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Ammara ( not official title)
I was five when my mother landed on the floor as the result of my father’s fist smashing her in the face. She began to yell and pleaded with him to stop, but that just seemed to anger him even more, and he began to kick her repeatedly in the stomach.
“Please Steven don’t hurt the baby!” she cried as she clutched her stomach.
“I didn’t want that damn baby in the first place. Maybe I should just get rid of it myself.” he smiled and lifted his foot as though he was going to stomp on her stomach.
“Daddy stop it!” I screamed.
He turned around and yelled “Ammara get your ass up them stairs before I throw you up there!”
He turned towards my mother again and as he lifted up his foot, I jumped on his back hitting him in the face hard as I could.
“Ammara no!” my mother shouted, but it was too late. My father reached around his shoulders and grabbed me by the neck. He looked me straight in the eyes and squeezed my neck so hard I could feel myself starting to get dizzy. I will never forget looking into his emotionless eyes. Eyes that everyone used to say I had.
“You’re killing her!” my mom shouted. Realizing she was right, he began loosening his grip, and threw me against the stairs.
“Get up there!” he screamed.
I could feel the blood running down my back from the rusty nails that stuck out of the stairs. Ignoring the piercing pain that throbbed on my side, I looked at my mother one last time as tears began to roll down my face. I was scared to leave her alone, but I knew too well that if I didn’t go now, I would get hurt even worse. Seeming to sense my hesitation, she simply nodded once reassuring me that it would be ok. Though I didn’t believe her, I ran up to my room, closed the door behind me, and headed straight towards the bed to drown out the noise with my pillow.
After my mother’s so called “punishment” for leaving a fork in the sink she came into my room. Usually I would help her get cleaned up, then we would both fall asleep on my bed comforting each other and telling each other it would be ok. But today was different, instead of my mom coming into my arms; she just sat on my bed staring blankly at the wall.
“Mamma?” I said.
But she just stared at the wall not saying a word. Her face was bruised and there was blood coming from her mouth and nose but she didn’t seem to care. I looked her in the eyes but didn’t see any sign that my mom was in their somewhere. She was just an empty shell sitting on my bed staring at the wall. I went to sleep just thinking that maybe she just needed time to come to. But in the middle of the night I felt her get up and head towards her room. I listened to her as she went back and fourth bringing things from her room to mine. When curiosity overwhelmed me, I rolled over and saw that she had an old suitcase filled with all her clothes open on the floor.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
She jumped at the sound of my voice, but turned to me with a half smile on her face. I smiled back happy to see that she was out of her trance. She opened her mouth but hesitated before she spoke.
“I’m leaving sweetie, but I promise I’ll come back and get you.”
“You’re leaving me here by myself?”
“Yea, but hey it’s only going to be until I find us a nice place to live in and maybe your mamma might even find a job.”
“You pinky promise, you’ll come back for me?”
She smiled and answered “I Pinky promise. Now go back to sleep.”
I noticed the difference in her voice as she said that, but I still listened and laid back down. I trusted her; I knew she wouldn’t leave me with him. I soon drifted off to sleep after I heard my mother leave safely jump out my bedroom window.
That was ten years ago, and that was also the last time I saw my mothers face. I still don’t understand why she never came back for me. I still remember staying up till three in the morning looking out my window, praying that this was the night she would rescue me. But by the time I turned seven I knew she was never coming back. My mother had lied and abandoned me.
But when Steven first discovered my missing mother he went ballistic. He punched walls, threw chairs, and destroyed anything that belonged to her or even reminded him of her. Then I was the one who had to clean it all up afterwards. For a while there, I hated Steven for making my mother disappear, but now I’m starting to mostly hate her. What kind of mother could leave a five year old child in the hands of a sadistic maybe even demented alcoholic whose living off disability checks that come every week, even though he’s perfectly able to get a job, but he’s just too indolent to do something with his pathetic excuse for a life?
“Excuse me Ammara!”
“Ammara did you hear the question?”
I lifted my head up to see everyone in the class staring straight at me.
“45?” I guessed.
The class roared with laughter but Mrs. Reyes didn’t seem so amused.
“Ms Rossmoore, next time you decide to fall asleep in my class, I will personally arrange a visit with you in the principles office. And I do hope you realize you’re in US History II not Algebra II.” Mrs. Reyes said.
The class laughed again and turned back around to face Mrs. Reyes as she began writing something about flappers on the board. I rolled my eyes and tried to concentrate on the lesson. But the harder I tried to focus, the sleepier I got.
The bell rang and as I was packing up my things in my one of a kind brown paper bag (yes and I do mean the kind you would get at ShopRite) when Mrs. Reyes came over to help me.
“Ammara I’m really getting worried about you sleeping in my class all the time. Yes, I know you’re a straight A student but I simply can’t have it. It’s disrespectful and quite embarrassing for me. Now why aren’t you getting enough sleep at night?” Mrs. Reyes asked not actually sounding concerned.
“Oh uh... It’s just because I’ve been uh… studying… for my test in…science. Yea, my science test, I’ve heard that test was really hard so I’ve been staying up late studying. I was just trying to keep up my good grades.” I said.
She eyed me obviously questioning my response but just shook her head with disappointment and walked away. I wonder if she still would be so nonchalant about it if she knew the real reason why I was up so late. (You didn’t believe I was up studying all night did you?) The truth was that I was up all night trying to sleep with an arm I think is broken, from Steven slamming me into the counter. He claimed he saw me slip some rat poisoning in his food last night and made me taste some of his food. I ate his food without hesitation because I knew he was just imagining things. Well to make a long story short I ate his food, I didn’t die, then he got mad saying that I tricked him just so I could eat his diner.(Steven might sound absolutely crazy to you, but he’s been going thru some rough times give him a break.) I didn’t feel it at first, but I definitely heard it, and he did too. That’s the only reason why he stopped. When I got to my room I tripped over my notebook and fell on the floor. The pain shot thru my arm faster than a bullet in the air. I wanted to cry but I knew if he heard me this would only aggravate him even more. So I stayed as quiet as possible. But sleeping was a different story, because every time I turned it seemed to make the pain even more excruciating. I covered my face with the pillow to muffle my scream as the tears ran down my face. Now that’s the real reason why I fell asleep in class, but nobody would ever know that. Even if they did, what could they do? Put me into foster care, I don’t think so.
Besides when people look at me all they see is a girl who wears the same outfit to school everyday. But they don’t see that girl whose dad ripped up all the little clothes she had to her name, as a punishment for not getting him his beer fast enough. But I can guarantee you that they’ll take the time out to see a dirty little girl, who looks depressed all the time, doesn’t talk to anyone, sleeps in class and, smells like she hasn’t showered in days. Which is true, but only because Steven spent the money for the water bill on what else, beer. But why couldn’t they take the time out to ask the girl if everything was ok. Maybe they would have found out that her mother abandoned her at 5, her father beats her to forget all of his troubles, she might have a little baby brother or sister somewhere and, maybe that she spent the whole night trying not to make a sound after her arm was broken by the person she was supposed to call dad.
I’m not looking for pity; I just wish that people would get over themselves and except the fact that the world isn’t this picture perfect place. But like I said before, even if they did care I would never tell. There’s only 3 more years left for me to live like this, and I’d rather tough it out then going into a foster home full of people who are just trying to get paid.
“Oh, my bad” some boy said after he bumped into my arm in the hallway.
The pain came back into my arm and I closed my eyes until it went away. A few people stared at me gripping my arm in the middle of the hallway, but never really cared enough to ask if I was ok. I knew it was time to go to the nurse; I walked slowly toward her office, trying to quickly make up a story in my head.
I walked into the office and was overwhelmed with the smell of rubbing alcohol and rubber gloves, which seemed to help me feel at ease. I don’t know why, but that smell was sort of like a comfort zone for me.
“Can I help you?” a petite older African American woman asked me when I came to the desk.
“Yea, I fell of a skateboard and I think my arm is broke.” I lied
“Why were you skateboarding in school?”
I paused (I didn’t even bother to think about that.)
“Hello?” the nurse said.
“I… I didn’t fall off today, I fell of yesterday but I didn’t know it was broke until I got to school.”
The nurse looked at me confused, but like everyone else just shrugged her shoulders and said “I’m going to call the emergency room, I can’t fix that hear.”
“Wait!” I screamed.
The nurse jumped and held the phone to her chest staring at me.
“I made a mistake its not broke I just thought it was.” I smiled trying my best not to seem so jumpy.
The nurse came from behind her desk and rubbed her fingers against my arm. Her fingers felt like they were made out of sharp glass, and that the glass was digging into my skin. I screamed out in agony and the nurse’s face changed from annoyed to concerned.
“Honey I don’t care what you say, your going to the hospital. Now what’s your parent’s phone number?” she said.
Oh no! I can’t give her Steven’s number. If he finds out or even thinks that I told someone he would kill me, and I’m not joking. I knew I could probably convince the nurse not to call, but I just couldn’t do it.
The nurse saw the pure fear that came over me and led me to the private room in the back.
“What’s going on? Why won’t you tell me your parent’s number?”
“We don’t have a phone.” I said quickly. And that wasn’t even a lie. We had no family so who could we call?
“Look if you don’t tell me the truth about your arm I will be forced to call the principle down here.”
“Just forget it.”
“Look lets make a deal. I’ll promise that I will not repeat what I’m about to hear, but only if you tell me the truth. Agreed?”
“Now start talking”
Even though I promised the nurse that I’d tell the truth, I just couldn’t bring myself to say what was really going on. So I said the first thing that came to my mind. “I did it to myself…on purpose. Sometimes I hurt myself to help cope with…things. I don’t know why I do it, and every time I promise myself I won’t do it again something happens and that’s the only way I know how to deal. Please don’t call my dad because if he finds out I’ve been doing it again he’ll think of himself as a failure. He thinks it’s his fault that I’m doing this and that he’s not a good father, but he is and I love him and I don’t ever what him to feel that way again.” I found myself actually starting to because the story I was telling was half true. Ever since I was thirteen I’ve been cutting my wrist. I remember too clearly the first night I did it. It was after Steven beat me for a reason I don’t remember, hell he probably just did it because he was bored. But I remember him telling me that I was pathetic and ugly and that I will never be anything and no one would care if I died right then. I ignored all that but then he said something that brought back an emotion I’d locked up inside of me and hoped it would never come back. He looked down on me crying on the floor bleeding from my face and laughed “You’re so worthless your own mother didn’t even love you. She never did. That b**** abandoned you, and started a life where she didn’t have to see your ugly excuse for a face again. Huh! Looks like she’s the lucky one.” And he walked away leaving me on the floor as the feelings of abandonment, betrayal, and that I was unloved took over me. When the feelings numbed, I walked upstairs went into the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror feeling more and more disgusted the longer I looked. I got so disgusted that I just couldn’t take it anymore; I took the rusty razor blade and cut my wrist until the blood was flowing out of my arm and dripping into the sink. I didn’t know why I did it; I just knew that after that it seemed like all my problems just floated away as I floated in and out of conciseness. I hadn’t notice that the nurse was crying until I heard her blow her nose and clear her throat before she spoke. “I’ll take you to the hospital after school. Do you think you can make it until then?” A smiled a half heartedly smile still thinking about that night, and nodded before she gave me a pass back to class.
Steven said nothing about the cast on my right arm or why I came home so late that day. I told the nurse that I would just tell Steven it was only sprained and not that big of a deal and assured her that he would believe me, before she dropped me off. But as suspected he just treated everything as though it wasn’t there. Even when it was time to take the cast off he said nothing about how I was able to get away with this or how I even paid for it.
Ever since that day the nurse became like the mother I was supposed to have. Every morning she would let me shower in her office, and then she gave me new clothes and made sure that everything was alright with me. For the most part she just thought that I was insanely poor and that Steven was disabled so it prevented him from working. When Steven would hit me, the next day she would ask me what caused me to do this to myself and tell me everything would be all right. Once she even told me to try and write poetry when I feel that way again. I couldn’t help but smile because now I knew for sure that I was on the right track. I haven’t cut myself in five months and I was proud of myself for it, but the only reason why I haven’t been cutting myself in so long is because I started writing poetry after we studied it in English and I noticed that it help me get some anger out. Life was getting tolerable before I looked at the sign in front of our school.
Spring break was coming up and I’ve been dreading this day since the end of winter break. Whenever I’m out of school for long periods of time that’s when I get hurt the most. There was five minutes left in last period and everyone was getting rallied up. I watched the class and felt a little jealous that most of them would be spending their spring break in Florida or in some resort. But me, I have to spend it alone trying to avoid Steven the whole time. The bell rung and I was headed towards hell.
Oh just in case you were wondering hell is what I call that place I sleep in at night some of you may call it home, so don’t take it so literally.
When I walked thru the door I heard Steven watching TV in the other room. Maybe if I’m quiet he won’t hear me. I slowly walked up the stairs trying not to make a sound. I was almost to the top step then squeak.
Damn I hate these old stairs.
“Ammara is that you? Get your butt in hear” Steven said.
“What?” I said trying to sound as tough as I could.
“Get me another beer.”
I looked on the table and saw that he already had six. The drunker he gets the more violent he is. I rolled my eyes and headed towards the kitchen. I got the beer from the fridge and when he wasn’t looking I dumped half of it out and filled it back up some syrup looking thing and water. I knew he would notice but if I could get out the house before he did I would be safe.
“Ammara!” he shouted.
Before I went back I grabbed my notebook filled with poems and pictures I had drawn in the past, which I hid behind the bookshelf. I ran in the other room dropped his beer on the table and was out the door before I heard him spit it out, and curse the air.
I headed towards the woods that were near the house, to my usual spot so I could write. Poetry and drawing were the only things keeping me sane at the moment. I started writing when I was about ten, and found out that it was a good stress reliever. I started drawing not too long after that. I sat in my usual spot which was just an old tree trunk and started writing.
A Substance we can’t control
No matter what we do theirs just never enough
It all ticks away
I can’t stand the sound
it haunts me and taunts me
and feels like I’m being drowned
Where does it all go?
No one will ever know.
So what’s the drive that keeps us going?
The feeling that if we ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist
that time will start slowing…
Down to the deep depths of ignorance and…
I was interrupted by a noise in the distant. Could it be Steven? No he was way too drunk to even get off the couch, but what was that noise?
I tried to ignore it but soon after the first time I heard it, I heard it again but this time it seemed closer. My first instinct was to run, but I knew if I ran the thing would only chase me. So I held my ground, but no amount of preparation could prepare me for what happened next.