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“I love you so much, Katie girl” Daddy says to me as he enfolds me in his strong arms. He smells sour like the wine at church, so I decide that he must have been talking to God. I stretch up on my tiptoes and pull on Daddy’s neck to bring him to my level. I kiss him on the cheek and giggle with glee when he intercepts my mouth with his.
“I know,” I reply, thinking it silly that he’d even feel the need to tell me that. Daddy’s lips moving against mine forces starch into my spine, but I remind myself that my father does this to show how much he loves me and prove to me that I am special. He told me that, and I know my daddy would never lie. He detests liars. Detest is my new word of the day. Miss Tillman says that it means “to extremely dislike.” I don’t know why big people will never use the word hate. I have no problem with it. I hate vegetables. I hate Barbies. I hate the New York Yankees. I hate many things, so I am not opposed to using the word. Last week I got myself in big trouble for saying hate. Bobby told me that he couldn’t even tell I was a girl some days, and I told him I hated him. He pushed me down onto the ground, so I punched him in the nose and made him bleed. He put his dirty hand to his nose and began to sob, so I told him that I hated crybabies too. Miss Tillman told me to apologize, but I didn’t know what that meant, so I just stuck my tongue out at him and screamed, “Bobby Smith, sometimes I can’t even tell you’re a boy when you cry like that.” Then I ran the whole way home. Miss Tillman and I had a long talk the next day.
Daddy says he has a surprise for me tonight, and it scares me. Daddy’s surprises always leave a boo boo between my legs that hurts when I walk. I asked if I could have a band aid because band aids make everything feel better, but Daddy said that it wouldn’t help. Also I can’t use a band aid because as much as I look, I can never find where the hurt is coming from. I think it’s somewhere inside of me that no one can see. Daddy says I have to keep my hurt a secret.
I was a bad girl at school today and told Daddy’s secret by accident. It all started when we were sitting in our circle talking about people being sick. Miss Tillman was teaching all about the different kinds of hurt and what the different sicks were called. She taught us about colds and the flu and told us to eat apples and wash our hands. Abby asked what sick it was when her head hurts, and Miss Tillman smiled at her before she answered. I wanted Miss Tillman to smile at me too, especially since I think she’s still mad at me for punching Bobby. I raised my hand and asked, “What kind of sick is it when it hurts right here?”, and I pointed below my belly button. Miss Tillman didn’t smile. She looked worried and confused. I didn’t know what I did wrong.
Then Miss Tillman stood up and said, “Boys and girls, we’re going to take an early recess break today.” I got excited and stood up to leave, but she touched my arm and said, “Kate, I have to talk to you. Please stay.” All of my friends left to go play in the toy room, and I was angry with Miss Tillman for not letting me go with them.
“I didn’t punch anyone,” I told Miss Tillman so we could get this over with and I could go play.
“I know you didn’t, honey. You didn’t do anything wrong.” That confused me, because I never have to talk to Miss Tillman by myself unless I am in trouble.
She asked me lots of questions. “ Who lives at home with you?” “Do you get the hurt any special time?” I explained to her that just me and Daddy live at my house, and I get the hurt after Daddy gives me the surprises that mean he loves me. After we talked for a little longer, Miss Tillman told me to wait for a few minutes. After she left the room, I heared her on the phone, and I began to worry that I just told Daddy’s secret. I didn’t tell Miss Tillman what actually happened because I don’t understand that part, but I thought she knew.
Miss Tillman told me that I could play with my friends, but that would stay with her after school. I told her that Daddy would be mad, but she said that she already explained it to him. She must have been talking to Daddy on the phone.
After my classmates left and just Miss Tillman and I were left at school, some strange men in suits showed up. They said they worked for Social Service. I asked what happened to my daddy. The tall man with a mustache told me that Daddy’s surprises were bad, and I couldn’t live with him anymore. I cried and told them that Daddy loved me and I loved him. Miss Tillman hugged me and she cried too. I wondered if she was getting taken away because her daddy gave her surprises too. The tall man told me that I was allowed to extremely dislike my daddy and be mad at him for what he did. That’s a grown up’s way of saying I could hate him.
I hate many things and am not afraid to use that word, but try as I might, I do not hate my daddy. He loves me and takes care of me. He probably doesn’t know that his surprises are bad. I think someone should tell him. I want to tell the men and Miss Tillman about my idea but I am crying too hard and am too scared to talk. I am sure of many things in my life. I hate vegetables. I hate Barbies. I hate the New York Yankees. I hate crybabies. I might even hate Daddy’s surprises, but I will never ever ever hate my Daddy.