By Leen Bouchard
It was the dead of the night, and the neighbourhood was as quiet as a cemetery. Crawling on all fours, Rachel Ross proceeded to a corner of her room to hide. With her hands over her head, she could not stop shaking. Tears streamed uncontrollably down her crimson cheeks. Her eyes widened with fear and panic, and her head jerked hard each time her father's fists brought resounding pounds on her room door. With quivering lips, she began to stammer a short prayer. Suddenly, the door swung open…
Rachel woke up with a start. Her mouth was as dry as cotton. Taking a few deep breaths, she turned off her alarm clock. Still, feeling light-headed and groggy, she stumbled into the toilet to prepare herself for school. Hesitantly, Rachel slipped her pants off. She already expected what she would see; her butt cheeks were covered with tiger-like stripes the shade of an eggplant, and great ovals of bruises spotted the back of her thighs. She fingered each bruise lightly, thinking how she wished she had never been born. Ever since she was young, Rachel's father had looked for her in the middle of the night to vent out his frustrations on her. When Rachel's mother tried to stop him, her husband would reckon she joined the daughter in her little mid-night adventure. When the time came, he would curse and swear for no apparent reason, then grab hold of his belt and made his way to her room. Little Rachel then just could not understand why her daddy would beat her up. As soon as she heard him, she would rush over to lock her door. Then, the only thing left to do was to wait in a corner and weep away. If her father went away, that was that, and she would not have to worry until the next night. If not, her father would break into her room, push her face down on her bed then whip and pinch away like there was no tomorrow. A while later, which seemed like an eternity to Rachel, her father would give her a stern warning about keeping mum about the matter. 'No one would believe it anyway. And if this gets out, you'll get it from me,' he gritted through clenched teeth.
Rachel gave a small squeal. She had been pressing on a bruise as she thought about her pitiful life. Sighing, she quickly got dressed -well enough to cover up her injuries- then headed out for school.
School passed in a blur. What was her first class? She could not remember. Did she take a History test? How was it? Rachel shrugged them away. Not long after, the end-of-the-day bell rang. As she left the school and made her way to the playground, someone called out to her.
'Hey Rebel Rose, walked into the door again?' Rachel whipped around and saw her good friend, Mike Tyers, walking towards her. He smiled. 'What's with that cut over there?' He gestured vaguely, waving his finger around his left eye. 'There's a cut?' Rachel gasped. How could she not have noticed? She bit her lip in embarrassment. Mike laughed. He paused for a while, then added, 'You know…you should really go talk to someone about it." Rachel laughed nervously. 'For a cut below my eye?' Mike smiled. 'And the bruises on your thighs.' Her heart skipped a beat. Mike explained, 'You jump up again whenever you slump down on your chair. Rachel, I think I know what is happening, and I think you should tell someone about it. Tell a teacher, tell the police, tell your neighbour…just tell someone about it. Life is just more than just pain, you know that.' For a moment, Rachel felt tempted. But she remembered her father's words. She turned around and walked away, leaving Mike gaping after her. 'Rachel!' She hurried her pace…
That night, Rachel tossed and turned in bed. She could not stop thinking about what Mike had said earlier. 'Is it really possible to tell someone about it? I mean, if I told the police they would protect me, right? But…would they believe me?' A tear trickled down her cheek. Suddenly, she glanced at her clock. It was nearly time. More tears streamed down her cheeks. Would she have to deal with her father again tonight? She was really sick of the endless torture. Then, her body trembled as the adrenaline rushed through her veins. Tonight, she thought to herself, everything will change. Tonight, she would deal with the monster no more. Tonight…she would run away.
Rachel ran to her window. She slid the metal frames away, and then carefully placed her right leg over the grill. Her heart thumped harder when she looked down. It was pitch black, and she had to be careful. Wiping the tears away which blurred her vision, she slowly brought her left leg over the grill. Then, she noticed a metal ladder at the side. Perfect! She felt like a songbird which was going to escape from its cage. She laughed a little from the excitement. She would run to Mike's house, then to a police station to report her father. Freedom was just minutes away. She was about to leave the window, when her room door swung open violently.
Rachel gasped in horror. Her father stared at her, his face turning into a shade of fiery red. Rachel was too stunned to move, and her father grabbed her arm and dragged her into the house. 'SO YOU WANT TO RUN AWAY?!YOU INCORRIBLE KID!' He flung her onto the bed. He started to slap her. 'YOU ARE A GOOD-FOR-NOTHING! AFTER WHAT YOUR MOTHER AND I WENT THROUGH TO RAISE YOU UP, YOU ARE RUNNING AWAY?! COME BACK, YOU DISGUSTING MINX!' It was a tense moment as Rachel screamed at the top of her lungs, trying to escape her father's clutches, while her father growled like a beast and lunged for her. He grabbed Rachel's shoulders and pushed her towards her table. There was a dull, thud crack as her skull hit against the sharp edge of her table. Rachel's eyes were wide and her mouth in an O shape of surprise as she collapsed to the floor…
There was a soft breeze, and a maple leaf fell, swaying from right to left, before landing on a block of polished rock. A small statue of an angel girl with an upturned face sat it. Her name, Rachel Anne Katelyn Ross, was carved in an elegant Italic Goth font into the rock. This is the story of a broken heart the world forgot. Rachel grinned tearfully as she admired her grave. She got her freedom in the end after all.
Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving 6 million children. It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recoded as such on death certificates. If you know someone facing such problems, please alert the authorities, because it should not hurt to be a child.