I slam the bathroom door and stare in the mirror as the blood from my head blurs what I see. The sticky fluid irritates my eyes as I struggle to calculate the size of the gash above my right eyebrow. I can feel the blood pumping through my forehead, sending a pulsation of pain with each beat. The person in the mirror looks like a character from a horror movie, and really, I’m not surprised. In fact, my life has been a nightmare tonight, and it wasn’t all that great before I dashed in here, blood streaming down my bruised face.
The bathroom I’m standing in as I try to calm my breathing is one of the four rooms in the small house in Ridley, New Jersey, which is the only place that I have ever called home. Tonight, the dark interior of this ratty structure can’t be blamed on the night that is creeping slowly in the windows. Instead, I think the gloom is a product of the drama that has just played out in my living room. What I have experienced is a bad dream—but real—and the cut on my forehead proves it.
Because the house is so small, hiding out in the bathroom is pointless. But I’m sure that someone will be coming for me at any moment. Adrenaline is still pushing through me as I jump into the bathtub and hunker down. My body fills the cracked porcelain structure, and I vow I’ll make anyone who comes for me drag me away, yelling and kicking. I refuse to leave without a fight. My butt is already feeling tender from my rigid position on the cold ceramic. But I’m not going anywhere—someone is coming for me, and I’m not going to make it easy.
I try not to think about the string of events that brought me to this point, but I can’t help myself. The evening ended with everyone leaving the house—and me—behind. Principal Doonesby left the house with a concussion. Del, my dad, left with a pair of handcuffs affixed to his pudgy wrists. My mom left with screams of hysteria, upset over the scuffle that resulted from her own constant selfishness.
She and Mr. Doonesby have been flirting for months. I was well aware of their get-togethers, and I had rolled my eyes at my mom’s flirtation and ignored a situation I could do nothing about. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were secretly dating. But my dad, an appliance salesman at the local Save-Much, is a jealous guy, and he did not like the idea of battling the middle-school principal for his wife’s attention. Dad’s uncontrollable temper is often followed by equally uncontrollable fists.
My mother’s shampoo bottle sits beside my left shoulder. It’s an expensive brand that she swears makes her hair look and feel like a movie star’s. I’ve never seen any difference—her hair is always poofy, dry, and bleached of any natural color. I knock it off the edge of the tub and then hug my shoulders. I’m so angry at her. My thoughts are racing. I’m fifteen and only a week away from my freshman year of high school. I’m not scared—I’ve been involved in a few scuffles in school, always ready to give an underdog a little extra help. My best friend Reggie and I are on the wrestling team, and we have a knack for the sport. Because I often find myself standing up for the kids who are bullied, I sometimes get teased for being a “Boy Scout,” but overall, the middle school experience hasn’t been too painful. I’ve heard a few girls call me “cute,” even though I don’t care much for my black hair and green eyes. But none of the girls have much use for a kid as poor as I am. Well, if I was poor then, I’m less than poor now, with neither Dad nor Mom giving me any indication that they will return anytime soon.Click here to return to book