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Thu May 19, 2011 12:53 pm

Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:14 am
Posts: 504

Chapter 1 - Jess
Do you ever just wish you could be someone else? Right here, right now, I wish with every bone in my body that I could be someone big and strong, someone who immediately gained respect and fear from anyone within five yards of them.
In reality I’m just a fifteen-year-old girl, lying in bed. I’m trying- and failing, to block out the shouts, the screams and the smash of breaking china. I’m trying- and failing, to protect my sister from it too.
“Jess! I really think we should go down and see if Mummy’s ok!” said my little sister; Poppy, from under my duvet.
Poppy was only five. Not old enough to understand, not young enough to remain oblivious. I had promised myself that however much stress and pain I had to endure- Poppy was never going to feel the same way. And so although I hated lying to her, I had to protect her.
“It’s alright, Pop; they’re just having a little argument. Mum’s probably being clumsy again; she’s probably dropped another plate or something.”
Mum was often ‘clumsy’. She regularly had bruises on her arms, cuts on her face and she’d even sustained a cracked rib from ‘silly accidents’. I could see through it now, but I wish her tales were true. No one should have to accept that their Dad is using their Mum as a human punch bag.

I heard the shouting stop and the door slam. It was a routine now; Dad would come back from work at six, have an outburst by about eight, and head straight to pub to get out of his face. He’d then be back from somewhere between ten and eleven, with drunken apologies and guilt-gifts. And of course – she would take him back. No matter how many injuries he gave her. No matter how much he hurt her. She would always forgive him. Forgive him, lie for him, protect him, whatever he wanted- she’d do it… she was an obedient doormat.
I feel guilty for saying that. It’s not like I’m much better- I hate my Dad - with a burning fiery hate that makes it hard to even have a conversation with him, but I’m also scared of him. And I would never be able to stand up to him. All I do is listen to him hurt her, listen to him destroy the person I love the most. I wish every day, every night that I could do something, that we would leave him forever, start a new life on our own, just me, Poppy and Mum. But it’s pointless. Nothing’s changing.
“Wait here a minute Pop; I’m just going to check on Mum. I’ll call you in a minute; you stay here and watch TV for a bit, ok?” I asked, not wanting Poppy to ever witness Mum in the state I knew she’d be in right now.
“Ok” she said, looking happier now that I was going to investigate.
I left her wrapped up in my bed as I went downstairs and into the kitchen.
“Mum? Where are you? Are you alright?” I called out to the empty kitchen. It was spotless, except for a shattered plate and an upturned chair on the floor.
“I’m fine honey. I’m just washing my hands,” I heard Mum call from the bathroom next door. I honestly don’t know why she even bothers to lie to me anymore- after the amount of times I’ve picked her off the floor and cleaned her up … like the time I phoned the ambulance when he’d broken her jaw. And when he’d fractured her wrist. And when she needed stitches in her cheek. The list could go on.
She emerged from the bathroom not looking as bad as I’d expected. The only give-aways were her red eyes, swollen lip and the trail of scarlet blood that stained her blouse.
“You’re going to need to change your shirt,” I said. Her lip quivered as she glanced down at the blood. I felt mean for being so brusque with her, it wasn’t her fault she was so delusional. She couldn’t help loving him I suppose.
“Come here”, I said pulling her into a hug. I smelled in her sweet perfume and fruity shampoo and was instantly home.
“Oh Jess, I’m such a bad mother,” she cried, tears leaking out over her re-applied mascara.
“Don’t say that. You’re not.” I growled. I hated the fact she always blamed herself, like she was asking to be beaten, like she wanted to make me feel scared and pressured all the time. It wasn’t her. It was him.
She pulled away and sniffed. She was so tiny and fragile that she looked like a little girl. I felt like I was responsible for her, I was protecting her and Poppy too. But I wasn’t enough; I couldn’t protect them properly.
“I’ll just get a new top, babe,” she said after a while. She wiped her eyes, giving herself black smudges and then I watched her trudge up the stairs. She re-emerged a few minutes later with a fresh top and smiley face.
“Where’s Poppy?” she asked me from the top of the staircase.
“Watching TV in my room,” I said, and then shouted up to her, “Poppy! You can come down now.”
I heard her little footfalls bound down the hallway and saw her fling herself into Mum’s arms. She was so little, so easily pleased – a hug and she had a beaming smile plastered on her cheeks.
They were my life; the two fragile little people at the top of the stairs. They were the ones I cared about most; they were the ones that mattered the most, the ones who shouldn’t ever be hurt. And at the same time, I was letting them down, leaving them vulnerable.
“Let’s watch a DVD!” said Poppy, practically dragging Mum down the stairs. She always brought me down to earth. I pushed my worrying to the back of my mind for another night and followed them into our living room.
We had our ‘normal’ hours, the only times we ever get to act as a proper family. But for me the hours are always too short, and spoiled by the inevitable knowledge that he’ll be back.

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