By: C.A. Harms



I was eleven years old when Maggie, my mother, left. Just packed her bags and walked away. She just couldn't deal with it anymore; the hate and anger was all too much. But there was something I would never understand. Why did she choose to leave me behind? It was something I often wondered.

That was seven years ago.

Seven long years of dealing with the backlash of her absence. My father had always been a broody, irritable man—extremely unapproachable. I guess that was one of the reasons my mother chose to leave. That, and the fact he was a heavy drinker. Alcohol, to him, was like breathing; it was something his body had to have to survive. His perpetual intoxication almost always led to a fight between them—a physical fight full of anger. For days I would see the marks of those disagreements gracing my mother’s beautiful face. He tore her down whenever and however he could. I remember lying in bed at night wishing I could stop him, hoping for someone, anyone, to take my mother and me away to safety.

At all costs I found myself doing whatever I could to avoid him. Though he never lay a hand on me before Maggie left, things changed afterward. He became even angrier and more violent; I never even thought that was possible. Those nights of terror I used to listen to my mother live through now became my own.

It didn’t matter what I did or how much I abandoned, in his eyes I still screwed everything up. He blamed me for all that was wrong in his life; it all fell at my feet.

Soon it would all be over; I had plans. All I had to do was finish these last few months of school and I could escape forever. No matter what it took, or how many jobs I had to work, I would be rid of John Walters.

Chapter One

It was finally my senior year, something I looked forward to for years. I worked hard to get where I was. Good grades and high honors, but there was no one to be proud of me but myself—and my best friend Casey. She was the only person I could count on. She was my breath of fresh air, my savior from the hell in which I was left to live. Without her, I'm not sure I would have made it to this point.

As I walked toward my locker, I fought back the rush of anxiety I felt. I hated how I allowed John to get inside my head, letting him consume my thoughts and make me feel as if the words he spoke were true. Even this morning as I walked toward the front door to leave, he made sure he didn’t miss an opportunity to tear me down. “Dressed like a fucking sleaze, you look just like that bitch of a mother of yours.”

My stomach still knotted as I tugged at the hem of my shirt. I owned nothing that anyone could consider sleazy; honestly, I looked more like a homeless kid. He rarely bought me anything, and with as many hours as I put in to my education, it would be almost impossible to work my own job right now.

The mental abuse became part of my day. It felt almost routine, just like saying hello or goodbye. If he didn’t take every opportunity he had to be mean, things wouldn’t feel normal. How sad was that?

“Payton.” I heard a familiar voice behind me call out my name.

I turned around and arched an eyebrow at Casey. Unlike me, Casey dressed to impress. Or to attract, as some people put it. She wore as little as the dress code would allow. She was my polar opposite, but I loved her to death.

She stepped up in front of me and began adjusting my shirt. I slapped her hands away to make her stop, but she just offered a smile and rolled her eyes. “Hey, I called you last night. Did the asshole tell you?” Casey knew how John was and she hated him almost as much as I did.

“What do you think?” Trying to reach me at home was a waste of time. Unless I was home alone or could get the phone before he did, I would never know someone called.

It was one of the reasons I chose to spend most of my time at Casey’s. I felt safe there, something I never felt at John’s.

The best part about being at Casey’s was her older brother, Dylan; he was a nice distraction. He still lived at home, but when he wasn’t at school, he spent most of his free time either working or with his friends.

I personally enjoyed when he chose to stay home; those were my favorite times. There was nothing wrong with getting lost in a hot fantasy about Dylan. Not in my eyes, anyway. Casey probably felt slightly different.