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Wake Me Up (Chapter Four)

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I pulled the jacket closer over my shoulders to only have Ed's smell fill my senses. The nippy air bit at my exposed nose and a few cold raindrops fell onto my scalp. I watched my old sneakers step onto the damp concrete in small, quick steps. Beside mine, were a pair of hardly worn, bright white shoes, waking in longer strides. I breathed in the fresh air with a heavy sigh, then looked up at the dark, thin forest before me. The clouds over head made the day seem older, even though it was only right after noon.

My shoulder bumped into Ed's and slightly threw me off balance. My face turned over to his to see him in the same position I was in, looking down at the ground with a thinking face. His mouth was tight, but not in a smile, and his eyebrows were slightly frowning. I licked my already chapped lips and looked away from him, worried about what was on his mind. We hadn't really talked all day, perhaps it was the random bad weather, or maybe it was me.

I've had a different attitude from yesterday, when Ed sung that first song at the studio. It was almost like I had discovered a whole new side to him, that maybe I wasn't supposed to know about quite yet. I felt bad, hiding from him, while he was sharing his life with me, I hadn't revealed a thing about myself to him. I knew I was supposed to, I just wasn't sure if I could. But, sometimes life is about taking risks, and they may take you in great places.

"Are you okay?" I asked him in a rusty voice, one I hadn't used the entire day. I didn't look over at him, only into the forest we were now in. The tall trees made the atmosphere look darker and spookier. Gravel cracked under our feet as we stepped further in, and our breath was just beginning to be seen in the chilling air.

"Yea, are you?" He finally spoke up, his deep voice sounding thick. My gaze returned to my feet as I thought about my answer. I wasn't alright, I was never alright. I couldn't remember a time when I could truthfully say, "I'm fine." But then again, no one ever asked me if I was okay. My mom knew the answer, and my dad was the problem. Was I okay now? Was it the truth?

"No," I replied with a small voice, feeling better that I told the truth, but hoping it wouldn't mean much to him. I was dreading the conversation to follow that up.

To my relief, and slight surprise, he didn't say anything to me. We kept strolling down the path that led into the park in silence. This was a true silence, the bad weather made the birds disappear and with no wind, the air was completely still and eerie. All that could be heard was our footsteps and our minds hard at work.

I almost jumped away when I felt Ed arm catch mine and bring me closer to him. A few days ago, I would have bolted at this, but now I was starting to want this interaction. Although all my clothes smelled like him by now, I still could tell the difference when I was closer to him. It was him, just his body being there, that made the scent complete. Now that his shoulder was connected to mine, I could really feel what it was like to stand next to him. I was short enough to easily fit under his chin comfortably in a hug, and probably looked even more innocent walking with him.

After a few more minutes of strolling in the forest, we came to a bench on the side of the trail. Gently, Ed led me to it, then let me sit down on one side of it. The cool metal and wood made me shake when my bare legs hit it. Ed took a seat beside me a sighed deeply. We had a nice view that looked out deeper into the woods. The dim lighting on the scene reminded me of the view I saw looked out of my bedroom window at home. I used to look out at those woods and picture myself running through them and away from home. Now that I had already done that, I found myself in yet another forest.

"What's wrong?" Ed's voice sounded crisp against the quietness. I swallowed and looked down at my hands resting in my lap. I knew it was now or never, I was going to have to let Ed in my life. I trusted him more than anyone right now, and I hoped he could bear the news. Maybe he could help, like he said.

"I haven't been honest with you," I mumbled, "and I found out yesterday that you deserved to know everything."

"What was that song called that you sung first at the studio?" I asked.

"Hold On," Ed replied quickly and I nodded.

"The first line you sung said: It's alright to cry, even my dad does sometimes," I stated the lyrics back to him, "and that made me realize that I had never seen my father cry."

"But he had seen me crying more times than not," I breathed steady to keep my emotions back, "and he was the reason that any tear ran down my cheek."

I was quiet again while I let Ed take in what I was saying. I didn't look over at him, but I was sure he wasn't looking at me either. I shifted my feet so they rested, crossed at the ankle, and under the bench.

"Things weren't always the best at home," I continued on, feeling odd talking into the cold air, and I felt as if I was talking to myself, "my dad was... And still is... I'm pretty sure... Addicted to alcohol. When he drinks a lot of it, it's almost as if it takes over his body. It makes him really mad, sometimes for no reason at all. And once he is mad, there is no stopping him."

"My mom and I... we couldn't escape from him. The door was usually locked, and he always had an eye on us. It as like we were kept hostage but only for the pleasure of one man," I tried to describe, "that pleasure came through pain. Somehow he... Enjoyed seeing us in pain... And seeing us scared."

I could feel my hands begin to shake and I held my knees tight to try to make them stop. Instead, Ed reached over with his right hand and took my left hand. His fingers intertwined with mine and squeezed me gently in comfort. I lifted my head again and looked out into the trees, my thoughts running a hundred miles an hour through my head.

"Things weren't always like that," I managed to muster a slight smile, thinking about what times used to be like, having a real father, "I was young, of course, but before alcohol, he had a job. We used to be able to afford food and new clothes every once in a while. Our house was nice and put together. And I'd like to believe he loved us. I went to school everyday and had friends, and a mom that cared for me all the time."

"He then discovered beer and bars and sometimes he would never come home after work. He'd either be drunk at the bar or at another women's home. It hurt to think about what he was doing, and my mom tried to keep me from the the truth," I bit the inside of my lip and felt my nose burn as a warm tear fell off my cheek, "being that young and knowing your own father would rather be spending money and getting hammered at a bar rather than coming home to spend time with his daughter was a feeling I will never forget."

"He kept getting more and more addicted, and soon lost his job. The first few days he spent at home, he stayed in the bedroom, trying to sober up. My mom and I started to believe in him, but the pressure was too much, and he eventually gave in and went to the bar again," I made myself keep talking, "he kept using our money for beer and kept telling us he'd get a job to buy us clothes again," I shook my head, "but he didn't keep that promise either."

"Money kept disappearing and after a while we couldn't afford gas for our cars or new clothing. I had to drop out of seventh grade, and stay at home all day. I was constantly helping my mom chop wood or try to cook while my dad had to walk into town to get another case of beer. He didn't have enough money to spend hours at the bar, and the bar keeper kicked him out. That was when he started getting really angry. When he had no alcohol in his blood, it made him mad and crave more. It was really scary when he would drink the last drink he had, then he would go crazy and tear up our house. He'd knock over pictures, smash tables, and punch the walls."

"But that was just the beginning of it all. Soon after, we had no food left, our house was a wreck and to make matters worse, winter was just beginning to start. Our winters were harsh and there was no way we could make it outside in a blizzard. We all had to stay inside for most of the time, which meant it was harder for my dad to go out and get more drinks," I flashed back to that time. It was the hardest part of my life, it was when my father's true colors began to show, when walls and tables could no longer satisfy his hungry fists.

I wasn't the first to get beaten, my mom was. The image stuck in my head like it could have only happened yesterday. It was during one of the worst snow storms we had gotten that year, and there was no way that any of us could even make it out the door, so I thought. My dad was on his last few bottles of beer and my mom was trying to cook dinner with some old chicken breasts and left over corn. I sat in the kitchen, watching her cook, and trying to steer clear of my dad who was watching his show on the television.

"Mom, are we going to eat something today?" I remember asking in a tiny voice, one I was growing used to always using around the house. I remember my mom sighing and pulled away from the stove to look at me. Her eyes had lost their luster and her freckles stuck out on her pale, sunken cheeks. She looked sick, like life was getting shorter for her everyday.

"We'll have a little bit of something tonight, Bear," she called me by my nickname only she used. However, I knew she only used it when she knew things weren't going to be okay.

"Rita, how many bottles do we have left in the fridge," my dad's gruff voice called lightly from inside the living room.

"None," my mom replied, her voice muffled and shy. She began stirring whatever she had in the pot quicker with nervousness.

"Well f**k that," my dad slammed an empty beer bottle onto broken table beside him. His hands were big and held the neck of the glass bottle a bit longer before letting go and letting it returning to his side.

"I'll have to go into town and get some more, then," I watched him slowly bend over, then pick his large figure up off the couch. He struggled to stand and had to hold onto the mantle place for balance. After burping he started to take baby steps forward. I diverted my eyes away from him and back down at my hands on the table as soon as he turned to face in the direction of the kitchen.

"Give me some cash," he asked my mom when he got nearer. My mom didn't answer right away, but she kept working at the stove, not looking over at him.

"I don't have any to give you," she eventually spoke up.

"Don't lie to me b**ch," he threatened her, "I know you keep a pocket full of cash, I'm not a dumb ass."

It was true. When she could, my mom would smuggle and collect money in her jacket pocket for food. She always wore the jacket to keep it safe, but nothing was safe In this house.

"No," I was shocked to her her say to him. He shuffled on his feet from behind me and I sunk deep into my chair to try to make myself invisible to him.

"What did you say?" He asked, and I could hear his anger in his tone.

"No, I won't give it to you," she muttered again.

"I'm not asking you, Rita, I'm telling you to give me that ****ing money," his voice rose.

"You can't have it, we need this money," I watched her drop the spoon into pot and turn to face my dad. Frustration made her lock her jaw and redden her cheeks.

"I do too," his voice sounded calmer, like he was second guessing himself for a minute.

"No you don't! All you do is go spend our money on yourself! So you can get drunk and forget about the world! Forget the fact that you don't have a job and forget the fact that you do have a family you need to care for!" My mom's voice got heavy and loud, "we need a man of the house, not the coward you are."

"I'm no ****ing coward!" My dad spat back, not giving a reason.

"You are! Why can't you see that you are tearing this family apart?! You've lost your job, spend our money, and ruined our house. You have a wife and a daughter who need you, but not it seems like we're better off without you!" My mom continued yelling while a few tears fell from her eyes.

"You're mine! You're my wife, my property! You do as I ****ing say, because I am the boss! Now give me that money before I take it from you!" He raged back, and I could feel him coming closer behind me.

"This money doesn't belong to you anymore. We need this money to survive, and you're not going to go spend it on yourself. I have a daughter to care for and feed, and I wont let you take that away from me," she sobbed, "you've taken everything else from me, but I won't let you have my daughter."

"Just give me the money, Rita," my dad asked calmly one more time while my mom cried over the stove. Her frail frame was shaking and tears formed in a pool under her feet.

"Never," she growled. I never expected what came next, my chair was suddenly pushed out from under me and I hit the tile ground hard, luckily catching myself with my hands before my head could strike the hard surface. From on the floor I could see my dad grab my mom's wrists and drag her from the stove. She was crying frantically and tried to fight back, but she was too weak to do any damage.

"I warned you, Rita, I ****ing warned you!" My dad yelled at her through her wails. I crawled further under the table, bumping into the fallen chair I was sat in. I rolled up into the fetal position, and sat hugging my knees while I witnessed my dad slap my mom across the face. Her small wrists were bundled up and being crushed with his one hands while his other one searched her pockets for the money she hid.

Tears poured out of my eyes when I saw his hand pull out a few dollars from her pocket, and let a few coins fall onto the ground and disappear under the couch he held my mom against. She was crying violently and shaking, trying to escape from him with no success. He eventually pulled her up again to only toss her helpless body to the floor like a rag doll. Her head hit the ground first, immediately knocking her out. My dad stood over her and took a moment to sigh and run his hand over his face. Without a second thought, he walked past me and out our front door, into the heavy snowfall.

Still crying, I crawled over to my mom. I looked over her body and thankfully saw her still rising chest. With shaky hands I reached over to touch her cold face. It was wet with tears but she cried no more. Her jacket was torn from greedy hands and most of the money she had was missing. I couldn't believe what he had done to her, and I wasn't sure what to do.

"What now, mom..." I sobbed, "what are we supposed to do now?"

"He didn't come back that night," I told Ed who was listening patiently next to me. He was holding my hand tightly, but it didn't keep the tears away.

"He came back the next day after it stopped snowing, but by then my mom stopped trying. Both of us knew he was too much for us, and we didn't even try to stop him anymore."

"Things only got worse after that. Now that he knew he could, he started hurting us, making us feel the pain he was supposed to. We didn't have any energy to fight back, or run to get help. This went on for years, I'm not sure how many anymore," I explained, "but everyday I thought it might be the day I got away."

"I knew I wasn't going to get away without paying my price first," my right hand made its way up to my cheek and my cold fingers lightly stroked the scar I had.

"One night, my dad was mad again, and he was on top of my mom, ready to beat her. When I looked at her, though, I could see there was nothing left of her. She was hallow and sick. She couldn't take anymore of him, even though he kept coming back for more. She didn't even try to get away, she just let it happen. But this time was different," I swallowed, remembering the event, "he had a knife in his hand. He was going to kill her. I couldn't let it happen, I loved my mom, she was all I had left, and before I could stop myself, I was running towards them, telling him to stop. But he just pushed me down, and stood over me like he was to her."

"He threatened me, and got so close... I could see my own reflection in the knife he held over my face. His eyes were black, completely filled in with anger. I tried to get away, but he held me down," I squeezed my eyes shut, "and the knife got closer to me. My mom shouted at him, but no matter how she tried, she couldn't get up to save me. it was already too late by then, though. He marked my cheek, a big gash down the side of it."

"And now I have something to always remember him by," tears flooded down my face uncontrollably. Ed pulled my head closer to his body and let it rest against his warm chest. My tears soaked his shirt and left my face stained, "every time I look in the mirror, I can only remember him and what he has done to our family. I will never be able to forget it either."

Ed rubbed my shaking shoulder while I cried on him. My hands clutched his jacket and pulled it closer to me, as if it would protect me from myself and my past. I wasn't done yet, and I knew I needed to continue. Now that I started, I needed to finish. He needed to know everything.

"A few weeks later, while my dad was asleep on the couch from a hangover, my mom told me to leave. She gave me whatever money she had left in her jacket, and a stale bun, then made me leave the house. She said I didn't deserve to live like that the rest of my life, and so she told me to go find help. She didn't mean help for her, she meant to help myself," I made sure Ed could hear me through my sobs, "it took me a while, but I eventually ended up here."

"Now you're safe," he finally spoke to me, but I shook my head.

"The longer I've been here, the more I realized how much I've missed," I said, "I've never learned how to drive, and I've never graduated from school. I don't know how to use a telephone or bake a cake. I've never gone to party or had one of my own," I said, "the last time I got told happy birthday when when I turned eleven, I don't even know how old I am."

"That's nothing you can't learn now," Ed comforted me.

"That's not it. That's not the worst part. It's knowing that my own father, the one who was supposed to support me through life has only taken it away from me. I never had a child hood, and I grew up without learning. I never had a real father," I finished up.

I'm sure Ed didn't know what to say to all that I just told him. Instead he just pulled me closer and protected me. He let me cry out the last of my tears and hiccup in his arms. I never wanted to leave his safety, and I never wanted to get up from where we were sitting. I wanted to stay there forever and let Ed cradle me.

"Thank you," he said at last, I lifted my head up to look and him. I could see the stains from the few tears that ran down his own cheek, but I didn't point them out. I only looked into his glossy blue eyes.

"Thank you for... Telling me," he finished his thought. His hand rose and cupped my chin. He let his thumb gently caress my scar, and his eyes wander over my swollen face.

"Now I can make your life perfect, and you won't have to worry about your past ever again," he whispered to me.

"You're beautiful, and you need to know that," he kept saying and I listened just as he did for me, "nobody deserves to go through what you have. I won't let it ever happen to you again. You can trust me. I won't let you get hurt anymore."

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