I’ve tried so hard. But I’m tired of hiding.
My father is an abusive drunk who spends half his paycheck on alcohol and drugs. My mom works three jobs and survives daily beatings. My older siblings give us as much money as they can. My younger sister lives in the attic so that he won’t find her. My younger brother and I take on all of his wrath to protect the others, but… I don’t know how much longer I can lie about my injuries. The beatings get worse if we get bad grades or break any rules, so my siblings and I have all been top of our classes with perfect disciplinary records. We want to spend as much time away from home as possible, so we’re all in clubs or teams or councils and started working as soon as we could.
This is the reason I’m Student Council President. This is the reason I participate on over half of the sports teams. This is the reason I work two part-time jobs. Not because I’m a hard-working honor student aiming for university. Sorry to disappoint.
Today was the last day of summer break. Our mom takes us to her parent’s house for summer and winter breaks on the grounds that we should know our grandparents. Our father grudgingly allows it as long as Grandma and Grandpa send back a good report (which they always do). Breaks are our only relief from the constant abuse, our time to heal.
But tomorrow we go back.
Tomorrow we return to abuse and terror. Tomorrow I have to pretend that everything is fine. Tomorrow the Student Council meets for the first time to double-check the rules for the year. Tomorrow the students will flood the high school and find their classes. Tomorrow I smile and wave and hand people schedules and make a pretty speech to students who aren’t listening.
Driving home, my little sister asks my mom, “Why can’t you send us to Grandma and Grandpa permanently and transfer us to the school there? It’s not like there’s anything tying us to Father’s house.”
My younger brother immediately scolds her, “Kara! That would leave Mom to deal with Father alone. Plus, don’t you think he’d follow us? We shouldn’t expose them to that!”
Kara immediately backs down. “Yeah. Sorry. I wasn’t thinking. My only thought was avoiding Father. Please forget I said that, Mom. I didn’t mean it.”
Mom shakes her head. “It’s okay. I’ve had similar thoughts before. But Conor is right, your father would chase you down - if we ran, or even just you, none of us would escape. We just have to survive until all of you graduate.”
“What about you, Mom? When will you escape?” I ask, concerned. “Our graduation won’t save you, only us.”
Mom just smiles sadly. “I’ll find a way. Maybe I’ll run away or divorce him once all of you are safe. You should just focus on school and surviving.”
We fall silent for the rest of the ride. When we get to our street, Mom stops to let Conor and Kara out. We learned long ago that Father often becomes angry when we return, so to keep the younger ones safe, they circle around and sneak in through the roof. Thankfully, he’s out drinking, so he probably won’t even remember that we were gone.
I need to prepare for tomorrow. Time to get ready for hell.