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What the Rest of the World Doesn't Know
The crunch of the dirt road rocks under my shoes and the clank of the school bus door shutting started it all. The sun setting behind the trees and soon behind the house I call my home; let me know the dark is on its way. Home isn’t a word I’ve ever really liked. Throughout my childhood so far, my home never thrilled me. But I’m sure drunks and people yelling wouldn’t thrill you much either, huh?
After walking several miles down the dirt road, I could finally spot my abandoned looking, big white house. What I hate the most about this house is how perfect it is from the outside. Sure, a little bit of dirt caused by no one loving and caring for it, but it still appears so perfect. The shiny windows, wrap-around porch with two swings, precisely measured shutters and the beautiful chunky, wooden front door complete the whole look. I have always been thankful for the house being so set back from the rest of the world. Being buried in the dark woods and ancient trees totally beat nosey neighbors always wondering what the yelling and racket was all about.
I maneuvered my way through the crunchy, dead, knee-height grass. As I reached the crackly white painted front steps, I could already hear the bottles clashing and them yelling. Great. Another night in hell. As quietly and gently as possible, a opened the big door just so the drunks wouldn’t hear me enter. Maybe tonight they have so much alcohol in their systems that they would just forget about me? Maybe I could finally escape. For one night, escape this nightmare.
*Click*, the door shut just barely too loud. “Crap…they heard it” I thought to myself. Waiting a brief second, I heard no sentences being slurred together. They hadn’t heard me. I tiptoed as lightly as possible over to the stairs. My bedroom just had to be so far away, didn’t it? The denim backpack slung over my shoulder, weighing about a million pounds, did not make it any easier to be quiet. Thump. I missed a step. This time I knew for a fact that they had heard me because everything stopped, the beer bottles being tossed, the popping of wine tops, and the voices. That’s what frightened me the most. The man and woman had stopped talking their drunken nonsense. I knew I was screwed. His heavy footsteps stomped toward me. I could hear him fumbling into the walls. I couldn’t run for the door because I knew he would hurt me once he got to me. And going to my room would just corner me into a trap. So I patiently and anxiously awaited his presence. He slumped his body along the railing and gave me that one of-a-kind drunk look. “Where â€˜ave you been, missy?”
“I just for home from school…just like everyday around this time.”
“Baby, wanna come party with all of us?” he slurred at me.
“Brian, there’s only you and Jen in there.”
“No, no, no. Everyone is here! You’d love â€˜em all, I â€˜romise.”
“Whatever. You’re drunk. Go party and leave me alone.” I sassed back.
“Do NOT call me a drunk, child. I will bring my toys out on you like last time,” he brought upon me.
“Yes sir. It won’t happen again.” I squeezed my lips together and pressed my tongue against the roof of my mouth to keep from crying. He pointed his bony hairy finger towards the top of the staircase. “Lexington is waiting on you. The cry baby wouldn’t shut up, so Jen gave her a little smack and she left.” Oh no. Lexi. I tightened up so tight I could barely move. He started back towards his “party” with a clearly marked “intoxicated” walk. I dropped my book bag and raced up the stairs. I skipped so many stairs that I nearly fell countless times. When I finally reached the top, I turned left, down that hall, and to the right where the door was shut with a chair propped under the doorknob so Lexi was trapped in. I took the chair and threw it as hard and far down the bare hallway as my strength allowed me. After flying open the door, I searched frantically for little Lexi. All I could picture were her bright green eyes and little dark skinned body with a head filled with brown curly Q’s.
Under the bed? No. Behind the dresser? No. In the dresser drawers? Nope. Hidden in the closet? Not there either. I stood in the middle of the room, thinking as hard as I could of anywhere else she could be and circling around looking for anything that might tell where she was hidden. I spotted one thing, a bloodstain. Of course! The bathroom! I paced my way over there. It gave it all away when I put my ear to the door. A little voice was crying and praying at the same time.
“Dear God, forgive me for my sins. Please save me. Dear God, forgive me for my sins. Please save me.” The scared squeaky voice repeated numerous times before I finally opened the door. As I turned the corner, peering at the innocent child, kneeled down, hands together in front of her face, she jumped so frantically that she fell backwards, landing curled up in a ball. “Don’t hurt me! I didn’t do it! Please! Don’t hurt me!” her voice cried.
“Shh, Lex, it’s me, Landon.” I ran over and grabbed her limp body. She fought back, so my grip tightened and I pulled her to my chest, still in a ball, and rocked her back and forth. She cried and wheezed uncontrollably. I looked down to wipe tears off of her face and kissed her forehead. That’s when I noticed the blood, streaming out of her mouth, down from her nose, and her bulging bruised eyes. “Lexi! What happened to you?! Who did this? Why is there blood all over you?!” I inquired desperately.
“Landon. Brian and Jen are drinking. They’re mean. I miss Mommy and Daddy.” she said with sorrow.
“I know baby, so do I. You wouldn’t believe it. What did Brian and Jen do to you?”
“When I got dropped off by the bus I came inside. I told Jen I was hungry, but she said she didn’t have any food to feed me with and to suck it up. My tummy ached so I cried. Brian yelled at me to shut up and stop being a baby. Jen smacked me and Brian shoved me so hard that my face hit the door. It hurt…which made me cry more. The more I cried, the more they swung their palms and fists at me. I got scared and ran from them once beer bottles were being slung at me. So I came and hid.”
“It’s all okay now. I’m gonna do something for us real soon sweetie.” I stroked her hair repeatedly.
“Why did that truck driver have to be drinking? Why did he have to crash into our mama and daddy? Why did this have to happen to us?”
“I don’t know, Lex. But it did. And there’s nothing we can do about it.”
I fetched the cloth from the nearby sink and soaked it with warm water. As Lexington laid her head against my chest, she realized she could finally relax for a little bit. I dabbed the warm cloth along her forehead, around her beautiful green eyes, down around her blood crusted nose, and finally the softest around her puffy lips. When I pressed too hard, she winced. When she whined, I could feel the pain. After the cloth got cold, I tossed it into the sink and scooted my back against the wall. Lexi was dozing off into an exhausted sleep. I pulled her tighter to my chest to make her feel protected. Soon enough we were both sound asleep in the bathroom resting with my back against the wall and left side against the bathtub.
My eyes shot open and my heart skipped a beat or two. I jumped so badly that I woke Lexi. “LANDON! LEXINGTON! Get your stupid asses out here right this second!” the still-drunken voice called. Lexi shot me a look filled with fear. “Shh. Lex, hide in the bathtub and don’t say a single word. I’ll come back for you. Just stay completely still and silent,” I whispered as lightly as I possibly could without them hearing me. Her eyes glistened with tears but all she could do was nod. She crawled into the tub and I quickly grabbed a towel that was laying on the counter and laid it over her. I kissed her forehead, told her I loved her and shut the shower curtains.
My stomach churned as I stood before the closed door, hand on the handle. I slowly turned the knob. I peered behind the door, nothing? My stomach had that sudden turn. Was I hearing things or had he left? I walked slowly toward the door that led to the hallway. Looking around the hallway, there was still no trace of Brian, or Jen for that matter. So I started down towards the stairs, then maneuvered my way down each step. That’s where he was laying, face down in the dining room. My hand went straight up to cover my mouth. What had happened? Where was Jen? I stepped around him and ran into the living room to find Jen passed out on the kitchen table. “Oh boy…” I said quietly to myself. There were beer bottles spread throughout the downstairs and splats of beer along the baby blue walls. They had never gone this far before. I returned to check on Brian. Bending down and grabbing his wrist, I checked his pulse. He was still alive. I sighed in disbelief and halfway relieved. What the hell am I supposed to do with two almost dead-drunken bodies and a beaten up 7 year old? I knew what I could do. I had been waiting for this since the second day Lexington and I moved in with these animals. Run away, far away, where they could never get us back.
I made sure both bodies were still alive but unconscious. I was so overwhelmed with confusion that I didn’t know where to start…what to do? I ran upstairs to get Lexi. When I uncovered her she jumped. “This little girl has been traumatized for life. She is going to need so much help once we get set free of this mess,” I thought to myself. She sprung into my arms and wrapped her arms around my neck and legs around my waist. All I could do was squeeze her. “Brian and Jen are drunk and unconscious. They aren’t dead but they are not awake either. So we need to make a run for it as quickly as we can. Help me pack some things up.”
“Okay. What should I get?”
“Grab your backpack and mine and empty them out.”
She did as I told her. We packed our blankets our parents had given to us, the only real thing we had left from them besides memories. Quilts, extra sets of warm clothing for the both of us, bible, a loaf of bread, and the last picture ever taken of mom and dad were the only things we stuffed into the tiny backpacks. Lexington insisted on taking her pillow. I told her it was fine if she was willing to run with it. She was. I put the lighter backpack on her back and the heavier one on mine. We were ready to set out. I hadn’t decided where we were going yet. Just as far away as possible was my plan.
Lexi and I took our, hopefully, last steps in that house and held hands. We looked back at the still restless bodies. We gave each other the nod and started jogging along the dirt road. I figured the best place to go was our old house, to breathe in old memories. We did. It made us both cry. By dark, Lexington was out of steam. She laid her pillow on my shoulder as I carried her along and she slept on my shoulder. I kept my pace steady for an all night walk.
As dawn approached from under the mountains, I knew I would have to be close. I reached my final destination. The safest place I could possibly be: a police station. They knew Lexi and me from our incident with our parents’ death. “Landon? Baby what are you doing here?!” Officer Pauline called to me. I stood in the doorway and just cried. They were tears of joy and tears of sadness. Officer Pauline and Sergeant Luke came over and hugged both sleeping Lexi and me. Sergeant Luke took Lexington from my arms and back to a room where she could sleep on a cot. He told me he would clean her wounds as well. Officer Pauline led me to a bright red room with the ugliest couch I’d ever seen. She told me to come sit with her. I did. I felt comfortable with her. She had always been there for me. She was there for me one last time. I fell into her arms and bawled my eyes out until I finally just fell asleep.
Around dinnertime of that night, I woke up on the ugly couch. I looked around to find no one. I started screaming. Officer Pauline came rushing in. “It’s okay, Landon! You’re fine here. No one can hurt you anymore. Sshhh. It’s alright baby.” She sat me up and put a pillow in her lap for my head to rest on. She stroked my hair, just like my mom would do for me when I couldn’t sleep. I cried more. I felt something soft hit my cheek. Officer Pauline was crying too. She squeezed me and told me it was all over.
After I finished crying and washed my face, Officer Pauline brought Lexington into the room I was in. She came lightning bolt fast over and threw her arms around me. I set her on my lap and looked up at Officer Pauline. She sat in a desk chair and looked at us both square in the eyes. “Guys, I’ve got news for you. I’m not sure if you will be happy or sad. But we went and checked out your foster home while you were getting rested up and found Brian and Jen. They were both dead…the FBI thinks they had so much alcohol that it just killed all the brain cells. The alcohol just wiped out their system. So, you will never have to see them again. But, we don’t know where you two will be and if you will stay together.”
“No! I’m not leaving Lex. I refuse. Mom and Dad left her and I’m not going to, too. It’s not happening.”
“Okay. I completely understand that. I respect that. Now I have something to put on you girls’ minds. How would you like for me to foster you for awhile?”
Lexington looked at me, the happiest I’d seen her in years. “I think we would both appreciate that. Officer Pauline…”
“Pauline is fine.”
“Pauline, I couldn’t thank you more for being here for us. When our parents died, you were here for us. And now, you were right here waiting with open arms once again. Thank you.”
“Oh, Landon. You’re more than welcome. It’s my pleasure.”
We all exchanged smiles.
We have saved very few memories and lost more than imaginable. Now with Pauline being our legal guardian, since the last time we saw our parents, love has entered our lives once more. Pauline shows obvious love and cares very much for us. She has made us her life, and we have made her ours. The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing.