beside my legs.

"Hi, Alex, my name is Cindy. I'm going to be your nurse while you're in the ER tonight. I'm going to get you hooked up to an IV and start some fluids real quick, then Dr. Brooks is going to come in and talk to you, okay?" She says in her sweet voice.

I nod slowly and look away from her happy eyes to the stuff she put on the bed. What's an IV? I don't ask my question, I'll find out soon enough...

"Have you ever had an IV put in, Alex?" Cindy asks as she starts to open all of the items she brought in, her hands quick and skilled.

I shake my head and glance up at her smiley face; she's too happy, it makes me nervous...

Cindy begins to explain what an IV is, showing me the bag of water that is apparently about to drip into my veins. She says it will only hurt for a second when the needle goes in, but then it won't bother me anymore. But then I see the needle she takes out of a small plastic wrap...


"Alex, come here, Kiddo."

I hear Uncle Eddie call for me from the kitchen. His tone sounds playful and happy, like it usually does when his friend Andy comes over with their drugs.

It's late. It's also a school night, and I was trying to go to sleep, but I climb out of my bed and obediently go to him so he won't get mad. Dad is out at the strip clubs tonight, so I don't have to worry about pissing him off by getting up.

"Yes sir?" I ask quietly, approaching him hesitantly at the kitchen table; Uncle Eddie doesn't scare me like Dad does, but I still have to be careful around him, especially when he's high.

He smiles and reaches out for me, wrapping his strong arm around my waist and pulling me close to him. He leans down and gives me a sloppy kiss before pulling me into his lap.

I'm just wearing one of his big t-shirts to sleep in, just how he likes me to. His hand slides up my thigh, and he squeezes my bare hip playfully, nuzzling my neck. I lean into the affection and take comfort in it, resting my head on his shoulder; I love when he's sweet to me.

"Are you sure about this?" I hear Andy ask, his tone skeptical.

The younger man is leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed over his chest, looking at my uncle with a mixture of curiosity and worry. Andy is a lot younger than Uncle Eddie, with multicolored hair and lots of piercings, but he's my uncle's best friend. I don't mind when Andy comes over, he's nice and he's never messed with me; that's why I don't really care that Uncle Eddie has pushed the shirt up even higher now to touch my stomach, revealing my privates- I let Uncle Eddie do whatever he wants, everything's better when I do...

"I just wanna see how he acts," Uncle Eddie says, drawing tiny circles around my belly button, tickling me, making me giggle some and squirm against him.

"I don't know man... What if it... I don't know- kills him or something...?" Andy mutters, looking at me out of the corner of his eye like he feels sorry for me.

I glance up at Uncle Eddie's face, wondering what they're talking about. Sometimes I feel like I'm not really a person to my father and uncle, I'm more like a toy or a pet to them. They talk about me like I'm not here, like I can't hear what they're saying right in front of me. I feel invisible, like I'm nothing. But I don't have any control over what happens to me, so I guess it doesn't matter what I think.

"I'm just gonna give him a little bit, not enough to do any damage," Uncle Eddie drawls, letting my shirt drop back down and instead reaching up to run his fingers through my hair gently, making me sigh in contentment.

"Yeah, but he's so fuckin' small, Ed... What if you accidentally give him too much...? This shit is really strong..." Andy says worriedly, sounding kind of whiny.

Uncle Eddie chuckles darkly.

"You're being fucking paranoid, kid. Come on, give it here."

Andy hesitates, but then reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a capped syringe and a rubber tourniquet. He sets them on the table and slowly slides them over to Uncle Eddie, completely avoiding looking at me now.

"What's that...?" I mumble, watching as Uncle Eddie grabs the shiny vial.

I know what it is, it's a drug, but I have no idea what the clear liquid is called or what it does; all I know is that when Uncle Eddie shoots up stuff like that it makes him act really funny... Is he going to give it to me tonight...?

"You want to feel good, baby...?" Uncle Eddie hisses in my ear, grabbing my arm firmly and quickly wrapping the rubber strip above my elbow painfully tight.

I cringe, shivering at his words, and press myself closer to him, staring down at the shot in his big hand with wide eyes. I'm scared... Sometimes I like when he makes me feel good, pleasure is so much better than pain... But how will this feel...? He does the drugs, so they can't be that bad... Right?

He pushes the needle into the bend of my arm, slowly sinking the sharp point into my skin. I whimper at the sting and gasp when he presses the plunger down, forcing some of the liquid into my vein, before yanking the needle out quickly. He reaches up and undoes the tourniquet, then warmth rushes up my arm and into my chest, making my breath catch.

"Fuck..." I hear Andy hiss as he rubs his hands through his blue, green, and blonde hair, his eyes wide in nervousness as he stares at me.

I suddenly feel kind of funny... I lean back heavily against Uncle Eddie's chest and my body begins to go slack as a comforting warmth spreads through me. It feels... Really good.

"How do you feel, Kiddo?" Uncle Eddie whispers in my ear, a smile on his lips.

"Mmm..." I breathe out, melting into his warm embrace.

I feel... Amazing... I never want this feeling to go away... I'm calm and relaxed, and I don't care about anything except for how nice it feels to be held...

The first few minutes pass by slowly and I curl up in Uncle Eddie's lap, starting to feel so very tired. But I don't want to go to sleep just yet, not when I'm feeling so good; I just want to hang out with my uncle and his friend, and listen to them talk in their smooth, mellow voices. Andy still looks worried, but after a while he seems to forget that I'm even there, chatting with my uncle and laughing with him.

I feel like I'm in a dream, like I'm floating, with not a care in the world. Uncle Eddie pets me and cuddles me, telling me how cute I am and how we're going to have so much fun later after Andy leaves. I stay quiet and passive like always, giggling softly at nothing every now and then for some reason, which makes Uncle Eddie and Andy laugh.

They talk and drink, and the hours slip by in a wonderful, warm buzz... I don't even feel scared when I hear the front door open or when Dad walks into the kitchen.

"Why the fuck is he still up?" He asks tiredly, walking over to the fridge to get himself a beer.

I'm supposed to be in bed by ten, mainly so Dad doesn't have to look at me after he gets comfortable at night, but it says 2:13am on the digital clock on the stove right now. I wonder why I'm not worried about him getting mad at me...

"I'll see ya later, Ed," Andy mumbles, getting up and quickly leaving before anything bad can happen; he doesn't like my dad.

I snuggle closer into Uncle Eddie's chest and smile at my father.

"Hey Daddy," I say softly, surprised at myself for speaking to him so freely.

Dad pauses in opening his beer can and his eyes narrow on me; I think I surprised him too.

Uncle Eddie chuckles and squeezes me in a playful hug, cradling me against his chest like a baby.

"He's like a fucking little doll, Dave; with his big eyes and his cute little mouth. Look at him," he says with a wide grin, tilting my chin up to look at my eyes and running his big thumb over my lips.

Dad slowly takes a sip of his beer and looks at my uncle with a funny expression.

"What the hell are you talking about...?" He asks quietly, taking a step closer to the table.

He leans over and looks at me, his brow creasing some. I feel limp, unable to move, but I don't really feel the need to get away from Dad right now, which is weird... I feel unusually comfortable around my father at the moment.

I blink up at Dad, feeling dazed and sluggish. He stares at me for a moment, then suddenly looks at Uncle Eddie sharply.

"Did you give him something...?" He hisses, looking pissed.

Uncle Eddie laughs.

"It was just a little smack, Dave, chill out," he says smoothly, his eyes flashing tauntingly.

"What the fuck, Ed! Why would you even do that!? He's fucking eleven!" Dad snarls, glaring at his younger brother.

Uncle Eddie laughs again.

"So? What do you care, David? It's not like you give two shits about him," he says, standing up with me in his arms, the cocky look on his face like a mocking challenge to my father.

Dad stares at my uncle in disbelief for a few seconds, then his eyes slowly shift to me. I see something close to concern in my father's bloodshot eyes and I wonder if he's actually worried about me for once.

"Goddammit, Eddie..." He hisses, rubbing his hand through his dark hair, and turning away from us.

"What?" Uncle Eddie asks, chuckling at my father's reaction as he walks past us and out of the kitchen.

"Nothing," Dad calls over his shoulder gruffly. "Just... Just keep a fucking eye on him tonight... Jesus Christ..." He stomps down the hall and goes into his bedroom, slamming the door closed behind him.

"Is Daddy mad at me?" I ask softly, feeling so dizzy and wrapping my arms around Uncle Eddie's neck as he carries me to my room.

"Nah, he's just jealous that we get to have all the fun tonight," Uncle Eddie tells me, quickly claiming my mouth in a hard kiss as he shuts my door.

I moan into his mouth as his hot, wet tongue strokes mine and I wonder why his kiss feels so good right now; I like it. A lot. He slides us under the covers and I press myself against him hard as his kiss deepens, making my tiny moans become louder.

"Mmm... You make the cutest fucking noises, baby..." He murmurs, slipping my shirt off quickly.

We play in my bed for hours, touching and kissing each other. I feel very willing and eager to please him tonight, much more so than I usually am. Uncle Eddie seems to like how I'm acting, his excitement clear with his big smile and the happy sounds he's making. He does whatever he wants to me like always, and I let him, continuing to enjoy the attention I'm getting until the early morning sunlight is streaming through the blinds covering my window.

I lay in Uncle Eddie's arms, pulled close to his chest, panting softly after the third time he's fucked me. My head is spinning and I feel hot... I don't feel very good now...

"Unc-Uncle Eddie...?" I mumble, trying to lift my head. I think I'm about to be sick...

"Hmm...?" He mutters groggily, starting to drift off to sleep.

Oh no.

I throw up suddenly. The nasty bile just pours out of my mouth and onto Uncle Eddie since I can't seem to move.

"Fuck!" He yells, jumping up quickly. "Goddammit Alex!"

He yanks me up by my arm roughly and leans me over the edge of the bed. I moan in distress. I feel like I'm dying...

I start to vomit again, so Uncle Eddie jerks me up and drags me to the bathroom. He pushes me over the toilet and I cling to the cold bowl, puking my guts up.

I throw up for hours, retching and heaving until my stomach is cramping horribly. Uncle Eddie, dressed in just his pajama pants now, leans against the wall and watches me with his arms crossed over his chest, looking bored and tired. I hear Dad come out of his bedroom sometime in the late afternoon and walk down the hall. He stops at the door to the bathroom and looks at me with disgust as I retch again loudly.

"Having fun?" Dad says sarcastically to my uncle.

Uncle Eddie shrugs.

"It was worth it," he replies with a smirk.

Dad rolls his eyes.

"Fucking pervert," he grumbles, walking away towards the living room.

I spend the whole day in the bathroom, curled up between the toilet and the tub, sobbing, shivering violently and freezing half the time, and burning up the rest of the time. Uncle Eddie takes care of me, like always, wiping my face off with a cool cloth and helping me sit up when I need to puke again.

"Pl-please d-don't give me that s-stuff again, Uncle Ed-ddie..." I whine softly through my chattering teeth, staring up at him with pleading eyes.

He's sitting with his back leaned against the tub, and I'm lying naked on the floor with my head resting in his lap.

"I won't, baby..." He promises, petting my hair tenderly. "You felt good though, right?" He asks teasingly, a smirk on his lips.

I nod weakly as I close my eyes, knowing that's what he wants to see. I did feel good... But now I feel terrible... It wasn't worth it to me...

"That's my good boy," Uncle Eddie coos, chuckling softly.

I hate him sometimes...


"No! Please!" I squeak out, frantically scooting away from Cindy when I see that sharp needle; it looks just like the one Uncle Eddie used...

Cindy's eyes widen and she quickly covers it back up, but I still need to get away. I gasp when I feel myself begin to fall off the opposite side of the bed. But then strong arms stop me from toppling to the floor.

I wearily look up at Mr. Smith's concerned face as he carefully repositions me back on the mattress.

"Alex, what's wrong?" He asks worriedly.

"Please!" I beg, reaching out and grabbing his hand tightly. "Please, Mr. Smith, I don't want to feel that way again!" I blurt out, shaking my head and beginning to sob yet again.

Mr. Smith shares a confused glance with Cindy before speaking to me softly.

"Feel what way again, Alex...?" He asks.

I hesitate, wondering if I should tell him what Uncle Eddie did just a few months ago, but I finally do.

"Uncle Eddie... He-he gave me a drug..." I mumble quietly, looking away from their concerned gazes.

"A drug...?" Mr. Smith repeats softly.

I nod. "It felt really good at first... But then it made me really sick, and I didn't feel good for almost a week afterwards..." I tell him.

"Did he tell you what it was called?" He asks quietly, his brow creased deeply.

I shake my head. "No... He shoots it up a lot though... I-I think I've heard him call it 'smack'..." I mumble.

Mr. Smith is quiet for a moment before he speaks again. "How many times has he given it to you, Alex...?" He asks somewhat hesitantly.

"Only once..." I tell him, glancing up at his face. "He tried to do it again, but I begged him not to..."

It was only a few weeks after that night that Uncle Eddie tried to shoot me up again, even though he promised he wouldn't. He had said that he liked how I acted on the stuff and that he wanted me to be his "little doll" again. I cried and I begged him not to give it to me; I told him I would do anything he wanted, just as long as he didn't give me that fucking drug. At first he was nice about it, but he got more pushy as the minutes ticked on. He started to yell and I yelled back, pleading with him, but having a bad feeling that it was no use... I'm pretty sure he was about to hold me down and force that needle into me, but then Dad stepped in to break up the fight.

It was the first time Dad has ever saved me from my uncle, I couldn't believe it. He had been in the living room, but came into my bedroom where Uncle Eddie had me cornered against the wall. He yelled at us to shut up and shoved his little brother away from me, telling him to lay off. Uncle Eddie seemed shocked at first, but then he was pissed. He left the apartment without saying a word. I felt so bad for making him mad like that, but I was so glad that drug wasn't in my body again.

Before Dad had walked out of the room, I thanked him quietly, so grateful that he had stopped my uncle. Dad grumbled something about Uncle Eddie being crazy and then went back into the living room; he left me alone for the rest of the night. I always try to keep in mind what Dad did for me, to remind myself that he must care about me at least a little bit to have done that...

"Alex..." Mr. Smith's voice startles me out of my memory, making me jump. "What your uncle gave you was most likely a drug called Heroin... It's a very bad drug. The needle that Cindy is using for the IV is nothing like the needle your uncle used..." He says quietly, glancing at Cindy over my head.

The woman nods quickly.

"An IV isn't a drug, sweetie, it's just a way to rehydrate your body without you having to drink a lot of water. It also makes it easier for us to give you any medicine that you might need while you're in the hospital," Cindy explains patiently. She holds up a little plastic piece on the tubing connected to the bag of fluid. "This little hole right here lets us put medicine directly into the fluid, that way we don't have to poke you with any more needles. We do this to help you and make you feel better, not to hurt you."

I glance between the two of them, feeling outnumbered. I don't want the IV, even if it is supposed to make me feel better; it just reminds me too much of that drug... But I know they're going to put it in me no matter what I want. There's no sense in fighting them... Adults always get their way...

I settle back into the bed slowly and reluctantly offer Cindy my arm, staring at my lap. I see her pull the needle out of the packaging out of the corner of my eye and I quickly turn my head away from the sight. I glance up at Mr. Smith and he gives me a gentle smile, then reaches out to touch my shoulder.

"You're doing great," he says softly, patting my arm comfortingly.

I feel Cindy carefully take my right arm in her gloved hand. She wipes something cold across the bend, then wipes that away, and I can smell the sharp scent of alcohol.

"Can you make a fist for me, sweetheart?" She asks.

I ball my hand up like she wants and she presses on my skin a few times.

"Okay, Alex, it's going to sting for a few seconds when I put the needle in. I have to take a few vials of blood while it's in your vein, so we can do some tests, but then I'll hook the IV up and it won't hurt anymore. Just relax, sweetie," Cindy says softly.

Mr. Smith's hand tightens on my shoulder slightly, then Cindy counts to three before poking me. There's a little sting, but that's it; nothing like when Uncle Eddie shoved that other needle in my arm...

I glance over and watch as Cindy quickly fills three small vials with my blood. It only takes her a few seconds to hook the tubing part up to my arm and put tape around it to hold it in place, then she's finished. That wasn't bad at all.

"There. All done," she says with a bright smile, before walking over to throw all of the packaging away.

"You okay, Alex?" Mr. Smith asks softly.

I nod and glance up at him.

"I'm sorry for freaking out," I mumble sheepishly.

He smiles and shakes his head.

"It's okay. You had a perfectly good reason to. Don't apologize," he tells me.

Cindy walks back over with a file folder filled with papers and a pen in her hands. She speaks to Mr. Smith softly.

"There's a few forms that need to be signed before Dr. Brooks can see him," she says.

Mr. Smith nods and steps over to the counter with her. They speak quietly enough so that I can't hear them as Cindy fills in the information Mr. Smith provides. I lay my head back on the pillow behind me and try to relax, but all I can think about is my father and uncle.

I wonder if they realize I'm gone yet... What will they do? Will they look for me? Or just not care and do nothing...? I sort of hope it upsets them that I'm gone... Maybe then they'll realize how bad they were treating me and actually regret what they did... I doubt that will happen though.

Mr. Smith walks back over to me and Cindy walks towards the door.

"Dr. Brooks will be in to see you in just a few minutes, Alex," she says with her sweet smile before leaving the room.

Mr. Smith sits down in the chair by the bed and rubs his hand over the back of his neck like it's tense. When he sees me looking at him he gives me a small, tired smile.

I think back to when I called him on the pay phone and how it sounded like I had woken him up when he answered; he probably wishes he was in bed, asleep right now instead of here at the hospital with me... Why is he doing this for me...? He could have easily just brought me up here, dropped me off, and let the police deal with me, but he stayed... And he said he's not going to leave until I tell him to... What does he get out of this?

"Why did you come get me...?" I ask him softly, needing to know.

Mr. Smith seems a little surprised by my question and presses his lips together before sighing softly.

"You needed my help," he says simply.

I frown at his answer. That doesn't tell me anything...

"You could have just called the police... Why are you helping me so much...?" I ask.

"It's my job to help students who need my help," he tells me.

"But we aren't at school right now... You didn't have to do any of this... You didn't have to check on me at my home or worry about me outside of school... But you did... Why?" I question.

Mr. Smith sighs again and leans forward to rest his arms on his legs with his hands clasped in front of him.

"Alex... When you walked into my office the other day I saw a boy who has had the world turn it's back on him. No matter what you have been told, or how you feel, you need to realize that you don't deserve to be treated badly in any way. What your father and uncle have done to you is horrible and I can't understand why no one has stopped them yet... But I'm putting a stop to it now and I'm going to make sure you stay safe. I'm going to make sure you get treated right and taken care of from this day on..." He tells me.

I stare at his serious face, feeling so confused.

"But... You don't even know me... How do you know that I don't deserve it...?" I ask quietly.

"I don't have to know you to know that you don't deserve to be hurt, Alex. No one deserves to be hurt like you've been. But I can tell just from talking to you that you're a good kid," he says with a small smile.

I lower my eyes.

"Dad says I'm bad... Uncle Eddie always says I'm a good boy, but he still hurts me a lot... I don't know what I am..." I mumble.

"Alex," Mr. Smith stands up and grabs my shoulders gently. "Listen to me: your father and uncle made you believe certain things that helped them change how you think. They did this so they could make themselves feel better. Just because they told you something doesn't necessarily mean that it was true. Abusive people thrive off of hurting others, and unfortunately you were the target of two very abusive people... You did nothing to deserve what they did to you, and with help and support, one day you'll be able to understand that. But right now all you need to focus on is feeling better, okay? I'm here to help you," he says softly.

I gaze up at his face.

"But… I don't understand… Why do you want to help me…? What do you get out of this…?" I whisper.

Mr. Smith looks at me sadly.

"Alex… Most people want to help others for no reason at all, just because it's the right thing to do. I want to help you because it will stop your abuse. I want you to be safe and taken care of; I don't want to see you get hurt anymore. I'm doing this for you," he explains.

"So… You're doing this, just because you want to…?" I ask quietly.

Mr. Smith nods.

"Then… That means you like me, right?" I ask nervously.

He lets out a small laugh and smiles, his eyes crinkling in the corners like I like.

"Yes, Alex, I like you. You're a great kid."

I blush at his compliment and duck my head. I've never felt this way before… I think I feel… Happy… It feels good.

I hope I can keep feeling like this… And I think I will as long as I'm around Mr. Smith…

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