Things Never Change

January 5, 2012
Happiness. Joy. Laughter. All these things I never experienced as a child. I remember walking home everyday passing the same playground with this big blue slide, monkey bars, and rock walls with seven swings attached to the side. I always saw my classmates laughing and having so much fun on that playground. Wishing I could be like them, but knowing I never would. I always knew I was not normal not like the other kids.

My father is an alcoholic. Almost everyday he would be drunk when I came home from school. But that was not what I was scared of. When he was drunk he would beat me up until I was on the ground crying with bruises all over me, and blood on the floor. I remember looking up and seeing these almost black, bloodshot eyes glancing all around the room, because he could never look anyone in the eyes. I always tried to hide from him because I was scared of his aggressive personality. He wasn’t that tall but was tall enough to tower over me when he wanted to intimidate and scare me. But my mother did nothing. She just watched him as he abused me, and he abused me almost everyday. There was one day in particular that has always stayed with me.

April 23, 1981. Chicago, Illinois. I was ten. I was walking home from school on a stormy day, passing the same playground the way I normally did. As I walked up to my home, I was scared to go inside. I took a deep breath and slowly trudged up the stone steps to the front mahogany door. I could already hear my father screaming and swearing. I slowly turned the silver handle and opened the door, thinking to myself, I hope he did not hear me. When inside, I quietly walked up the stairs. But before I could get to the top he heard me. He screamed, “Where are you going?” I responded timidly, saying, “To do my homework.” At that moment he grabbed me from where I was standing and threw me down the stairs. When I hit the wooden floor I heard a crack. I had broken my arm and was screaming and crying. But my father did not care. He continued to kick me while I was on the ground. He then yelled at me to get up. Out of fear I stood up, and from the corner of my eye I could see my mother just standing there watching. A second later, my father punched me so hard that I fell to the floor unconscious. The next thing I knew I was awake in the city’s hospital with my mother sitting by my side. She whispered to me, “How are you feeling?” I replied with a bit of anger saying, “What do you think for someone that has just gotten beat up to the point of needing to go to the hospital?” My mother just sat there. A few minutes went by in silence. Then she said, “You are one strong girl, Beth Prehen,” then she continued saying, “And I am sorry I have never protected you from your father’s abuse.” A few more minutes went by in stillness. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what to say. Then she pulled out a small plush teddy bear with button eyes and a pink bow from her purse. She handed it to me saying, “I want you to have this.” Then she said, “ You can hold it close to you whenever you are hurt or alone and need a friend.” She then kissed my forehead and said, “I love you Beth.” I tenderly responded saying, “I love you too mom.” She then left and that was the last time I had ever seen my mother. I was abused almost everyday after that. But when I was eighteen I went to live on my own never to see my father again. I soon realized that there is much emotional scaring of childhood memories.

Today is September 17, 2011. I am now thirty years old. People look at me as if I am dead. I am very pale and skinny. I have thin brown hair, piercing blue eyes, and a distinct scar on my arm. I am always nervous and insecure of people because of my past, so I always carry a gun or knife with me as a precaution. I now live in Los Angeles, California, far from Chicago, Illinois. I work at Jefferson Elementary School as a first grade teacher. My room reflects who I am. It is plain with no artwork, and many broken desks. I have ten students in my class, not a big class since it is a small school. All of the students act like normal first graders except one. Her name is Emma White. She is short for her age of six and has long blonde hair. She wears very ornate dresses that bring out her beautiful hazel eyes. She sometimes came into school with a bruise or two but I always just assumed that they were from playing on the community playground. But I started to think differently after Parent-Teacher Conferences. Both of Emma’s parents came to the conference. When I first saw Mr. White, I knew there was something different about him and I felt like I knew him from somewhere. I thought he probably just had a familiar face and moved on. We sat down and began talking. I first said, “Emma is a wonderful student and a lovely girl, you must be so proud.” Monotonously, Mr. and Mrs. White just said, “yes.” The parent-teacher conference went on for fifteen minutes while we talked about Emma’s strengths and weaknesses in school. At the end I looked up and asked, “Do you have any questions or comments.” They both said, “no.” As they were leaving I remembered. I remembered that Mr. White looks exactly like my father. Same height. Same hair. Same eyes. And I knew this because his eyes could never look me in the eye during the conference. At that instant I knew that Emma’s bruises were not from the playground, they were from him. I started to worry for her.

A couple of days had gone by since I had meet Emma’s parents. When I walked into the classroom and was taking attendance I noticed something unusual about Emma. I saw many bruises on her arms and face and a big cut on her knee. After all the other students had left for recess, I went to talk to Emma. I asked, “Is everything okay Emma?” She responded hesitantly saying, “ not really.” I was happy she was opening up to me and could trust me, so I then said, “ What is wrong?” Again she hesitated, this time longer. But then she said, “ My father abuses me everyday,” “It usually isn’t that bad, but last night it was.” She continued saying, “ He wouldn’t stop punching and kicking me. I was afraid he was never going to stop.” She started crying so I comforted her. Once she could contain herself, I said, “My father abused me when I was a child as well.” “I remember being as scared as you are now.” I then got the only thing I had left that reminded me of my mother. I handed it to the little girl saying the same thing my mother said to me, “Hold this teddy bear close to you whenever you are hurt or alone and need a friend.” She looked at me and smiled saying, “Thank you.” The bell then rang and all the other students came rushing in from recess.
Soon the day was over, and all the students left. I packed up my belongings and started walking home the way I usually did. As I was walking, I kept having flashbacks of my father hitting and punching me. While I was thinking back to the past days of my life, I looked up and saw in the window of a house a father punching this little girl. I moved a little closer to see who it was. Tears started coming to my eyes when I realized that the little girl was Emma. I looked down at my purse and held it tight. I then ran into the Whites’ house with a gun pointed at Emma’s father. When I was in the home it was very similar to my home as a child. There was dried blood on the floor and broken furniture. I started to look at the pictures on the wall and noticed that none of the pictures had Emma in them. I then looked at Emma’s father and my gun pointing straight at him. Mr. White had stopped punching Emma, and she was standing with blood on her face. Then Emma changed. That sweet, little, shy girl started screaming and ran to punch her father. She punched and kicked him for a few minutes, but then she backed away staring at her father first, then my gun. I looked at the gun in my hand, and all my childhood memories started running through my mind. I started to sweat and get very nervous. I thought to myself, things never change. There will always be a father that abuses his daughter. What good am I doing by killing this man? Then I started to think about Emma and all the pain she has gone through. She is only six; she doesn’t need any more pain in her life. So I looked down at Emma. She nodded at me and I began to pull back the trigger.

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