There was crying coming from downstairs again.
I was doing my best to tune it out, to put all my focus into getting it just right. The way he was holding her, and the expression of utter happiness on her face. But eventually I had to set the charcoal down, because no one could create anything with so much sorrow in the air.
If one thing was certain, it was this: I needed out. I needed to find a way to escape this house of horrors, where the very floors were soaked with thousands of tears. This was a prison of apathy and madness where my very worst nightmares came to life.
It was only a matter of time. I knew the drill. Three, two, one...
There came a pounding on my door. "Mariah, you stupid bitch. Get out here!"
I bit down hard on my tongue until blood filled my mouth. Didnt make any motion. Dad was drunk again, and there was nothing I could do to change that. But maybe if I was perfectly silent, he would think I'd gone out. He would leave me alone.
No such luck. A moment later the door flung open, and there he stood, all rage and no grace. "I told you to get out here," he sneered through gritted teeth.
"I didnt much feel like company," I said nonchalantly, but I couldnt quite bring myself to look him in the eyes. I squeezed my eyes shut as he stormed across the room. His hand encircled my forearm roughly. I could already feel the bruise he would leave there. Looked like tomorrow would be another sweatshirt day.
"You stupid, selfish bitch," he scowled. "I've provided a home for you, and raised you, and you'll damn well come when I call you."
"Okay," I said quickly, anything to make him leave. So I could be alone, and try to find some peace. And pretend it wasnt really happening, and it was all just a dream.
There was one reason I got out of bed in the morning, and that was Zach. He'd been my entire world since the third grade, when he'd picked me a flower on a field trip to the zoo and asked if I would love him forever. We'd been inseparable for so long, I couldnt even imagine a day without him.
He was waiting for me at the bus stop, smoking a cigarette and looking thoughtful as ever. I approached him slowly, eyes downcast on my well worn Converse hightops. When I was close enough, Zach pulled me into his arms without a single word, placing a kiss on the top of my head. I held to him like there he was all I had left. Perhaps he really was.
"Everything okay?" He asked me eventually, even though he knew the answer to that.
"I'm fine," I lied, thankful for the way my loose black Breaking Benjamin sweatshirt hid the bruises. "Everything's fine."
If only I had known.