Never Gonna Cry

March 16, 2011
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Haley Erikson was thrown to the ground, hitting the kitchen tile with a solid thud. Something in back cracked, but she had no time to think about it.

“That’ll teach you to not to go in my room!” her brother, Zeke, growled.

“I just w-wanted my book b-back,” the nine-year-old sniffled.

“You know what?” Zeke sneered, kicking her in the side. “You can have it when I say you can!”

“P-please give it b-b-back,” she pleaded, her eyes burning with unshed tears. She knew that if she even released one salt-water drop . . .

“I’ll give it back when I wanna give it back!” the sixteen-year-old boy snapped. He suddenly leaned closer to Haley’s trembling face, peering into her eyes. His breath reeked of beer and Skittles, which was an odd combination to most people, but not Haley. She was used to her brother’s two strange addictions. His bloodshot eyes searched for even the slightest teardrop, the slightest chink in her armor.

“Are you gonna cry?” he asked. She shook her head no, and instantly received a slap to the face.

“Did I tell you to answer me?” he demanded. Haley chose not to answer, feeling her cheek throb with that last blow. “Answer me!” he yelled, slapping her again. Frantically, she shook her head once more, trying to dam the tears that were quickly welling up. Zeke nodded with satisfaction and walked away, taking a 6-pack of beer with him. As soon as he left the kitchen, Haley burst into tears, wrapping her arms around her knees and whispering a name over and over.

“Mommy!” she cried softly. “Mommy!” But she knew that her mom wouldn’t help her. She had chosen to turn away from Zeke’s beatings, as well as her husband’s, and she refused to accept Haley’s stories of their cruel thrashings.

“Haley, you’re too old to tell stories,” her mom told her once while she placed a cold rag against yet another bruise. “Read ‘em instead.”
And read she did. Haley read every book she could get her hands on, from The Cat in the Hat to Cooking like a Pro. She eagerly devoured her textbooks at school, always reading ahead to satisfy her hunger for words. Every story, whether it was History or Science Fiction, created a strong curiosity inside of her; the curiosity and yearning to learn.
Out of every book she had ever read, her favorite one was called Mommy Rabbit and Family. It was about a rabbit that had lots of kids, and she did her best to take care of them. Despite the fact that it was for younger children, Haley read it whenever she was most miserable. It made her wonder what her life would have been like if her mommy had loved her. However, that very book was now in Zeke’s room; the Torture Chamber.
“I’m home!” announced a gruff voice, followed by a door slam. Haley wiped her eyes and jumped to her feet just as her father entered the room. His large body nearly took up the entire kitchen doorway, and his prickly stubble added an unruly touch.

“Did ya do the dishes?” he demanded. Haley nodded, hiding her hands behind her back so he wouldn’t see that they were shaking. “Did ya make my bed?” Again, she nodded, refusing to make eye contact with the huge man. With a grunt, Keith Erikson threw several greasy paper bags onto the table, shouting, “I got food!” Zeke stomped out of his room, throwing a handful of Skittles into his mouth followed by a swig of beer.

“What did ya bring, dad?” he asked, wobbling toward the table and sitting down. Haley made a mental note to stay out of her drunken brother’s way tonight.

“It’s McDonald’s,” he said, pulling out a hamburger and tossing it to Zeke. “Eat up. You gotta be at school in an hour.”

“It’s Friday night, dad,” Zeke snapped, unwrapping his hamburger and taking a huge bite.

“Don’t sass me!” Keith growled, swinging at his son’s head. Despite his being drunk, Zeke easily dodged the blow, and Haley ended up receiving the punishment. Her father’s meaty fist connected solidly with her ear, causing her to fall to the floor. Again.

“You’re in my way!” Keith shouted, throwing at her the only thing he hand in his hand; a cheeseburger. He cursed at her and kicked at her, missing most of the time. She merely covered her head and accepted the blows. In her mind, she recited something she had heard:
Seven times down, eight times up. Seven times down, eight times up. Seven times down, eight times up.
As soon as her father’s attention was off her, Haley snatched up the food and darted out of the kitchen. Neither of the men noticed, since they were so engrossed in their fatty chow. She ran to the moldy basement, where she was greeted by the stench of animal waste and a thick layer of grime that coated the floor. Haley ignored these and pulled open the greasy paper, feeling like she was looking at a million bucks. The cheeseburger was somewhat flattened from its brief use as a weapon, but she didn’t care. The salty flavor pulled her away from her aches and pains, and it reminded her off the days when she ate with the family.
When she was younger, neither her father nor her brother drank alcohol. They were a typical American family. They went out to eat every other Friday, had a dog named Chip, and her father was a well-known lawyer. But when he lost an important lawsuit, Keith Erikson turned to alcohol to numb his anger and grief. He was quickly addicted, and his son picked up on it too. Soon, both men were regular alcoholics, and Haley was their primary target. Her mom tried to stand up for her once, but her husband threatened to kill her.

When her mom entered her thoughts, Haley was brought back to reality. The sharp pain of her back and the stings of the slaps were harsh reminders of her life style, but she refused to let the tears come.
“Don’t cry, Haley,” her mom would tell her. “Don’t cry.”

“I’m never gonna cry again,” Haley promised to the murky darkness of the basement. “Never gonna cry.”

BAM! BAM! BAM! Someone rapped three hard knocks on the front door. Haley froze in mid-chew, wondering if it was Zeke’s friends.

“I’m coming!” Keith shouted. “Hold on, dang it!” I heard the door creak open and a shuffle of footsteps as the guest entered the house.

“Hello, I’m Carolyn Robbins. May I see your daughter, Haley?”

“We ain’t got no daughter,” Keith lied.

“According to witnesses, you do,” I heard Carolyn reply. “Reports say that she is nine years old, has short blond hair, and is as skinny as a pole.”

“We ain’t got no daughter!” Keith shouted. “Who do you work for?”

“Search the house,” Carolyn ordered, and I heard more stops of other people entering the house. It wasn’t long before someone thought to search the basement. It was a man who looked to be in his thirties, and he was wearing a formal business suit.

“I found her!” he shouted, causing me to flinch.

“Great!” Carolyn sighed, sounding relieved. “Bring her up!” The man carefully picked me up and carried me back up the stairs. In the hallway was a formal-looking woman in a suit. Her brown hair was up in a bun and she wore little makeup.

“Are you okay?” she asked, examining my body. She then turned to another man and said. “I’ve got a bunch of bruises and cuts. Her face is swelling, too. I think we can count this case solved. Let’s take her back to the car.”

“Where are you taking my daughter?” Keith demanded as the man carried me to an SUV.

“You don’t have a daughter,” Carolyn replied sweetly. “Remember?” Keith stammered and swore as I buckled in the SUV and one of the men drove me away. Carolyn was sitting next to me, holding a bunch of professional-looking papers in her hands.

“W-why do you w-want me?” Haley whispered.

“Two reasons,” she said, putting up two fingers. “First off, we had reports from your neighbors that you were abused. Secondly, we took a look at your history. Turns out that you have an amazing talent that people want you for.”

“I have a talent?” she asked. “Like drawing?”

“Sort of,” the woman said with a smile. “But much more . . . supernatural.”

Thanks to all her reading, Haley remembered what supernatural meant. “You m-mean . . . I have a superpower?”

“You could say that,” she said.

“What is it?” Haley inquired, half disbelieving.

“Haley,” Carolyn whispered, leaning closer. “You can turn invisible. You can also fly.”

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