by Liz Carroll  

The grass is cold against my cheek. Blades tickle my throat, the gravel of the curb digs into my knees. The insides of my eyelids feel foreign. My body isn’t mine. The sneaker pressing into my spine isn’t mine. It’s attached to a leg, a torso, another body. That body is his.

“Answer me!” A sneaker presses harder into my back. The ground is soft, I don’t mind. I can’t remember the question. “Are you listening to me? Answer!” My heavy eyelids flash open. I blink the red out of my eyes, it is flowing from above my eyebrow. More drips down. I close my eyes. There’s too much. “Are you f–king kidding?”

He had pulled me by my ankles from the passenger seat of his truck and onto the ground. I made him too angry this time, the punishment couldn’t wait until we were home. It had to be right now. The venue didn’t matter, nobody bothered him, he was too intimidating. Our neighbors knew not to confront him. They knew what he was doing. Everybody was too afraid to save me. I’m too afraid to save me, too. The sneaker won’t stop.

I open my mouth to tell him. I forget, I’m sorry, I can’t. Dirt flies in. I choke and cough. His sneaker keeps pressing. The ground feels less soft than before. The blood dripping in my eyes mixes with tears.

A fist closes on my t-shirt. The shirt is his, he wants people to know I am his. The grip twists and I feel the fabric tear before I hear it. His iron hold pulls me off the ground like it’s nothing. I am nothing. He’s told me countless times.

“Are you going to answer me or not?” his breath tickles my ear. Not the same kind of tickle as the grass, it’s the kind that makes your body alert. I try but all I can feel is liquid in my eyes and a burning ache in my spine. My feet aren’t touching the ground. I stretch my toes and I can feel air between them, warm and heavy. I can’t remember his question.

“Yes.” I hope this answers him. I hope he puts me down. I hope the grass is still cold.

“Yes, what?” His words smell like beer. I can taste cigarettes on his breath. Not the good ones, the cheap kind from the convenience store by the movies.

“Please.” I don’t know what to plead for. The grass? Better cigarettes? For my feet to touch the street? We are in front of a house, I don’t know whose. Yellow with white shutters.It’s curtains are drawn, but it’s still inviting. I don’t know how. There is a child’s bike on the driveway. It has a basket and training wheels. She must be young. Maybe she’ll end up better.

“No.” His grip disappears and I fall. I scream. I don’t know why. I can’t tell if my body is hurt from the impact. The grass isn’t cold anymore.

“What’s going on?” A male voice comes. It’s nicer, as inviting as the house it came from.

“Go back inside.” His sneaker is on me again. “She deserves it.” It presses harder into my back. The burning pain becomes a wildfire. “Tell him what you did.” I can’t remember.

“Get off of her!” The voice was approaching. The curtains open, a woman and children are watching. “Sir, please stop! Linda, call the police!” The woman disappeared. The children still watch. A little girl with pigtails looks scared. Maybe the bike is hers. I hope she’ll be okay.

“She knows what she did!” The sneaker prods me. “Tell him!” My mouth opens and a hollow groan comes out. “I said tell him!” He’s angry. My ribcage is numb from the continuous impact.

“I didn’t come home,” My voice sounds like gravel.

“Why didn’t you come home? Tell him why you didn’t come home.”

“I was at the hospital.”

“Why?” His sneaker winds back and connects with my stomach.

“Mom saw bruises.” Each word tears my throat further. I am on fire.

“What did you tell her?” It connected again and again, kicking me until I couldn’t breathe.

“Nothing!Nothing!” I shriek, over and over. My brain is telling my limbs to curl up, protect myself, do something, but my body won’t respond. I can’t move. “I didn’t tell her! I didn’t tell her anything, I lied!”

He doesn’t believe me. I’m on the ground and his sneaker won’t give up. It collides with my legs, my chest, my face. My nose cracks. There’s more red than before.

“Sir, stop!” The man runs at us with his arms waving. The man wasn’t intimidated by him, I don’t know why. The sneaker disappears. My back is shattered. My bones are melted. My skin is torn and burned. I am nothing, he told me so. I roll over. The sky is blue and beautiful. Red rims my eyes, wet and thick. I close them, my tears bead and drop off my cheeks. The darkness is welcoming. My eyelids are mine again. Sirens are approaching. His pickup truck rumbles and leaves. The man shouts after it, the woman kneels next to me and asks if I am okay. Her fingers are warm when they touch my cheek.

Liz Carroll is a native of New Jersey, with a passion for writing, reading, and mac and cheese. She writes fiction and poetry in her free time in the hopes of becoming a novelist.