It's an understatement to say that Stepmonster wasn't all too happy when I got home twenty minutes late. But because he was hungry, he let me make dinner first. Small reprieve, but a reprieve all the same. He had me sit down next to him and watch him eat. Not that I was hungry. In fact, it made me even more thankful for the stop at the cafe that Adam made.
Stepmonster tried his version of small-talk.
"So what were you doing with the snitch?"
I tense and quickly glance in his direction, trying to see if I can read him. Trying to see why he wants to know. There is no obvious giveaway, so I look back down at my side of the table, empty of everything but my hands, knotted together.
"There was an--um, a situation at the school and I missed the bus, so he offered a ride. I-I was just being polite when I said okay."
It's an obvious lie to me, but thankfully he buys it, nodding his head and finishing his dinner without another word. Waiting for him to finish is almost worse than a beating. At least when he's loud and aggressive, I know what he's going to do. When he's quiet, I have no clue.
When he's done, I clean up the mess and wait for him to either pass out drunk or get aggressive. He doesn't.
I walk into our living room and sit in what used to be my dad's favorite chair. It's just a raggedy, old, purple recliner, but it brings memories of him to mind. Stepmonster doesn't touch it, thankfully, so while it may smell of cigarrettes just because of the air around it, it still has a hint--an undertone--of old smells. Mom's favorite perfume is hidden in one of the corners from when I spilled it once when I was four. There's the black ink stain on one of the arms from Dad's music-writing days. Apparently, before he got so sick, Dad was working his way from small gigs at bars to larger concerts. Then he got sick.
I hear Stepmonster's breathing behind me and tense, waiting for noise and and pain that never comes. Instead, he whispers very quietly, "Did you take your pill this morning?"
He means my birth control pill. He knows I called it in a few days ago and ran out yesterday. I counted wrong. Stupid. I shake my head in reply.
Good? What does he mean, good? He never does anything when I'm off of them--he's at least that smart. Can't have me going to school pregnant, ya know.
I get up from the chair and back away from him, putting the back door to my back. He grins, a predatory grin, and chuckles, taking a swig off of his favorite bottle and walking towards me like one of the crazed killers in horror movies. Only this isn't a horror movie; this is real life and he doesn't have insanity reflecting from his eyes, just calm, icy certainty.
"Come here, Philena... you're going to give me the heir your bitch of a mother denied me."
I turn the knob and rush, backwards, outside, running around the side of the house to the front, because there is no way out through the back unless I want to climb the fence. Our neighbors have a pitbull. Not the smartest idea in the world.
I would do anything not to have run smack into Stepmonster right as I ran around the front corner of the house, though. Even get mauled by a pit. He grabs my elbow to bruise and shoves me inside. I land on the rug in the entryway and that's as far as I get. When I try to get up and run, he kicks me in the ribs. He repeats this procedure until I can no longer fight. Until I can no longer move.
So I lay there, close my eyes, and I wait for it to be over. I wait for him to be done, so I can run to my room, lock the door, and write a letter to Garrett:
If I told the truth... If I told the police about Stepmonster and... and everything,
would you take me in? Would you be my guardian until I turn eighteen?
I leave my room only once I know he has passed out in bed, sneak down the stairs, and drop it in our mailbox. Tomorrow is mail day. I will get my answer soon.
Please let me get my answer soon.