A Love-Hate Relationship

January 22, 2008
By Lillian Guess, Louisville, KY

The cold brick was soothing against her hot, pounding forehead. As Jessie leaned against the outside gym wall of her high school, she didn’t even notice anyone standing inches behind her. A man’s voice boomed in her ear, causing her to jump and bang her, already aching head, hard, against the wall. Jessie knew she shouldn’t keep skipping class but sometimes enough was enough and you just have to slip away to relieve some tension. But this was her second time that day, and she knew she was bound-to-get caught. She slowly turned around, already knowing what was coming. Sure enough it was the principle, Mr. Armstrong. He always took his name for granted. He was only a little over 5’5 and quite heavy, although he thought that he could run anyone’s life, despite the small amount of authority he possessed.

“Excuse me Ms. Summers, aren’t you supposed to be in World history right about now?”

“Uhm, yea, sorry about that I was just getting a little fresh air, but I think I’ll be going now, I wouldn’t want to miss another discussion on people blowing other people to pieces and all.”

Jessie turned her back to him and began to walk away, knowing very well that she wasn’t going to get very far. Before her fifth step, she found herself being dragged by the back of her backpack towards the office.

“You do realize that this is your third offense this week? We have a policy here at South Oaks High, and you, young lady have forced me to suspend you for exactly five days. I’m pretty sure your father would just love to hear that news.”

“Yea, I’m sure he will.” She knew her attitude was way over the line, especially to the principal, but she really was tired of school, a break would be good, and her and her father never really had discussions about anything. So she was pretty content with the fact that he wouldn’t in the least.

“I’m not going to call your father because I’m sure he would love to hear the good news straight from you, so I’m going to send you home with a notice to have him call here tomorrow morning and I will be seeing you in a week, and hopefully with a new outlook on your education.”

“Yes sir, thank you sir.”

Her father wasn’t home, more than likely he wouldn’t be home until late, and probably would be drunk when he did return. This wasn’t anything new to her. Her father had always told her that after she was born her mother left and ran off with another man leaving her in his care. She never wanted to believe this but deep down knew that no matter how harsh her father was, he may be telling the truth, but she would never know for sure. Ever since she can remember every job was a struggle and he always turned his troubles into alcohol.

Around eleven thirty that night she felt the house shudder from her bed as the downstairs door slammed shut. Awakened, she absently stared up at the ceiling. She knew she couldn’t go back to sleep, and from the sound of the clanging glass coming from the kitchen, she might as well go and talk to her father about her day before he passed out, and she wouldn’t see him for at least a day.

Her house was usually cold, even in California, but Oakland usually was colder, but mainly because of her father’s sudden lack of job and inability to pay the utilities. They lived off open windows and blankets. Jessie tentatively walked down the stairs in her black sweatpants and hoody, wondering what his excuse was tonight for getting into trouble.


“Hey Jess, I thought you’d be in bed, you have school tomorrow.”

“Yea I was, but with all the racket I think you woke up the entire block.” Humor was always a good way to approach him when he was at his worst level of fatigue.

“Mhm, sorry long night, and I tried another job, but…” His words slurred together after that. He sat at the table and rested his head in his hands, running his fingers through his dark brown hair.

“Yea, dad, about school. I kinda got suspended today…” Jessie jumped about two feet in the air when her father’s fist hit the wood of the table. A plate fell off and shattered to the floor.

“You did WHAT?” His brown eyes were bloodshot and he was on his feet now. She had never seen this side of him before. She was scared. She had no idea he would react this way. He walked over to her, never taking his glare off her face, and grabbed her by the shoulders. Her breath caught in her throat at the sudden pressure of his grip.

“Dad, you’re hurting me. Stop it!” Tears were welling in her eyes. She was terrified and sorry she had ever said anything. She didn’t know what was going on and she didn’t like it.

“Oh I am, am I? Just like you are hurting me because you are going to fail at school? And here I am busting my butt trying to get a job to put food on the table for us?” He still had his hands on her shoulders. She tried to pull away but he would just tighten his grip. She was crying uncontrollably at his violent take to the news and her arms were beginning to tingle form the pressure being held on them. She was sure bruises were being made under her sweatshirt.

“Dad, I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking…”

“You sure as heck weren’t thinking!” He let go of her finally. She backed away slowly trying not to make him mad again.

“Where are you going? Come back here!” She was still scared out of her mind but this was her time to try to get a word in, but what came out of her mouth scared her even more.

“I’m leaving! I can’t stand you not having a job, and us suffering because of it! You wonder why I skip school…look at my example. Now I see why mom left you!” She was in shock at what she said and she stared at her father for a second before his hand came in contact, hard, with the right side of her face. She fell back at the impact, and her vision blurred from the pain and tears. She quickly scrambled to her feet and ran out the front door, grabbing his wallet on her way out. She ran down the sidewalk as fast as she could, afraid he was going to follow her. She turned to look behind her back, when someone grabbed her by the shoulders stopping her from going any further. She screamed in fear and pain because the pressure being put on her tender shoulders.

“Whoa! Slow down. Where are you going?” She turned to face a boy, about 17, staring back at her.

“Hey, are you okay, I didn’t mean to hurt you.” She stared into the two greenest eyes she had ever seen.

“No, I mean yes, no, I’m not…I need to go. I have to get away from here!” She didn’t mean to spill her problems out on a strange boy. He looked familiar, maybe from school. She wasn’t thinking clearly at the moment. The shock was still fresh from what had just happened.

“Just hang on a moment, you look like you’ve just seen a ghost.” It started to rain.

“Come on whatever it is I’m sure you could use someone to talk to and my house is just down the block, but we have to hurry, its raining and I don’t want my guitar to get wet.” Jessie knew she shouldn’t go with him, but she was desperate at the moment, and she swore she heard her father yelling her name out the front door. The rain didn’t help her cause any either. That’s all she wanted; was to get sick. She nodded, not able to speak, and they ran down the dark road to his house, which was further than she thought. But the further away form her father, the better.

“Alright here we are.” He ran up the front steps to a red door and jammed his key into the door. It swung open and he ran inside away from the rain. Jessie stood at the bottom of the steps getting more soaked by the minute. He turned around, noticing that she wasn’t coming in.

Everything was swimming through her mind that had happened that night. It was all too much and her vision blurred then everything went black. He noticed her legs begin to give out and he rushed outside and caught her before she hit the concrete. She was a tiny girl, only about 5’3 and about 110 pounds. He carried her inside and laid her down on the living room couch. She was soaked but he didn’t want to impose by removing her wet sweatshirt, so he let her lay there. He didn’t know when his mom would be home but it didn’t really matter she probably would have done the same thing. His mom, Olivia, was a nice woman. They had already taken in his best friend and band mate, Johnny.

Jessie awoke, lying on a couch in a house that she had no idea to whom it belonged. She sat up and heard noises coming from the next room.

“Hello?” She was cautious not to scare her rescuer, and peeked around the corner to see a young man standing at the sink filling two glasses with water. He wasn’t very tall, only about 5’9. He was dressed in a very baggy pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, and pair of black converse. He turned around, and even with her greeting, was startled and spilled his water down the front of his shirt.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to scare you, I just wanted…well I wanted to thank you for letting me come in, and apparently saving me from cracking my head on the ground. I’ve had a long, confusing night and, well, just, thanks.” She was so embarrassed of her actions she could barely make eye contact.
“It’s perfectly fine, and besides you looked as if you needed help and a place to get out of the rain. Really it’s all right, and by the way, since you are in my house, I’m Anthony.” He announced leaning back on the kitchen counter.
“I’m Jessie. I think you go to my school actually…yea now that I think about it, you’re in my Spanish class.”
“Yea, I remember now. I really hate that class.” He laughed at the thought and wondered how he had never realized her before. She was beautiful. Jessie was shivering by this time from being so wet and cold. Anthony realized and offered her some warm clothes. She pulled back her long, wavy brown hair to take off her sweatshirt when he noticed a bruise on her cheek that looked pretty new.
“Whoa, what happened to your cheek, maybe I didn’t catch you as well as I thought.”
“What?” She went over to the hall to look in the mirror, and tears came to her eyes as she remembered the events from earlier. He noticed her crying and millions of thoughts came to his mind. He pushed them away wondering how someone could hurt such a beautiful girl. She looked back at him and her brown eyes met his green ones. She immediately looked away. She couldn’t tell him what it really was; she barely new him and she still couldn’t believe what happened herself
“It’s nothing I hit my head earlier tonight that’s all.” She pulled off her sweatshirt to reveal her shoulders beneath her white tank top. Anthony gasped at the two large bruises on each side.
“I know we don’t know each other that well but that’s something.” He couldn’t believe it. That’s what she was running from!
“Who did this to you, do you know who it was, we need to call the cops!” He rushed into the kitchen about to dial when Jessie fell to her knees and starting crying, pleading him to stop.
“NO! Please, no. I don’t know what happened. I mean I do it’s just he’s never done this before. I thought he loved me, and then this! I screwed up and this is what I get for it! Just please don’t’ call the cops, he’s my father!” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. She was in hysterics. He had no idea what to say to her. He walked over to where she was and lifted up her chin with his hand. She had tears streaming down her face and a look of innocence that he couldn’t stand. He pulled her into a tight embrace as she let out all of her emotions into his chest. They sat there for a while until she finally stopped crying. They were both sitting on the floor and he felt so content with her in his arms that he didn’t even notice that she had fallen asleep in his lap.
He slowly got up, careful not to wake her and laid her down on the couch. He looked down at her and couldn’t believe his night. Here was a beautiful girl who had been abused and came to him for safety and was now asleep on his couch.
Just then the door opened and in walked a blue haired boy with bright green pants and a grin from ear to ear.
“Shhhh. Be quiet we have a guest.” Anthony put his finger to his lips and walked over to Cole who had just come in the door.
“Don’t you ever knock?” Anthony asked, as Cole laughed then quickly covered his mouth remembering what Anthony had said.
“Me, knock? Pssh, dude I am not a knocker!” Cole whispered, laughing at himself. “Who’s here anyways?”
“Who’s where?” Johnny walked in after Cole and immediately spotted Jessie lying on the couch. A smile spread across his face. He recognized her from Spanish as well.
“Hey, isn’t that Jessie Summers, from Spanish?” Johnny questioned.
“Yea, long story. Come up to my room and I’ll tell you the whole thing, but be quiet!” Anthony said and pushed them up the stairs.
“Alright, alright, I got the point. Quiet.” Cole and Johnny were his band mates, and his best friends. They had done everything together, including starting their band, Almost Candid. Cole had no doubt come up with the name, and besides the fact that it made no sense, the stupidity had stuck. They were doing pretty good for only being juniors in high school. They had a demo out in the local record stores and quite a few people showed up for heir shows, but Anthony always wanted more. Music was his life; his dream.
The boys woke up that morning to Anthony’s mom’s, face. She had quite a confused look on her face.
“Anthony, why is there a girl in the living room sleeping on our couch?”
“Awe mom I’m so sorry I meant to tell you, she ran into me last night scared for her life. I don’t know what could have happened to her if she hadn’t have stayed here.”
“What do you mean? Is she in some kind of trouble? I don’t want to house a criminal.”
“Jessie is not a criminal mom. I think her father beat her up. She has three bruises that I know of from last night, but who knows how long this has been going on.”
“Oh my god, why didn’t you call me at work, we need to notify the police.”
“Sorry mom everything was just so insane I really didn’t even think about it, I just wanted her to be safe at the moment. But I think you should talk to her first.” Anthony’s eyes drifted to his bedroom door. Jessie staggered to the entrance her sweatpants falling off her slim figure and her hands ridding her deep brown eyes of sleep. She pushed back her hair to reveal her bruised cheek. Anthony’s mother gasped, and Jessie looked up confused at what to say.
“Anthony?” Jessie looked scared again and started to back away toward the stairs. “I’m sorry, I should go…”
Anthony jumped up and ran after her.
“Mom, I’m gonna go talk to her and see if I can do anything. We’ll be back.”
Olivia turned to look at the other two boys. Johnny was staring at the door and shrugged. Of course Cole had slept through the whole ordeal and was curled up in a ball, his mouth hanging wide open. His blue hair he gave the hilarious resemblance of a Smurf. His blue shirt with his bright green pants didn’t help his cause.
Anthony was running down the sidewalk yelling for Jessie to slow down, she finally stopped and sat down right in the middle. She looked up at him, tears running down her face. He sat down next to her, his heart aching. He had never felt this way before. It scared him, but he liked it, and he knew it was because of Jessie.
“I’m so sorry I pulled you into this and now your mother knows! Why did you have to tell her? He’s my father, but I don’t know what to do…I don’t know where to go.” The rest of her words were muffled as Anthony pulled her into a hug. She stopped crying. She felt safe in his arms. She let go and looked up at him, a piece of black hair fell over his eye. She smiled and pushed it away.
He didn’t know what to say, but smiled back. “I know he is your father, but no father should ever do this to any child. It may feel wrong but we need to tell the cops and they can help him. And my mother knows, yes, I’m sorry but you need a place to stay for a while and my home is open.”
“I just don’t know if I can do that to him. I just need time, this is the first time this has happened.”
“Oh. But it doesn’t matter. Now that he knows he can get away with it, you can never trust him again until he has help. But I meant it, you can stay here.”
“Thank you, are you sure your mom doesn’t care… I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am right now.”
“Your welcome.” He laughed. They both sat on the sidewalk together in silence. Jessie couldn’t remember the last time she felt this way, and she couldn’t’ understand it. After all that had happened, she was happy. I didn’t seem right, but it felt right. She stared up into his eyes and he bent down and kissed her. Everything she was thinking about disappeared and she knew at that moment, she was safe.
They walked in the front door and burst into laughter at Cole. He was running around the house in one of Olivia’s pink nightgowns and banging on everything in sight with his drumsticks. Not far behind him was Olivia, chasing him with a soup pot, yelling at him to not brake anything. Johnny was over on the couch with his bass in hand and strumming along to the music playing through his earphones. It was quite a funny sight. Jessie turned around to look at Anthony; he just shrugged as a grin spread across his face.
“Welcome to the family.”
Cole left later that day leaving Anthony, Jessie, and his mother to discuss what they should do about their situation. Olivia had decided to let Jessie stay and hopefully help Olivia restore order in the house being overrun with teenage testosterone.
Jessie couldn’t remember the last time she and her father had sat down at the table for a dinner together, and she was overjoyed when Olivia called them in to have spaghetti. They were at the table, even Johnny, and were engrossed in conversations about the band and their next show when the doorbell rang. Anthony threw his napkin on the table, not stopping his conversation as he got up to answer the door. He went to open it and a fist connected with his face. He fell to the ground holding his nose and squinting through tears to see his attacker.
“Where’s my daughter? I know she’s in here. I saw her! She’s mine!”
Jessie froze in terror as her father stepped over Anthony’s form on the ground and his eyes connected with hers. She couldn’t believe he had found her. Johnny jumped up from the table, his chair falling to the ground behind him. Jessie’s father was making his way to Jessie when Johnny punched him in the jaw. He wiped the blood off his chin and pushed Johnny into the wall.
“Daddy no! I’m staying here! I don’t want to go!” He grabbed her by the wrist, and she screamed in pain. He jerked her from the table and began to drag her to the door. Anthony heard her pleads and, with adrenaline pumping, smashed Johnny’s bass against her father’s face. He released Jessie, and fell to the floor, unconscious. Jessie was on the floor crying and Johnny rushed to the phone to call the police. Anthony dropped the destroyed instrument to the ground and went to Jessie. He held her close and kissed her head trying to calm her down.
The police arrived and placed Jessie’s father under arrest. Jessie was in no state to go through their questioning and chose to stay within the comfort of Anthony’s embrace. Olivia did all the talking for her and smiled at the sight of her and her son. Anthony rested his head on hers and knew that he felt something strong for this girl that he had known for only a short time. Jessie’s eyes remained fixed to the squad car and at her father who was glaring at her through the window. Anthony gently lifted her chin and looked into her deep brown eyes. The blue and red lights reflected behind them, but neither noticed. He bent his head down and gently kissed her on the lips.
“You’re safe now. Everything is going to be ok. I promise.”
She smiled into his eyes and a tear ran down her cheek. He wiped it away and hugged her tight. He never wanted to see her cry again, and never wanted to let her go.

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