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Yellow and White Daisies
Caroline ran across the field and through his yard, skirting some mud puddles, but hitting most. She stopped on his porch to catch her breath for a second then knocked hastily, looking over her shoulder to make sure that he hadn’t followed her. She looked terrible; the hair in her ponytail was messy, knotted, and falling out. Her short-sleeved, button-up collared green shirt with the small yellow and white daisies was unbuttoned in places and hung awkwardly on her small frame. Her jeans were coated with mud on the bottom, with small flecks of mud up the back where it had been kicked up as she ran. There was a hole in one knee, and a bruise accompanying a small cut and some dried blood showed through. Along her skinny arms, bruises were coming up and scratches were just visible on the exposed part of her stomach. Her face was blotchy, as if she had just been crying, and you could see tear stains running down her rosy cheeks. She was shaking, shivering all over, although the night was still and warm.
Eli heard the harried knock on the door, and wondering who it was, thundered down the stairs of his old farmhouse. He opened the door, took in all of the shivering mess that was his best friend, Caroline, and immediately ushered her in, closing the door and locking it behind them. Once inside, he put his arm around her, and she burst into tears.
“Are you…okay? I mean, what happened? Was it him?” Eli tried to sound comforting as he steered her over to the couch, but he couldn’t keep the anger out of his voice. What kind of father could ever do this to his own beautiful daughter? he wondered as he patted her back and tried to soothe her. When her crying and hiccoughing subsided he repeated his questions. Her answer was a simple nod of her head; it was all that she could manage.
“S-sorry to b-barge in like this,” Caroline said in a small voice. “I mean, this isn’t probably how you wanted to spend your Saturday night. But it was the f-first place I thought of.”
“No, don’t worry. It’s totally fine. But, what happened? It’s never been this bad before, has it?” Eli’s voice was barely above a whisper as he uttered the last part.
“I don’t know. I was reading a book in the living room when he came home. He had been at the bar all day, and he was really drunk. He must have lost a bet or something because he was really livid.” She paused, took a deep breath, and continued, her voice wavering slightly. “I wasn’t d-doing anything. He just came on to me and, and he was shouting and everything and…” but Caroline couldn’t continue. She was reduced to tears, unable to relive this part again.
“Shh…don’t worry. You’re safe here,” Eli tried his hand at soothing her again. “You can go upstairs and take a bath, and Maggie will definitely let you borrow some of her clothes, and my parents will be home in an hour or so, so then we can call the police or something.”
“We-we can’t call the police!” she protested weakly.
“But…but do you want to let him keep treating you like this? I mean, it’s not fair and it’s not right.” Eli was perplexed t her response.
“But after all the horrible things that he is, he’s also my father, and deep down he loves me and I love him. And he’s the only family that I have left. I need him.”
Eli guided the still shivering Caroline upstairs and found his older sister, Maggie, in her room. When he filled her in on what happened, she jumped right into her “concerned mother” mode, one that she had developed from their own mother, while all that Eli had inherited was his father’s athletic build. While Caroline took her bath, trying to wash the night’s horrific events from her, Eli and Maggie had a serious talk in the downstairs family room.
“…you have to understand, Eli, that he is her family, and he’s all that she has left. Once he’s gone, there’ll be no one for her. She’ll probably go into the system or be shipped off to some random relative’s house.” Maggie reasoned
“But she has ME!” Eli retaliated, defensively.
“Yeah, and that’s nice and all, but that’s not how the law around this stuff works. Why don’t we, at least for now, let her relax and think it over, and then when mom and dad get home, they can talk to her.”
A few minutes later, Caroline stood in the hallway, looking very tiny and fragile in an old pair of Maggie’s jean shorts and a big sweatshirt. Her damp hair hung in clumps between her shoulder blades, and she looked vulnerable and unsure of what do. Frankly, Eli felt the same way. What should he say? What should he do? Thankfully, Maggie took over the situation.
“Feeling better?” Caroline gave a small nod as she walked over and sat in her recently vacated place on the couch next to Eli. “Well, our parents will be home pretty soon so that’s good. But for now, we can just do whatever. Are you hungry?”
“A little,” Caroline said, barely above a whisper. In a slightly stronger voice, she said, “but anything’s fine with me.”
Maggie went into the kitchen to get some pretzels and water for the three of them and Eli turned on the TV where there was a movie that they had all seen playing. Caroline leaned in toward Eli and he put his arm around her, cursing whatever had allowed something so horrible to happen to a girl as sweet and selfless as Caroline. He, Caroline, and Maggie, who had returned with the snacks, sank into a mindless state in front of the TV, thankful to not have to focus on their problems for the time being.