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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: emotional

Child abuse is real, and it scars, because it's more than just about bruises: it's about the mental harm as well.

Submitted: December 18, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 18, 2017



I shut the door.

“How was school?”

That bored, agitated voice. It’s coming from the dining room, accompanied by the rapid movement on a pen on paper. She sounds tired. Never mess up around her when she’s tired.

“It was okay”

She sighs.

Oh God what did I do this time? I’ve done all my chores, I haven’t spoken unless spoken to, I haven’t bothered her with pointless details, I haven’t intruded on her space, I haven’t made any sort of noise. I’ve done nothing to upset her!

It’s useless checking the list. I never know what I do to set her off. Right now I just need to get upstairs. Quickly before I do something to agitate her even more. But I have to be careful, if I’m too loud then she’ll follow me again.

Up, up, up the stairs. A quick left, careful to shut the door with as little noise as possible, and I’m finally back in my room again. I can finally fall apart. I set down my things and just lie there. I take a breath. Another, another, another. I need more air. More breaths to keep me safe, more breaths to pump my heart, more breaths to fill my lungs. Again and again and again I can’t get enough. My lungs won’t fill. Inhale, inhale, inhale. I can’t stop. My heart is pounding, pounding. I can feel my pulse throughout my entire body. It’s ringing so loud, pressing and pressing, trying to break out of my skin. My vision is pulsing in time with my heart, growing lighter and darker with each pump. Curled into a fetus position on my hard bedroom floor I cannot move. I am simply a terrified piece of stone, quietly and desperately gasping for the air I have not had all day.

Somewhere along the way I’ve blacked out. I wake up to the sound of angry footsteps progressing up the narrow wooden stairs. My heart races and I need to run. I feel in my heart a searing pain; I nearly fall again into my fetal position when she slams open my door. She’s angry. I hold my breath and attempt a neutral expression. If she hears even the slightest noise out of me she’ll most likely get thrown into a raging fit. But today she just stares at me for a second. She stares at me kneeling on the floor, looking up at her. She releases an angry breath through her teeth. Her hand clenches and trembles before she suddenly turns away, slamming the door behind her. The noise is loud enough to jar my teeth, and even after nearly thirty minutes of her departure I’m still too scared to breath too deep. I lay straight on my bed, rolling and squashing my body into the tiny gap between the wall and my bed. I fluff the comforter over me and drape the body pillow across whatever small part of my body might be visible.

When I wake up it’s the same routine as normal. I get out of bed and make the mistake of looking in the mirror. I imagine all of the other school girls, how they look so good in their uniforms, their long tanned legs, their perfect hair, their flawless complexion, how everything they do always looks so perfect. And yet here I am. Ugly and fat and uncoordinated and short. I put on my uniform, choosing the baggiest clothes possible in a desperate attempt to hide myself within all the endless wrinkles of fabric. I know I can never achieve the same level of perfection the girls in my school manage to sustain every day, so I opt to become invisible instead. If they can’t see my body they won’t know how wrong it really looks. It’s warped logic but right now this is the only way I know how to protect myself; both from myself and from those around me.

I quietly rush down the stairs and into the car, waiting for my mom to take me on the uncomfortable drive to school. The car smells of alcoholic wipes and hand sanitizer. My mom eventually climbs into the driver’s seat and takes off with me in tow. She doesn’t speak to me and never even looks my way. I have to resist the urge to squirm because any move might set her off and if someone from my class sees that, they’ll never stop teasing me for it.  We’re at the school now and nearing the drop-off curb, my backpack is already on in preparation. The second she slows down I leap out of my seat, once again cursing my shitty charter school for being too cheap to pay for buses.

I keep my head bowed down and hurry into the building, completely ignoring all the various practiced greetings from overly perky office staff on my way. As I’m going up the stairs I notice two other girls from my grade in front of me. They’re laughing with each other, complaining about math tests and mean teachers. I’m careful to keep quiet as I trail slowly behind them. I need to put in enough distance between us so that they hopefully don’t notice me. I know I have a reputation of looking and acting completely disgusting and I know that if they saw me they would just recoil before turning away and whispering things behind their hands. I don’t want that again. I can’t handle any more of that kind of attention. So I continue to stay a measured distance away from them. I keep my distance as we go up the stairwell and then down the hall. They never notice me. Thank god.

I quietly load my things into my hallway locker, careful not to bang any books on the metal structure as I take out my things for my first and second classes. I pick my stuff up and walk head down into my homeroom class. It’s so bright in here, with a lot of pretty students sitting on desks and loudly laughing with their groups. Everyone looks like they belong on the cover on some magazine or something. Everyone here is so amazing. So I sit in a slightly darker corner and read my book, not making a sound. I cannot allow myself to taint this classroom of beautiful people. My words and actions would only mess everything up as always. And when I mess things up, they get angry. Well, I think its anger. They laugh at me and make teasing comments behind my back. They purposely avoid me and often make a show of acting disgusted and aghast whenever they’re forced to work with me for some classroom assignment. I think they know what they’re doing, and I believe that they know that it’s wrong. So, that must mean they’re just punishing me out of anger, right?

I’m yanked out of my thoughts as the announcements come on. I know better than to speak by now, so I just barely move my lips in silence as the rest of my classmates recite the pledge, the school creed, and the beginning of the U.S constitution in obvious boredom. I wish I could join them. When the announcements are done we move to our first period class. For me that’s Language Arts, so since that teacher is also my homeroom all I have to do is move over to my assigned seat. I tense up as the class files in and force myself to remain calm as the girl next to me sits down and chats with her friend across the room. I keep my head down, buried in a book so they can’t see me. If they can’t see me they can’t make fun of me.

The rest of my first period class passes that way until the teacher signals us that it’s time to leave for our next one. It’s a struggle to leave my seat but I force myself to get up and walk one step at a time through the door to my destination. But as I move through my second period room there are whispers all around me. I lock up, taking robotic movements until I collapse in my seat, hurriedly locating my book to hide my face behind. It doesn’t work. In fact, it’s almost like the whispers have grown louder. The teacher suddenly appears at the front of the classroom and it looks like she’s been working an equation for a few minutes but I don’t remember hearing her speak. Even now no matter how hard I try to hear her I’m still deaf to it. Instead of hearing her voice I’m only hearing the words of those around me. Freak. Weirdo. Lunatic. Shut-in. Autistic. Deranged. Ugly. Abnormal. Unpopular. Unloved.

Their words swirl around and around in my mind. My pulse is racing, beating in time to annunciate each insult with ruthless vigor. My head is pounding and I can’t breathe and my vision is really weird now and I’m getting really really scared and I need to get out of here and I need some air. I raise my hand shakily, trying to draw the teacher’s attention but no one else’s. She looks at me, saying something I can’t hear. I don’t try to make out her words, I only say “bathroom” before moving towards the exit. Once away I hurry down the halls, ensuring they’re clear before bending at the waist to sprint so I don’t have to worry about someone spotting me through the tiny windows affixed to each classroom door.

Once in the relative safety of a bathroom stall I allow myself to carefully breathe. I sit, perched on a toilet seat, baggy skirt still fully down. Just breathing. I close my eyes for a second, taking off my oversized glasses to rub my eyes, resting my face in my palms as I let the tears trickle down. I check my watch for the time. If it’s telling the truth I’ve apparently been in here for roughly fifteen minutes. If I’m gone any longer the teacher will probably call in the middle school dean to deal with me. With the dean I’m left with only two options: be humiliated as they escort me back to class, or wait as they call my mother to hoax me back to class. The mother option always ended in a bad night at home, but physical pain is a better option than giving my peers more ammunition for torment. I head out of my stall, making sure to check the mirror for any telltale signs of crying before walking back. But class for me continues as it had before my bathroom retreat. I still cannot hear the teacher. At the end even though my ears hurt and I could see her screaming, I can’t recall hearing a single thing she said. Same goes for the rest of the day. I hear nothing but the whispering of students around me and I feel nothing but the pressure of their gazes. I accidentally stab my left hand with a pencil and don’t notice until I see the boy beside me scoot away, putting a wall of class supplies between us. When we get dismissed I go and quickly wash it out before returning to class as normal. If I go to the office Mom will have to pick me up. She’ll get angry at me for being so dumb. So the only thing I do differently now is use my jacket sleeve to cover my hand. I continue to do this until the school day is over and I’m back in Mom’s car.

“How was school today?” The question is completely perfunctory, carelessly thrown out even though we both now she doesn’t give a rats ass about any of this.

“Fine,” I reply. Of course that’s not true. But I’m too tired to keep up my best “fine” appearance today. If she really cares, she’d notice this. She’d notice me hiding my hand and the faint red puff around my eyes. I’m this woman’s daughter. She gave birth to me. She should notice something. Anything.

But she doesn’t notice. She never does. Instead she lets out a bored breath and looks away, staring out at nothing while waiting for the cars to move. I sit there dejectedly, trying not to appear too glum incase my classmates are watching. The ride home is just as awkward as it always is; both of us not uttering a single word. We both exit the car silently, me with a backpack in tow, and we enter the old crappy little townhouse. I make my way upstairs as usual while she makes her way down to the basement. She has a whole set up down there, away from everyone else.

I walk into my own room and let my backpack slump off my shoulders and onto the floor before stripping down and lying on my bed. I don’t do homework, call friends, or mess around online. I have no clue what’s happening in my classes, I have no friends, and I’m scared to get absorbed into the online world incase Mom comes up here; seeing me messing around on the net never failed to infuriate her.

So I just lie there, blanked out and unthinking, temporarily freed from the pressure of everyday life. When my mind finally frees me of my catatonic state I notice the room has gone dark. I wonder how long it’s been like that. I get up to turn on my bedside light before using the bathroom and padding back to bed. My clock reads eleven o’ clock at night. I’ve missed dinner again. Mom is going to be furious when she sees me. Tomorrow is a teacher workday, though. That should give Mom enough time to cool off a little. Hopefully. I crawl under my covers, adjusting myself into my hiding spot and lie there for what seems like several hours before the world finally fades away.

I wake up sweating and frightened. I have no clue what I dreamt about but it doesn’t particularly matter now. All that matters is that there is no school. I don’t know why, but I’m suddenly crying. I don’t know how to stop, so I stay like that for a while, my body trembling as sobs rack my body.

When the tears dry up I notice my growling stomach. That’s right; I didn’t have dinner yesterday, did I? I tip toe downstairs, listening for any signs that mom may have come home. I see my little sister watching TV on the couch, munching on popcorn. I take that as a sure sign that mom isn’t home and gather some food before joining my sibling. Watching dumb cartoons with junk food snacks is so satisfying; I can’t help but sigh in comfortable content. This lasts for a little while until I hear the front door being unlocked.

Quickly my sister hides her candy wrapper between the couch cushions. My plate of nachos can’t be hidden under couch cushions so I dart up and bolt to the edge of the living room, standing like I’ve been there eating my food while watching my shows from a distance. Mom comes in the house and I hold my breath, praying she won’t notice me. Unfortunately, my prayers are not answered.

Mom walks into the living room to greet my sister warmly while I stand stock still, holding my breath. When she turns her head to look at me it feels like I’ve broken out into a nervous sweat. She walks over.

“Where’s that food from?” Oh god.

“The kitchen. I found the ingredients lying around so I made nachos.”

“Uhuh.” No, no. Please no. “You weren’t eating these in the living room, were you?” Her voice is deepening. She’s coming closer and leaning over me. Her face is folding in on itself. I know this look.

“No, no I wasn’t!”

“Maddie, was your sister eating in the living room?”

“No, she wasn’t.” Thank you! Thank you thank you thank you!

“Why don’t I believe her? Why do I think that you’ve been forcing Maddie to cover up for you?” Her words are barely hisses now. She’s speaking from her teeth because her face is so scrunched up in anger it seems she can’t get them out otherwise.

“But-um, I didn’t! I really didn’t! I swear!”

“Upstairs. Now.” Maybe she’s letting me off the hook. Maybe she’s just banning me to my room for the next few days.

I start to the stairs, but she follows me. She’s never done this before. I pick up the pace and basically jog up the stairs. She still follows, nearly breathing down my neck. Oh no. Now I’m sprinting, going up as fast as I can go, turning around the corner to fling myself into my room. Just gotta close the door. If I close and lock the door she can’t get in. She’ll have to get someone else to help her unlock it and I can tell that person what’s going on here. I just have to close the door. I just have to close it before Mom can get in. But mom makes it. When I turn around to slam the door shut Mom is already there, stomping towards me, backing me up until I’m on my bed. She shoves me down onto my side.

“NEVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT EVER AGAIN, YOU HEAR?!” She bellows. Her hand comes down upon the bare skin of my upper thigh. Again and again and again she smacks it with enough force to make me tear up.

“IF YOU’RE GOING TO ACT THIS UNGRATEFUL I CAN FIND YOU ANOTHER HOME, YOU LITTLE BRAT!” She doesn’t stop. My thigh is blood red. Some of the skin has even been torn away from the brute strength of her blows. I bite down on my sheets to keep from screaming because I know that if I make any sound whatsoever Mom will only get worse. “IF YOU CAN’T OBEY EVEN THE SIMPLEST OF MY RULES, I WILL FIND YOU ANOTHER FAMILY. AND I CAN BET YOU THEY’LL BE A WHOLE LOT MEANER THAN I AM. YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL THAT YOU HAVE ME.” As if I’d be grateful to have a mother that often beats me for no reason. A new family may be stricter but at least they’d love me.

Tears are now steadily flowing down my face. I don’t know why but that seems to incite her even more. The blows upon my skin become rougher and more difficult to tolerate. I lose track of time, my entire world reduced to the frantic beats of her hand. Finally, after what seems like a lifetime of pain and relentless screaming, Mom stomps out of my room, slamming the door shut behind her. I’m still too scared to make any noises so I cry in silence before taking a shower. The water stings the spots where Mom had hurt me so I avoid them, almost doing a dance as I attempt to get clean with as little pain as possible. I decide not to go down to dinner that night either. Mom will be furious that once again I skipped the nightly “family dinner”, but I know that she’s going to be angrier if she has to see my face again than if I don’t come down altogether. Besides, skipping is good for me. I have way too much chub on me- I’m basically fat by today’s standards- so not indulging in a few extra calories will help with my figure. And if I get skinny enough then maybe I can finally be able to stop hiding my body from the people at school.

I let these thoughts carry me into sleep, masking my body’s sharp protests as the newest tender areas are forced into my bedtime hiding spot. When my alarm blares out I resist the urge to just keep lying there forever. Maybe if I lie like this Mom will see. She’ll finally see that I’m not okay. She’ll finally see that I need her. If I just close my eyes I can pretend that I’m hurting from a long day of roughhousing with my Momma. I can pretend that all of these sharp aches and pains originated from a few too-tight love hugs. As I walk down the stairs once again to the car I play another old game in my head. In my head I call out to Mom. A familiar Hi, Momma!, or a joking You’ll let me stay home today, right?. Sometimes I even say You know I’m your favorite child. And then she responds. She’ll respond as I imagine all moms would. Hi, Honey. I know right, mornings are such a drag. Don’t worry, the weekend is coming up! Or if I’m feeling extra lonely that morning she’ll respond to comfort me. Oh, it’s okay, dear. Don’t worry, you’re beautiful. Please stop thinking those thoughts. I love you.

The only times I can truly recall her saying those words to me is when I was still really young. I hear Mom say these loving things to my younger sister all the time, but not to me. Never to me. I wish I was special enough for her.

I don’t realize the school week has ended until I’m in my room and catch a snippet of Mom and Maddie’s friendly debate over which movie to watch tonight. It’s over. It’s the weekend… On Fridays we don’t have traditional “family dinners”, we just order a pizza. The great thing about this isn’t the pizza – whenever I eat around Mom I can never taste anything I might put in my mouth. The great thing is that since it’s not a traditional dinner, me staying away up in my room isn’t noticed as much. Thank god.

Without the stress of having to face my family I can relax a bit. I let my clothes all slide off my tiny frame and onto the hardwood floor, immediately going to lie on my bed. This time I dream of my very own world. Here, I’m always the hero. Here, I’m pretty and talented and with a purpose in life. Here, my Momma is mine. She’s my Mommy and she loves me very much. I go on such wonderful adventures in my imaginary world, full of laughter, adventure, and love.

I stop playing in my imaginary world for a second and notice that it’s now later in the night. I take a long pull of water from my big cup that had been placed on the floor. I stretch out a little before opening my iPad for a few minutes of old children’s cartoons when I notice the date on the lock screen. Apparently I must have unconsciously gone to the bathroom a few times or something because my iPad says it’s now nearing ten pm on a Sunday night. As I take inventory of my body and my surroundings I notice nothing out the usual except for the empty feeling in my gut, so I shrug the whole thing off before turning off my bedside lamp and scooching into the safety of my covers.

I think another week has passed because I think I’m hearing Mom and my sister discussing movies again, but everything looks so much the same I can’t be sure anymore. Each day that passes just blends into the next, an endless flow of bruises and resigned wanting. I’m snapped out of my daze as I notice Mom stomp into the cramped kitchen where I’m at.

“Here, just get that stool right there and clean up this mess on the upper counters.” She barks this into my face, pointing out a stool that I know for a fact is way too short to bring me up to where she wants me. I have no clue what’s making her yell, though. Everything’s been passing in a monotonous blur recently but I have a clear memory of only coming downstairs hardly a minute ago, so I couldn’t possibly have done anything to upset her, right?

Thankfully Mom turns her back and I’m able to grab a second stool, the one I know will work. I bring it to where Mom wants me to clean and start to set it up when she comes in the kitchen and screams.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” Her face is red.

“I’m just get-“


“Well, that one was too-“


“No- no, I wasn’t disobeying. I was just getting something that would wor-“

Mom kicks the stool over; spewing out a violent string of curses that must have come from the stool’s metal framing and overall rough texture. I wince. She rages more at me, still going on and on about my worthlessness and incompetent behavior and why I should just behave after all she’s done for me. She grips me painfully by the arm, smacking me over and over upside the head with her hand until she finds a stray rolling pin instead. My glasses once again go flying across the floor, skidding until they bump into the base of the wooden stairs. I use that as an excuse to get away and book it up into my room. Once inside I creep into a cramped, dark corner in my room and collapse onto the floor, sitting with my knees tucked up against my chest. I cradle my sore head in my hands and try to ignore the blood I can feel lightly trickling down into them. I quietly whimper and cry as I attempt to tune out the loud banging and yelling I can still hear going on downstairs.

Again I don’t come down to dinner. I know that even if I did all it would earn me were more spots I couldn’t put under the pressure of the shower. I go to bed hungry again and wake up the same. It’s a school morning though, which means Mom will be in the kitchen, I can’t disturb her with my presence. On the ride there I try and inconspicuously cover my skin. If the people there saw my bruises I’d become a laughing stock. Because everyone in this school knows that to have bruises from your parents is the ultimate sign that you are worthless and should not be considered a human being. I already know what the kids here think of me. I see how they glance at me. I notice how that all constantly take steps to avoid touching me as I go through the hall. I know that I’m already deemed as something way below their level, so I don’t need some bruises further denouncing my worth as a human being.

As always I duck my head as I enter the school building, making my usual futile attempts to hide my appearance from the world. I hike up the stairs, moving faster as I hear the obnoxious jeers of some of the bigger popular boys from my grade. I know they can’t see me, and I need it to stay that way so I dash up the last set up steps and out through the stairwell doors, still overly aware of the obnoxious shouts becoming quickly louder behind me. I try to put on a neutral face as I walk at a hopefully normal pace to my locker. But I don’t even make it halfway there before I see another popular person a little ways away from me take a look at my face, point, and whisper to their friend before collapsing into a giggling fit. I quickly look around and see others looking and snorting as well. I cannot take this.

My heart is pounding out a furious rhythm in my head as I quickly duck into the bathroom right in front of me, backpack and all. I make my way to the biggest stall at the very end before shutting myself in and sitting on the seat. I take quick, shuddering breaths, placing my head between my knees. I know that I cannot go to any of my classes today. They’ll just laugh again. I just can’t take it anymore. I just can’t take the feeling of everyone in that room looking at me, stripping me naked with their stares and seeing all of the disgusting imperfections that I try so hard to hide from the world. I can never let any of them know just how bad my presence is tainting their effortless beauty.  I can’t give them anymore reasons to hate me. I try so hard for them. Try to keep quiet. Try to keep out of their line of sight. Try to refrain from doing anything that might catch their attention and upset them.

Aren’t I good enough yet?

The once comforting bathroom stalls are now closing around me at rapid speeds. I close my eyes, thinking of an old lullaby I always used to sing to myself when I was younger.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away. Please don’t take my sunshine away.

I can’t remember Mom ever singing that to me…but nonetheless, the walls begin to morph back to their original shape. I can breathe again. After a few minutes I force myself out of the stall and, on unsteady legs, walk myself to each of my classes. Before, I thought I was numb- but I was wrong. I was struggling, however subconsciously it might have been. But now; now I find solace in the fact that I cannot keep going any longer. There’s a knife under my bed, a large butcher knife. I’ve kept it there since about five months ago in case I ever decided that I couldn’t cope with my life. The knife was there to either help me escape my fleshly prison, or perform the ultimate defense if Momma decided that she really won’t stop.

I hope she stops.

I hope I will have the courage to end myself.

I hope. 

© Copyright 2019 Jay Rose. All rights reserved.

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