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LIke a Drug Addict, Babe
tell me. how many times
is it probable that you 'just' ran into a door?
those big blue bruises on your shoulder
never go away and you expect me to believe
everything will be fine.
'You've worn that sweatshirt three days in a row, Sam.' I sighed and slipped into the swing beside her.
She gave me a weak smile and looked away. 'I haven't had a chance to wash the other ones.' Her shoulders seemed to stoop lower than the day before and her breathing came quickly as though it hurt.
'It isn't even cold out,' I whispered.
Sam shrugged. 'Doesn't matter. I get chills.'
I rolled my eyes. 'Please, girl. That's a bloody lie and you know it.'
She shook her head. 'Not at all.' She kicked off her flip-flops and pressed the soles of her feet into the woodchips beneath us.
'There's nothing to fix, dummy. So stop trying to fix me already.' Sam's long skinny fingers wrapped around the swings' chain and she pushed off the ground, shwooshing forward.
'Sam, you know I'm not trying to fix you.'
Her eyes turned cold and her lips slid into a flat line. 'Then why does it feel like you are?'
'Because . . . ' I was lost for words as I looked past her and to the house, Sam's house, that stood not even a hundred yards away. 'You have to be home soon, don't you?'
Sam nodded. 'Yeah. The Witch wouldn't want me out past five.' She rolled her eyes and stood. 'Will you be here tomorrow?'
I shrugged. 'Depends on if you're at school or not.'
She grimaced. 'I'll . . . see you if I'm there.' Her smile did nothing to reassure me.
'Maybe you should spend the night at my house''
'It'll be okay, Cassie. Please don't worry about me. You know I hate that.' She stuck her tongue out in disgust.
'Yeah, I know,' I said. 'Just''
She grabbed her flip-flops from the grass and waved them over her head as she walked for her house. 'See you.'
'Be careful,' I whispered after her.
the little lies you've told,
assured I wouldn't ever find out
how home life has been.
well. I can tell you now
things get around and back again.
Sammy didn't come to school. I watched the door to her first hour class, desperate to see her walk through, smile at me, and say 'I made it.'
'Sorry, Cass. She called early this morning and said she was too sick.' Seth shook his head as he came up behind me in the hallway. 'She was throwing up while I was talking to her. Must be some bug.'
I nodded only to give him the impression that I agreed. He smiled. 'Don't worry so much about her. You're lips are gonna stick like that.'
It took me a moment to realize that I had been frowning the whole morning. He used his middle and index finger to push both corners of my mouth up into a semi-smile. I pulled away and flipped my wrist at him. 'Don't do that,' I said under my breath.
The first chance I got, between Chemistry and PE; I used the payphone in the cafeteria to call Sam. Her machine picked up after the first ring. The voice that answered was smiling in their greeting. It was so unlike the Sam I knew now.
'Hey! This is Sammy. Leave me a message and I'll get back to you ASAP!' BEEP.
'Sam? It's Cassie. Please pick up the phone if you hear me . . . I really need to talk to you. And I know you aren't sick with some bug. So . . . call me after I get home, K? Love you, girl . . . bye.'
Seth leaned against the wall beside me as I hung the phone up. 'What do you mean, 'not some bug'?' He eyed me. 'She can't be that sick because of''
'Not now,' I muttered. 'Please.'
He sighed. 'Sure thing.'
We nearly ran to PE so we wouldn't be late.
'Good thing we're both teacher's pets,' he laughed as we puffed down the hall.
'Too bad we have a sub today,' I managed when I shoved the gym door open.
yeah, I know you probably don't want
to think about the pain all the time.
but, right now, right here, in this reality,
something has got to be done.
is there anyone who will take action?
She didn't call me after I got home. I knew why, but thought I shouldn't call her about something so fragile. So I jogged to her house.
Her stepdad answered the door. 'Cassie.' He glowered at me.
I peeked over his shoulder into the house. 'Is Sam here?'
'Uhh. Can you check?'
His glower turned cold.
He promptly slammed the door in my face.
'How nice of you, sir,' I mumbled to myself.
She had disappeared on me before. She probably got my message and ran off again for the afternoon until the Witch required she be home.
With Sammy, things got complicated very quickly. Her family was a regular dysfunctional patch of bickering dogs.
Her parents were constantly fighting about her and her brother. Or about something stupid. Then Sammy would get sick the next day because her mom would always say 'This time, honey. I'm getting a divorce this time.'
But it would never happen and everything would be 'okay' the next week. The emotional crap that Sam had to put up with on a daily basis I could only dream of.
I sat on Sammy's front porch swing and swung my legs, prepared to wait until she got back.
She didn't come. Even after I waited until 5:30.
could it be that we are too afraid
of the consequences that come along
with this junk stuck in our minds?
what is the harm in saying something
to ease this burden you have inflicted?
My cell phone woke me at 2:30 in the morning.
'What,' I croaked. I tried again after clearing my throat. 'Yeah?'
No response but sobbing in the background.
'Sam?' I shoved the covers off the bed and sat up. 'That you?'
'Yeah.' The whispered answer came suddenly and sounded distant.
'Am I on speakerphone?'
'Yeah. Sorry. That was an accident.' The background noise dropped out.
'I rubbed my eyes and yawned. 'That isn't you crying, right?'
'Where are you?'
'In my closet. They were fighting again. The Witch threw a plate at mom and smashed one of her teapots in her collection by accident and then she tried to stop him from kicking the dog so he kicked her instead'' She finally paused to take a breath and I stopped her.
'Sam. Slow down. What''
'Her hand is broken, Cassie! I don't know what to do . . .'
'Emergency rooms are there for a reason, Sam.'
'But she'll have to tell them how it happened! We can't do that!'
'You can't just not tell anyone. He kicked her. That's abuse, right?'
'That's why we can't say anything.'
I rubbed my eyes again, but not because I was tired.
'Just listen, dummy. I don't need anyone to fix me! I told you already.' Her voice became bitter and hushed.
'Sorry,' I mumbled. My pillow had ended up underneath me, so I shifted back onto the bed and pulled the covers up off the floor. 'Then talk already.'
No response. Not even sobbing this time.
'Sammy?' A hint of panic had fallen into my voice.
'Relax.' Her voice was choked with something.
'You were sick again, weren't you?'
'I think you should come over to my house''
'Not now. It's to late at night''
'It's after two in the morning, Sam.'
'Oh. It is?'
'Sam. You're a mess. Please come over?'
'No way you hung up on me!'
have you considered that watching you
nearly crawl through the door every day
has been tearing me apart as well as yourself?
it's like a drug addict, babe.
everyone says they're just a bomb waiting to explode.
I was in homeroom, rushing to get my math review done before the late bell rang, when Sam stumbled through the door.
'Hey,' I said, smiling.
She mumbled something, sat down, and dropped her head on the desk. I noticed that she didn't have any books with her.
'Get any sleep?'
'Not really. Passed out around five, I think. Got up ten minutes ago.'
She sure looked like she'd only had ten minutes to get ready. And she was wearing the same sweatshirt I'd seen her in two days ago.
I hurried through the next three math equations and slapped my Algebra 2 book shut. 'Maybe you should borrow my pencil?'
Her head wobbled back and forth on the desk, indicating her strong protest. 'No use. I'll probably just sleep anyway.'
We were silent the rest of the time. Sam fell asleep in the five minutes of homeroom that was left.
Seth smiled and handed me a badminton paddle. 'My team?'
'Sure.' I tossed him the birdie and shuffled towards the farthest court. He followed.
Jen and Nathan were already waiting for us. Jen grinned, but when she saw the weary look in my eyes it faded.
I ducked under the net along with Seth and shrugged at Jen's concerned glance. 'I'll tell you later,' I mouthed.
'Zero-zero,' Seth said.
'So what's up?'
Jen clutched her books with both arms crossed, lips pursed in something of a pout.
'Sam. You talked to her lately?'
She shrugged. 'Umm. Well she hasn't talked to me . . . '
'Have you tried to talk to her?'
'No.' She ducked her head. 'Why?'
'Try it sometime,' I said. 'She needs a friend.'
'What about you?' Her eyebrow went up.
'Apparently, I'm trying to 'fix' her.'
'Oh. What does that mean?'
'Complicated things. That's what.' I shifted from one foot to the other. 'One of these days, she's going to snap.'
that new ring of black beneath and above
your eye tells a story beyond all stories.
please, girl, oh please.
tell me this isn't the reality you've chosen to accept,
these lies and these broken lives with this ticking bomb.
When I went to Sam's house after school, she wasn't home yet. Or that's what I picked up from her stepdad slamming the door in my face again.
I sat on the swings at the park across the street to watch her house like some sort of stalker.
To my surprise, five minutes after I'd sat down, she came stomping down the front steps. 'He makes me so mad!'
I watched her cross the street and stomp through the grass barefoot, her sweatpants swishing up past her ankles.
'You'll step on a thorn or something,' I told her.
She scowled and dropped onto the swing. 'I don't care,' she muttered.
I tried to smile at her, but failed miserably.
'You ever wondered what it would be like . . . to have a normal family?'
'No one's normal, Sam.'
'Yeah, I know. But have you wondered?'
'Why?' I pushed off the ground and began to swing my legs.
She shrugged and stomped her feet into the woodchips, apparently not concerned with splinters. 'Because life sucks.'
I winced at her choice of words and glanced at her as I swung. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a slight brown area beneath her right eye.
'What,' she snapped.
'What's that under your eye?' I let my heels drag across the dirt to stop myself and turned towards her.
She looked away. 'Nothing. Mind your own business.'
'Come on Cassie! When are you going to stop bugging me?!' She stood and twirled to face me, leaned over, and spat in my face.
I jerked back, surprised, with saliva trailing down my cheek as though I'd been crying.
She stomped away before I could respond, her heavy footfalls pounding along with the heartbeat that resounded in my ears.
And it wasn't the spit dribbling down my chin that bothered me. It was the black eye I'd caught sight of before she'd managed to spin away.
'Please let me help you,' I whispered as I swiped at my face with the back of one hand.
the never ending fights you've endured and the
countless shattered plates, the broken window
you mentioned. coincidentally, the very night
your mom screamed 'why don't you just leave',
an angry neighbor put a brick through the glass.
This time, my phone started buzzing at three in the morning.
'Mmm,' I mumbled. 'Sam?'
She gasped for breath, choking on her own throat that refused to allow her air. 'I cleaned up the floor in the kitchen an hour ago. You wouldn't believe how many plates there were. And the broken window . . .' Her voice wavered as though she were about to cry.
'Yeah, my brother says it was the crazy neighbor who threw the brick. But he had that red powder that comes off bricks all over his fingers and shirt''
A car horn blared in my ear and I nearly jumped out of bed.
'What was that?!' My ear throbbed, my heart pounding.
'Oh. I'm outside. Sitting in the jeep. I accidentally leaned on the horn.
'Why are you outside?'
'It's sure not as pretty inside.'
Then, suddenly, she was crying. 'She told me to leave, Cassie. She told me that I should''
'Wait. Who told you to leave?'
Her voice was weak and sick, as though she'd already done her share of throwing up her guts for the morning. 'Mom.'
'What did she say, again?'
She sobbed into phone for a full minute before she could manage words. 'If you hate it here so much'' Her words choked off and I was silent, waiting for her to finish.
'Why don't you just leave,' she whispered in such a small voice I almost began to cry with her.
I buried my face in my pillow for a second and breathed deeply, allowing myself to forget Sam for a moment.
When I was ready again, I said, 'I don't know what to tell you, Sammy. I'm sorry.'
'That's what everyone says,' she hissed, her voice still faltering. 'Welcome to the club.'
I sighed and dropped the phone on the floor.
And I began to pray.
so, you see? this has got to come to an end.
but so far, neither you nor i have seen
an ending to this tragic Fairy Tale.
how can you possibly
embrace this nightmare in the making?
Her black eye was more visible the next day at school. But, somehow, she looked better than in a long time. She was wearing a simple knee-length skirt and white peasant's blouse. Her hair was pulled back in a large silver clip.
But she still slept almost all day.
Seth was no longer smiling when I met him at his locker before PE.
'Have you heard her story yet?' His eyes were heavy with sadness. And he knew he didn't have to say 'Sam' for me to know who he was talking about.
'Yeah. Something about tripping over her dog.'
He nodded. 'We've got to do something, Cassie.'
So he finally knew. I wasn't about to be the one to tell him the story of one of his best friends gone anti-socialist/depressed loner.
'I've known that for weeks now! I don't know what to do anymore . . .'
He led the way to the gym and shook his head. 'Does she not get that it isn't okay for this to be happening?'
'I'm not really sure about anything anymore,' I muttered. 'She lies a lot lately. She spit in my face yesterday. Then called me at thee this morning, wanting to talk about how she cleaned up broken plates. And I think her brother threw a brick through their window.'
I nodded. 'Not like she has another brother.'
baby, this bomb is ticking
and, clearly, we can take no more.
this pressure, this undying pressure,
in the back of your freakin mind
has got to get out there.
Sam didn't even wait until I came to her house to talk to me. She met me in front of my house and nearly tackled me when she caught sight of me.
'I can't go home right now, Cassie.' Her eyes were wide. 'I'm scared.'
I pulled away from her with alarm.
She raised her hands in defense. 'Don't get all go-tell-someone, K? Mom isn't home and the Witch is . . . so I thought I would stay with you until five?'
We sat on the porch steps, not really saying anything. But I decided to throw it out anyway.
'I'm going to talk to the counselor at school tomorrow, Sammy.'
She stiffened beside me and I knew I had just stepped onto a very thin tight-rope.
'You can't do that.'
'I can. I have every right.'
She stood and began pacing. 'No. Nonono. You can't do that.'
'Then what do you want me to do?!'
That was it. I'd finally lost myself to the deep resentment that I had so carefully packed away in my chest.
Her eyes spit fury when she whirled on me. I stood to meet her. 'Don't tell me I'm not allowed to get rid of this crap that's been sitting in my head for the last month, Sam!'
Her eyes widened a bit, but she didn't back off quite yet. 'I'm not saying that! I'm saying that you can't fix me. No matter what you think!'
'I haven't even tried yet,' I yelled in her face, fists clenched by my sides. 'Stop telling me I can't, because when I do try, you'll know.'
'Fine! Try and fix me! See what I care.' She took a step back and threw her arms in the air. 'This is how everything has always been and how it always will be!'
I began to scream then. With my head tilted towards the clouds, fists clenched, I screamed until my throat burned raw, and I could feel the tears sliding down my face.
My knees gave way beneath me and I collapsed. Sam was already kneeling, tears streaming down her cheeks.
'I'm sorry, Cassie. So, so sorry. I didn't realize''
I managed to hug her from where I was sitting on my legs. 'Things will change, Sammy. Please see that they can.'
She nodded against my shoulder and began to shake with sobs. I hugged her tighter. 'Please,' I whispered.
'I'll tell first,' She finally managed. 'Then you can talk all you need to.'
I cried harder because of an enormous weight that was suddenly lifted.
please, please, oh please girl,
this has got to end. the ticking and
big black bruises, these shattered plates
and coincidental bricks. just don't tell me
how you ran into a door again.
We made our way done the hall holding hands, because I was afraid that she would run away before we got to the counselor's room.
Sam was shaking and I couldn't blame her. We both realized that whatever she said in the next hour was going to change her life. I squeezed her hand in reassurance.
'It'll be okay,' I whispered.
She nodded. 'I know. This is scary.'
Her black eye was no longer black, but a light purple-becoming-brown color. It was clear that she had been hit not two days before. She hadn't tried to cover it up today so it was easy for the counselor to see.
'We'll be okay now,' I said, squeezing her hand again.
'Yes.' She smiled. 'We will.'
I stepped in the doorway of the counselor's office and took a deep breath. 'Mrs. Vail?'
The brunette woman behind the desk looked up and smiled. 'Cassie! How are you?'
'Well. Actually, my friend needs to talk to you.'
Sam stepped in behind me and released my hand. She smiled and sat down in one of the chairs that occupied the tiny room.
'I need to tell you a story.'