Fantasticoe -- 2013
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Jessie's Secret

Erica Cramp


Leaves crunched beneath her feet as her blonde wavy hair danced in the chilled wind. The sun peaked its way through the trees that surrounded her. She was running as fast as she possibly could to get away from all that she had ever known. She had woken up in the middle of the night to her parents arguing; something that they always did these days. Countless times she had cried herself to sleep as her parents screamed at each other.

She thought back to the argument that morning. “Why the hell didn’t you clean this kitchen? How do you expect me to live in this dump?!” her father had yelled. She heard a thump on the table and dishes clattered to the floor. She knew he had shoved her and then she knew what was going to happen next. There would be more Jack Daniels, more shouting, and then he would hit her mother. She was right. The cries echoed through the house and continued in her head long after it had gone away. One thing always led to the other, like a domino chain bumped into, all of the pieces crashing down. It was becoming too much to handle. She needed to get away.

How could my parents do this to me? she thought as tears streamed down her face. They could see how much it affected her. They saw her tear stained face and puffy eyes as she sat at the kitchen table eating her Lucky Charms before getting ready for school. They had to have known that her crying was about them. More specifically, it was about her father and his abuse. She had yelled at them, “Why can’t you just get a divorce like a normal couple?!” but that never helped. She saw the fire behind her father’s eyes when she had said that and it scared her. Her mother saw the fear and pain upon her face and always reassured her “everything will be okay. Your father is just having a bad day.” Is every day a bad day for him then?

But her mother’s reassurance made her believe that it would be better. Her mother had thought wrong. It just kept getting worse, like an illness that is never going to get better. Like the cancer that her mom’s mother had passed away from back in July. When her parents started yelling and her father started hitting, she would run over to her Grandma’s house crying her eyes out as her Grandma held her, promising that things would be alright.

But her Grandma had not known of the abuse her father had always resorted to. She never suspected anything because he was always kind around her. The bruises and the scars he gave them over the years were easily hidden so she never saw any obvious signs. She could not get herself to tell her Grandmother about it; if her father was not mad, he was a good guy, really he was. He would just sit quietly at the television and watch reruns of CSI and Without a Trace. But now that her Grandma was gone, she had no safe haven. She didn’t have any friends or any family besides her parents. And they were the ones that she wanted to get away from.

When she did not get back from school, her father would come out searching for her. Her mother would start to worry, but her father would only get angry. She was a freshman at Bellcross High School—an outcast that nobody cared to associate with. She walked to class alone and tried her hardest not talk to anyone. She did not want anyone. She did not want a friend that would want to come back to her house and would end up seeing her parents yelling at each other. Someone that would see the abuse: the bruises and the scars. A friend that would see her crying. Her biggest weakness.

The only exception she made was her English teacher, Mrs. Johnson. She thought back to the countless conversations her and her teacher had. Mrs. Johnson was by far her favorite teacher. She was easy to relate to since she was fresh out of college. They talked a lot. About everything, ranging from the weather to boys. Sometimes she would bring her lunch to Mrs. Johnson’s room and they would sit there watching General Hospital poking fun at the situations the characters would get it. Her teacher was like her second mother. She loved every second she spent with her.

“How is everything at home, Jessie?” Mrs. Johnson had asked her. That was the only question she would avoid.

“Everything is fine,” she had replied. “So…how are you doing today?” She would always change the subject with a reassuring smile across her face. Her teacher seemed to be growing suspicious and she really wanted to tell her everything; how she spent every night crying herself to sleep while her parents screamed at each other, how her father struck her mother, and how at times all she wanted to do was to get away from him. But she never did. She tried to fool her teacher, but it did not look like she had. Mrs. Johnson always told her that she was there for her if she needed someone to talk to.

She did not want to admit the facts, even to herself. Ever. But she almost couldn’t take it anymore. The bruises on her right arm were rubbing against her side as she ran. The scars on her back were a painful reminder of what happened back in August. She kept running as she thought back to that moment.

“Get over here right now!” her father screamed at her. She had forgotten to take out the trash from the kitchen. He was furious. She could tell he had been drinking by the way he slightly slurred his words and occasionally stumbled over his feet. That was why she tried to run upstairs to the comfort of her bedroom but he grabbed her arm. Her mother ran into the room yelling at him.

“Let her go! Don’t you dare even think about hitting her!” Not like he had never hit her before. Her mother could have stuck up for her in the past. Her father’s grip on her arm was leaving bruises already. She tried to free herself, but upon the struggle he slapped her on the side of the face. The force was so hard that it left her face to the side, her head spinning slightly. That was the only mark that he had ever left on a visible part of her body; it was usually her arms or back or legs. Places that were easily covered. But this one was without a doubt the worse thing he had ever done to her. Or so she thought.

Her mother screamed and grabbed at his wrist; a stream of curse words emitted from her mouth. She never had much liked hearing her mother swear but at times like these, she did not mind so much. He released her arm.

“You bitch,” he said. “You don’t appreciate anything I do for this family! I am the one making the money around here!” He slowly walked toward the red glass lamp that was sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. Her mother was cowering as she always did. “I even bought you this damn thing you wanted! Now I see it was worthless since you don’t appreciate me!” He threw the lamp at her mother, or so he thought he did. His drunken state messed up his sense of judgment. Her mother’s cries streamed out of her mouth as the lamp collided with her daughter’s back drawing blood that soaked through her shirt.

It had been bad enough for stitches, but her father insisted that it was a waste of money going to the doctor’s and that she ought to just bandage it up. She had used gauze and bandages and by nightfall, the bleeding had receded enough for her to leave one bandage on and go to sleep.

She was scared to tell anyone about her father because she didn’t want to be taken away from her parents. She did love them and she believed they loved her, regardless of the fact that her father was abusive now and again. Now she wished she had talked to Mrs. Johnson. It was starting to become too much to handle.

“They hate me!” she had sobbed into her grandmother’s arms. But her grandmother would always smile at her, a sad and caring smile.

“Honey, they love you. They always have and always will.” She had thought that it was true because her grandmother said it was true. Now that she had no one to assure her, the line between what was true and what was false was fuzzy to her. She was conflicted.

She knew she had to go back, but for now, she just wanted to run away and let her tears stream down her face. She did not like other people seeing her cry. Only her Grandma could and she was gone.

She came to a bridge and stopped to rest, her breath showing in the air. A creek trickled through the rocks below and, for the first time, she noticed that she was very thirsty. She climbed down the rocks to get to the creek and with cupped hands brought some cold water up to her lips. The water was clean and refreshing and she smiled despite being sad.

She lay against the rock behind her and closed her eyes, taking in the cool air that blew all around her. She listened to the wind rustling the leaves and the water trickling around the rocks. She listened to the birds chirping and the little creatures scurrying in the crumpled leaves that littered the ground.

“Ohh, my poor dear child,” a familiar voice said behind her.

Grandma? She thought. No, it couldn’t be…She was dead. She opened her eyes and sat upright slowly, confusion in her features. Upon turning around, she was stricken with both fear and amazement. Her dead Grandmother, now a ghost, was floating behind her. Her white curls lay straight, unaffected by the wind; her aged face showed signs of sorrow.

“Grandma? No, it can’t be…I must be dreaming…” She started backing away slowly, scooting closer to the creek.

“Jessie, my dear child. Please do not be afraid of me.” Her ghostly Grandmother floated over and sat next to her. Jessie was obviously confused, with a slight look of horror upon her face. She had no idea what was happening, but yet, when her ghostly Grandmother took her hand and held it upon her light-blue flowered dress, she did not move. It still felt comforting to her even though it felt like her hand was floating in the air.

She started crying: crying for her parents, herself, and the abusive situation that she was in. Crying because that felt like the only thing left for her to do. Her Grandmother just sat there quietly like she had always done in the past. She knew that too many words annoyed her grandchild since they were the same things over and over again. She only started to talk when Jessie was running out of tears.

“How come you never told me, dear?” her Grandma questioned her. Jessie rubbed her eyes and really looked at her Grandmother for the first time since she had appeared. She looked exactly like she had the day she left this world. Her white curls lay right above her shoulders only interrupted by the silver metal glasses that she wore offsetting the curls by her ears. She still wore that light blue dress with the little grey slippers. These were the slippers that Jessie kept right next to her bedside as an object of comfort.

“Is it really you?” Emotions were filling her body, but different from the ones she was having before. These feelings were happiness, confusion, and wonder. How could this be possible?

“Yes, honey, it is me. I am always here to watch over you. But why didn’t you tell me about your father? We could have gotten you and your mother some help.” She had always had such a soothing voice. Just listening to her made Jessie start to feel better. Oh how she missed her grandmother.

“Oh, Grandma! I really wanted to tell you. Really, I did. It’s just that I love Dad. Even though he hurts me and Mom sometimes. I just don’t want anything to happen to him. And what if he finds out I told someone? He would not like that…” She trailed off, thinking of the possible things that her father would do to her. Her father probably did not deserve her love or her respect, but she found it difficult to do the opposite.

“Jess, you don’t deserve this treatment, nor does your mother. You need to tell someone, child. I saw that your teacher wants to talk to you. She can tell something is wrong, but since she does not have any proof, she cannot do anything about it.” She noticed a tear escape her granddaughter’s eye. “Honey, nothing will truly become better unless you tell someone about your father. You need to. I don’t like watching you and your mother suffer like this.” She started to choke up on her words but held her tears back, seeming to be afraid to let her granddaughter see her cry. Her figure was starting to get more translucent. She did not have much time left here.

“But…Grandma…How do I do that?...How do I just tell someone my father hits me? What if they don’t believe me? What if…he finds out?” Jessie was talking between sobs, looking down at the ground. This was really hard for her.

“You must, my child. I do not have much time left here so listen to me.” Jessie looked up at her Grandmother and vowed to not take her eyes off of her. She did not know the next time that she would see her Grandmother or if she ever would again.

“Please talk to someone about all of this. You need to get you and your mother some help since she is not taking it upon herself, although I do see her trying to help you every day. My daughter never was one for causing conflict. But please, do not just be like that as well. Talk to someone. Tell someone about your father. It is the only way things will start to get better.” She was fading more and more, almost barely noticeable to the human eye.

Grandma! Please don’t leave me! I don’t know what to do! I need you Grandma, I need you!” Jessie was sobbing, still keeping her eyes trained on her Grandmother through her tears. She was almost gone.

“Jessie, you are a strong girl. You’ll be fine! Please, do as I have said. I love you so much, dear child. I love you.” With that final word, she fully disappeared.

Jessie lay on the ground crying, her body convulsing with her sobs. Why did she have to leave me so suddenly? I miss her so much. What am I to do now? She just laid there, sobbing both over her Grandmother and the indecision that she faced.

She sat up suddenly. Her Grandmother’s words finally sunk in. She needed to tell someone. Neither she nor her mom deserved this kind of treatment.

As she exited the forest, she noticed the sun setting in the horizon. She wiped her eyes, straightened up her clothing, and stood up tall. Now was the final stretch to her house. She was sure her father would be angry and her mother was probably worried sick. She wanted to look as calm and collected as possible.

She opened up the red door that was the entrance to her house, took off her green converse all-stars, and headed up the wooden staircase. She heard the television on in the living room and she hoped her father would not hear her. He hadn’t, or if he did, he sure did a fine job at acting like he didn’t. She was glad.

Upon getting upstairs, she saw her mother reading a book in the master bedroom. She must have heard someone coming up the stairs because she was trembling slightly. She probably thought it was her husband.

Her mom glanced over at her and upon noticing that it was her daughter, she jumped up, went over to her, and gave her a hug.

“Oh Jessie! Where have you been? I have been worried sick! I had to lie to your father. He was really mad when you weren’t home for dinner. I told him you had a school project to finish up tonight.” So that was why he completely ignored me. “Where were you actually?”

“I was just walking around…” Jessie trailed off. She did not want her Mom to know what she had been up to. She especially did not want her to know where she had been. Her mother always told her to stay away from the forest ever since she had gotten lost when she was eleven.

“Where at?” Her mother paused and noticed that the television had been turned off downstairs. “Never mind, just get some sleep, dear. I love you.” Her voice had become a whisper.

“Okay, Mom. I love you too.” She smiled at her mother and gave her a hug. For the first time, she felt like she was good for something, for she had plans of what she was going to do tomorrow. She shut her bedroom door and lay in her bed, quickly drifting off to sleep.

She awoke from a peaceful slumber, the sun shining down on her face. Surprisingly, she actually remembered her dream. Her Grandmother was giving her words of encouragement and she was going to follow through. Her clock read 7:15 AM. She would be at school by 8 AM so that she would have about an hour to talk to someone before class started.

She jumped out of bed and threw on a pair of dark-washed skinny jeans and a loose black shirt. She paired that with her favorite white scarf. Going into the bathroom, she put some makeup on and put her hair into a ponytail. She noticed that her father had already left for work and her mother was still sleeping. Upon going downstairs, she put on her converse, grabbed a piece of toast, and left for the fifteen minute trek to her school. She was determined that she would tell Mrs. Johnson and then everything would be fine in the end.

Upon entering Bellcross High School, she took her usual route to get to Mrs. Johnson’s classroom. She saw her teacher sitting at her desk, her eyes squinted in concentration. Upon hearing a knock, she looked up and gestured for Jessie to step inside.

“Hey Jessie! What’s up?”

“Hi Mrs. Johnson…can I please talk to you?”

“Of course you can! Whenever you need to talk, I am always here.” She looked around her classroom looking for a place that they could both sit. Walking past the desks, they took a seat at the cushiony tan couch located in the back of the classroom. “Okay, so what do you need to talk about?”

Jessie looked around in embarrassment, scanning the lavender walls and the bookshelf filled with books. Looking at her teacher’s desk, she noticed a picture for the first time. It was a picture of a happy family: her, her husband, and her baby girl who was no more than a year old. She smiled a sad smile, wishing that she could experience what a happy family was like.

With a little nudging from her teacher, she came back to reality and started spilling her whole story. Mrs. Johnson only interrupted occasionally to ask a question or get something clarified. “Could you show me places where he has hurt you? Are there any bruises or scars that you could show me?” Jessie could tell that she was hurt by all of this, especially after showing her where the lamp had hit her back. She heard her say under her breath “How could he do this?”

“I am so sorry you had to go through all of this,” Mrs. Johnson said as strongly as she could. Jessie was crying into her teacher’s shoulder as she held her. It was nice for her to finally tell someone everything. She sat there crying in Mrs. Johnson’s arms until the five-minute warning bell rang at 8:55.

“Okay, Jessie. I am so sorry but I have to let you go.” She gave her a sad smile with her sympathetic voice. “I am so glad that you decided to talk to me. Can you please go down to the counselor’s office and tell them what you told me? They will help you even better there.” She gave her a hug and Jessie was on her way.

She did not go to any of her classes; she sat in the counselor’s office and retold her story to the counselor, Jean. She had treated her with almost as much sympathy as her teacher, but Jean meant business. Regardless of that, she still held her when she cried and gave her a Kleenex.

“Everything will be fine soon, sweetie. Believe me,” Jean reassured her. She began filling out paperwork. Now it was just a matter of time that her father would get in trouble for all that he had done. Jessie would occasionally think of another story, and Jean would stop what she was doing and listen, holding her if necessary. Both Mrs. Johnson and Jean were really nice to talk to because she felt like they genuinely cared about her. She loved that feeling.

Upon arriving home at 3:45 PM, she walked through the door as if nothing had happened at school. She took off her converse by the door and made the usual trek up to her room. Around 5 PM, she heard the garage door open; her father was home. She jumped off her bed and ran down to the kitchen to help her mom finish preparing dinner: marinated chicken and potatoes with green beans. That was most definitely one of her favorite meals. Her father entered the kitchen and popped open a beer, as he always did when he got home.

“How was work, dear?” her mother asked her father.

He grunted, “I’m going to go watch TV. Hurry up and finish dinner. I’m starving.” She saw the hurt in her mother’s eyes; that hurt would not be there for much longer.

There was a knock on the door. “Get the door!” her father yelled from the living room. No one heard him. “Jessie, get the damn door!” She heard him that time and scurried to the door as quickly as possible.

Upon opening the door, there were two cops and a police car with flashing lights in the background.

“Is Joe Lanton home?” a skinny man with a mustache questioned. A tall chubby man with brown hair was standing next to him holding handcuffs.

“Dad! They want to speak to you.”

Her mom walked up behind her and placed her hand on her shoulder. “What’s the matter, officers?” she asked. Jessie could tell she was scared for she was trembling slightly.

“What?” Her dad asked annoyed while he was rounding the corner from the living room to the front door, still holding his beer. Upon seeing the officers, he set the beer down and changed his tone. “Officers, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but what do you want?”

“You will need to come with us,” the man with the brown hair stated. Her mother cringed at the words while they grabbed her father’s wrist just as he was about to retreat.

“What the hell are you doing?! Let go of my wrists! I have not done anything to deserve this!” her father yelled. Glances filled with contempt were thrown at Jessie and her mother as Jessie cowered into her mother’s arms, her tears streaming down her face and onto her mother’s purple V-neck t-shirt. She had not wanted to do this because she loved her father. She just didn’t know what else to do.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?” The man with the mustache recited to him. It was easy to tell that he had said those words many times before.

“Yes,” he replied angrily.

They led him to their cop car. Jessie and her mom stepped onto the porch and watched as he was shoved into the car. They watched as the police car drove away and was no longer visible in the distance. Jessie’s mom turned to her. She held her and they cried. Although this process would be a long one, they would have a greater life ahead of them. A huge weight lifted off of their shoulders. Finally, they were away from the abuse.