Storms on the Horizon
Written by Alexandria Bowers
The fall of my footsteps followed a rhythmic pattern.
Thud, thud, thud-thud. I was panting, flying forward as fast as I could, my heart pounding, threatening to push its way out of my chest. A sharp pained radiated up through me as my knees and hands hit the ground before me. I scrambled up as quickly as I could, hoping that He hadn't gained any ground. Shallow scrape covered my palms, but my knees were protected from the harsh gravel and dirt by the thin sheath of my jeans. I pushed my auburn hair back out of eyes and face until it settled behind my ears and took off again.
Even as I tried to push my mind as far from it as possible, I could tell the damage was already done. Memories of Him, and what He did to me, pushed forward painfully, and took over. But even as it played through I kept running, because I knew if I stopped I would never be safe again.
"Come here sugar," He purred. "Daddy likes it when you play nice."
Shaking my head at Him, my nine-year-old self whimpered, and tears rolled down my cheeks in protest. "No," I whispered, "please no. Not anymore." I didn't want to play with Him anymore, because He hurt me. He hurt me and didn't say sorry, He just laughed.
He grabbed my arm and yanked me forward forcefully. "Please Daddy! I don't want to!" I tried to protest, I really did, but my poor nine-year-old body wasn't up for it. He took advantage of my weakness, and grabbed me by the hair.
"Listen here, little girl," He drawled, snapping the words at me, the stink of alcohol on His breath becoming prominent, "when I tell you to come here," He yanked on my hair hard, and I whimpered, "you come here!" He finished in a roar.
I was now standing in His arms, not in comfort, but by force. He wasn't being nice anymore, and I started to panic. I struggled, and tried to break free, but his seemed to excite Him. "Now sugar," He whispered softly, as He leaned closer to my face, the smell of the liquor choking me, "don't be like that." He fumbled with the front of my pretty blue dress, which was torn at the sleeves.
"No Daddy!" I screamed. I tried to stop Him, my skinny arms flailing.
"You don't tell me no!" He roared, and the rest of my dress was ripped away in shreds, the pieces falling to the floor.
The memory of His touch made me shudder, and new tears threatened to fall free. I stopped them from coming, because I didn't have time to be weak, time to break down, or any time at all, really. "Come on Jasper," I said to myself, "get it together."
I looked up, and realized my road of freedom was running short. "No," I rasped. "No, no, no, no, no!" I turned around, finding that He was closing the gap that I had created between us. The path was a dead end, leading over the edge of a cliff, which I was pretty sure led to the water. I can't do this anymore, I thought. I would rather die than go back to Him. So I did the only thing I could possibly do in the little time it took Him to close the space that separated us: I turned around to face the edge, and leaped.
The water was ice lapping at my limbs, dragging me under to face the full throttle of the waves. The current whipped me back and forth, and I cried out in anguish. Another memory was dragging me under, drowning me in my past. I took a deep breath before I found the bottom of the ocean.
My arms were strung up high above my head, and my shoulders burned. Dried blood trickled from an open wound near my neck, but it didn't matter; nothing mattered anymore, because I couldn't feel it, because there was no hope of escape. I could see His shadow in the doorway, where a faint stream of light entered the dark room where He held me.
"Morning sugar," He drawled, stumbling down the stairs toward me. The signs of alcohol abuse were obvious, especially in the way He tripped over His own feet on His way across the room. As He reached me He lifted his hand to my cheek, and ran His dirty fingers down my once-soft skin.
"How about you and me play a little game?" It came out of His lips in a whisper. "No," I beg, "please Daddy, no." I was only 14 at the time, but this had been going on for five years, the beatings for three. I was done, tired, and had lost all hope, but I still wanted it to stop. I wanted Him to let me go in peace. I had to get out of here.
"Yeah baby girl," He said, a small laugh accompanying it, "me and you are going to have some fun." He picked up the leather belt studded with knots from off the floor, small red flakes drifting from it to the floor; it was blood, my blood. I struggled against my bonds, the chains around my ankles rattling, the ones around my wrists chafing against my skin.
He started to swing the belt in a circle, letting it gain momentum. "No, please," I cried, too tired to care that He saw my tears. The leather came down hard and fast against my bare stomach, and I let out a scream. The belt came down again against my shoulder, drawing blood, and another scream tore through my lips. I was sobbing now, and small pleas escaped between the blows.
Suddenly, the blows stopped, and I opened my eyes and let out a breath that I didn't know I was holding. But He wasn't gone, not even close. He was fumbling with something at His waist. When I realized it was His jeans, I started screaming and crying and pleading all over again.
"Please Daddy," I cried out, "you don't have to do this. Daddy please." I was whimpering because He finally got the fly undone, and His jeans pulled down. "Oh, but baby girl," He said through His drunken haze, "I do, because you see," He hiccupped, "we haven't
finished out little game yet." A mischievous smile broke out across His face, and He stepped across the room to close the short space between us one last time.
I broke the surface of the water gasping for air. My arms flailed around me, searching for purchase. The waves dragged me under again, but I refused to let them win, much like the memories. Thinking back to the last one, I was glad that it was all over. For seven years I was trapped in that hell-hole with Him, with no hope. Now, whether I died or not, I would never have to deal with Him again, ever. I had made sure to call the police when I escaped, sticking around just long enough for the 911 call to go through so they couldn't get a hand on me. I was done living under somebody else, I wanted to be free.
The current dragged me to a rock, which I used to my advantage, pulling myself up out of the water. I was freezing, but at least I wasn't drowning anymore. I started to scan the horizon, and seeing the storm clouds drained every little bit of hope I had gained. No one would be out in this weather. I stretched around until I found the cliff I had jumped from. I could see Him standing at the edge of it, looking down at the water, not finding anything in the murky water below. Then He spun around and started His retreat, probably swearing up a storm.
I scanned the horizon one last time, willing something to appear. I spotted it as I started to turn away, it was a large ship, so close to me I could spit on it. I stripped my sopping wet jacket from my shoulders, revealing old scars in the process, but not caring, and swung it above my head to catch the boat's attention.
"Hey," I scream. "Somebody help! Hey, anybody!" My voice started to roughen, and my faith was draining along with my strength. I was losing it all when the boat swung in my direction, and started toward me. I slumped against the rock, triumphant.
When the ship reached my tiny rock, I was full of gratitude, and an emotion I hadn't truly felt in a long time: hope. A rope was thrown over the side, and I tied it around my waist and was lifted to safety. The ship's captain came to greet me with a mug of warm ale and a blanket. The blanket I took, and the ale was politely given back after one whiff, alcohol had given me a lot of problems over the years.
With my waist-long auburn hair plastered to my face and shoulders, my clothes flattened against me, sopping wet, and my scars exposed, I realized how I must look. Something like a drowned rat, I suppose, I thought, and laughed a little. The captain gave me a strange look, but I said nothing.
"Are you alright Miss…?" The captain left his question open.
"Jasper. Jasper Adams," I rasped out, "and good, much better now that you've picked me up." He smiled, like he was agreeing with me. I could tell this was the fresh start I had needed, the one that would save my life. And my hope.