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Tomorrow: Chapter Twenty-One

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After my initial reply, Adam and I sit across the desk from Boss and wait for her to start in on me with questions. She sits for a little while, quiet, making me nervous. I just want to get this over with, but I know that's not how it works. We'll talk at her pace, not mine. I'm the one that came in to talk, but she's the one asking the questions.

Adam's hand is on my shoulder again and he squeezes it reassuringly, bringing a slight smile to my face. I never thought I'd trust a guy even this much--no one other than Garrett, anyway--but I guess I can be wrong. Sometimes.

Boss licks her lips, reaches for a pack of gum and starts chewing. The smell of strawberry-peppermint invades my nose and reminds me of Evangeline. I shake my head as if that'll clear my mind of those thoughts. It doesn't, but Boss' first question does.

"When did the abuse begin?"

I take a deep breath and let it out fast. Rip off the bandage.

"Almost ten years ago. On my eighth birthday."

She sits back in her chair. There is no surprise on her face, just the cool, calm Cop-look, but I know the signs of surprise. If I wasn't so mentally unstable I'd make a wonderful shrink considering how easily I can read people.

"Where did it first happen?"

My heart beat speeds up and a shudder ripples through me. Snapshots from that day cut through my mind and cover my vision. My breath catches as Stepmonster's voice invades my brain like his DNA infiltrated my body.

"Philena." Adam's voice trickles through the cracks, hot water over ice, helping me to open my lips and answer Boss.

"The wheelchair stall of the Men's restroom at the Zoo. It was supposed to be my birthday party, but no one showed... I later found out Stepmonster had never sent out the invites at all, but by then it didn't really matter."

Boss' face doesn't change, but I can tell she's confused by my term 'Stepmonster'. I suppose I should have just called him my stepfather, but as far as I'm concerned, he is no father of mine, step or not. Adam's fists are clenched, but Boss glances at him and the tension drains from his hands into the rest of his body. I'm shaking, but it's no more than when we first walked into the building.

Boss sends a cool gaze my way and she sighs. I know what question's coming. I've already filled out the paperwork. My hands were shaking as bad as an elderly woman after four large strokes, but you can mostly make out what I wrote. I've already consented to a medical exam. I mean, there's nothing they can do if they don't have evidence. It frightens me, telling them so much, but it frightens me more to think of having to go back to that house where Stepmonster is probably well into his first bottle of Jack and Mom is buried in the back. I'll have to report that next. I'm surprised it hasn't already escaped my lips, but apparently my mind doesn't function very well with fear coursing through my veins. Oops.

"Will you testify in court?"

I like Boss. As Mom would say, she's not Willy Wonka, she doesn't sugar-coat stuff. She just says them.

But that doesn't make the question any easier to answer. Nor does the fact that I'm the only one who can or will testify against him. Well, maybe Garrett will. No, my lips still seal up and nothing I tell myself will open them up.

"Xanderson, we haven't got all day. I know this is difficult, but-"

"-He killed my mom!" It just slips out. It's not an answer to the question, it's not related to anything she was trying to say, but the way she softened her voice reminds me of that last day and how my mom acted without his influence- without the drugs.

"What?" Adam's cry of surprise fills the room and my eyes fill with tears.

"Th-Three weeks ago they ran outta their drugs. I-I don't know what kind they are, I don't know if he sells them, I d-don't know why he didn't just go out and buy more, but he didn't... He immersed himself in Jack like always and I... I thought my mom would do the same, but she didn't. T-Two weeks ago..." The images flash through my mind and I clutch my stomach. My mom's voice runs through my head, soft and kind and apologetic. We were going to be okay, her and I, if we could have just taken Stepmonster down... but we couldn't.

"Two weeks ago, he murdered her in our dining room. I-I don't know if you'll find any trace of it in there... I don't know what he cleaned it up with... but..." Oh, Mom, I'm so sorry... "but you'll find her in the backyard."

Sobs claw their way up my throat as I rock back and forth in the chair, but the words don't stop there. No, they just keep coming and I have no way of stopping them.

"He-He used me as a replacement... a week ago he raped me... a-and he hasn't since. I-I was off my pill, my period was supposed to start six days ago... i-it didn't." I hold up the pregnancy test as the sobs slowly die and my breathing becomes less ragged- more deep.

I hear Boss speaking, but she's not speaking to me, so I allow myself to drift away on a cloud of sleep.

***

They found my mom's body and I've agreed to testify in court. I'm living with Garrett now though I feel bad when I wake him from his sleep because I'm screaming in mine. He says he doesn't care so long as I'm safe, but it's hard to believe it fully as I sit across from him at dinner and watch him nod off.

I don't know how long it will be before I stop screaming, before I stop drowning in nightmares everytime I close my eyes to sleep. I don't know how long it will be before I can sleep without the assistance of non-habit forming sleep aids, or how long it will be before I can cope without my knife, but I do know one thing:

I got out and if I could, then there's no reason every other child in every other abusive situation can't.

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