Two years old. Albany Frank was playing peacefully with her brother, Dustin. Dustin was having fun with her, but he left with best friend, Brandon. They were going to see a movie together, and they were allowed to go alone! He was excited. He kissed Albany's cheek before leaving. She sighed and continued playing with her toys. Her father slammed the playroom door open.
"Albany! How dare you create this mess!" he shouted, slightly drunk.
"Sowwy, Daddy," Albany whimpered, and she cowered against the wall in fear.
Her father slapped her, and he yelled, "Don't call me that! You don't deserve that right! Stop your crying and clean up this mess!" Albany wiped her tears and started slowly cleaning up the playroom, which wasn't that messy in the first place. A couple hours later, Dustin and Brandon return to the playroom, laughing . Albany was curled up in the far corner. Their laughter turned to concern when they saw her.
"Allie? What happened to your cheek?" asked Dustin, and he knelt down in front of her, while Brandon hovered in the middle of the room, staring concerned with a frown.
"She was playing with blocks and one fell and hit her," said her father, nonchalantly. They all jumped, but Albany jumped the most. Dustin believed him automatically, but Brandon wasn't so sure. The mark looked more like hand than a block. He glanced at the top shelf of a tall bookcase. Dustin and he himself couldn't reach it, and they were ten! So how could a two year old possibly do it?
"Brandon! Hey!" Dustin said, snapping his fingers in front of his face, impatiently, "Do you want ice cream?"
"Sure. Just give me a minute," said Brandon, and Dustin shrugged, walking off. "Allie, are you alright?" Albany nodded. "Where did that mark really come from?"
It was silent for a minute before Albany finally said, "Fawer hit me." Brandon's mouth fell open, and he pulled the crying girl into his arms. They sat there. A crying girl and a worrying boy. Was this going to continue? He vowed to watch over her more carefully.
Four years old. Albany Frank was forced into the cheapest preschool her father could find. The walls were dirty, and the teachers were inattentive. Her father forgot her almost daily, so Brandon and Dustin started picking her up afterschool. Dustin had picked up the habit of carrying her, but she didn't mind. At least he loved her.
Six years old. First grade was a horror. Everyone picked on her for the bruises on her arms. She wore jackets, but the kids still laughed and sneered. Where'd you get those bruises? Your daddy doesn’t love you? What about your mommy? She managed to gather up the courage and asked, "Where's Mommy?"
"She killed herself to get away from you," said her father. The short response broke her heart. The kids were right; she was unloved. Her mommy killed herself, because she couldn't stand the sight of her. Her daddy beat her every day, because she was a nuisance and a burden. And her brother was growing distant. Fourteen-year-olds didn't play with their younger siblings.
Brandon came over one night, and they invite her to watch a movie with them. Brandon was the only friend that Dustin would let Albany hang out with. They watched a plethora of movies with Albany between the two. Not that either of them minded. They loved Albany, and it was nice to hang out with her. It had been a while, and Dustin had seen the hurt in her eyes when he ignored her in favor of his friends. Brandon did too, and they both agreed to try harder to hang out with her. They fell asleep during one of the movies, and her father found them. He glared at the six-year-old girl, not that anyone was awake to notice.
Eight years old. She made a bad grade, and her father was going to be so mad. It wasn't her fault. He had hospitalized her for the week before the test, and her teacher made her take it anyway, but he wouldn't see it that way. "It'll be okay, Allie, it's just a bad grade," Dustin said exasperated, because Albany was shaking in fear.
"I'm going to get in trouble," said Albany.
"Well, you deserve whatever he does to you!" Dustin shouted. Brandon froze, and tears welled up in Albany's eyes. When they arrived home, Albany took off to her room.
"One day that will come back and bite you in the butt," said Brandon, and he walked in the house, wanting to comfort Albany. But she wouldn't let him. Dustin sat in the living room feeling guilty, but he couldn't bring himself upstairs to where Albany was crying. He felt too guilty. He would talk to her about it later. But he never did. In time, he forgot he said that, but Albany didn't forget.
Later, after Brandon and Dustin went over to Brandon's house for a sleepover, her father opened her door. She curled up on the floor by her bed. She stared up at him with fearful and tearful eyes. He took off his belt, and he started to beat her with it. I deserve this.
Ten years old. School ended, and it was pouring rain. Brandon and Dustin were still at the police academy, and her father still hadn’t picked her up. Mr. G was waiting with her, but it was five and he wanted to go home. Mr. G drove her home with permission from a police officer. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Grayson. I was under the impression that I was supposed to pick her up next week," said her father.
"Just don't let it happen again," said Mr. G, tiredly. Albany was shoved into the backyard, and she stayed by the porch door. The thunder rolled, the lightning struck, and the girl cried. But no one could tell, because the teardrops mixed in with the raindrops. Brandon and Dustin didn't come home, so she was stuck out in the chilling rain all night. The next morning, when her brother found her, she had a 104 degree fever.
"WHY WAS SHE OUTSIDE WITH THE DOOR LOCKED?" Dustin yelled at their father.
"Is that where she was?" her father asked, pretending to be astounded, "I thought she was inside. I'm sorry. She was mad at me, because I accidentally forgot her." This placated Dustin, but Brandon glared at her father. He doubted that story.
Albany shivered in Brandon's arms. She understood her father was rich and important in their little town, but how did no one notice? Was she that unimportant to her people? To her brother? Brandon tightened his grip, and Dustin tucked her a blanket around her. He kissed her forehead and whispered sweet reassurances that he was there.
"Sleep Allie, you'll be okay," said Dustin, and as she fell asleep, she heard him say, "Thank God it's Saturday." He was annoyed with her too. That wasn't true. He was glad, because he could be with her, but she didn't know that anymore.
Twelve years old. Dustin and Brandon were full-fledged detectives now. They were constantly busy, and she was left with her father more often than not. She was working on her homework happily. She was intelligent, and the teachers loved her, because she was a Straight A student.
Her father came home drunk and annoyed. With no one to stop him, he slammed her door open. "YOU STUPID BRAT!" her father shouted, "WHY DID YOU RUIN MY LIFE?" He picked her up and threw her into the bookcase. Her back slammed into it causing it to fall into the wall. He threw her into the ground, where he proceeded to kick her in the ribs until he got tired.
"Dustin," Albany whispered, "Help." And she cried.
Fourteen years old. Albany was late; Mr. Harper sighed. She was wearing a hoodie and sunglasses. "Ms. Frank, you know you are not allowed to wear your hood up and those sunglasses. Please take them off." Dustin and Brandon were up front and stared at her curiously.
"Yes, sir," Albany said, and she slowly took them off. The three adults frowned at her. First, she was late. Second, she was wearing sunglasses and a hood. Third, she had a black eye and a busted lip. She sat down and hung her head, trying to avoid their gazes.
"Albany, let's talk after class."
"Yes, sir." She knew they noticed, and they were going to question her, but she wouldn't tell them anything. Her father told her not to tell anybody, and she was going to be a good girl and not tell anyone. She won't even tell her brother, even though, he already knew.
Then the two detective talked about their jobs and what they did. They were distracted though, and they kept glancing at their younger sister. She never said a word throughout the entire class period, and she never looked up either. One girl asked if they dealt with child abuse cases, and Brandon said, "Not yet, but we could receive one."
"Honestly, I hope we never do," said Dustin, as an afterthought.
After class, the three adults cautiously approached Albany. Brandon and Dustin sat in the desk on either side of her, and Mr. Harper sat in front of her, facing the side, so he could look at her. It was silent for a few moments before Mr. Harper quietly asked, "Do you want to tell us what happened?"
"I fell." Point blank. It was a lie, and without a doubt, they wouldn't believe it.
"And got a busted lip and black eye?" asked Dustin incredulously.
"Yeah." It was another lie they wouldn’t believe. But she had to tell it.
"Allie, you know you can tell us anything, right?" asked Dustin, and she nodded. Dustin sighed. "Just tell me if someone is hurting you, kiddo." He ruffled her hair, and he went to entertain the next class. He forced a smile before facing them.
"Here’s your note," said Mr. Harper, sadly. He wished he could help her, but if she wouldn't tell him the truth, then he couldn't do anything to help her.
Sixteen year old. School was over for the winter holiday. Albany lugged her homework home, because every class gave her homework. Granted they were all AP classes. It was a five mile walk to her house.
She grabbed a banana, since her father wasn't home, and went up to her room to start on her mountain of homework. She put in her earphones, and she worked on her homework for four hours. She had made a decent dent in her homework, and she was braindead. Pulling her earphones out, she started to put her homework away. Then she heard the front door shut with a BANG! She sighed. Her father was home.
"ALBANY ROSE FRANK! GET DOWN HERE!" shouted her father. Albany didn't want to go to her father, but it would be worse if she didn't. She crept slowly downstairs to the kitchen, which was where her father was.
"Yes, father?" Albany asked timidly.
"I AM SICK AND TIRED OF YOU GETTING EVERYTHING YOU WANT! YOU WALK AROUND LIKE YOU OWN THE PLACE, UNGRATEFUL BRAT! YOU ACT SO SMART! BUT YOU'RE NOT SMART! YOU'RE STUPID!" shouted her father. He was drunk, which was never a good thing. She could outrun him . . . Hopefully. She saw a glint, and she took off. He had a knife. He caught her and slammed her into the wall of the living room. A gun fell off the little table and landed by Albany's head.
"YOU WORTHLESS BRAT! YOU TRIED TO RUN!" shouted her drunk father, and he moved to stab her. At the last second, Albany grabbed the guns and shot it. Her father staggered back and then collapsed.
"Father?" asked Albany, "Oh my god! I shot him." She quickly called Brandon's number.
"Hey, Albany. I'm about to go into a really important meeting. Can I call you back later?" asked Brandon distractedly.
"I shot him," Albany sobbed, "My father . . . I shot him."
"Woah, Allie, calm down. I'm going to come pick you up, okay? I mean I have to arrest you, but everything will be okay," Brandon said stunned.
"Okay," said Albany.
"Stay on the phone with me," Brandon said, and Albany stayed silent. How could she shoot her father? Why was Brandon being nice? Shouldn't he treat her as a criminal?
Five minutes later, Brandon and Jeffrey came into the house. Jeffrey smiled sadly and kindly at her, while Brandon handcuffed her gently. "Let's get you in the car, so the paramedics can get your father," said Jeffrey.
"Don't worry about Dustin. I've already told him. By the way, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law," said Brandon, and afterwards, he whispered, "I never imagined I'd have to arrest you." Albany nodded, and a tear fell. "Hey, it'll be okay. We'll figure this out." He hugged her quickly.
"Yeah, I know you wouldn't just shoot you father. I know you," said Jeffrey. They walked her to the car, and they got in. As they drove away, the paramedics entered the house. Albany sighed. There goes her life.
"I'm glad you called," said Brandon, and Albany looked at him confused, "A girl a few years ago shot her father and then hung herself."
"You would have been more upset with me," said Albany, crying a little.
"Allie, we're upset, yes, but we're more confused and worried than that," said Brandon, "Why did you shoot your father?" Albany didn’t answer, because she wasn't supposed to say anything. She did when she was little. Brandon used to ask her if her father still hit her, but he stopped after about six years.
"Al-bug, what happened?" asked Jeffrey. She didn’t answer, so they fell silent. But they knew something happened. What, though, they didn't know. They glanced at each other sadly. They had to arrest their younger sister.
They soon arrived at the police station. Brandon helped her get out of the car. Dustin was waiting by the door. He looked at Albany. "Take her to the doctor," said the police chief, as he walked out the door. The four of them walked with her, but they had to wait outside.
After an hour or so, the medic walked outside without Albany. "You're sister is accident-prone. Or she's lying," said the medic, Josh Clove.
"Why?" asked Dustin.
"There are bruises covering her body, and she was wearing heavy makeup to conceal the bruises on her face. Her ribs have been broken several times; some haven't healed properly. Her wrist has been broken, but it was healed properly," said Josh.
"She broke her wrist trying to do a handspring. I took her to the E.R. and all of her appointments," said Dustin, "But the ribs and bruises? I don't know about those."
"I think those words you said when we were eighteen are about to bite you in the butt," said Brandon, and then he lost himself in thought.
"Did she tell you who was hurting her?" asked Dustin.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't get her to say anything," said Josh sadly, "But someone is hurting her."
"Her father," said Brandon suddenly, and his head shot up.
"What? Why would you think that?" asked Dustin shocked.
"Something she told me a long time ago," said Brandon.
"What was that?" asked Dustin a little coldly. His father would never hurt Albany. Never.
"Remember when she was two and there was a mark on her face?"
"Yeah, it was a block." His tone grew colder, and his voice was sharper.
"But it wasn't! The blocks were up on the top shelf. She couldn't have reached them, and she told me afterwards that her father hit her," said Brandon desperately, "I kept asking her if he still hit her, but she never really answered. I stopped six years ago. I wish I hadn't."
"When were you planning on telling me this?" asked Dustin.
"I don't know, but I hoped it was a one-time thing," said Brandon sadly, "But I somehow knew it wasn't."
They entered the medic room. "Allie, why didn't you tell me Dad hit you?" asked Dustin. Albany jumped. Her head shot up, and she looked at him in shock. She didn't expect them to come in, and she didn't expect that question. She knew she couldn't get around it anymore. They knew.
"How'd you know?" Dustin embraced her and started crying. His little sister had been abused this whole time. She needed him, and he failed her. They were taught the signs. How could he not notice the signs in his own family? "I guess you always knew." Albany curled into herself.
"What?" Dustin was shocked. Why would she think he knew she was abused and did nothing to stop it or protect her?
"You said I deserved it." Oh. That's why.
He embraced her tighter. "NO. You didn't deserve it. Never. No one ever does." He continued rambling apologies, as the chief and Jeffrey left to arrest Albany's father.
2 Months Later. "Albany Rose Frank, the jury finds you . . . Innocent of all charges. However, Damien George Frank, the jury finds you guilty of child abuse and child neglect." Albany smiled and hugged her brother. It would take a while for her to trust anyone and to understand that she would never be hurt like that again. But she knew that her brother was safe. She might not think he cared, but she knew he would never hit her.
"Dustin Lou Frank, you now have full custody of Albany," the judge said smiling.
"Thank you, sir." The ordeal was over, and he was going to teach Albany how she really should have been treated. He tightened his grip on her. No one would ever hurt her again, unless they killed him first.
Through the Years
March 29, 2017