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“That tree and that tree and that tree!” I said pointing to each big green tree I saw. “I want the biggest tree there is Mommy! I want it to touch the sky! Please Mommy, oh please!” I threw my arms up in the sky to show Mommy how big. Mommy was pulling me in a little red sleigh the tree place gave us. I had little pink mittens on my hands that my Aunty gave me. Mommy couldn’t see my wiggling fingers through them. I was nice and warm in my fluffy pink coat that was my cousin’s old one. My Aunty Claire gave it to me last year.
“Shhhhhh. Mommy has a headache,” Mommy said, putting her hand on her head.
“Poor Mommy has a head booboo Daddy!” Daddy was looking down at the pretty white snow and was walking a little bit in front of us so I had to yell to get his attention.
Daddy looked up at Mommy. “Maybe Mommy’s head wouldn’t hurt if she hadn’t gone out last night.”
“Mommy was hanging out with Uncle Pauly, right Mommy?” Mommy stopped pulling the sleigh.
“Uncle Pauly?” Daddy stomped up to Mommy, kicking up a lot of snow up when he did. I thought he was going to give her a kiss, but he yanked Mommy’s wrist so hard she almost fell down.
Then, Daddy started yelling in Mommy’s ear. Mommy started to cry.
“They don’t know anything and they call themselves journalists! Now, when I worked in New York in a big office with some real educated people, life was easy!” Dad charged in ranting about work. His work jacket was tossed over his shoulder and his tie was askew. His leather shoes pounded against the tile.
“I know, Dad. Hey, do you mind taking your shoes off? I just cleaned the floors.”
He flashed his blood shot eyes at me, and then reached down to untie his shoes. He flopped forward and stumbled a little bit but he eventually yanked them off. He picked up each one then looked straight at me. “Girl you better watch yourself!” His country accent was slurred. Then he tossed each one at me. They missed clanging to the floor.
He grunted and pulled off his tie. He stomped into the kitchen to get a beer from the fridge. He attempted to open the fridge but because he had broken off the handle last week in a fight with my mother he couldn’t figure it out. I walked over to him and pulled his hands away from the door. “I’ll get you a beer, Daddy.” He grunted in approval and moved away.
In the fridge was the three twelve-packs Dad bought yesterday.
I pulled out one case so I wouldn’t have to keep getting up. The drunker he got, the harder it was going to be to get him to move away and let me help. “I’m going to watch the news. Go to your room,” he barked as he stumbled to the living room with a handful of beers and flopped onto the couch.
“What about dinner?” I asked, grabbing my backpack and notes from the side table next to him.
“I grabbed some Mcalds earlier, you fijure it out.” I had a feeling he was missing “and went to the bar” in that sentence. He didn’t even turn around to look at me before he turned the news on.
I put my stuff on the bottom of the staircase and walked into the kitchen. I had tried to clean the place up before Dad got home. I even went up to the attic and grabbed an old rug. It was pink and didn’t match the peeling green wallpaper, but it covered the missing tiles in front of the sink. Of course, he didn’t notice. I sighed and went to the fridge.
There was a half-gallon of milk left and some really old Chinese food. It smelled of rotten eggs and sweaty gym socks. I plugged my nose and slowly grabbed the food. I was afraid if I got too close I’d catch a disease. I stuffed the “food” into the garbage can. No food for me I guess.
I ran up the stairs as Dad cracked open another beer.
I trudged into my room and sat on my pink floral comforter that had holes and stains. My blue carpet was pretty clean but there were a few stains from drops of my blood near my small table. When I was three I drew a picture of the sky on my white dresser. That one had gotten me beat with a ruler till I bled. Hard to believe that was only eleven years ago; it feels like it has been forever.
I went to my small table and began to do my homework. Time ticked by as I did and redid my math. Finally I looked up and the clock had changed from four p.m. to eleven. I had done my math homework for the entire week, an essay that was due by Monday, and a ton of science notes.
I stood up and caught a glimpse of myself in the vanity mirror that I had gotten for my fifth birthday. It was pink and small with a mirror and three Disney princesses on it. I kept the few makeup and hair things I had in the small drawer. My face seemed sullen as I took in my bulging black eye.
Two days ago Dad had come home late from a meeting and it hadn’t gone well. If he didn’t find a new gimmick for the news paper they were going to demote him. He walked in the door with a fiery vengeance. He knocked two lamps over and tipped the couch. When he saw me he snapped, “Why you so happy huh?! What could make you so perfect?!” I wasn’t really sure what he had been talking about because there was nothing about me that said, “Happy teenage daughter.” He slammed me in my left eye. My parents had hit me before but always somewhere like my back where no one could see it.
When my teacher asked me what happened I told I was playing a game of baseball with some friends and the ball got me. She didn’t care enough to question further, and sent me on my way.
As my flash-back fizzled away I decided there was no point in sitting there looking at myself. Seeing my blue eyes that were too small, my drab blonde hair, my cheek bones that were too high, and my too-bushy eyebrows depressed me. Now, on top of it I had an ugly black eye. I might have had a chance of being pretty: If my parents would ever get me braces and I actually was allowed to buy figure-flattering cloths I wouldn’t look too horrible. But my parents didn’t care if my teeth were crooked or that the hand me downs from my fat cousin from three years ago didn’t look good on my lanky body.
I went to bed and hadn’t been planning on waking up till morning.
My Moms shrill voice screeched as she slammed the door, “Honey I’m home!” I jumped in my bed and looked at my alarm clock; the flashing red lights red 3:00 a.m.
“Shut up women! The God dammed neighbors don’t care if you’re fucking home!”
“People cared if I was home before! They care about where I was and what I liked!” I walked down the stairs. They squeaked as I lightly stepped on each one. The blue carpet was ripped from the countless drunken falls each of my parents has taken. There were still a few beer stains I couldn’t get out.
As I reached the bottom I stopped. I didn’t want to get in the action, only observe the fight. My mother was attempting to stand up. My father was sitting lopsided on the couch and he was twisted around to look at my mother. She was wearing her work uniform for the bar; a tight black skirt with a matching v-neck top. Her hair was in a messy pony tail. Most of it had fallen out and was in her blood-shot eyes. One of her purple high heels was on the ground next to her feet. She had the other in her hand.
“When I danced people cared! They waited out on the street for hours just to buy tickets to see me perform! I had it all!” I had seen one of my mother’s old costumes. She kept a picture in a little jewelry box under her bed. I wasn’t sure what play it was from, but she was in a blue leotard with a dark blue tutu. Her hair was in a braided bun. She was standing on her tip toes and had her hands above her head in an arch. She was beautiful.
She yelled, “I had everything till I met you!” With drool dripping out of her mouth and snot steaming out of her nose. She was crying a little bit, and the tears smeared the eyeliner she was wearing. Her head swayed in a circular motion.
Dad stood up, stumbling on thin air, “Let me tell ya whatcha got. You got me! You gave it all up for me! It was ya own fault! Ya got knocked up at eighteen and then kapoof it’s all gone! No one wants a no good pregnant dancer! Now I need another drink,woman! Go get me another!” His country accent came out when he was drunk. When he was a work and trying to impress everyone, he had a New York accent.
“Billy you got get it yourself! I waited on everyone all damn night and I sure as hell ain’t waiting on you.”
My dad threw the beer bottle on the ground. It landed with a slight bang. He stomped over to my mother and grabbed her wrist. My mother began to scream bloody murder and he pulled her to her feet.
“Woman! I am the only man you will ever need to wait on!” My father stumbled into the kitchen, grunting as he pulled my mother along. “Now, open the fridge and get me a beer!” My father threw my mother up against the fridge. She wailed and fell to the floor. As she slid down she pulled everything that was hanging on the door down with her. Magnets my aunt had gotten me from when she visited Italy and France. A family picture of us from when I was five and we were picking out our Christmas tree. It was the only year we had ever gotten a Christmas tree. A drawing of our house I made when I was six. My mom had put it up there when I brought it home from school. It was big and beautiful with an arched entry way and a little garden. It was supposed to be our family’s dream home. A few other little mementos I had put up there to try to make the house a cheerier place. They all fell to the ground.
“I’ll pick it up!” I said scrambling off the step I was sitting on.
Dad turned to me. He was bug-eyed and he stood as if he had hurt his left knee. “You will no do this!” He yelled. “This women needs to get ups and gets me a beer!” He was so drunk I don’t even think he knew my mother’s name.
I pleaded, “Mother get up!” but she didn’t seem to hear me. She was looking up at the ceiling. Her legs splayed out across the floor and her body was shaking.
I couldn’t take it. I had worked so hard to keep the trinkets on the fridge. I dashed for them. My father tried to catch me but he stumbled forward instead. His hand grasped the side of the fridge and the door flew open sending him face-first onto the floor.
Tears welled up in my eyes. A scream built up in my throat, but my lips stayed tightly sealed.
My father flipped onto his back. “Get me another!” He demanded to the ceiling. I turned and silently walked out of the room.
I went to the living room and looked at all the beer bottles lying around. Never again, I promised myself. I fled up the stairs into my room.
I grabbed my backpack and dumped all its contents onto the floor. Then, I went to my closet and crabbed a few shirts and pants. Wasn’t even sure what ones they were but they were coming with me. I stuffed the cloths into my backpack.
I ran to the bathroom and threw all my toiletries into the bag. There weren’t too many things and I was probably forgetting some. I set the bag down by my door and walked down the hall to my parent’s room.
The bed was unmade and there was dirty dishes on it. There was a small dresser in the corner. My mother kept all her tip money in there. I crept over to it and picked out the five hundred dollars she had been saving up. It was for when she became a star again. Then she’d be able to buy a really nice leotard. She wasn’t going to need it.
I was going to go to my Aunts in California. I wasn’t really sure of her address but I knew she was in San Diego. The five hundred would help get me there and if it didn’t I’d try to get her number from a phone book or something.
I ran back to my room, too excited to even think. This was it: my new start. As long as I was away from here things would be alright. Things couldn’t get worse.
The noise of them arguing about beer was audible from my room. I was throwing a few last-minute things in my bag, like my father’s cell phone, when I heard a crash.
I ran down the stairs, bag on my shoulder, to find my father grasping my mother’s throat. I could have left then and there. My father wasn’t paying attention and there was no way my mother was. I could get out the door and leave this behind.
I walked over to the door, and then I turned left and went to the fire place. I grabbed the fire poker and screeched “Stop!”
My Father let go of my Mother and turned to me. His eyes looked hungrily for me, “I want more!” I wasn’t sure if he was demanding the beer or the violence but I ran for my Mother.
Father’s legs were spread out wide, his arms draped out straight in front of him. His legs slammed from side to side and he didn’t bend his legs. He tripped falling from side to side every once and awhile. He was coming at me from the right so I ran to the far left. “Stay away from me! I’m getting Mom and leaving!” I stuck out my fire poker like a sword and never let my back face him.
He gave off an odd noise. It might have been a laugh but it was mixed with a grumble and I wasn’t sure. His mouth opened as if to speak but a soft mumble was all that was audible. I was getting backed into a corner.
He pulled a fist back and reached out for me with the other. I pulled the fire poker back as if I was a baseball player preparing to hit a home run. As fist flew at my face for the pitch I swung. The pointy tip sliced his cheek and blood splattered to the ground. His fist had stopped midair and he stood there in shock. His reaction time was slow so I had a chance to get away.
As I reached my Mother, who was sprawled across the floor in front of the fridge, my Father began to holler at the pain in his cheek. “Mom?! Mom?!” I began to slap her face lightly. A couple grunts escaped her lips, but nothing more. “Please get up Mom! Please!” My heart beat quickened.
My father turned in slow motion, his mouth was twisted up into a sneer and his eyes were slits as they zeroed in on me. There was a bloody line that stretched from the left side of his nose all the way to his left ear. The blood streamed down the side of his
face. “Imma gatcha girl! Imma gatcha!” They were the most menacing words I had ever heard. His deep and eerie voice gave me goose bumps.
“Daddy. Oh Daddy please stop! I’ll get you a beer Daddy!” I pleaded looking around on the ground for something else to use in self-defense. I had the fire poker in my hand still but I wasn’t willing to let him get that close. To my left I noticed one of my Mother’s purple stilettos.
“Daddy we can figure this out! I love you Daddy!” My voice was a desperate shriek. His hands were outstretched; his fingers trembling in anticipation of clutching my throat.
“Immagatcha girl! Immagatcha!” He was inching toward me. As he got closer, maybe four feet away, I flung the stiletto at his face.
He watched it come right at him. Then, as it neared his face he ducked to the left. The tip of the shoe slammed him in the right eye. “Immagatcha girl! Immagatcha!” He didn’t stop.
Something inside me bubbled up to the surface, making my throat tingle. A blood-boiling scream escaped my lips and I sprang up. My Mother twitched underneath me and my vision became blurry as tears overflowed.
As he stepped closer, I began to hyperventilate. He flung his arms out to the side. His hand hit the light switch. In the background there was an early morning weather reporter explaining, “Looks like we are starting off the day with thunderstorms.” As if to prove his point a loud “Boom!” sounded outside. “But by late afternoon we should have sunny skies all the way!” The sound of his happiness only added to my fear.
The only light was from the open refrigerator door. I looked around the room. Dad had me trapped. There was no way to get out without running straight into him. A buzz went off in my back pocket. It was my Dads work phone; he had received a text.
“I’ll call the cops!” He stopped dead in his tracks. I clutched the phone like a life preserver. “I’ll call them right now! Stay away!” His face turned red and his fists began to shake.
I pulled the phone to my side and dialed 911. I could barely hear the ring over my heart beat. But, the small tone made me feel a little safer.
“Hello, this is 911 what’s your emergency?” The woman sounded like an angle. I put the phone up to my ear and threw the fire poker in front of me.
“My dad is coming after me! Help! 4311 Home Ave!” I tried to make sure my words weren’t all jumbled together but I couldn’t help from yelling.
My Father roared and ran at me. The woman on the line was yelling, “Miss! Miss!” But I dropped the phone and grabbed the fire poker with both hands. It shook furiously as I tried to point it at my Father.
“You b****!” His voice made my ears ring. As he approached me, I saw that the left side of his cheek was covered in blood. The blood seeped onto his neck and his white work shirt. Tears flooded my eyes as I thought of how I could be on a bus somewhere on my way to Aunty Claire’s. Sadly, I wasn’t sure of what I was going to do now.
My Father was almost running in a zigzag pattern because he couldn’t walk strait. As he zagged to my right he slammed into the fridge. He fell, tripping on my Mother, and knocked the entire fridge onto its side.
The fridge landed with an earth shattering “Bang!” and the milk dumped onto the floor. My Father attempted to get up but as he lifted himself up into a pushup position he fell back down, slamming on to the sour milk. The milk exploded drenching all that was on the ground. It ruined the family pictures and my picture.
Sirens blared in the background and my Father didn’t even bother getting up. I was frozen as I waited for the cops to enter.
I watched my Mother leave on a stretcher and my Father leave in handcuffs.
There was a loud buzzing noise coming from the ground. I looked down to see the cell phone by my feet. It was the only thing untouched by the milk. “Hello?” My Aunty Claire’s soft voice answered.