Graying the Lines

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


I think a warning is due here. This is a very intense chapter which deals with abuse. Please read responsibly.

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Chapter 2

Submitted: July 08, 2018

Reads: 104

Comments: 3

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Submitted: July 08, 2018

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Chapter 2

 

 "Dad?" I called out cautiously as I opened the front door. Uselessly, I hoped that he would still be at work and I wouldn't have to deal with the complications from today right away. But when do I ever get that lucky?

 

 "LANI!!! WHAT THE HELL DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING IN THAT SIMULATION!?!"

 

 My feathers stood on end. I tried to explain myself but I could barely speak as he came around the corner into the hallway. I’m not sure what I would have said, anyway.

 

 “Why did I get a call from the Simulations Department telling me my daughter is showing signs of wanting to vainly and permanently mark up her skin!"

 

 “I’m sorry, I was just confused. I- I thought I was supposed t-” I searched. “It was just a Simulation, dad.” My feet moved themselves in small steps backwards as my father drew up his chest and bent over to set his head level with mine. This was a warning sign.

 

 "You were about to get a tattoo!" He shouted, shaking. I could see the vein bulging next to his temple, his neck was pulled taught and his cheeks were a burning red. Only then did I become alertly aware of the heavy wooden rosary he had balled up in his fist. The cross at the end of it had been chipped and splintered by its use over the years. This wasn't going to be just one of his usual rants. He wasn't just blowing off steam. I was already in trouble for being late this morning. This was beyond “trouble.” I went cold.

 

 “Get on the wall,” He spat. This time I flinched. My nerves already felt dead. I tried to turn off the urge to cry and just go blank instead. My feet, once again, moved against my will. They carried me down the hallway, through the living room and around the corner to stand in front of the wall behind the cupboard door. I stood first with my back to it and my hands flat against the wall at my shoulders as was custom.

 

“Wings closed,” he demanded and I pulled them as close to my shoulders as possible, leaving most of my back and sides bare. He unrolled the rosary; I heard the beads rattle behind my shoulder. I tried to relax my muscles. It was best not to let the pain show.

 

 I tried not to watch as the cross dropped from his fist and bounced at the end of its string. I kept my head forward but the shadow cut across the wall near my hip. The first strike hit me and left a sharp sting that carved its way across my back and left side. I let out a small wince and a short release of air, but nothing more. I had to keep my wits about me. It would be over faster if I did. I could feel an uncomfortable prickling of pain where the edge of the cross had struck the outside of my breast. My skin blossomed a bright red. It almost matched the color behind his eyes.

 

 The second strike, another wince and another short breath as this one wrapped itself from hip to hip across my stomach and rib cage. The dry, cracked, beads tore at my skin as they struck the inside of my arm and took hold of my wrist. I cried out as the man behind me tried to pull the rosary back, leaving a bloody bracelet of pain around my wrist. Instinctually, I tried to reclaim my arm, turning forward as I did. But as I brought my arm up to my chest, the cross on the end swung up. I watched in speechless horror as the chipped corner nicked the back of his hand. I felt the air go cold in my lungs as a drop of blood welled up and slid down his finger, dropping onto the clean white carpet. The entire house held its breath.

 

 He raised his hand to his face and I watched the way it framed his eyes as they widened in disbelief. He blotted at the blood with a finger on his other hand and held it close in front of his nose, studying it as if he had never seen such a color before. But that was far from the truth. In my mind I saw a flash of that very red and I was forced to watch myself in memories, spending hours on my knees with a torn rag in my hands, the water in a bowl at my feet deepening in color every time the rag returned to it. But it was never his own blood he’d seen on those old walls. This was new to him. This was blasphemous.

 

 He looked up at me and I saw the expression in his eyes I had always been taught to fear. His entire gaze was clouded over in red. I realized he couldn't see me anymore, he wouldn't. It was all just a blinding rage for him now. That was all he experienced.

 

 "You, BITCH!" He swore at me. My mind still swam, not as sharp as I needed it to be now. I heard, rather than felt, the tough leather of his hand as it struck my cheek. I barely had time to react before he backhanded the other side of my face, this time leaving a scratch beneath my right eye. I now had both his and my own blood on my face and I could feel the unholiness of it burning my skin.

 

 My father used to tell me this was something every parent did to punish bad children, but I shouldn’t dare talk about it with anyone else. My dad used to tell me I should feel lucky; he has always been what he likes to call “kind” about it. Never where there is exposed skin, never deep enough that it would take more than a day or two to heal. “To save me the embarrassment of having to explain what I had done to deserve it,” he would say. This was not going to be one of those times. A faint voice in the back of my mind remembered that it had been a while since I’d seen him like this. I’d been doing so well lately. It was not much comfort to me now.

 

 "Get up!" He yelled again. "Get up you bitch! You sorry mutt! Get up and take your punishment!" 

 

 I hadn't even realized that I had fallen. I opened my eyes to find myself on my hands and knees, that sinful drop of blood next to my left hand. I gripped the carpet with all of the strength I had left. I watched as two more drops of the red ooze fell to join it. I reached up to touch my cheek and my fingers came away stained red. He bent over to grab my arm, to pull me back up again and throw me against the wall. But just as he raised his hand again and I turned my face to the side, preparing for the sting, the phone rang in the kitchen. The haze in his eyes vanished and he looked straight at me. I thought for a moment I saw his hard expression break. I hoped for a moment that there might be more in his face than rage, anything but rage. Hate maybe, disgust even, disappointment at least, anything but that blinding white rage. But I knew it could only be wishful thinking.

 

 “Clean yourself up,” he spat quietly. I stood there for a moment, my sore chest rising and falling in an uneven rhythm. “Did you hear me? Go clean yourself up!” I turned and tripped up the stairs, running into the bathroom next to my bedroom. I shut the door as quietly as I could and rushed for the sink. But the adrenaline keeping me on my feet ran out quickly. I saw myself falling to the floor. I watched as the blue rubber bath mat swung towards my face and struck my jaw and the side of my head. Then all I could see before me was complete and total darkness.

 

 I woke up to a cold that stretched from my right temple down my neck and shoulders and ended at my hips. It hurt to move. I could feel a burning amongst the cold, a stinging, underneath my right hip. Then I remembered.

 Get up! You bitch! You sorry mutt! A rattle of wooden beads, a sharp, quick, "fwip," and a silent grunt of pain.

 

 The words echoed and bounced off each other inside of my head, mingling with the sounds and other flashes. My ears were ringing and a pulse started to beat behind my eyes.

 I gave a weak groan. At least I thought I had. The noise seemed rough and detached. I couldn’t find my left hand. My arm was twisted like a pretzel beneath a heavy, warm, weight. Was it my body? I began to regain feeling in my other arm, but all too soon. A knot of pain bulged in my shoulder, threatening to break through my skin as I tried to sit up. I knew this bruise would take longer to heal. 

 

The room spun around me, and the floor was once again throwing itself up to meet my head. Then the cold was on me, although this time I was able to make sense of it. My mind began to work again, my body began to feel again, I gained control of my own thoughts. Part of me wished I hadn't. I wished I'd stayed in the darkness instead. At least it was less painful.

 

 With a wince, I pulled myself into a sitting position. My hair was knotted over my cheek underneath my right eye. I looked around for something to grab onto so I could pull myself all the way up. The edge of the bathtub was the closest thing I could find. Sucking in a painful gulp of breath, I reached for the golden-clawed, foot of the tub and dragged myself towards it. The fabric of my shirt tore at the skin on my stomach. When I finally managed to pull myself up to sit on the edge of the tub- I’ll admit somewhat dangerously. I really couldn't find my center of gravity- I, with shaking fingers, blotted at the blood that had seeped through my white shirt. It had dried there, forever staining it with red as well as another painful memory. I’d have to burn these too.

 

I winced again, not from the cuts to my body, but rather the wounds that were fresh in my mind. My father had always been careful, even when he really lost his temper. But it had never been this bad. I chastised myself. I should have noticed his temper getting worse over the last few months, but I’d just been relieved he wasn’t directing it towards me. I guess he decided I’d been enough of a disappointment now, I thought bitterly. Only twice before this had he used his hands on me directly.

 

 Once when I was seven, and I had stayed out after dark with Maria. I had missed dinner. He had been waiting by the wall when I got home.

 

It happened once more when I was nine years old. I was outside in the middle of the summer, playing with the hose. Out of curiosity, I turned the pressure all the way up and it disconnected from the sprinkler it was attached to. It twisted through the air like a snake. I’d watched in horror as the metal tip took a sudden turn and whipped itself towards the front window, cracking the glass. I had run for my life, but he caught me with an iron grip on my shoulder.

 

 White angels are not supposed to be curious!” He had spat at me in disdain as if there was a way to control my childlike curiosity.  A rattle of wooden beads, a sharp, quick "fwip" and a silent grunt of pain. This was before I had turned around in protest and he had used his own hands determined to make his point. My wings hadn't come in yet and my small, bony, back had been a blank canvas for him.

 

 When I was seven, I fell down the stairs.

 

 When I was nine, I fell off the counter, reaching for something in a high drawer.

 

 Nobody asked questions.

 

 Nobody gave it a second thought.

 

 This was the way it would be.

 

 The walls were spinning again. The nozzle on the bath slunk lazily towards me. Deciding I would be safer on flat ground for a while, I slid myself back down the side of the tub and rested with my head against the white porcelain. My arms hung like weights at my sides. I closed my eyes again, begging to slip back into the darkness. But when do I ever get that lucky?

 

By the time I finally managed to come around and pull myself up without falling, it was well after midnight. I again woke to the cold of the bathroom floor, and when I sat up the dull knot of pain in my shoulder had decreased to a small ache that made it at least easier to move.

 

 I spent another hour in the bathroom, trying to clean myself up. Eventually, I gave up on scrubbing at my arms in the sink, and just got in the shower. The hot water whistled when I turned it on and I let the entire room fill with steam before I climbed in. I tried to let my muscles relax as the hot water hit my back and soaked my hair. I watched it run down my chest and trickle past my hips, down my thighs. It turned red as it drenched the purpling cuts across my midsection. I crossed my arms over my bare chest, shivering.

 

What do I do? I thought to myself. I couldn't go back to school, even if I’d been allowed to. I'd be reported for the cuts and bruises and they'd come to question my family. Then, of course, not an hour after they left, I would be on my knees again behind the cupboard. Washcloth in hand, a bucket of soap and water turning deeper and deeper red each time I soaked the washcloth in it. I couldn't go back to that. I wouldn’t. Not again.

 

 I stood there letting the steam hide me, letting the hot water cleanse and clear me. “‘A little water clears us of this deed,’” I muttered, watching the water wash the blood down my stomach and my thighs. We had studied Shakespeare’s The Tragedy Of Macbeth a year ago in school when learning about sin. The greed and the lying and the murder in the story were so intense, a few of my classmates had excused themselves. Other’s wondered aloud how humans could be so violent. I wondered silently how many of them knew, that kind of violence didn’t belong to humans alone.

 

I stood there, with my arms locked over my chest, eyes locked on nothing but the fog in front of me. I let it engulf my mind to ease the pain.

 

 Late the next morning, I woke up in my own bed, sprawled out on top of the blankets. A towel lay wrinkled across my bare back and my hair was a mess around my face, the way it gets when I neglect to put it up after a shower. Taking a deep breath, I hauled myself up with my good arm. I could feel the ache pulse through my entire body but I tried to ignore it.

 

 Groaning, I stood up, leaving the towel on my bed and walked over to a bare space of the wall. I cocked my head to the side and listened for my father’s snores a couple doors down. When I was sure I was safe, I lifted my arm and lightly pressed against a square on the wall where the seafoam-green paint was just a shade paler. I tensed as the smooth sound of the wall sliding apart drifted around the room. I checked over my shoulder one last time, listening for movement throughout the house, before turning back to the full-length mirror that stood before me now. Most traditional parents in the Upper Realm enforce modesty in their homes, which meant mirrors were for bathroom sinks, and nowhere else. We aren't allowed to have mirrors in our bedrooms or anything that might be a distraction. I discovered when I was young that the person who lived here before us had found a way to keep this to themselves. Sometimes I wondered how they pulled it off. I had managed so far, but I feared for the day my father found out.

 

 I examined the scars across my stomach. The rough beads from the rosary had torn my skin, but angels heal faster than humans do. Some of the cuts had scarred over or were nearly closed. Most would stitch themselves together by the end of the day, and the rest, by the next morning. I lifted my wrist to my face, the one the beads had caught on. It was now circled by a pink bracelet of skin, only a little rough at the places where the rosary had dug in much harder. I knew it would almost be gone by tomorrow, invisible to anyone who didn’t know what to look for. I pushed the mirror back and the wall slid over the hole and sealed itself shut. I smoothed my hands along the edges of the patch, making sure it was secure.

 

 

 When I got downstairs my father had already taken over the kitchen. I expected him to have left for work, he should be there for the younger AIT’s who hadn’t had their tests yet, but instead, as I rounded the corner to the kitchen I heard a ruffle of wings and the muted voice of a man coming from the other end of the phone. Then my dad spoke. I could tell by his careful tone of voice that he had not slept well and was already on edge. I hoped, for their sake, that whoever he was talking to would make things quick.

 

 “Yes, I know, I talked to her last night.” He said. “Yes, I know she has been late for class a few times before and I have talked to her about it. . . yes I’ve done what was necessary, are you questioning my authority as a parent?” I could tell he was losing his patience with the other man, though the voice was too muffled to tell who it was. All I could hear were the buzzing tones of his speech. Whoever it was sounded tired too, but serious and short, a tone I knew my father hated when other people used on him.

 

He spoke again. “Yes, I know where she's been, don't you think I can keep track of my own daughter!” He snapped. “She's been to that stupid, overgrown garden! I told you we should have levelled it decades ago.” I flinched at that. That garden had been my safe house, my sacred little escape since I was ten. I hated to hear it talked about that way.

 

 “No, I don't think she knows what it is. . . Because it looks like a murky little puddle and the Elders knew what they were doing when they hid it! Besides it only works one way anyway... Yes I- I understand. Okay... thank you... goodbye now.” I heard the phone hit the desk with a hard clatter. I decided against breakfast. It would be suicide to go in there now.

 

 I turned around, hoping to escape back to my bedroom unnoticed and maybe come down again later, give him some time to cool off and-

 

 “Dammit, Lani,” his hand fell hard onto my shoulder. I shivered. His grasp tightened. “Care to tell me how much of that you heard?”

 

 I took a deep breath to keep my voice steady. “How much of what?” I prayed that he’d buy it, but I was never a very good liar. White angels tend not to be.

 

 “Lani, I don't have much patience for games this morning.” He said.

 Yeah, no kidding! I thought of his phone call. “Now, let's try this again,” he forced his voice to be pleasant. “And this time, don’t lie to me!” He turned me with a hand on each of my shoulders to face him. I could feel his dry, cracked, nails scrape the skin on my shoulder.

 

 I took a risk. I needed to. “Please, just let me go,” I begged in monotone.

 

 “Let you go?” He laughed. “You want me to let you go? I don't think you understand that you’re in no position to bargain with me! I’m truly disappointed in you, Lani, after last night and now you think you can lie to me and then make demands?” I looked straight into his face now. His eyes were not the clouded over they had been the night before but still, he rarely acted out this much in this short of a time. I shrunk back as the stench of his breath washed past me like a putrid wave. Wine. That would explain it then. There was no use in arguing with him like this. “To The Quiet Room. Now! I need some time to think about what to do with you.” He ordered, digging for something small and silver in his back pocket.

 

 NO! I thought. Not now. “No, dad, please! I didn't hear anything! Please don't do this!”

 

 “Shut up and take your punishments,” he spat at me. I flinched as spittle hit my cheek. He had me by my arm, fingers digging into my flesh, making the bruises scream, as he dragged me up the stairs. I blindly hoped for a moment he would just throw me onto my bed and tell me to keep quiet and stay in my room. But I was stupid to think so. He pulled me past the door to my room, down the hall and around the corner.

 

 “Now stay here and think about why you’re such a worthless angel!” He pushed me into the room and slammed the door. He never called it anything but the Quiet Room but I could give you a few other names for it. Tight, dingy, smelly, uncomfortable, cold, and most importantly, isolated. There was nothing that could have made it worse. We are flock creatures. Angels of any kind are not built well for isolation.

 “You’re pathetic!” He shouted from outside the door, sticking the key into the lock and twisting. “You are a liar, and stupid, and a slimy, snot-nosed brat! How you’ve survived this long is a fucking miracle!” I shouldn't have come down this morning. I should have stayed in bed, under the covers, in the dark. “You are not fit to be a white angel! You will never graduate and you will never leave this realm! Do you hear me, Lani!?”

 

 “Yes,” I choked, knowing it was better to answer him at this point.

 

 “Good.” He concluded. I heard him wipe his arm across his mouth as he sniffed. “Now shut up and don't move until I say you can move, I make the calls in this house, not you, got it?”

 

 “Yes, Sir,” I answered. I waited until I thought he was gone before I breathed and said to the door, “Where do I have to go now, anyway?” I hadn't waited long enough.

 

There was the sound of something shattering against the door that sent me pushing myself up against the back wall, and a final “Just shut the hell up!” echoed through. I heard his stiff, brown shoes, stomp down the stairs and finally, everything was quiet. Everything except the squeak-squeak-squeak of the single light bulb that hung from the center of the roof, swinging in tiny circles. I watched the shadows it threw across the room as they stretched and shrunk and stretched and shrunk with the motion of the lamp. It scoured the room, daring something, anything about it to change. I sat perfectly still, watching the lamp swing toward me. The light shone in my eyes causing me to squint. It seemed to shine on me longer than it did on any part of the room, pausing in its slowing circles just to taunt me, to laugh at me.

 

 "You got in trou-ble, you got in trou-ble," squeak-squeak-squeak. I could hear it's annoying nasal-y, singsong-y voice giggle and twitter as it spun it's obnoxious circles. I wanted to throw something at it but the room was completely empty. There was not even a single wooden chair. Just an empty black room, and a single flickering light. The flickering set me on edge. I wished it would just shut off and leave me alone. But the light was controlled by a pull chain that had been cut too short to use long before we even moved here. I scoffed at the lamp, propping my knees up and wrapping my arms around my shins. I buried my nose in-between my knees and tried to think.

 

What if my father only got worse from here? He’d been punishing me for any little thing since I was seven, abusing me for “never being a good white angel.” He always found something to be angry with me about and was never afraid to make sure I knew it, in any way he had to. And now, he had made the ultimate threat. He knew all I wanted was to leave the Realm, all I wanted was just a step outside, to try my hand at being a Dispatch Angel, so maybe I could at least do good there. But now it was completely out of my reach. He would never let me leave. He may never even let me out of this room if his mood didn’t improve.

 

 I can’t take it anymore. I need to go. I scared myself just thinking about it. The words came out of nowhere and I had never heard so much desperation or daring in my own voice. But there was a thrill in my chest as well as the dread in my stomach as I thought about that. I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought of leaving before, but I’d been conditioned to believe that kind of open recklessness was wrong. But that thrill… that hope! I had to find a way out. Then the dread again.  My father kept the key on him at all times. No amount of begging or grovelling would convince him to open the door on his own and it's not like he would be letting any of my friends inside while he had me locked up. I’d have to wait him out if I wanted him to unlock the door willingly. The panic rose and made my whole body buzz. I couldn’t wait that long. I needed to do this now.

 

Another thought thrust its way into my consciousness as I sat. The Pool of the Lost…  It looks like a murky little puddle”

 

In my defiance to listen to the awful way he spoke about the garden, I had dismissed the feeling it left me with. The way he talked about it, never in full sentences, never straight in his words. There was something even more special about it than I originally thought. In this dark and empty room, I began to figure out what. I began to realize why he was so angry with me whenever he found me there. He’d have been in so much trouble with the Elders if I ever figured out what it was. It was my chance at freedom.

 

 I had to get out of here fast. That pool would be my escape if only I could get to it. I needed to get to it. I needed to get out of here.

 

 I took another deep breath and closed my eyes, resting my forehead against my arms. For a little extra comfort, I bent my wings forward, shielding myself from the glare of the lamp. I shut myself back into the dark and began once again to think of a way out.

 

 The light had stopped squeaking.

 

I no longer heard it's obnoxious teasing and taunting. It hung perfectly still and this time, I glared back at it. The voice I heard, the taunting from earlier left a trace of a time when I created those voices, friends that could not be heard or seen, the same way every child does. My father had always hated when I created imaginary friends. But I wasn’t a child anymore. Any voice belonged to a body. My father thought I was a pain in the neck and no good for anything. He thought I was ignorant and stupid and stubborn. Everything a white angel was not supposed to be. But right now that was not the most important thing on my list. My father thought I was stupid, but he knew I wasn't insane.

 

 I stood and faced one of the peeling, black, walls. I closed my eyes and let a deep breath rush down my throat and swirl in my lungs. Then I let it out with a scream.

 “SHUT UP!!!” I shouted at the wall. “JUST SHUT UP!!!! YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE SO GET OUT!!! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!!!”

 

 I stopped for a moment, listening. The Room was far from sound-proof and I knew I had a loud scream when I wanted to. I shouted again.

 

 “I DON'T CARE IF YOU THINK YOU CAN GET ME OUT OF HERE!! YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!! DON'T TOUCH ME YOU SLIMY PIECE OF SHIT OR I'LL KILL YOU!!”

 

 I was never very fond of swearing but at a time like this, I couldn’t care less. It would catch my father’s attention. I could already hear it working. His heavy footfalls were on the stairs. I knew that if there was one thing he couldn't stand it was an uninvited house guest. Especially one in a room he had preferred to keep hidden.

 

 “I SAID DON'T TOUCH ME!!” I shouted at the wall. “I'LL KILL YOU!!!”

 

 “Lani, what the hell kind of sound do you think you are making in there!?” He spoke sternly from outside the door. A metallic click. The key was in the lock. “I swear if one of your stupid friends is in here with you I'll-” I dashed to the wall as the door swung open and my father paused in his tracks, looking at what seemed like an empty room. In an attempt to be quiet I opened my wings and lifted myself up and over the door. My feet landed on the creaky floorboards on the other side.

 

His head shot up and he turned to stare straight at me, with fire in his eyes. I panicked. Before I could even think to do it, the door was pushed shut in front of me and the little silver key was in my fist. There was pounding from the inside of The Room.

 

“You bitch!!” You sorry mutt…  “Let me out of here! I swear I'll kill you for this!! Lani!!”

 

 I took off running.

 

 When I hit the bottom of the stairs I threw the key down the grate to my left and yanked open the door. It wasn't direct sunlight, but even the light from behind the heavy cloud cover was enough to make me squint.

 

How long had I been in that room? How many hours had I sat in the dim? I didn't think to look at the clock as I had left. I had one goal in mind. As soon as I could, I opened my wings and flew with all my speed towards the garden.

 

 I thought of the SimCloud. The test that had started all of this. I knew I had failed that test. I sincerely wanted that tattoo. I had wanted something permanent, something of my own decision, my choice. And maybe I would regret it later, maybe it would be a mistake, but at least it would have been my mistake. I couldn’t have my father deciding what I was or wasn’t good for, I did not want him controlling me. I was tired of being told not to feel, not to live, not to breathe. I was done being told I wasn’t a “good” white angel.

 

 So be it.

 When I landed in the garden I immediately rushed for the cover of willow trees, pulling back the branches to stand in front of the swirling Pool. I wasted no time.I jumped.


© Copyright 2019 Mica L. Rich. All rights reserved.

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