My best friend Steve.

All he wanted to do was take a shower, get dressed, and go out to look for a summer job. It was as simple as that. It wasn't much to ask for. But the fact is, to his father, living and breathing was too much to ask for. Everyday when he got home, whether it was from school or my house or anywhere really, he didn't know what he was walking into. Was his father mad at him or mad at the world? And yes, they both bring out a different type of abuse from his father. It could be as small as a smack in the face or as big as getting kicked in the ribs. And I just had to sit and watch the aftermath of it all. Every time.

He walked in to take a shower, and his father asked where he had been. He told him he had spent the night at my house, because it was the first Friday night of summer and we always had a fun night together. This particular night was even more important to us, because it was our last summer vacation. We were going into senior year. We were only a few short months away from turning eighteen, and that's when he was going to make his big move and get out. Of course, his father didn't know about that plan, because he would make sure that didn't happen.

That answer, spending the night at my house, wasn't a good answer. His father smacked him right in the face. Did he argue? No. Did he fight back? No. Why? Because Steve knew better.

That is Steve's life. Steve is my best friend. Clearly, he didn't have the greatest home life. Well, honestly, he had a horrible home life. He lived with a father who loved to use him as a personal punching bag. It was just Steve and his dad, Ken, at home, so no one to defend or protect him. It had been just them two for the past nine years after his mom left. Her name was Sophia, and she could have been a beautiful woman, but she didn't put much effort into her looks. Don't get me wrong, she was a very nice lady, but something always seemed off about her. She was awkward. She was nice to you, but wasn't a people-person. Ken and Sophia argued, a lot. All the time. There was no abuse going on towards Steve, but he did have to listen to his parents yell all the time. Today, Steve would easily prefer that. One day, she just decided to pack up her stuff and leave. No one really knew why she left. I would assume she had reached her breaking point with Ken. The household flipped upside down after that. When Steve was that young, it was mostly neglect. His father just ignored him, or wasn't home much. When Steve hit the teenage years, his father would be gone overnight. Around fourteen was when the physical abuse started, and that's when it got really ugly. That's when Steve would come to my house a lot to escape. He was sure his father could kill him if he was ever drunk or angry enough, so he never tested his luck or fought back. He would take his chance when he could, and just got the hell out.

I could complain about my home life too, but I couldn't do that in front of Steve. My complaints were petty things, I knew that. I lived with my dad and two of three brothers. My mom passed away of cancer when I was ten. That shattered me. My mom had such a fitting name to her personality, Charlotte. She was a stay-at-home mom, she took care of me and my brothers. That wasn't her limit though. She was everybody's mom when it was needed. When Steve's parents got into heated arguments, she knew just what to do and just what to say to make him smile. She got him to see there was a lighter day coming for him. The couple of years after Steve's mom left, my mom gave Steve a place to stay and eat a hot meal. Steve seemed to appreciate that she was being helpful and caring, but not interfering with what was going on at his home. He was obviously embarrassed by it.

Just like Steve's, my house wasn't the same once my mom was gone. My dad picked up a lot more work hours to get away. My oldest brother, Bryce, became a dad to us, which meant ragging on me a lot. Bryce was the brother who didn't live with us, he was twenty-five years old, and just came by to check in on things. I wasn't the perfect child, so I got talked down to plenty. I just never did anything right. I really didn't like Bryce and dreaded when he'd come by. My dad didn't necessarily rag on me as much. I knew he was thinking the things that Bryce would say out loud though. Sometimes I'd have to let out a snicker, because I towered Bryce, and you don't come off as very tough when your little brother is eight inches taller than you.

The next brother was Ryan. He was twenty-one, and he kept things calm in the house. He stood up for me, and was the one I could go talk to about things. We were very close, we always have been. He could keep me, dad, or Bryce leveled. I don't know how he did it without losing his patience, but he managed it. Nothing seemed to bother him. I knew he was privately apartment hunting to get his life started, because even I knew he couldn't just live here to keep us getting along forever. He did tell me one time that he was just waiting for me to turn eighteen, so I could leave on my own if I wanted to after he moved out. I think I told him about Steve and I wanting to get away as soon as we can anyway. I could trust him with any secret. Even when I can leave, I am going to dread Ryan not being around. I was the third child, Mitchell. My younger brother was Tyler. I can get along with Tyler fine, because he just kept to himself a lot. I didn't spend a lot of time with Tyler, because he preferred to hang out at home. Ryan was pretty much the only one who could get Tyler out of the house. Tyler and Bryce were my dad's golden children. They were perfect at academics, Bryce was the great jock, and Tyler was the great nerd. And me, well, I passed school at least. That wasn't good enough for my dad or Bryce though. They judged perfection based on grades, and mine were not to their scale. I think Ryan could also be considered a golden child to my dad, but that would be because Ryan was most like our mom. I do miss her.

Ryan also didn't cause any problems, which I'll admit I could be good at sometimes. It's not like I got in illegal trouble. I just didn't study a lot or join sports. I just preferred going out and having fun.

My dad and Bryce, well and Ryan trying to move out, were big reasons for me to leave with Steve. I told him I just didn't want him to leave by himself and be alone, but he knew it was because I couldn't stand being home either. I hadn't tried running away yet because of Steve. Even times I threatened to, Ryan could talk me out of it. Ryan was the one I could complain to without feeling guilty about it. He'd just tell me to be patient and it'd get figured out.

So naturally, as you can imagine, I have serious problems with Ken. I've wanted to report him before, but Steve never let me. He always said it wasn't worth being taken away, and then we never see each other again. We have known each other forever. I've also wanted to go give Ken a piece of his own medicine, but Steve stopped me from doing that too. It's not like Ken scared me out of it though, I was 6'3 and could certainly hold my own. I knew Steve just didn't want me to get in serious trouble. It was hard though. I had to just sit back and watch it continue all these years. I have to sit back and count down the days for us to not look back.

All Steve wanted to do that morning was get himself cleaned up to go look for a job, so he could have a head start in getting money to move out. He got smacked in the face. Now he had to make sure there was no mark before he tried talking to managers about a job. Even if he gets a job, he'll have to keep it a secret. We don't know how Ken would take that news, but we knew he'd try to stop him from continuing it. I would do anything to keep that from happening, because he needed to get out of that hell hole.

That is my best friend Steve, and now he is missing.