Leiah, a 15 year old girl, hates her life. Her family abuses her, and the kids at school torture her. She wants to give up trying, but all her plights are about to change...
Chapter one: Meltdown
The year was 2009, and the weather was rainy on this Alberta morning. Leiah looked up to the clouds, and wondered when she could get away from this prison she called home. Being only fifteen, she was in no position to move out. Leiah wanted to get some respect, but that seemed more than her family could give.
Whenever she did less than was expected, she was beaten. Ever since she was thirteen, when her mom died, things had been this way. Her father blamed Leiah for her mom's death, and there was not much she could do about it. She was too weak to defend herself, and her brother just stayed in his room all the time.
Leiah looked at her watch, and knew if she didn't leave now, she would be late for school. Leiah sighed, and continued to walk to her school. She saw one of her classmates, and waved gingerly. She didn't want to make friends with anyone, because friends only brought pain and rejection to her fragile heart. But there was one boy, who kept her from losing hope of finding a friend. His name was Ben Kramer, and he was the only person in the world that she trusted.
She walked into the school, as usual, not thinking that anything would be special today, just like every other day. But after getting her textbooks from her locker, she knew something was strange. Even though her tenth grade school year had just started last week, she got used to things very quickly. The other students at her high school looked at her, and had to hold in their laughter. Normally they just whispered amongst themselves, but this was over the top.
Leiah walked by a girl as she walked to her seat, and the girl coughed, “Freak!” The other students laughed. Leiah sat in her seat, and the guy behind her whispered, “Society reject!” There was more laughing, and Leiah got more aggravated with each laugh. For some reason, all the students found it hilarious that someone actually didn't straighten their hair every morning, and didn't wear clothes that got their parents into debt (mainly because her father didn't think she was worth it).
Leiah was ready to start a fight by the time the teacher got into the room and made the students quiet down. She was still confused as to why they were so open about their teasing now, but she wanted to punch someone so bad she was barely able to contain it. To make matters worse, Ben wasn't at school today. Leiah felt very alone, and wanted to just disappear.
The morning went by so slowly, Leiah thought she had been at school for a whole week. But finally lunch rolled around, and Leiah ran out of the classroom. She couldn't take all those mocking stares anymore, or the laughter behind her back. Before she even realized it, the tears actually fell. For the first time in almost a year, she actually let herself cry.
She ran until the school was no longer in view, then sat on the curb and kept crying. Leiah whispered, “Ben, why are they doing this to me?” She felt a warm hand on her shoulder, and looked up. Ben smiled at her, and wiped the tears away. Leiah thought he was a dream at first, his black hair shining in the sunlight. She leaned on him, and felt a little better.
He answered, “Because they are assholes, and don't know how much it hurts. Don't worry, it'll be okay soon. Someone will come along and say those things to them, and then they won't hurt you anymore.” She almost started bawling again, but she felt that Ben would think she was weak if she did. Ben whispered, “Its okay to cry, Leiah. I won't judge you.”
Leiah looked up at him and asked, “Why are you so kind to me? I'm just a freak, and everyone knows it. You don't have to act like you want to be my friend or anything. I don't mind if you mock me like everyone else, I'm used to disappointment.” She looked away and continued, “Thanks for caring, or pretending to care for as long as you have, but I think its best that I learn the truth while I'm still young. So tell me what you really think of me.”
Ben hesitated, then cleared his throat. “Well, when I first saw you, I saw someone who didn't care what society thought of her, and I respected that. Partly because I would never be able to do that myself, I would cave after the first hour! But you live your entire life like that, and you can handle people staring at you. But as I got to know you, I saw that you were much more than that. You still have no anger against the people who hurt you, and you still have the will to smile after they hurt you.”
Leiah was speechless. She tried and tried to speak, but the words just weren't there. Ben smirked, “Don't worry, I don't expect anything from you. I just want you to stay my friend, okay? Because truth be told, I'm not good at making friends so you are my only friend.”
Leiah nodded, then she remembered something. “Why weren't you at school today?”
“Well, I'm skipping. I actually came to ask if you wanted to skip too. I mean, its not like there is anything special going on today. Come hang out with me, and I'll cheer you up.” Leiah grinned and agreed. She was just thinking about how much she wanted to spend the day with her only friend. As the two of them walked toward main street, Ben announced, “I also wanted you to come with me so I could tell you something.”
Leiah asked, “Really? What is it?”
Ben looked at the ground and replied, “Well, there's this girl I like...”
Leiah started getting excited, “Oh this is so great!! Who is she? Is she one of those preps? Is she nice?”
“Calm down, calm down.” Ben laughed, “She isn't a prep, but that's all I'm gonna give you.”
“Aww, can you at least tell me what colour her hair is?”
Ben sighed. “Alright, its blond.” Leiah thought hard about all the girls she knew, and with dismay remembered that all the girls she knew that weren't preps were either brunette or redheads. Leiah concluded that the girl must be someone she didn't know, which made her frustrated. But then she remembered that she was a blond! But it was impossible for Ben to like her, after all, they were just friends. And didn't Ben just finish saying that he wanted to remain friends? So she decided that she must either be overlooking someone, or she didn't know them yet.
They kept walking in silence, until Ben pointed to a small broken-down shop on the corner of the block. “That's where we're going.”
Leiah was puzzled, but walked with him there. Once inside, she saw it was worse on the inside. The floor was wooden planks on top of the dirt, and the walls were old plywood with holes all through it, there was no heater or any apparent signs of technology. Leiah wondered what they were doing here, but then she saw the stairs. They looked like they might collapse if a feather landed on them, but Ben ran up them anyway. He yelled down, “Come on Leiah! I wanna show you something.”
Leiah slowly walked up to the stairs, then lightly placed one foot on the first step. Putting weight on it, she started to move up the stairs. Seeing that it didn't collapse, she stepped into the room at the end of the stairs. What she found almost made her start crying. There in this tiny room was posters of some bands and a small bed. Ben was sitting on the bed, digging underneath it. He pulled his hands out, holding a ball of fur. Leiah gasped when she realized it was a kitten.
She walked over, and asked, “Why is there a kitten under your bed? Is it okay?”
Ben smiled. “Its fine, her name is Sakura. I found her outside the shop next door. She was abandoned, I think. I didn't have the heart to leave her there, so I just brought her home with me.” Leiah stared intently at the kitten, and it opened its eye. It mewed and Ben asked, “Can you hold her for a sec? She wants her food.” Ben handed her the kitten.
Leiah gently stroked her orange fur, and a rumbling erupted from Sakura. Leiah continued petting the kitten, until Ben brought the food back. It was a small bottle, with warm milk in it. Leiah asked, “She isn't even old enough for solid food?”
Ben shook his head. “I brought her to my friend at the animal shelter, and he said she was about four weeks old. She isn't even supposed to be weaned yet. But she acts just like any other kitten I've ever seen. She has a bed under my bed, and she rarely leaves it. But once she does, I will move my room downstairs. I don't want her to fall down the stairs and get hurt.”
Leiah laughed. “You treat her like she was your daughter.”
“Well, I always had a weak spot for cats. You got a problem with that?”
“No, I probably would do the same thing. I love cats too.” As she admired the kitten, Ben saw worry in her deep brown eyes.
Ben smiled. “Your wondering why I live in a place like this, aren't you?”
Leiah sighed. “Well, I never saw it. You always kept up with the trends, and had the expensive stuff every month like everyone else.”
Ben smirked. “I hoped that everyone wouldn't notice. But the preps sure did. And that's why they made fun of me, and I ended up being a freak. It hasn't been like this for very long, but I used to be a real prep. I didn't have that 'I'm better than you' attitude, but I was still a prep. My sister was the most popular girl in high school, but she lost all her friends when we got the foreclosure. They made fun of her because she had to sell half of her clothes, and because she had to live in this place.”
Leiah asked, “If she lives here, why is there only one bed?”
Ben's smile faded. “She couldn't take the teasing, and the feeling of being alone. She ran away three years ago. I think she might have committed suicide, but I've never seen her since. My parents died last year, from freezing on the way home. I live alone now, but I don't want anyone to know. If they knew I would get sent to foster care and have to move. I might have a better life, but I like living like this. I don't have to worry about what people think of me, or stuff like that. Its actually very peaceful.”
Leiah laughed. “Most people would consider it very lonely.”
Ben smiled again. “Well I'm not alone. I have Sakura, and you.”
Leiah started blushing. “And you have that girl you like. Don't forget her.”
“Oh yeah, her.” Ben added. He looked a little frustrated, but Leiah didn't notice. She was too busy feeding Sakura to notice Ben's expression. Leiah was smiling so brightly, Ben really didn't care that much. He felt that she would figure it out eventually.
Once Sakura had enough milk, Ben took the bottle back to the small container at the edge of the room, containing food and such. Leiah was still holding Sakura, who was now sleeping in a tiny ball. Leiah asked, “Ben, how do you afford food if you don't work?”
Ben replied, “My uncle sends me a check every month for food. The shop owner next door lets me come in to use the washroom. It makes me feel very poor, but its what I have to do. And besides, its not like I hate being completely dependant on other people that much.”
Leiah nodded. She petted Sakura again, then asked, “Why did you name her Sakura?”
“Well, I'm a big manga fan, and that's the name of one of my favourite characters. I read manga scans all the time at the library.” Leiah gazed at him, eyes gleaming. Ben started feeling really awkward, and asked, “What's with the look?”
Leiah answered, “I didn't know you liked manga too!! Tell me, which is your favourite?”
“Oh gosh, I've read too many to tell. Once I start reading one its hard to stop. Its kinda silly, but I really get into those stories. I want to see how it ends, then I start reading a new one.”
Leiah's eyes sparkled. “Same here!! But I haven't been reading much lately, since my dad grounded me for failing that test.”
“Aww, that's too bad. Well, if you're grounded, then won't he flip out if he finds out that you skipped?”
Leiah laughed, “He sure will.” Just then, Leiah realized how long she had been away. Her mind froze when she imagined how angry her dad would be when she got home. Leiah stood up and rushed for the door. Ben was puzzled, and yelled after her, “Where are you going?”
“Home!” She answered. “If I get there soon, maybe my punishment won't involve violence.” Ben gasped, then dashed after. She was already outside the shop, and running down the street. Ben sprinted after her, knowing that pure chaos awaited her at her 'home'. Ben knew that he couldn't beat her, she was the fastest runner in their grade. “Leiah!!” Ben screamed. Leiah turned around for about two seconds. That was all Ben needed. He ploughed into her, knocking her to the ground.
Leiah gasped for breath, “What the heck are you trying to do? If you wanted to piss me off, the you succeeded!! Now please get off of me!”
Ben pinned her. “Leiah, this is for you're own good. I can't let you go home and get yourself killed.” Leiah didn't understand then why he was doing this, but she finally gave in and let him take her back to his house. Once he lead her into the make-shift house, he sat her on the bench in the small room on the ground floor and raced upstairs. Leiah was startled to discover tears running down her face, then it hit her.
She looked down at her calf, and saw a rock submerged in the flesh. Somehow, it had managed to rip through her jeans and into her leg (must have been when Ben pushed her over). The rock wasn't small either. She reached down to pull it out, but the second she touched it, burning pain shot through her whole leg. She bit back a scream, then found herself crying harder. “Ben!!” She cried. “Can you come down here for a second?”
Ben ran down the stairs, then asked, “What is it AAAAAHHH!!! How the hell did that get in there?”
Leiah smirked. “It must have been when you tackled me. Can you get some tweezers?”
“I don't have any.” Ben replied. “I have a limited budget and those luxuries are beyond my reach. Besides, that rock is too big for tweezers.” Frustrated, Leiah began trying to think of the best way to remove it. She knew that pulling it out with her fingers would be very painful, but without tweezers, there seemed to be no other option. She reached down toward the rock, but Ben grabbed her forearm. He explained, “If anyone has to get it out, it should be Doc.”
Leiah frowned. “Who's Doc?”
“He's the doctor that lives next door. He knows my situation, and we've become good friends, which has something to do with me always using his bathroom.”
Leiah sighed. “Well, I don't know why you had to make me stay here, but we have to face Dad someday, why not now?”
Ben turned away. “I will tell you later. But for now, I just want you to stay here, okay?”
Leiah growled. “Well, I don't even have a change of clothes. My purse is at home, and all my money is in there. I don't think your uncle pays you to feed two people.”
Ben laughed. “You don't know who my uncle is, do you? His name is Hank Jackson, and he is the biggest tycoon in Mexico. He sends me about four hundred dollars a month.”
Leiah's eyes widened. “Then why the hell can't you afford tweezers?!”
Ben laughed harder. “To be honest, I have never needed tweezers until now, so I never thought of it. But the food bill alone amounts for a little over $150 a month. For two, that's $300. That leaves the rest for other stuff...”
Leiah interrupted. “Wait, I've got to go home, and the rock is still stuck in my leg. Can we go see Doc now?”
Ben looked at his watch. “Well, I think he might still be in the office. I'll go over there right now and see.” Ben ran out the door, and slammed it behind him. Leiah relaxed, and wondered again how long the feeling would last. When would she be free from all the running and the worry? She sighed. “I guess that's what comes with being a child of domestic violence.”
Just after she finished talking, Ben burst through the door, followed by the doctor. He was a tall man, short black hair adorned his head. Glasses framed his face, But his goofy smile just ruined his whole image. Leiah felt sort of reluctant to let her secrets loose in front of him, but she didn't really have much choice.
Doc asked, “Are you Leiah? Ben has told me so much about you...” Doc was cut off as Ben pulled him into the other room. Leiah sat still, confused. Meanwhile, Ben hissed, “Don't tell her anything, alright?! She doesn't know.”
Doc whispered back. “Well, when do you intend to tell her? When her parents beat her to death? Look, worst case scenario is, she says no and you cry for a while and move on. You have to take a chance once in a while. If you never leave your comfort zone, them you will miss out and someone else will steal her away from you. Do you want that?”
Ben leaned against the kitchen wall. “I just can't. I'm her only friend, and wouldn't she be devastated to find that if she doesn't like me, and I stop being her friend? I couldn't do that to her. I'll just watch from a distance, and smile when she finds love for herself.”
Doc shook his head. “That never works. I tried to do that with my best friend and I ended up crashing her wedding. She hasn't talked to me since. That way of thinking only makes it worse. Its better to tell her and get rejected than to have to wait until its too late.”
Ben sighed. “Well, I want to wait until she has got some of her problems solved. Then I'll confess.” Ben walked out of the kitchen (what was left of one) and back into the room where Leiah was. Doc sighed and whispered to himself, “God, don't let that boy make a fool of himself.”