So, I crawled.
With only the support of my forearms, I slowly dragged my own meat-bag of a limp body across the cold ceramic tile floor inch by agonizing inch. I left a bloody dirt trail from my bed to the bathroom. I don’t know how long it took. It seemed like days, years, an eternity. In another turn of universal cruelty, once I finally got there, I discovered that the bathroom door was shut. I summoned every inch of determination I still had to reach a shaky, nearly-useless arm up to the door handle. I leaned on it, forcing the door open and falling to the bathroom floor like a broken rag doll.
I needed to see what he’d done, to know what I was dealing with.
I gathered my strength and slowly pushed myself to my knees. In one huff, I launched myself up onto my feet, grabbing the countertop to regain my balance and hold myself up. I had to lean into the counter so far my chest was almost in the sink. I used my elbow to nudge the light on.
What I saw in the mirror, the girl staring back at me, wasn’t me at all.
My eyes were both as black as night, with smudges of purple and yellow. My usually-pale skin was unrecognizable under the red stains of blood. Blue and yellow bruising extended all the way down my cheeks along my jaw. My copper hair was slicked back and caked with dark crimson chunks. I ran my fingers over my lips, flinching at my own touch. The tank top I wore was smeared with dirt and vomit. I was naked from the waist down. Streams of red ran along the inside of my legs, like thick veins that spilled over onto my feet. I opened my mouth as much as I could in order to press a finger inside to feel for my teeth. As far as I could tell, they were all there.
I need Jake.
When I was eight years old, my mother’s drug dealer beat her to within an inch of her life. She looked very much like how I looked now, except she was unconscious and in a hospital bed for over two weeks. When she was released, I was so happy to finally have her home. To have her all to myself, sober for once. That had to be her rock bottom. Almost dying had to be reason for quitting and even more of a reason to start being a real mom to me. I convinced myself it was going to be a new start for all of us.
I sat in the front of their yellow station wagon on the bench seat, between my dad, who was driving, and my mom, who was in the passenger seat, on the way home from the hospital. I was beaming. After everything we had been through, I had reason to believe that we were going to be a real family.
We were three blocks down the road from the hospital when Mom asked me to hold one end of a rubber tie-off while she shot up right there in the front seat.
That was the first and last time I allowed myself real hope for a family…until Nan.
I let out a scream that could have woken the dead, igniting the fire of pain within every cell of my body. I didn’t care. Pain was what I was used to. Hurt and disappointment and fucked-up-ness were normal for me. I screamed louder. Something in my throat felt like it popped, and blood rose in my throat and into my mouth. I sank down onto the floor of the bathroom and curled up into fetal position. The blood, too much to swallow, flowed out from my mouth and onto the tile, creating rivers of red in the grout. I wasn’t throwing it up. I was just releasing it.
Dragging myself up onto the toilet wasn’t an option. I had no strength left. Urine came out of me in burning waves of agony, causing me to see what looked like TV snow behind my eyelids.
My life was my pain, and there was so much more to come.
It was then that I made the decision. A decision I always knew I might have to make at some point in my life, but had somehow doubted I’d ever have the strength to actually carry out.
Owen was going to die.
When Jake returned, I was going to tell him what happened. Every explicit, gory detail. I was going to awaken the monster within.
It wasn’t like I could call the authorities. In Coral Pines, Owen’s family was the authorities. The mayor, the DA, the county judge, the lowly sheriff— all were Fletchers, born and bred. They wouldn’t help me.
My breath quickened – not from the pain anymore, but from the dark satisfaction of my decision. A small maniacal laugh escaped my lips, and I clutched my ribs that felt like they were being broken again and again with each sound I made.
I let it all come.
Jake is going to kill Owen.
In between the throws of unbearable agony and the fits of insane laughter, the thought was comforting. It made the pain almost bearable.
IT WAS TEN O’CLOCK P.M., and all of the lights inside Coral Pines High School were off. I didn’t want to turn any of them on for fear of drawing attention to myself. What I was there to do didn’t require light, anyway. The red glow from the exit signs above every doorway and my tiny keychain flashlight allowed me to see just enough for to find my way through.