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"Your hands coming down again..." Lacey Mosely's voice drifted out of my stereo and floated around my ears, coaxing a tear down my cheek.
I'm so stupid, I thought. Who else would cry at this song?
Oh, that's right, no one.
Because no one else could relate to "I'm Sorry", I hoped.
"I close my eyes and brace myself - I only noticed your face," I bawled, completely out of tune but not caring at all. No one else could hear me, unless my mother was leaning on the doorway again for balance.
She often got drunk, so when she went on her drunken rampages upstairs, she'd forget where I was and walk around screaming at me. She also forgot we even had a basement, so I lived down here, by myself. I crawled out the window and never went upstairs, bought food for myself with the money I earned working at Nancy's Closet, and cooked and did my laundry at Rukiya's house. She was Nancy's daughter - she understood my situation.
I never opened the basement door. It was always shut - the only times it ever opened was when I played my music a little too loud, and my mom would lean on the door and hear it...
Then she'd storm downstairs, and attack.
With every day, I grew more weary of the fact that I was still here. What was going to happen while I was sleeping? Would one of the many men she brought home for the night go down into the basement, thinking they were going to crash down there? Would she find me and kill me in my sleep?
And with every day came a new bruise that has yet to fade.
Suddenly, I sensed something was about to go wrong. Very, very wrong.
I stopped the Flyleaf CD I was playing, put it back in the case and stuck it in my bag. I always kept a bag packed with the things I absolutely had to have. These things included: my CDs, my MP3 Player, my current favorite book, and my favorite outfit - a pair of soft, dark skinny jeans with a hole in one knee, a black undershirt, and a charcoal gray Evanescence T-Shirt, which was artfully ripped in all the right spots.
Why not a Flyleaf T-Shirt? I couldn't find one...
Oh, add to that list a black leather belt with silver spikes. It was too small to fit around my waist, so I wore it as a bracelet.
Anyways, I grabbed my bag, sat back on my dark purple bean bag, and waited.
I listened closely for anything.
Then, I heard heavy footsteps and hard breathing. RIght on the other side of that small wood door was my mom, leaning on it. She was probably hungover.
Our breathing was the only thing in the heavy silence. Then there was a cracking sound, and the door caved in.
Mom tumbled down the stairs, yelling for her latest boyfriend, Richard, her strawberry-blond hair flying everywhere. Her head hit the concrete floor, and all was quiet again.
I'd be lucky as a bum winning the lottery if she was unconcious.
But of course, she stood up, saw me, and lunged.
I screamed as loud as I could, hoping to whatever rules the universe that there was a window open, or Richard would come down to see what all the noise about and help me. But just in case the Ruler Of the Universe wasn't listening to me at all, I went for the basement window. When I couldn't open it, I realized I'd forgotten to unlock it this morning.
I turned to see Mom still coming at me, a crazy look in her cloudy blue eyes tinged with red around the edges, probably an effect of the umpteenth beer she drank last night. She stumbled with every step, and with every stumble she growled or yelled a nasty curse word.
For this reason only, I was glad she'd gotten so drunk that she'd be too slow to catch me.
When she stumbled again, I took my chance. I jumped over her crumpled body, raced up the stairs, hurled myself through the new hole in the door, and almost ran into a pale redhead covered in freckles.
"I - I'm sorry," I mumbled to him. It was probably Richard. I wanted to explain what was going on, that he was just a replacement for my father who died three years ago, but I couldn't waste any time.
I calmly walked through the front door, and left.
Yeah, my father died three years ago. That's why my mother has gone insane with trying to do whatever it takes to stop my heart from beating.
So far, I've taken the beatings, literally, and escaped her every time, before it could get any worse, like getting broken bones and other serious injuries that would handicap me so she could kill me.
I thought about this as I jogged to wherever my feet would take me. I didn't have a bike - the one I had three years ago was sold for marijuana money. Speaking of marijuana, my mom did experiment with drugs. The smell of them often floated around the house, so that's another reason why the basement door was never opened and I did my laundry at my friend's house. I was afraid the smell would get into my clothes, and I'd be kicked out of my extracurriculars because they'd think I was doing drugs. I'd also never get to go to college. Any chances of a scholarship would be gone, and I've been working so hard to get good grades, stay hidden from my mother, stay alive, and do whatever it takes to move out ASAP.
One more year...
One more year and I wouldn't be so alone. The bruises would fade, because I wouldn't be around my mother every day, who is so convinced I killed my father.
I've tried to reason with her, kept telling her it was a car accident and I didn't make the turtle want to cross the road and decide to stop in our lane.
Over and over again, I played it in my mind. The one day I didn't tell him to be careful when he left for work...
Maybe it was my fault.
I looked up from my feet to see why I'd stopped walking/jogging.
I stood in front of his house...
I realized that right now, he was the person I needed most.
So I walked to the front door, knocked, and waited.
I heard footsteps and kitten claws tapping on the floor. His dog, Rain, barked at me, and I heard the doorknob turn. I told myself not to hold my breath, because that's what they do in movies and that's so overused in situations like this one.
The door opened, and I stood in front of Salem.
His slightly shaggy black hair was teased gently by the wind, and his dark green eyes burned into my plain brown ones. I swear, he's got every single shade of green there ever was in those two beautiful emeralds of his. His skin was so pale, you'd think it would burn as soon as the sun touched it.
"Kristen." He nodded at me, and gestured for me to come in.
I could feel heat rising to my cheeks, and I blushed gently under my dark brown hair with two silver and gold streaks.
"Hey," I said quietly, and I managed an awkward smile.
Salem smiled back, and I stepped into his living room. He sat down on the couch, and I hovered in the doorway, unsure if I should sit by him or stay standing.
He laughed a little. "So, what's the point of you coming here if you're not gonna sit down and talk to me?" He scooted over, and I practically floated to the couch and sat down.
"So, what's up?" he asked.
"Well..." I hesitated.
Should I confide in him?
Yes. Salem was my best friend, and I was hoping he would be more, and if we're going to keep being friends, he should know what's going on.
"You know why I always wear long sleeves?" I asked him.
He looked up at me, surprised. "I've had my suspicions, and I'm guessing it's because you cut yourself."
"No, no, though to be honest I've considered doing that once or twice. Maybe three times. But no, that's not it." I unzipped my jacket and showed him my arms.
I was wearing a skimpy tanktop underneath, so you could see almost all of my back and all of my arms. Everything had a bruise in a various stage - purple, black, brown, greenish-gray, red and fairly new - or there were gashes from the times I was attacked with something sharp, more often than not a broken beer bottle.
I was a patchwork of colors. And most of those colors were very ugly.
Salem's mouth fell open wide. His eyes filled with something, maybe pain because he was trying to understand how I felt, or sadness, or - I wasn't sure, but it was very sad and it made me want to cry.
"What... So..." He trailed off after trying to start a sentence repeatedly, then turned away for a moment. He took a deep breath and looked me in the eye.
"What is going on?" he asked simply.
"It's my mother. Ever since my dad died three years ago, she's been trying to kill me. She gets drunk almost every night and takes various men to our house to spend the night. She smokes marijuana and weed every now and then, and I live in the basement, hiding from her." I took a moment to breathe. I still couldn't believe I was telling him this.
"So... Why tell me? Why today?" Salem moved a little closer, and I could feel his warm breath on my shoulder. It wasn't because he was that close, it was just because I was sensitive to people's touch, given my circumstances.
"Because today, she leaned on the basement door, and it caved in. She found me again, and I can't fix the basement door without her noticing and knowing I'm still there. I can't go back." I choked, wanting so badly to just bury my face in his hair and cry.
Salem looked at me in that intimate way he has sometimes, and his hand went up and came down toward my face.
I gasped, turned away, and tensed. How could he ever hurt me? Why?
I sobbed, expecting it to hit me any second -
His fingers gently touched my cheek, featherlight, nothing like the menacing blow I'd expected.
Then it hit me. How long had it been since someone had touched me gently, having no intentions of hurting me? Even Rukiya had never once touched me. We weren't the sort of friends that hugged before they parted, or had a handshake, or high-fived, or anything of the sort.
Salem turned my head to face him, but not forcefully, not at all.
"Did you really think I was going to hurt you?" he asked. This time I was sure of the look in his eyes - pain.
I buried my face into his shoulder and cried for what seemed like eternity.
When I woke up in the morning, I immediately freaked out.
Where was I? At Salem's house? How did I get here? Why would I want to come here anyways?
Eventually, I calmed down and sat back down on the couch.
Salem had gone to his room. Apparently, I'd cried myself to sleep while he was hugging me, and he'd covered me up with a blanket that had the words "Green Day" on it.
Hmm. I'd heard of that band. Maybe it was his favorite?
It even smelled like him - like his favorite cinnamon sugar popcorn and Axe deoderant.
As much as I wanted to stay while I had the chance, I had to do this while I had the courage.
I had to talk to her, face to face, hopefully with no violence.
But I knew as well as she did that she couldn't look at me without her pulse racing in anger, wanting to destroy me.
I shouldn't be doing this, I told myself. I should just live with Salem, and maybe one day we'll get married and have a happily ever after, and I'll have at least a few more days to live if I put this off.
But no. I couldn't back out now. I was already standing at her bedroom door.
It was one thirty-two PM, she had to be awake by now.
I took the deepest, most calming breath possible, which wasn't all that great, considering I could be dead within the hour.
And I knocked on her door.
I heard a low moan from within, then a thud as she probably fell out of bed and walked to open the door. I backed up a little, knowing it was best if I wasn't in her face as soon as she opened the door.
"What do you want?" she growled as she swung the door open. Her eyes narrowed when she saw me, and she took an unsteady step forward.
"You," she whispered menacingly.
"Do you remember my name?" I asked.
She stopped for a moment, trying to remember. "Christie," she said flatly.
I shook my head. "No, Kristen. And I want to talk to you for the first time in three years."
"No, years. Come."
I walked into the living room, expecting her to follow me, and sure enough, she did. I couldn't believe how calm I was acting. Definitely acting, because what I felt right now was the exact opposite of calm. Maybe I should be an actress someday.
"What do you want?" she repeated as she sat down on the loveseat across from me.
"Well, I just wanted you to realize that you don't have to kill me. Just wait one more year and I'll be out of your stringy and falling out hair." I smirked a little.
"Did you just call me old?" Mom hissed. "How dare you?! Learn your place, you're only ten years old!"
"Mom, I was ten years old about seven years ago." As I said this, the same Flyleaf song I was playing the day before came into my head. "I'm only ten years old..."
"You might be almost old enough to move out, but in this house, you have about as many rights as a ten year old. An sick and twisted ten year old who killed her own father. You deserve what you get." She picked up something from the beige carpeted floor, and when I looked closer, what I saw made me want to run for my life.
The most wickedly evil-looking whip you could ever imagine, built solely for inflicting pain. It was obvious it wasn't ever meant for horseriding, probably custom-made for nearly killing me so she could see me suffer for a while.
I could've passed out. I could've died of fear right on the spot, or maybe I could've run.
But I walked briskly toward her, and snatched the whip right out of her hand. I thanked the Ruler of the Universe for paying attention to me for at least this one crucial moment and letting her still be a little slow from the alcohol.
Her eyes grew wide in shock, and she sat there, dumfounded for a second. But then she screamed as loud as she could at me, that she was going to kill me, skin me alive and pour rubbing alcohol on me so I would burn and scream in pain. I stepped back as she came at me to get her whip back, and I said, "No."
"What?!" she screeched.
"No," I said again. "Sit back down or I'll hit you with this whip."
She looked at me carefully, a wicked grin spreading across her face. "So you realize how deadly that whip is, then." Mom started cackling, a horrible sound that echoed off the walls and rang in my ears.
"Well, get to the point, then." She collapsed backwards onto the loveseat and listened.
I sighed. "It's been three years, and this is the longest conversation we've had. In fact, it's the only conversation. And I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry for hiding, for dragging this out for so long. Also, I forgive you. I understand you must feel worse than I do at the loss of Dad - he was your husband. And I know that you feel that I've killed him. I understand."
Mom raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? After all this time, now you apologize for killing him and having the nerve to hide out in the basement?"
"I - I didn't -" I spluttered. I was so tempted to scream at her that it wasn't my fault, it was all because of the stupid turtle in the road, but I knew it would ruin any chance of coming to terms and living in peace with her.
"Forget it. I don't care if you think that I killed him, even though I didn't, as long as you'll listen." I shot a death glare, my signature move for getting a point across.
As usual, it worked.
"So will you please stop trying to kill me, maybe stop smoking marijuana and weed, possibly cut back on the drinking, and reconstruct your life? You're thirty-seven. You'd be beautiful if the drinking hadn't yellowed your teeth and damaged you all over, and if the drugs hadn't entered your system, your hair might be healthier and your eyes wouldn't be dull. You're thirty-seven, and you sold my bike for money for beer and weed. What kind of mother does that? I'll answer for you: white trash. You've always made fun of the white trash people. Do you really want to be like that now?" I shook my head, letting my disappointment show.
"There's no point without David," she answered.
"Well, if that's true, then why haven't you killed yourself by now?" I asked. "If you'd get back on your feet and stop relying on your decaying looks for money, you might actually really and truely fall in love again. And maybe we could at least coexist."
"Are you trying to cut some sort of deal?" she asked, suspicion creeping into her voice.
"Maybe. It might seem like a deal to you, but for me, I'm offering advice. You can still salvage your life. You can renew it, rebuild it, start off with what you have left," I urged.
"Well. Well well well. Seems to me like you think you've thought of a master plan." She smiled in that evil way again. "But since you didn't, I'll make it into a deal. Give me my whip back, get out of here and never come back, and I'll salvage my life. Maybe if I can do that, I might speak to you again. Might. Maybe. We'll see."
I held out my hand, and she shook it.
I dropped her whip at her feet, walked out the door, and never looked back as I walked back to Salem's house.
I didn't even knock this time. I just walked right in to find him sitting on the couch, his beautiful green eyes full of worry and clutching his Green Day blanket.
As soon as I came in the door, he jumped up and ran to give me the tightest bear hug ever.
"Kristen! Where have you been?" he demanded. "I thought you went back to your house to get something, and she killed you!"
I smiled slightly. "Close, but not quite. As long as I never go back, she'll leave me alone and try to reconstruct her ruined life."
His eyes widened in shock. "You went back there to make a deal with her?"
"Oh my God. Either your the bravest girl I've ever known, or the most insane person that ever lived." He shook his head, making his soft black hair flutter a little, and I could smell the popcorn again.
I smiled for real this time, a smile full of joy that I hadn't felt on my face for who knows how long.
"Hmmm, I'm probably a little of both," I said, almost laughing as Salem kissed me for just a moment. Just a second, but enough to leave my head spinning and the words from that same Flyleaf song ringing in my head.
I'm done healing...