All that Remains This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 31, 2012
Maybe it was stupid of me to think that I could get away with it and never look back. In reality it was no harder than acing a test: it just took preparation. It took time. Something I didn’t seem to have a whole lot of these days.

The first time he hit me, it didn’t feel like I expected. Or, at least, it wasn’t only pain. I felt things that are hard to describe. Like when someone dumps hot coffee on you, and all your emotions are so jumbled it becomes hard to pull them apart. The first thing that registers is the pain – the burning flesh that makes your skin crawl and your heart hammer and your body flail. The second thing that hits you is the shock. Why did he pour coffee on me? Why would he do that? Last is the anger. Sometimes it comes fast, a speeding bullet that practically skips the first two stages. Other times it takes longer, and for a moment you just sit there, dumbstruck. But once the anger hits, you know. Because the only thing you feel is the hatred and the red-hot desire to hit somebody.

The same thing happens when someone hits you, only there are different emotions. The pain, the shock, but not the anger. Instead you’re filled with a chilling fear. A fear of the pain, of the shock. A fear that it will happen again. A fear that all of those news stories are true, and you might be next.

He hit me for the first time two years ago. I was 13, and when his fist hit my cheek bone, it broke. The pain was piercing – a screaming agony I can barely stand to think of, let alone describe. He called 911; he got me an ambulance. But he lied. He told them that a robber had broken in and stolen our computer, punching me in the process. While he buried it in the backyard, I was locked in the closet, unable to call for help. He left me there for an hour, my body wailing in agony. That man was my father.

Three months later, he hit me again, this time in a less noticeable place. For weeks I had a giant purplish-black bruise covering my upper arm. I wore sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, despite the summer heat. My friends would ask, “Why are you wearing that, Lizzy? It’s like a hundred degrees!” and I’d say, “Yeah, I guess Weather Channel was way off. It told me it was gonna rain!” I think they knew I was lying, but they let me keep my secrets. Looking back, I wish they hadn’t. I wish they’d pulled up my sleeves and somehow known my dad had done it. That they’d stopped him.

I feel a tear slip down my cheek in silent protest. He’ll be here soon. My plan failed and any moment he’ll be here, and no one will hear my cries. He’s coming to kill me. I guess I should run. Run away and never come back. That’s what I tried yesterday. Turns out running didn’t work so well.

When I got home from school, I’d packed my backpack full of granola bars and water bottles. I’d dumped out all of my school stuff and packed one unnecessary item: a book. I’d found a flashlight too, a good one, compact but it gave off a lot of light. I shoved in two thin-but-warm blankets and was ready. I would’ve liked to bring my iPod, but aren’t they tracked or something?

Looking at my home and knowing that I’d never see it again – no matter how things went down – was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I’ve done some pretty hard things. A thought of my mother flashed through my mind, subtle but definitely there. I’d been thinking of her more and more lately. Of what would have been different if she’d stayed.

My mother left when I was six. Just old enough to remember her, but too young for my memories to hold any meaning. All that remains is the memory of what she could have done, but what she did instead.

She left me alone with him.

When I think about it, I can only guess at her motives. Did she hate me? Did she hate him? Or was it someone else entirely that drove her away? But deep down, I know it must have been me, because otherwise there’s no explanation why she left me behind. But I just can’t accept the fact that my own mother doesn’t love me! So, I don’t. I lie. I tell myself that she is a loving, compassionate woman and she’ll be back for me someday. That she loved me and couldn’t take me with her for some reason. That she was a victim of circumstances. That she misses me.

I tell myself I don’t care anymore. Why do I care if my mother loves me or not? Not like it’ll make a difference – she’s gone.

I hear a creak as the metal-hinged door opens, and suddenly the once-dark corridor is flooded with light. I put up my hand to block the light, trying to see who’s there. But I know who’s there.

“Elizabeth! I’m gonna kill you for what you did to my house!” he growls angrily. “I dang well know it was you, I ain’t stupid!”

I suppose I forgot to mention the match. The match that I lit the curtains with. The match that produced the fire that I watched devour my house, the only place I ever called home. I’d hoped he’d burn with it. That the police would believe I burned with it too. I’d hoped that my old life would burn with that house.

I stand up and look at him – his ash-covered clothes, his scraggly beard. His eyes meet mine and I know that I can’t run anymore, that I am done running. That I am gonna fight him. Today, for the first time in my life, I am gonna fight back.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 21 comments. Post your own now!

bwriter24 said...
Oct. 31, 2012 at 4:47 pm
so powerful
Site Feedback