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It's all her fault.

Bridget's nervous about coming home today; last week marked the end of the second semester of her eighth grade year and she's failing two classes. Her parents are supposed to be mailed her progress report tonight and she’s certain it’ll put them in a worse mood than they usually are. After walking home from school, she immediately checks the mailbox, but it's empty. A nervous feeling starts bubbling in her stomach and she silently hyperventilates, "What if they have already seen the mail?" She grabs her keys out of her backpack and unlocks the door to her house and races up the stairs to the kitchen table, cluttered with old mail and magazines, but it looks exactly as it did when she left. Relieved, she sighs, greets her mom, and heads to her room to put down her backpack and change out of her jeans.

Bridget's brother comes home from school twenty minutes after her. He has to walk home, just like her, since their dad is still working and their mom doesn't like to pick them up. Her brother is in sixth grade, but he's already doing math at a level beyond his years. He goes downstairs to play with the Wii that his parents bought him this past Christmas. Bridget is in her room, laying on her bed, talking to her friends on Myspace. She has homework, but knows she'll be distracted by everything around her, so she doesn't even look at it. An hour pasts, and it's time for her to get ready to go to swim practice. Her dad comes home around six-thirty, while she's at practice, and he goes to check the mail.

When Bridget comes home after swimming, she discovers that the light in her room is on, and there's noise coming from it, as if someone is throwing things against the wall. She swears under her breath and slowly creeps toward her room until she can see through the door. She stands, frozen with surprise and fear as she sees her mom standing next to her bed, dumping out and flinging the contents of her backpack out all over the room. Her notebooks and pens had been scattered randomly through out the room. Her dad had moved through out her room, pulling out all her drawers and dumping everything into a big pile in the middle of her room. Her dad had thrown one of her trophies against the wall, breaking off the gold symbol of an ice skate. He sees Bridget in the doorway and he grabs her arm and pulls her into the room. He shoves her report card in her face, and her mom starts screaming at her that she's worthless and stupid. She says, "What's the point to your life? You can't do anything and you're selfish and you're useless. I should never have had you." Bridget doesn't blink at her insults; she had grown accustomed to being yelled at in this manner, since her mother has said these things ever since she was small.

She sits on her bed in silence as she watches her parents scream at her and trash her room, each tearing apart a different corner of it. After a few minutes of sitting quietly, tears slowly roll down her cheek as her mother screams and throws random objects found in her backpack at her. A pen sails pass. Her mother picks up a piece of folded paper that has fallen from Bridget's backpack. Crap, she thinks, as she realizes that the note is a fake letter to a boy that she had written as a joke a couple weeks earlier with her best friend. At the time, she had thought it was hilarious, but now, she knows if her mom reads it, she will never believe that it's a fake note. Instinctively, Bridget leaps and grabs the note out of her mother's hand and curls her right palm into a tight fist, enclosing the note inside. Almost instantly, her dad tackles her to the ground and she hits her head on her dresser. He sits on her back and pushes his hands around her neck, shoving it into the carpet. Her mom claws at her closed fists with her sharp nails and tries to pry the note out of her hand. Bridget begins to hyperventilate again, but she barely has enough air just to breathe normally. Her face turns red and her legs flail helplessly to try and kick her dad away. The panicky feeling in her stomach becomes stronger and she starts to cry again. Her hand is red and raw, hurting from the scrapes of her mother's nails.

Bridget feels like she is on the verge of losing consciousness and she tries to scream, "STOP IT DADDY, YOU'RE CHOKING ME! STOP, I CAN'T BREATHE!" It only comes out as a tiny, painful squawk and she tries over and over again. As she starts seeing spots fading in and out on the carpet, she starts wondering if her dad would stop choking her if she gave her mother the note. She thinks, What if I just let them choke me until I pass out? They'll stop, at least for now. She tries to scream again, but he presses her neck into the carpet harder, and she barely has enough air to keep crying. Her face is bright red with tears streaming down her face and her legs are exhausted from trying to kick herself away. Bridget can't feel her hand and loosens the grip, letting her mom pry her fingers open to retrieve the note. Her dad stops choking her with a final shove into the ground, and her mom unfolds the piece of paper. Her parents step away from her to read the note, while she lays on the ground, crying harder than she ever has. Every time she tries to stop, she only cries more because of how horrible her throat feels, but crying only makes it worse.

Her parents are finished reading the note and Bridget can finally stand up. Her mother sneers, "You're so stupid, what the hell does this note mean? You're worthless and you can't do anything right. Why don't you just get out of this house? Everyone will be happier with you gone. You won't be here to cause any trouble and we'll finally be happy." Bridget mutters, "Fine. If you want me gone, I'll leave right now", and she grabs her cell phone and heads toward the front door. Her mother follows, muttering insults, and her dad runs to the landing, where the door is, and locks all three of the locks. "There's no way you're leaving. You are going to stay in this house and clean up your room right now." Bridget puts her shoes on, and tries to push past her dad to unlock the door. Every time she unlocks one, he locks it again. There's no way for her to get through the front door. She sprints down the stairs to the glass sliding door downstairs and tries to unlock it before her dad can get to her. Her dad runs down the stairs and pulls her away from the door, slamming her into the ground. Bridget bounces back up and runs to the front door. She waits for her dad to run to the landing, then runs as fast as she can to the back door, moving as fast as she can to dodge her father. He runs downstairs and pulls her away just as she finished unlocking the last lock. He stands in her way of the door and locks it, and Bridget sprints upstairs once again to unlock the front door. Her dad pulls her away and throws her down the stairs and runs to block the door. They both stand there in anger and she tries to push past him.

She keeps on moving and dodging, but he grabs her and shoves her and throws her against the ground. Bridget is becoming impatient and desperate so she grabs him when he tries to hit her again and she punches him and throws him against the wall. His toe cracks and begins bleeding. She runs to the front door and unlocks it as her dad limps upstairs with a bloody toe. Her mom yells, "See what you've done?" and gets her coat to drive Bridget's father to the emergency room. He can barely walk. Bridget opens the door and steps out into the crisp night air, breathing a sigh of relief.





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