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My name is Brier Draven, and my favorite place in the entire world is the one swing in my back yard. I sit and pump my legs back and forth until the world is moving up and down, blurring out of my vision. I sit on my swing when I get home from school, unless I have to go to the clinic. Last week I had to get stitches in my left arm. Boy, did it hurt. I sat in the chair in the office in sheer pain without the comfort of a warm hand squeezing mine. I’m brave, but the tears still fell when I walked out the clinic’s front door.
I’m on my swing now, watching the sun slowly make its way behind the landscape. My legs are pumping hard, hard enough to keep the pain away. Mindy, my own personal bully, threw a trash can cover at me during lunch in the courtyard. It hit me square in the back, but it’s just another scar to hide the old ones. Bruise upon bruise. The pain is unbearable at night, but the swing is my friend. I pump and pump, and it’s like the worries of my shattered teenage life are slowly, one by one, lifted from me as I swing higher and higher. I imagine them floating away like helium birthday balloons.
I’m pumping higher and higher, my legs swinging wildly, until I hear dad’s loud booming music fill the house behind me. I stop pumping. Slowly I lose momentum and come to a halt on the dead brown grass beneath me. I turn my head slowly; the big dingy house casts a shadow over me and my swing. I hate its dark corners and its dirty rooms, but it’s my home. It’s where I deflated from a healthy young child living happily with her father to a bag of bones moving through life like a shadow.
I know the music is the signal. Dad’s having another one of his, so called ‘get-togethers’ with his friends. I hear him stomping around the house gathering his stash of goods. How the man sniffed up the white stuff and didn’t drop dead on the spot, I don’t know. He’s high every night, and every morning. I tried throwing his stash into the garbage disposal, but the next day he turned up with another bag of it. He wanted me to try it once. He told me all my pain would disappear. I flat out refused. I knew from the look of him that the heroin was stealing his soul, killing him from spirit to being.
I hop off the swing and straighten my baggy jeans. It’s been a long time since I had clothes that fit me well. Dad’s money is saved for his fun, not my needs. I get everything from the church down the street, at St. Michaels. It’s where I go when my head starts to race with ideas that scare me to death. The priest doesn’t know me. He’s never seen me. I take the clothes and food that patrons leave for the homeless.
The clothes I’m wearing now are old. Older than me I suppose. I pull at the loose ends and try to move without creating a stir, taking extra care so he doesn’t notice I’m home. I inch my way to my make-shift hideaway. The get-togethers usually last all night, so I take refuge in the shed, where I’ve made it livable. One single mattress, a pillow, a blanket, and a photo of my mother stapled to the wall.
I lie down on the soft mattress and cover myself with the cottony blanket. The nights are cold, but the shed is heated. I lay there in my dirty clothes and unwashed hair, and I think about my mother, her gentle and caring motherly hands petting my head as I fell asleep in her arms. That was years ago. She died of cancer. That’s when everything went to h*ll. Dad found heroin and I found that bullies are prominent in high school. Mom left me too soon. Now here I am trying to fall asleep in a shed while my dad is getting high with his air head friends.
I thought I’d end my raging mind there, but then I realized there’s school tomorrow. I can expect more bruises, more pain, and more vulgar words. Life doesn’t get better with the start of a new day. Living gets harder and harder to do. Breathing gets more and more difficult. Tears flow heavier and heavier. But, with each day comes the realization that I’m getting stronger. I’m going to find a way out. I will find a way out of this. Life is pivotal. I need it. No matter how much I hate it.
With one last tear soaking into my pillow I finally fall into a deep sleep.
SLAM! SLAM! SLAM!
I jump at the noises coming from the driveway. Cars ignite and drive off, and I hear their engines slowly drift away. I climb out of my mattress and stand tall and stretch. My eyes are dry, but I’m awake to say the least. I pull open the shed door and I’m nearly thrown off balance by the blinding sun. It’s another glorious morning, but a less than beautiful day to follow.
I walk across the dead lawn and make my way into the house through the back door. The kitchen is wrecked. Cans of beer are lying throughout the dining room, and empty plastic bags are strewn across the counter. It isn’t unusual. It’s the same every morning after a ‘party’. Everything is where it usually is, even my dad.
I step around the counter and find dad lying face down on the floor. The sight would terrify any normal person. Not me, though. I stoop over and feel his neck for a pulse, and I’m relieved to find it still there. I roll him over onto his back and find a wad of money tightly clutched in his right hand. I’m tempted to take it and hide it from him, but withdrawals are worse than when he’s high.
“Dad, come on. You can’t lay here like this. Get up!” I say in a harsh raspy voice, but his response is nothing but a low grunt.
For the frail state of my body, I’m able to lift him onto his feet in one swift motion. It’s no world record though, because my Dad’s weight is no more than a mere 60 pounds more than my own. I easily drag him across the grimy kitchen floor to the hallway where his bedroom is. It’s about as decorated as my shed.; one bed, a blanket, and a pillow. But, one thing is missing. A picture of mom.
With dad in bed, money still clutched in his hand, I ready for school. I shower well, and grab the clothes I had washed the day before out of the dryer, another pair of loose fitting jeans, and a white t-shirt that actually fits snuggly. My hair is no worry, and I don’t fuss with it. I had cut it shoulder length, so I don’t do anything with it.
As I open the bathroom door, I’m greeted by the walking dead. Dad’s sunken face and bloodshot eyes make me jump. I wait to hear him say something, but instead he pushes me aside, as he whisks his head over the toilet. I watch as he vomits in loud heart breaking heaves. I’ve seen it more than my fair share of times, so I kneel down next to him, and rub his back as he loses what little food he had left in him.
“I’m so sorry, honey. I’m so sorry for doing this. I’m so sorry. So sorry. I’m so sorry Annie.” His screams of tears echo through the bathroom, as he heaves once more.
Annie. My mother. He cries everyday to my mother, but says little to me. He says so little to me. My grip on my emotions loosens I can’t bear to be near him another minute. I bolt out of the bathroom and out the front door leaving drops of tears behind me. Though I feel guilty for leaving him in such a fragile state, I know he’ll climb into bed and cry himself to sleep. Funny. That’s one of the very few things my Dad and I have in common.
I walk empty handed down the street. The school is 12 blocks away, but I walk anyways. I miss first period nearly every day, but I don’t care. The walk does me good. I have fresh air to clear my thoughts. I have the sun to warm my soul before I see Mindy’s cold, unfriendly, and properly primped face.
I’m one block from the school before I feel a piercing shot of pain. I stop dead in my tracks. I feel the back of my head to find a warm patch of fresh blood, then I look down to find a large rock tainted with my blood lying on the sidewalk behind me. I whip my head around to find Mindy standing at a distance laughing like a maniac.
Another day of torture.