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With a swift jerk of the blanket, my sweaty face appeared, flinching with the burst of cool air. I glanced at my clock, letting out a sigh as the red numbers came into focus. 1:33 AM. I rolled over onto my stomach with a pillow over my head, in attempt to drown out the yelling. Once again, my parents were at it in the heart of the night.
Losing effort after continuous failure to get some sleep, I sat up. Kicking the sheets and comforter to the end of the bed, I swung my feet to the ground. I would never want my parents to know their arguments kept me awake at night, so I slipped some socks on to pad out the sound of my footsteps.
My mother’s shrieks and the piercing sound of breaking glass stopped me in mid step. Every muscle in my body went tense. I strained to hear what was going on, not daring to even breathe too loudly. Suddenly I heard an angry rhythm of stomps dangerously nearing my bedroom door. As quick as I could, I hopped onto my still sticky-hot bed and closed my eyes.
The door swung open, carelessly ripping the plastered wall behind it. I could smell the stench of Kettle One vodka on my dad’s breath before he even approached the bed. As I listened to him come closer, I became aware of my trembling fingers and sweaty palms. Too much movement would signal my being awake, as would twitchy eyes, clearly visible from his position. As causally as possible, I let out s short sigh and turned over onto my side, opposite my father.
A harsh smack to my ribs forced out an unintended squeal. I flopped once again to my back and opened my eyes, blinking at my father. He smiled down at me, as if his hand had merely slipped and fell onto my aching side. I went to smile back and offer a sweet “Hi Daddy.” but my face twisted in pain and only a groan escaped my mouth.
With one smooth movement, he bent down and cupped my shoulders in his palms. Pulling my upper body close to his face, he whispered, “What was that, baby girl?”
Nearly choking from the stiff aroma of alcohol I managed a quick reply of, “Nothing daddy, I was just saying hi.”
Shoving me back down so hard I bounced back up, he mumbled with drunk, slurred words, “That’s what I thought. Now get your a** out of bed, and go to the store for daddy.”
Glancing down at my sweat-drenched night gown I struggled to hide a thick sigh. “Daddy you know I can’t go out right now, I have school in the morning. I can’t buy liquor or cigarettes yet anyway.” Snapping my eyes shut, I braced myself for what I knew was coming.
“Excuse me?” His coarse hand came down hard on my ribs, once again, and again. “Did I ask you what you had to do tomorrow?” Searing pain brought stinging tears to my eyes. “No! I just told you to get your f***ing a** out of the bed, and go to the goddamned store!”
No longer able to hold them in, tears streamed down my cheeks, leaving salty trails. The more I cried, the more I got hit, and I knew that. “Daddy! Please stop! Daddy! I’ll go to the store for you! Please!”
The slaps stopped abruptly as a satisfied grin made its way across his face, “Thanks baby girl.” Leaving the words to linger in the raunchy air, he left the room.
I sat still until I heard him clunk down the stairs and plop on the living room couch. Knowing the routine, I make sure to be silent until I heard the ever so familiar buzz of the television. Then, and only then, I slipped out of bed, and began to dress.
While sliding my prickly legs into my jeans, I think about my mom. The sound of that glass breaking, from what I was assuming, on my mother’s delicate skin kept replaying in my mind, like a skipping CD. More than once my mom landed in the hospital due to my father’s uncontrollable drinking, and more than once my father beat even more her for ending up there.
My plan was to check on my mom on my way out to the store. The only problem with my plan was I had no clue where in the house she lay. She could be in the living room with my father for all I know, and I do know that if he saw me trying to comfort her in her time of pain he would make sure she would have the chance to do the same to me.
Finally, I decided on slipping out my bedroom window, sliding down the drain, and stealing away unnoticed. The quicker I left and got my dad his desired items, the quicker I could help my mom.
I was a full three blocks from home when I faintly heard my father rage out in another one of his tantrums. Just knowing that he could be hurting, possibly even killing my mother while I was away was more than enough motivation to pick up my pace and run to the store.
As I was jogging, pushing myself to continue putting one foot in front of the other, I let my mind wander. By the time I reached the convenient store, a mere twelve blocks from my front step, my cheeks were red with exhaustion and tear stained.
Immediately after the door’s ringing bell silenced, the unshaven man behind the counter glanced up at me from his magazine and asked, “Everything okay ma’am? Can I help you find anything?”
Using all the effort I had left in me I slapped on a faux smile and replied, “No thanks, I know what I’m looking for.”
A pathetic shrug of his shoulders and the returned gaze to his magazine proved he had lost interest in me. As I stepped closer to the aisle with candies, chips, and other assorted junk foods I broke into a sweat. The pounding of my heart in my ears got so loud I had to shake my head and pause for a moment. Unaware I had this planned in the back of my mind the whole time, I realized I had to steal whatever it was I wanted to get. I shoved my hands deep into my jean pockets, hoping with all hope I had left some spare cash in them, knowing very well that I hadn’t.
Petrified, I couldn’t do anything but stand there and stare blankly at the spicy-hot Cheetohs I needed to grab. I could feel the cashier getting antsy, burning holes in the side of my face with his stagnant stare. My body felt too heavy to move, I was incapable of going through with this. How could I steal from the one store I depended on for so many years? I just couldn’t.
“Everything okay over there, ma’am?” questioned the man once more.
I willed myself to turn my head just enough to make eye contact, “Of course... just can’t decide on spicy or regular, sir.” Somehow I managed a short chuckle to ease the tension, which by now was so thick it was suffocating.
Taking a deep breath, I reached for the bag and without even so much as a glance back at the cashier, I ran out the door. I forced my body to cooperate, slamming each foot on the ground in a steady pattern, concentrating on not looking back to see the man’s reaction.
“Hey! Come back here! You can’t just run off! HEY!” I detected stress and anger in the man’s yelling, but also a hint of fear... as if he didn’t quite know how to handle the situation.
The greater of my mind kept urging me to just turn around, give the ninety-nice cent chips back, and apologize. But the remaining portion was what told my legs to keep trudging on and make it home to mom.
Two minutes later I came, breathing heavily, to my concrete stoop once again. With it still being the wee hours of morning the sky was not yet light, making it hard for me to find the correct drain pipe for me to make my way up to my room.
Clutching the chip bad between my teeth, I ran my hands along the cracked brick searching for the smooth metal pipe. Unfortunately, an unseen rock in my path made me stumble and drag my arm down the wall in a sorry attempt to maintain my balance. When doing so, instead of the metal pipe my forearm found a sharp protruding nail. By the time it had pierced the skin my body weight was too much to hold up, and my skin tore away like wet paper. Gasping awkwardly to keep myself from crying out in agony, I seized my arm, putting strong pressure on the wound.
The warm blood trickled down my fingers, dripping onto the dew covered grass. A burning sensation took over my arm, steadily making its way up my shoulder and into my neck. It weakened my body, making every limb go limp.
I lay distorted with misery on the cold, wet earth. While squeezing the open gash I let my eyes drift shut even with the continuous flow of my untamed tear ducts. The never-ending movies that played on the backs of my closed eyelids quickly guided me away from the pain and into a drifting spiral of paralyzation.
An intense throbbing sensation had occupied the right side of my upper body, causing extreme discomfort as I woke from my unexpected nap. I whipped my head around, searching for the faint voices that tainted the early morning silence. My hungry eyes fell upon my frantic looking bus driver, Shonda.
Struggling to sit up, a grunt escaped my pursed lips causing Shonda to look my way. Briskly she hopped to her feet and jogged over to where I lay.
“Oh Sophie. Are you okay? Can you hear me?” Going by the tone of her voice, and the distant worried look in her eyes I could tell she was on the brink of panic.
I nodded my head and attempted to stand up when my wounded limb caught my eye. The faded brown color of dried blood was everywhere. On my hand, arm, the grass beneath me, even my shirt. My fingers had faded to a blue-grey hue and the stab had crusted over with yellowing scabs. I couldn’t move my entire arm. Even shaking my shoulder took serious effort.
Tears threatened to spill over my squinted eyes as I looked up at Shonda. My lips formed the words “help me” but I couldn’t find my voice to say them.
Seizing my remaining arm she tugged, telling me to stand up. “Come on baby, I’ll take you to the hospital,” she said with her thick southern drawl.
Walking was difficult, my legs refused to carry my body weight and I kept tumbling to the ground. Each fall sent shooting stings up my arm and into my back, causing even more instability.
“Come on hunny, we’re almost to the bus. You can rest on the way to the hospital Sophie,” Shonda’s sincere tone was what pushed me to drag myself up the three stairs, and collapse into the leathery seat. Knowing how much she cared brought a warm smile to my face, something that rarely happened anymore.
With each and every bump the massive vehicle trod over, my eyes snapped shut. My body was reaching breaking point, and with every tremor it became weaker. I felt myself drift off into a blurred haze once again.
The slap of an oxygen mask was what woke me this time. Frantically I raided the room with my eyes, seeking something familiar; a face, an old blanket, anything. To my dismay though, all I found were frazzled looking doctors and nurses, and a bland white room with horribly outdated paisley curtains.
“She’s coming around, doctor. Should I get contact information?” Unable to match a face with the spoken words, I gave up on searching.
“Sure. Thank you Rita.”
Seconds later a seemingly happy face appeared at my side. “Hi, my name is Rita and I’m the nurse working with your current doctor. Can you tell me your name?”
Slowly I pulled the oxygen mask off my mouth, enabling me to speak. “So —“ My voice was hoarse and dry. Coughing, I continued, “Sophie Robertson.” All the while the remaining staff in the room poked and prodded my extremely sore right arm and side.
“Okay Sophie, can you ....... “ I continued hearing her voice, but the words were not comprehending. I was in no state to be listening to some nurse rambling on about who my father and mother are, and where I go to school. Hoping she would take the hint, I closed my eyes and tilted my head away from her haunting smile.
She immediately took a firm hold of my left hand, startling me. “Sophie, I know you’re tired and probably in pain, but I need this information before we can take care of you.... the woman who dropped you off here was of no help. She said she was not a relative or close family friend and could provide none of the needed material to operate or even medicate you.”
That simple explanation sent my mind wandering. Shonda dropped me off didn’t she? But she couldn’t have because Shonda knows my contact information and would be of more help... Suddenly my eyes flew open when her words finally registered. “Operate?! Why would you people need to operate?”
Rita flashed her rehearsed smile again, “It’s going to be okay, dear. But I need you to give me your home phone number so we can contact your parents. Afterward I will fill you in on all you need or desire to know.”
Rolling my eyes at her ridiculous attempt to make me feel better I mumbled “851-7507, but I warn you... my father has a temper and I don’t know if my mom’s available at the moment.”
Scribbling the number on her little pad of yellow paper, she stood up. “Thank you, Sophie,” and left me alone. The only thing I could come up with to occupy my time was sleep, so I let myself be guided away yet again.
My lazy eyelids flickered open as I came to. I was draped in pale blue blankets that were too short and I could see my sneakered toes peeking past the hem. I knew I was in the same room when my gaze fell upon those hideous curtains again. “How long have I been out?” I wondered aloud with a dry, cracking voice talking to no one in particlar.
“Sophie? Was that you I heard? Are you awake?” Stirring in the far corner signaled where the sharp voice had came from.
Jerking up immediately, only to be pulled back down by all the tubes and cords attached to me, I blurted out, “Mom?!?”
After some muffled curses and loud kicks to the chair, my mom appeared at my side. She was badly bruised and had traces of dried blood under her pink nose.
“Mom, are you okay? What the heck happened to you?” I gave her a concerned look as I questioned her.
Slowly rolling her eyes, she waved my question away and said, “It doesn’t matter what happened to me, hon, it matters what happened to you. Where were you this morning, and how did you get here? Who brought you here? Do you know how mad your father’s go–“
Interrupting her I said, “MOM! Stop yelling at me! I can’t take it right this minute.” closing my eyes, I rubbed my throbbing temples......