When Jarred woke up he saw the huge bruise on his arm. It was large and ugly. He pulled on a long sleeve shirt despite the fact that is was to middle of May. He couldn't let the kids at school see his injuries. He walked down the stairs slowly praying all the while his father was still asleep. He often slept in late. For once he was lucky. He made breakfast and hurried out the door. He would get to school much too early, but it was better than waiting for his father to wake up.
Halfway to school, it started pouring rain. He just pulled the hood of his hoodie over his head. He walked into the common area in which students were supposed to wait for the first bell. Very few other children were there. It was another twenty minutes before his only friend Luke showed up. He walked over and joked, “It's seventy degrees outside. Why are you wearing a long sleeve hoodie?” He laughed and tugged at it as if to yank it off him.
Jarred jerked away reflexively and almost yelled, “I'm cold okay!” Jarred sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I'm sorry,” he said, “That was uncalled for. I'm just having a bad week.” He worked up a half smile and continued, “My father is-It's just my father.”
Luke nodded his head a look of understanding in his eyes, but he didn't understand. Not even close. His father didn't hit him for no reason other than, “I can't find a job” or “Don't give me that look.” “Yeah,” Luke said, focusing Jarred's wandering mind, “dads are a general pain in the ass.” Jarred tried to hide his pain at Luke’s misinterpretation of his words, but he must have seen it because he said, “Why do I get the feeling that you're hiding something from me?”
“I'm not. Can't we please talk about something else?” He remembered with joy that today was Friday. This was one of the weekends when he spent the night at Luke's house. “So I'm still going to your house tonight right?” Jarred asked in an attempt to be casual.
“Well actually, I was wondering if we could spend the night at your house. My parents anniversary is this weekend and they want me out of the house.” Jarred heart seemed to stop for a moment. Luke at his house. The thought seemed suicidal, but he couldn't reject his best friend.
“I'll have to talk to my dad about it.” He was already dreading the conversation. Just then the bell rang out. The morning classes passed in their normal monotony and all too soon the day was half gone. As he ate lunch, he zoned out frequently as he considered all the possible ways the conversation with his father could go.
Luke yelled, “Jarred, are you even listening to me?” Jarred shook his head and looked Luke in the eyes “That's what I thought. What's wrong with you today? I mean you always act like this, but it's been worse lately. Whatever it is you can tell me.”
“It's nothing. You're imagining things. Nothing has changed,” Jarred said, with that half smile that didn't touch his burdened eyes. Luke was, of course, right. It was worse because his father was out of a job which always made the beatings worse and more frequent. Lunch was hard to stay focused through. Jarred tried hard for Luke's sake though. It wasn't long until the school day had ended. Jarred lingered in the school yard, not wanting to go home. Finally he started the long walk dreading having to face his father with every step.
He was shocked to find the door locked. His father never locked the door. Jarred knocked loudly and waited for his dad to open the door. When the door swung open, Jarred saw that his father didn't look all that angry. Yet. It was only a matter of time. Something always set him off.
“Hey dad,” Jarred began hesitantly, “I can't go to Luke's this weekend. I was wondering if he could come here.”
“Sure,” his dad said calmly, “Why not?” It was not the reaction Jarred had expected.
“You seem to be in a pretty good mood today,” he said, hoping the phrasing didn't set him off. His dad laughed and smiled. It became very hard for Jarred to keep the shock off his face.
“I got called for a job interview,” his dad announced proudly. That was a definite explanation. Jarred's father was always happier when he had a job. He didn't wait around for his dad to change his mind. He walked into the kitchen and pulled out his cellphone. His mother had bought it for him when she was still alive. He bought the minutes for it himself.
“Hey Luke,” Jarred began, “I got the green light. Come on over, alright?”
“Sure thing,” Luke said with a quiet laugh. He hung up, knowing that Jarred's minutes were limited. Jarred immediately began preparing dinner. Most people would think it was too early, but his father tended to get cranky if dinner wasn't on the table by five. He had a porcelain bowl filled with chicken he was dipping in egg so the flour would stick to in when he fried them, when there was a knock at the door. It startled him and he knocked the bowl to the floor. It made a terrible noise as it shattered on the ground.
For a moment, Jarred just stared at it uncomprehendingly. Then, he heard thundering footsteps and a voice yelled behind him, “What the hell did you do now!” It seemed that he took in the scene because he then yelled, “That's one of my good bowls!” Jarred thought about Luke, standing outside the door waiting to be let in and knowing it might be awhile.
His father came up to him. When he was about a foot away from him he screamed, “You need to learn to respect me and my dishes! You understand me!”
“Yes dad,” he whimpered.
“I don't think you do. That is my best bowl,” he growled with increasing rage.
“I'm sorry dad,” Jarred could tell he was going to lose this battle, “please don't.”
“Don't what!” he yelled, but didn't wait for a response. He smashed his fist into Jarred's face. Then he punched him hard in the gut. Jarred collapsed to the ground and gasped for breath. His father didn't relent when he fell down though. He started to kick him. Jarred did the only thing he could think of to protect himself. He brought his knees to his chest and stuck his arms above his head to ward off the blows.
His father kept kicking and punching him. It took him a long time to work up the courage to look at his father from under his arms. His dad's teeth were clenched as his foot contacted Jarred's body again and again. He wanted his mother more than he ever had. He was scared for his life.
"Why," Jarred thought as his father kicked him... over and over again, "Why would he do this to me over a stupid bowl." He couldn't stand this pain. Not only physically, but mostly mentally and emotionally because only someone without a heart would do this to their own child. He tried to crawl away from his father and tried to stand up, when a searing pain hit his ribs. He was sure he would die after this. Where was Luke? Could he possibly still be standing there, knocking at the door. Surely he would know something's wrong by now.
His father leaped after him, screaming, "Don't you crawl away from me, you little bastard." He leaped after Jarred and grabbed his arm. He dragged him to the kitchen and opened a drawer and took out a revolver. He pointed it at Jarred's head and said, "You ever try somethin' like that again and I'll kill you."
"I was just-," his father interrupted him and smacked him in the head with his gun and yelled, "Don't you talk back to me like that." Jarred tried not to fall down. That would set his father off even worse. His father was an ex-lieutenant in the army. He was arrested for beating the crap out of one of the soldiers. He was all about discipline. If Jarred fell, it would mean dire consequences, not that this wasn't bad enough.
He heard Luke knocking on the door, still. Maybe he could run, while his father was sidetracked on the door. Jarred turned around, and kicked him, as hard as he could, in the shin. His father screamed, dropped the gun, and fell to the floor. This was his perfect chance. Jarred grabbed the gun, but his father reached up to a counter and grabbed a knife. Jarred tried to get out of reach, but his father took the knife and stabbed him in the stomach, took the knife out, and got up and ran out the back door. He immediately felt dizzy from the loss of blood.
"HELP," Jarred screamed as loud as he could. Suddenly he saw Luke coming in from the back door. He rushed up to him and grabbed the phone and dialed 911. Jarred could barely feel Luke's hand squeeze his as he waited for the cops to answer. He tried to listen to what Luke was saying to him but he was barely alive.
"Hang in there, buddy, just a few more minutes. You'll be alright."
When Jarred woke up again, he was in a bed and being blinded by a brilliant fluorescent light. Soon his vision had adjusted and he realized he was in a hospital room. He tried to sit up and a sharp pain ripped through his ribcage. “Careful there buddy,” He heard someone say. He saw Luke sitting in a chair next to his bed. “You might not want to sit up. You do have three broken ribs. Not to mention the giant hole being held together by stitches.”
“Where is he?” Jarred asked, still terrified. His father had never gone this far before. It was a chilling thought that he might do it again.
Luke looked unhappy as he answered, “They're still looking for him. He ran out after stabbing you and no one's seen him since.” He paused a moment and added, “Don't worry though, they'll catch him.”
“So,” Jarred asked, wincing as he moved in a way that hurt, “how long have I been out?”
“Two days. I was really worried about you. You lost so much blood. If I hadn't been there...” Luke dropped off too horrified to say more. “How long has he been doing this?”
“He's always been... strict, but he never overdid it when my mother was alive. She's been dead just a little over a year so...”
“Why didn't you tell me Jarred? Or another teacher. Someone would have helped you,” Luke said angrily.
“I had a lot of reasons, no, excuses. There is never a reason not to tell, right?”
“Buddy, please answer the question. The more you avoid it the more worried I am.”
Clearly Luke wasn't going to drop the subject, so Jarred answered, “Firstly, even after what he did, he's still my father. And I was...” He stopped feeling ashamed. “Too weak, too scared. Mostly though, I didn't want to end up as a ward of the state. I thought it was better to suffer than have that happen. Who knows where they'd put me. I might never see you again.”
“You'll live with me. My parents will do whatever it takes. Adopt you, become foster parents, anything. I won't let them drag you off to some far corner of the state. Okay?” Luke did keep true to his word. The next two years passed and Jarred was happy. His father had been caught and did go to jail. Now Jarred was a senior is high school. It was this year that he had his first crush.
He became friends with a girl named Sandy Martin. The only problem was that she was dating the most popular boy in school. He was, of course, a jock, football, basketball, and baseball. She wasn't like most popular girls though. She was quiet and shy and really sweet.
They were friends about three months when she told him something that nearly broke his heart. “Jarred, I can't hang out with you anymore.”
“Why not?” he asked trying to breath around the lump in his throat.
“My,” she paused and grabbed her right wrist with her other hand, “My boyfriend doesn't want me too.”
“So you still want to?” he asked with relief. She nodded her head and he replied, “Then, just tell him to shove off.” She shook her head with wide eyes. “Why not? You shouldn't let him control your life.”
“He's my boyfriend and I love him,” she yelled pulling her hand abruptly away from her wrist. Her shirt flipped up just a little and he saw the beginning of a bruise, a bruise that was caused by being held so tightly that it left a mark. He knew because he had had a bruise like that before.
He got hold a her hand and flipped the rest of her shirt cuff up. Wrapped around her wrist there was a bruise left by three fingers and a thumb. “What the hell did he do to you!”
“It's nothing. He just gets passionate sometimes,” she mumbled quickly yanking her shirt back over the bruise.
“That's not passion Sandy. That's abuse.” She looked down at her feet. “You should leave him.” She turned and started to walk away then. He gently latched onto her good arm and spun her back toward him. “Sandy, abuse is never okay. Not if he loves you or if he doesn't mean it. I know what your going through, but this isn't right.”
“It's not anything like that.” She said coldly. “I would leave him. I tried once. He beat me so badly I had to skip school the next two days. He said if I ever said anything like that again, he'd kill me.” Jarred flashed back to the day his dad said the same to him and he knew he had to help Sandy.
The next month for Jarred was unbearable. Just the thought of Mark(Sandy's boyfriend) hurting her made him twitch with anger. And then there was the thought of his father. What was going on inside his head when he beat Jarred nearly to death? What was going on in anyone's head when they beat their spouse or child?
They're unbearable. These thoughts. These memories. This pain consumes him day and night. And he's not the only one going through this. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have gone through worse than he has... If only it would stop. The abuse, revenge, murder, alcohol, rape, everything.
The thought of abuse brought his thoughts back on Sandy. Several times, he insisted she tell someone what her boyfriend did to her... but he could understand why she didn't. She was too overwhelmed with fear, but the only way he could help her was to soothe her.
“Hey,” said a voice, getting Jarred out of his thoughts. It was Luke.
“What,” Jarred responded, irritated.
“Easy bro, it's just me. I just wanted to talk to you about something,” said Luke, “You seem all depressed and angry these past few weeks and I was just wondering if anything's wrong.”
Jarred knew he shouldn't tell Luke about Mark hurting Sandy. Sandy was a good friend of Luke's and Luke protects his friends, no matter what. Besides, he promised Sandy he wouldn't tell anyone, and and he meant to keep that promise.
“No,” Jarred said, “nothing's wrong. I've just been thinking about how the Earth is so filled with people like my father. It disgusts me.”
“Jarred,” Luke said softly, “to everyone else, you may just be the kid that's living with my parents because his father died and he has nowhere to go, but you're more than that to me. To me... you're my brother. And I've never had a brother. I never had someone to connect with so easily. And it hurts me to see you this way... so please don't forget I'll always be there for you, ever when I'm not there.”
“Thanks,” Jarred said, “I appreciate that. I'm going to go over to Sandy's house to see her, so I’ll see you later.”
“Sure. See ya,” Luke said as they both walked away from each other.
When he arrived at Sandy's, he was about to knock on the door when he heard a familiar scream. It was Sandy's scream. She came running around from the back of the house to the car, still screaming. Her face was swollen. There were bruises all over her body and he realized her head was bleeding. He ran over to her and embraced her.
“My God, Sandy. What did the freakin' lunatic do to you?” Jarred asked her.
“H-h-hosp-pi-t-tal,” she replied weakly, but frantically.
He took her and laid her down in the passenger seat of the car and put a wet towel on her head. He went to the driver's seat to get to the hospital when he saw Mark come out from the back of the house. He had a gun in in his hand. He ran toward the car and shot at it four times. The first bullet hit the left side-window. The second bullet hit the left light. The third smashed straight through the window and hit Sandy in the shoulder, and the fourth bullet deflected off the front of the car and hit mark in the foot. He fell to his knees in agony, while Jarred took his jacket off and put it on Sandy's shoulder. Her head was still pouring blood.
He was taking care of it and suddenly, “Jarred look out!” He swung around and punched Mark. He leaped at him and wrestled to get the gun out of Mark's hand until he heard the shot. He looked down and saw that he'd shot Mark in the chest. He called 911, knowing he was going to go to jail for killing him.
The next day was nothing for Jarred but questions from lawyers, police officers, judges. Didn't these people realize how scared he was. Or did they not care. Jarred worried all day about Sandy. She had a terrible wound on her head which put her into a coma for a week, plus the bullet wound from Mark. It turned out that Jarred was found not guilty. It was marked down for self-defense.
Sandy soon became better and they ended up marrying and becoming presidents of a child abuse prevention facility. Jarred would often ask what exactly Mark did to her, but she never said anything about it. All they ever did was try to prevent... a world of abuse.