Safety Came for Me

It hurt.

Each smack that fell upon my already stinging red skin sent electrical shocks throughout my body. I wanted to scream. No, I couldn’t scream otherwise another smack will land on me. What I could do now was wait till he was done, leave the room and drink his life away.

He kicked my right side and the pain from his steel-toed boots felt like a knife going through my right side and out the other. I muffled a cry. He shouted at me too. The words stung like a poison. Words that made me feel weak, senseless, terrible, useless, and unwanted. Like if I were to die right now no one would care to realize. He’d probably drag my body out into the woods and bury me deep in the ground to never be seen again.

The kicks, smacks, shoves, and yelling was dying down. After one more kick in the stomach, which felt like I was going to upchuck my stomach from my mouth, he left the room. The door slammed shut and there was a click from the lock. He placed it there so that I couldn’t run away while he drank himself to sleep. He didn’t want to go to jail.

Laying in that corner I stared around my room. It wasn’t much of a room anymore. Everything was a mess and I owned barely nothing. My closet was only filled with enough to last me a week. My bed was covered with enough to keep me warm at night but sometimes I couldn’t make it there. I was too tired to move and so like the days before I fell asleep in the corner of my bedroom.

Early the next morning I got up to make that man breakfast. He sat at the table looking very hung over. Twenty dollars sat in front of him to go get groceries. Quietly I crept to the table and grabbed the money like I would whenever it sat there.

“Come straight back,” His voice had made my skin crawl with nervousness.

Leaving the house wearing only jeans, old sneakers, and a hoodie my feet headed in the same path down to the store that sat at the end of the street. It was the closest one but I had to make sure that no one took too much noticed of me. Like every time I went around and grabbed the things that he wanted. The list was a simple one: eggs, bacon, bread, sausage, and hash-browns. It was like this every time and I had just enough to cover it all with two dollars and sixty-three cents left over.

I was grabbing the thick-cut bacon. Someone went grabbing my upper arm. I flinched noticeably as my heart raced thinking it was him because the grip was tight. The hand had left and I heard them back away a step.

“Carry?” His voice was so soft, confused, gentle, and worried. It was ages ago before I had heard that exact voice. I was in school then, but now I wasn’t. That man back home had pulled me out of it. That following night he was beating me and telling me that I wasn’t good enough for school. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t worth being taught. I have longed to go back because it was the only safe place to be from him. “Carry?”

“Leave me alone, Tony,” I mumbled softly placing the bacon in the basket before going to find the eggs. I didn’t want him here. If he found out that someone was talking to me besides the cashier he was going to lock me away. He might think that I was trying to plan to run away or turn him in. I’ve tried to do that many years ago but somehow he made people think I was crazy, they would whisper about me in the halls not knowing the actual truth. After that was I too scared to try again. He raped me that night.

“Carry, what’s going on with you? Where have you been?” I ignored him though so badly I didn’t want to. He was such a good friend when we were children. He cared so much for me. That man though had threaten me to not to talk to Tony anymore. “Carry, answer me.” I have forgotten how demanding he was after he asked a question. Without a word I went to the cashier and paid for my things before leaving the store.

He followed, my heart started to race. If he was looking out the window or heard Tony I don’t know what would happen then but I knew that later that night I’ll be sleeping my pains away in the corner of my bedroom like the night before.

“Tony, please leave me alone.”

“Carry, what the hell is going on with you?” He grabbed my upper arm again and I bit my lip from the pain that he was causing by touching the bruises. He noticed, “What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing.”

“You think that I’ll believe that?” No.

“Go away Tony.” Please, please leave Tony. I don’t want you getting hurt too.

“Tell me.” I tried walking away but he continued to follow. “I’ve been looking for you for months now, please Carry tell me what’s going on.” Tony grabbed my arms again and I wanted to cry out from the pain but bit my lip from letting it out. He saw the pain in my eyes and stepped closer to me. My feet took an instinctive step back. He pulled me to him before I could do anything to react. I crash against him with more force than needed. Waves of hot pain shot through me and a small cry left my lips. Tony wasn’t going to give up.

His embrace was warm and comforting. Something that I have longed for the last couple years. It was gentle and he held me with care, like I was a fragile china doll. Slowly I leaned into him. The warmth was something that I needed. Thoughts of what could happen if I was caught faded from my mind while the only safety that I have could be the one holding me right now.

“Please, tell me Carry. Something is going on. This isn’t you.”

Safety was holding me right now.

I didn’t want it to slip away from me.

It was probably the only chance I had.

“My father’s been abusing me,” Those words were so hard to speak. My throat had tighten up, tears filled my eyes, and my mouth had felt dry. That feeling you get when you’re just about to cry and know it. It was impossible to hold back. Tony held me closer to him as I cried. He took his phone out of his back pocket.

Safety came for me.

Without my pleading or cries for help, it has come to me because I took that chance to tell someone.

Katherine’s Shadow

Why are my pants on backwards?

Sarah felt the tag of her pajama bottoms itching against the bottom crest of her belly. She tried to lift her head and pop-rock whiteness exploded behind her eyes. She’d never had a hangover before, or she would have known what to call it.

Vaguely, Sarah remembered stumbling home. A girl from her class had supported her the full four blocks back to the dorms. Her armpit and the underflesh of her triceps still ached from where the other girl’s shoulder had held her up. Sarah stretched, raising herself up slowly. She remembered feeling acid, the taste of batteries, at the back of her mouth. Had she thrown up? She didn’t know. Her tongue felt dry and stale, but that was to be expected after such a night of hard drinking. Wasn’t it? Sarah pushed the heels of her palms against her eyelids in an attempt to stop the pulsating of her vision. What did people do in these situations? This was all new to her.

Sarah was aware of the emptiness of her dorm room then. It was just big enough for two twin beds, placed directly opposite of each other as close up to the cold, red brick walls as possible. In the extra space there were two three-feet-by-three-feet desks with matching shelves overhead, and two shallow closets flanking the one door. It was sparsely decorated with Third Eye Blind posters and neon throw pillows.

Sarah’s roommate was hardly ever in. For the fourth week in a row, she had gone home to her parents’ house in Aurora for the entire weekend. Sarah practically had the room to herself, most of the time. She wouldn’t say that it was lonely. It sure gave her plenty of room to work. She just had expected more from her first dorm experience. It would have helped to have someone much more…present, in a situation like this.

A knock on the door.

“Sarah? Sarah, did you make it back okay? Sarah, its Siobhan- let me in, please.”

Siobhan was a freshman, like Sarah, who sat next to her an early morning three-hundred level statistics class. She had been Sarah’s guide to the local house party the night before- down to fiftieth and King street, where the party there had already been a bust, up to forty eighth and Osceola, where they were some of the first to arrive- as part of a group of their classmates who had wanted to go out and get loose.

A burgeoning math major, Siobhan was pretty and moderately popular. Sarah had figured she was someone who was safe enough to cling to, this early on in her college career. Not unreachably perfect or overshadowing, but also not a hole-in-the-wall troll who would weigh Sarah down in public. A good stepping stone, to begin with.

“Hold on, I’m getting there,” Sarah said as she fixed her pants the right way ‘round. She was embarrassed by the amount of effort it took to slide out of her lifted bed, to steady her legs and shuffle slowly to the door. If this was what hangovers were always like, Sarah was never going to drink again.

Siobhan stood at the door, her eyebrows drawn together with concern. She had a small cup of McDonald’s coffee in her right hand, a tightly gripped, greasy meal sack in the other. The smell of it nearly made Sarah want to retch, at the same time that it made her feel urgently the emptiness of her own stomach.

“Figured you wouldn’t be heading over to the café today. Could barely handle the sun myself,” Siobhan said. Her tone was an uncertain apology, as was the way her clean green eyes swept Sarah’s room. What was she looking for? Siobhan set down the breakfast bag on Sarah’s desk, still looking uncomfortable. Sarah hauled herself back onto her bed, where she could rest the back of her throbbing head against the cold, hard brick. She patted the purple comforter next to her.

“It’s more comfortable up here,” she invited.

Siobhan clambered up beside, snugly sitting Indian-style, holding the small cup of coffee like an anchor between her hands. Her pixie short, flame colored curls were pinned down close to her head, emphasizing the soft freckles of her round, friendly face. Her hair was slightly damp and her features fresh, as if she had recently showered. Had she really come over right after waking? After that and getting breakfast, of course.

“How’s your head?” Siobhan asked.

“Like the inside of a broken strobe light,” Sarah laughed.

Siobhan wordlessly handed Sarah the dollar coffee. Sarah didn’t know if it was supposed to help her hangover, but she also couldn’t just reject it. So Sarah took the coffee, warm between her palms.

“I’m sorry if I made an ass out of myself last night,” Sarah said after a small pause, “I don’t know when I passed out but it couldn’t have been good.”

“You…don’t remember?”

“I remember wanting to throw up. I remember waking up on someone’s couch. I think Mikayla walked me home. You know, Mikayla Martinez? She almost had to carry me. Don’t think the D.A. noticed, though. I’m not in trouble, anyways.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, that’s all I got. I suppose I might have thrown up on something. Someone? Woke up clean, though. Did you wipe me off? Or Mikayla?”

Siobhan pushed the heels of her palms against her knees. Sarah closed her eyes, letting the coldness of the brick wall seep through the nape of her neck. The colder her skin got, the less the room wobbled.

“You don’t remember anything, do you?” Siobhan said. Her Southern tone was strangely leaden.

“What do you mean?” Sarah asked.

“You called me Katherine.”

Sarah’s eyes flew open. Katherine. Her mind sharpened like a knife, and froze.

“What happened?”

“Well, you did throw up in the backyard around eleven. Cleaned yourself up, there. But you kept on going. Danced on the tables, almost broke a few plates before some guy pulled you down. You kissed Tammy for a dollar, though I don’t think she paid you. Slapped Kevin’s ass, too.”

“Holy cow, really?”

“Yeah. He seemed to like it, but you were way too drunk to be going home with him.”

“Shame.”

“You’ll thank us later.”

“I’m not allowed to thank you now? Did I pass out then?”

“No. Then the cops came.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. You were pretty gone. We didn’t know how gone yet, but you didn’t want to leave. I had to drag you out, basically. Almost put you on my back.”

“Wow. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright. It’s alright.”

But Siobhan didn’t sound alright. Sarah took a deep breath and tried the coffee. It was, by then, lukewarm, tasting stale and bitter without cream. Sarah swallowed.

“You said I called you…”

“Katherine. Yeah.”

Siobhan looked down at the floor of Sarah’s dorm- the tacky, marbled blue carpet spread thinly across it.

“You screamed when you said it,” Siobhan continued, “You threw yourself to the ground and grabbed your stomach.”

“Did I?” Sarah’s voice was as flat, as empty as she could make it.

“You sounded…scared. Scared of me. Scared of me as Katherine, I guess. Who is Katherine?”

“Did I say…did I do anything else?”

“You told me you were ready.”

“For what?”

“To die, Sarah. You asked me not to hurt you and you told me you were ready to die with me. With Katherine. Sarah, you were screaming on the ground, you were curled up on the ground, and you were crying. So hard.”

Now Siobhan was crying, her skin mottling with a red flush deeper than the flame of her hair. She sniffled loudly, pressing the heels of her palms up to her eyes to stem the flow of tears.

“I’m so sorry, Siobhan.”

Sarah took another sip of the coffee, slurping loudly as Siobhan wept. It was cold, now, and flat. But Siobhan had brought it to her, had brought it when it was hot right after waking; to comfort her. Sarah would drink every drop.

“Katherine was my step-sister,” Sarah said when the coffee cup was empty, “She lived with us until I turned fifteen. She was never really…right in the head, but she was the only sister I had, you know?”

“She hurt you.”

“I don’t know if she really knew what she was doing, to be honest. Neither did I. I just wanted to be a good baby sister. She was so lonely and hurt. Our dad’s a bit…distant. He’s all she had, apart from me. Or so she always said.

“She wanted to kill you?”

“She wanted to kill herself, but she didn’t want to go alone. I promised her that I’d follow her, when she was ready. That she could take me with her.”

“Did Katherine hit you?”

“She was always so angry, and I was always there. She ran away when I was fifteen. Got caught in Utah stealing food and Monster from a Conoco. My mom wouldn’t let me go to her. She’d found my diary by then. Found out what Katherine had been doing. Made me go to counseling- me, her and my step-dad. Haven’t seen Katherine since, you know. But I still have dreams.”

“And you thought I was her.”

“I guess I did, Siobhan. I don’t remember a thing.”

Siobhan began to cry harder. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand as if she had hurled. Sarah sunk down into her position, letting her legs dangle over the side of her bed, pushing the top of her head against the cold brick.

“I didn’t know, Sarah, I didn’t know. I was so scared, so worried, I….” Siobhan hiccupped and covered her mouth.”

“It’s alright,” Sarah said, closing her eyes. She folded her hands over her chest and breathed deeply. “It’s not like I go around announcing it. How weird would that sound? ‘Hey, my name’s Sarah, my sister used to hit me, what’s your major?’ I’d rather just forget about it, if it’s all the same to you.”

“I’m so sorry,” Siobhan repeated, though her breathing had started to descend from hysteria.

“Well you didn’t run away, at least,” Sarah conceded, “You don’t need to be sorry.”

“When you did pass out, we took you to Mikayla’s,” Siobhan protested, “and I came back. Without you.”

Eyes closed, Sarah grabbed the empty coffee cup and shook it. A smirk spread across her face.

“You brought me breakfast, didn’t you? I’d say that’s a good enough apology.”

“But…”

“You think those sandwiches are still going to be good?”

Sarah could hear Siobhan’s hesitation and the freeze inside her bones stiffened with fear. Siobhan had gotten up early, had gotten her breakfast, had come to see if Sarah was still okay. Siobhan had seen the darkest of Sarah’s memories, seen worse than just Sarah’s scars, and still had knocked on her door. Sarah squeezed her eyes shut tight, waiting.

“Which do you want- the sausage or the bacon?”

Sarah smiled as she thawed. Siobhan was the answer to her prayers. Maybe now the nightmares would be over.

“I think we’re going to be the best of friends, Siobhan. I really do.”