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Those Who Bleed
“How dare you do this to me!” said Gabriel’s dad, Victor, “And for the second time!”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” Gabriel replied.
“No! I’ve had enough of this ‘I’m sorry!’ This has gone far enough! If you don’t have enough respect for your father to correct your behavior, you don’t need to go anywhere for the next month!”
“But it’s the last month of summer!”
“Don’t talk back to me!” Victor shoved Gabriel into the wall of his room. He jabbed his finger in Gabriel’s face and said, “If you step out of line one more time, you won’t ever leave the house!”
He gave Gabriel one final shove and left the room. Gabriel fell into a crouch. It’s not my fault! My coach doesn’t do anything. We lose every match, but I’m the only one getting in trouble for it. Of course, I’m the only one who has a psycho dad!
He crawled slowly over to his dresser, trying to talk himself out of what he was about to do, opened his special drawer, and carefully removed the lockbox that was stored inside. He pulled out the key that was on his neck and unlocked it, opening it as quietly as possible. Inside the box was his deepest secret, the one thing that he couldn’t allow anyone to see. He reached in the box, and pulled out one of his knives. He placed the blade to the underside of his arm, and began to work. He slowly carved the lines into his skin, tracing out each letter of his pain. When he was done, there was a bloody mess on his arm that slightly resembled the word “Hate.”
Gabriel watched the blood slide down his arm and, as it was about to drip, he quickly grabbed a tissue from the box on the dresser and wiped the blood away. He grabbed a bandage, already stained red from previous lacerations, and wrapped it around his newest wound.
He took off his short sleeve shirt and looked briefly into the mirror. His eyes passed over the words carved into his flesh and thought of the memories that they held: “pain,” “suffering,” “anger,” and “misery” were only a few of the syllables that he remembered. He picked out a long sleeve shirt to sleep in, got in bed, and drifted slowly into unconsciousness, thinking the entire time about his excuse for practice the next day.
The following day, Gabriel got up, got changed into another long sleeve shirt after his shower, ignoring the pain that went with it, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and left for cross country practice.
Upon arrival, his coach, Coach Ryder, said, “You’re in another long sleeve? Don’t you ever get hot when you run?”
“Every day, Coach,” Gabriel replied, “But this helps me to do better than everyone else.”
“Whatever helps you,” Coach Ryder said playfully, then to everyone, “Now get started on your stretches! You’d better be done and started on your warm-up lap in five minutes or you’ll be doing twice the normal distance! Remember, we have a meet tomorrow.”
Gabriel and the rest of the team scrambled to fulfill the coach’s request, finishing the stretches in three minutes and the warm-up lap, a distance of half of a mile, in five. When they ran the required race distance, three miles for the Junior Varsity students, Gabriel finished in fifteen minutes.
At the meet the next day, just before the race began, Coach Ryder approached him.
“You’ll do great!” he said, “We all believe that you can start our collection of first place medals.”
“Thanks, Coach,” Gabriel said.
“I still can’t believe that you have a long sleeve shirt on. Who knows? Maybe it will give you good luck.”
Gabriel got on his mark and, when the gun went off, began to run along the marked path. The whole way through the race, there was only one person who could keep up with him. Near the end of the race, however, things took a horrific turn. When they could see the finish line, each of them started sprinting. Soon after, Gabriel pulled ahead and could see his dad standing at the end of the finish chute, with an expression that was similar to a smile. He was only ten meters from the line when it happened. His feet fell out from under him and he came crashing to the ground. All he could see as he tried to get up was the other kid that came speeding around him and the expression of disapproval that manifested on his father’s face, all traces of the smile leaving him.
“How many was that?” Victor asked Gabriel after they got home, “Three? What’s that saying they have? ‘Three’s a charm?’ That isn’t going to help you in this case. Your third loss means that you’ll get punished!”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” said Gabriel, tear droplets forming at the corners of his eyes, “I tried my best! I don’t know what happened!”
“You don’t know what happened?” said Victor, proceeding to slap Gabriel across the face, “You know exactly what happened!”
He slapped him again, from the other direction. He shoved Gabriel against the wall and punched him in the face. He continued to beat him until his face was pouring blood and he was almost unrecognizable.
“Don’t you ever do this to me again!” Victor screamed, “You think it’s bad now? Just think about what I will do to you if you try this again! You will not live to see the next day!”
Victor left the house, while Gabriel laid there, crying, with blood flowing down his face. After a few hours, Gabriel finally made his way to his room, and again retrieved his special box, unlocked it, and pulled out his blade. He carved into his arm once again, until it spelled out the word “abhorrence.” He unwrapped the arm that held “hate” and used the same bandage to wrap his newest addition.
Every meet that he went to, from that point on, Gabriel got in the top three, and he never tripped again, though his father would never smile at him again. When school finally started, a month after the last incident, Gabriel was more than happy to get away from home and see his friends again.
As soon as he arrived at school, his friends Jade Crimson and Trevor DeLoore greeted him.
“Hey, Gabriel,” said Jade, flashing her brilliant white smile and batting her blue eyes, “Whatcha doin’?”
“Nothing much,” Gabriel replied, “Just going to school, as always.”
Jade sighed, “Where’s your locker this year?”
“145, where’s yours?”
“147. We’re gonna’ be neighbors!”
“Well,” interrupted Trevor, “I think we should be going to those lockers right about now so…”
“You’re right, Trevor,” said Gabriel, “Well, I’ll see you in class.”
“See you in class,” Trevor and Jade said in unison.
Gabriel went through the day without a problem, but when he got home, he saw something that worried him. His dad was at the table, hard at work on some kind of paperwork that Gabriel had never seen before. He looked at the title of the page and it read, “AIM Adoptions: Gabriel Joseph Brian, May 23, 1998.”
“What’s that?” Gabriel asked, pointing to the paper.
“It’s none of your business,” Victor replied, “Go to your room!”
“You’ve been lying to me this whole time! You were never really married, were you? It’s all been a lie!”
Victor slapped Gabriel, pushed him back, and said, “Don’t talk to your father that way! Yes, you are adopted. And I was married! At least, I was when we adopted you. A month after you were adopted, your mother died. I thought that it would hurt you, so I told you that we had divorced. That’s the reason she never came to get you. If she knew how bad I had let myself get, she would have rushed over here to get you. But she can’t do that, and everyday I feel myself slipping farther and farther down. So far that I almost don’t even care anymore. I’m sorry for all of the beatings, but I just can’t control myself. My temper starts going, and I can’t do anything to stop it. Now, would you please go to your room.”
“Yes, sir,” Gabriel said as he went to his room.
After about an hour in his room, Gabriel heard his dad coming down the hall toward him. Victor entered the room and pushed him. He slapped him and pushed him into the wall. He shoved him to the ground and began to kick him. He kicked him over and over until he was bleeding and his old, self-inflicted scars had reopened. Gabriel quickly assumed the position that most protected him from the blows, careful not to get up for fear of the repercussions.
“Do you think you can do whatever you want, just because you’re adopted?” he asked, towering over his son, “Well, the truth is that you can’t! I can do whatever I want because I’m an adult. You, my ‘son’ are just a pathetic, useless, waste of space, and there is no need for you in this world. If you were to be killed, I wouldn’t shed a tear! You won’t go anywhere, from now on. You go to school, you come back home, and you go to your room. Nowhere else. Any food will be brought to your room. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, sir,” Gabriel said.
Victor kicked him one more time and then left the room. Gabriel found his knife again and slowly worked it in until it spelled out the word “HELP.”
The next day, he went to school, and it seemed to be the same as normal, until he got to gym class. The coach was very angry and he was forcing them all to be changed within five minutes.
When Gabriel went in the locker room, all of the stalls were taken, and he worried there wasn’t enough time left for him to wait until they got out. He tried to change quickly, but he knew that there were people staring at the scars that covered his body. He knew that they were all wondering why he did it, but no one was willing to say anything to him. The one person who would have said something, his best friend, Trevor, was in one of the stalls. He quickly put his gym shirt on and left the changing room, trying desperately to ignore their criticizing looks. It’s not my fault. I’m normal. I’m not the only one who does this. One of them was probably like me at some point. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m no different than they are. It is not my fault.
After class, James Warren, a scrawny, white guy, came up to Gabriel and asked about the scars.
“Who gave them to you?” he asked.
“I made them,” Gabriel responded.
“The words are self-explanatory.”
“Do you need help?”
“Can’t you read? I have specifically asked for help. What else would I want?” Gabriel wanted to say, but instead said, “Help for what?”
“For… your, um, scars?” James said slowly.
“That’s how I express myself,” Gabriel said as he started to walk away.
James followed after him and said, “Is there anything I can do?”
Gabriel stopped, still facing away from James, “What do you think you could do?”
James attempted to speak, but couldn’t form the words. Gabriel turned around, his eyes red, and James finally noticed the dark spots under his eyes and the bruises that covered his face.
James attempted to speak, but it didn’t come out more than a mumble.
“What?” Gabriel asked.
“I said ‘I don’t know,’” James replied, seeming mortified at the fact that he didn’t know how to help.
“That’s what I thought,” Gabriel said, proceeding to walk away.
When he had rounded the corner, out of sight from James, Gabriel pressed his back to the wall and sighed. He knew that he had just thrown away a possible friend, but it had to be this way. He couldn’t bring anyone else into his problems. He was alone.
Just then, the warning bell assaulted his ears, letting him know that he only had a few minutes left until his next class. Gabriel grabbed his books and walked to class, knowing that he only had a few more hours before he went back to the miserable existence that was his home life.
The rest of school dragged by, as usual, and no one bothered him until the end of the day. Gabriel was walking down the hallway when he saw James scurrying away from his locker. What does he want? He has already caused me enough pain just thinking about help! He opened his locker, saw the note that James had left him, and read it:
Gabriel, I’m sorry that I don’t know what to say, but I do want to help. I really do, I just don’t know how. If you need anything you can call me at (254)-717-3378.
Gabriel shook his head, blinking back tears, and quickly walked home. When he arrived, his dad was already angry, and Gabriel knew what was coming. This time, however, it almost seemed as if he didn’t feel anything. As if he had had so many beatings before, had worse beatings before, that he didn’t think about it, and didn’t think anything of it when he started bleeding. Afterward, he didn’t even bother cutting himself, not even for tradition. Instead, he sat in his room and thought.
There were many ways to do it after all. He had a large-scale plan that had been discussed for a long time, but was now finally solidifying into something that actually might happen. Yes, he had a plan, and it was all coming together all too nicely.
When he got to school the next day, he saw Jade and Trevor again, and went through the same conversation:
“Whatcha’ doin’?” Jade asked.
“Nothing much,” Gabriel replied, “Just going to school, as always.”
“That’s so fascinating!” she said, making her attraction to him so obvious that she was almost insulted when he didn’t notice her.
“Well,” said Trevor, “I think it’s about time to get to class.”
“Yes,” Gabriel said, a little more dryly than usual, although no one seemed to notice, “Yes, it is.”
Gabriel left his friends and went to class. It seemed as if that day would be better than the prior, but, halfway through the day, James came up to him.
“I did it!” he said triumphantly, “I really did it. You’re welcome.”
“What exactly did you do?” Gabriel snapped.
“I called CPS for you. I told them about what’s going on and they said they would talk to your dad about it.”
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done!” Gabriel yelled, not caring that anyone was looking at him, “You haven’t solved anything! You’ve just made it worse! Do you even know what my dad could do to me? He’s not the kind who threatens, he only does!”
“What do you mean?”
“You just don’t get it! I may not even be coming to school tomorrow! If CPS calls him, even if he doesn’t know that I haven’t told about the beatings, he could literally kill me!”
“Wait,” James stuttered, “Beatings? You never mentioned anything about beatings.”
“That was my whole point! My dad will assume that I ‘turned him in’ and there is no telling what he might do!”
“I’m so sorry, Gabriel. I had no idea!”
“Of course you didn’t. Why would you think that it was a bad idea to get involved in someone else’s life?”
“Save it! I should have known better than to trust someone,” Gabriel said, sounding more disappointed than angry.
Gabriel stormed off without looking back. When he got back to his house, after school, his dad was furious.
“Guess who I got a call from today?” Victor said, “Your friends at CPS. Do you want to know what they told me? That’s right, I know what you did!”
Victor shoved Gabriel against the wall again, and began his barrage of beating, this time more violent than before. Although this time, as well, Gabriel was too distracted with his thoughts to feel the pain that came from the assault. Instead, he was making up his mind. It’s time. Time to begin.
Directly after the beating, Victor sent Gabriel to his room and closed the door behind him. All the better. This will only make it easier. He sought out his knives once more, one final time, and prepared himself. This time he took his shirt off, so that he could access his entire chest for this cutting. He then began his work. “T.” Thank you to all of you who contributed, or didn’t. “O.” Of course, most of you didn’t even realize that I needed help. “D.” Death is the only true release for a tortured soul. “A.” At least there are two people who will understand why I’ve done this. “Y.” You all thought that you knew me, but what you knew was just a lie that I kept telling myself, over and over, until even I began to believe it. He stopped cutting, and looked in the mirror to inspect his work. “TODAY.” It was a symbol that very few would truly understand. He admired his handiwork, and actually smiled. This was his first smile in almost a year, and it seemed fitting that his first smile would become his last.
He pulled out his phone, took a picture of the artwork that he had just created, and sent it to the two people that he trusted most, Jade and Trevor, with the message, “Understand that this has nothing to do with you.” He then grabbed the knife and placed it on his throat. They didn’t miss me in life, they won’t miss me in death. Gabriel pushed in with the blade, slit his own throat, and fell to the ground in a beautiful, lifeless heap. The look on his dead face, however, was not of pain, but of relief. In those last few moments, forever etched into the furthest corners of his mind, his thoughts were on the one person that he would have been willing to spend his life with. The only girl that he had ever really liked, his childhood crush, his celebrity crush, his everything, was Jade Crimson.
The very next day, everyone in Gabriel’s class began to ask Trevor and Jade where he was.
Each time they simply responded, “I haven’t the slightest idea where he is,” although, in truth, each of them knew exactly where he was.
He was gone, and there was no way any of them could bring him back. The previous night, each of them had received the last text that Gabriel had sent out, and that day they came together to mourn his passing, if that was what it could be called. When they were finally confronted by a teacher and asked why they weren’t acting like their normal selves, they told them everything that had happened with Gabriel. The teacher looked horrified when the two kids told them about the terrifying experiences that he had gone through and when they showed them the picture that Gabriel had sent them.
The teacher then notified the principal and the CPS and relayed the story to them. When CPS learned of the incident, they searched for Victor. They found him only two hours after they received the report.
CPS agents, Ms. Asun, and Officer Colson arrived at Victor’s house around 7 o’ clock.
Ms. Asun knocked on Victor’s door and said, “Mr. Rose? Are you home?”
“Yeah,” he said, “What do you want?”
“We’re here to talk to you about your son, Gabriel.”
“What about him?” Victor said, sounding annoyed.
“We think he might be dead,” Ms. Asun replied calmly.
“What? You mean my Gabriel is dead? How did this happen, when did this happen?”
“May we come in?”
Victor opened the door and allowed the two people in.
“We have received reports that concern the cause of Gabriel’s death. We know you were involved.”
“I didn’t kill him, if that’s what you’re saying!” Victor shouted.
“That’s not what we’re saying, but we do know that you abused him. That is also punishable by incarceration. Did you know that?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You are under arrest for child abuse,” Officer Colson said, retrieving his handcuffs, “You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can and will be used against you.”
At that very moment, in two very different locations, Trevor and Jade felt a sudden chill, and they knew that they had set Gabriel’s soul to rest.
Each of them simply looked up toward the ceiling and said, “Thank you, Gabriel, for the best years of my life.”