Rose scraped ointment on her torso. Bruises in various shades of healing dotted her midsection, thighs, and arms. Tiny white scars dotted her skin like freckles. He never touched her face though. Ever since mom died a few months back, he had fallen off the rails. He would go to work late and disorganized. He would come back drunk and angry. Rose tried to be upstairs when he entered but, if she made the slightest of sounds, he would storm up into her room. The scent of cheap beer would waft off his clothes as his fists pummelled her. His old wedding ring would occasionally leave little cuts in her skin.
Rose had screamed once. Her fathered dropped his bottle in surprise. Turning to her angrily, he picked up a large shard and carved deep cuts down both of her sides. Now, she sat in bed and traced the scars. That was a particularly bad night. A storm had raged all night and only picked up during the day. Her father didn’t come home the following night. She had cried for hours and skipped school. But today the blue and purple bruise right over her left ribs was easily covered up under a think, cashmere sweater.
Rose grimaced with pain as she flung her backpack on and grabbed a breakfast bar. She looked at herself in the mirror next to the front door. Her makeup gave her skin a dewy look but if you looked closely you could see how empty her eyes were and how colorless her skin has become. She stretched the corner of her lips upwards into what she hoped passed as a smile. Hearing a horn beep, she ran outside, locked the doors, and slid into the backseat of Riley's car.
Katy and Riley both turned to greet her. Suddenly their faces switched into pictures of worry.
“Rose, are you okay?” Katy played with the ends of her hair as she asked the question.
Rose looked up alarmed and nodded vigorously. “I’m fine guys. Why?”
“I don’t know but you look as down as the clouds outside.”
“Maybe it’s the weather.”
Riley nodded and tentatively agreed, “Maybe…”
However, eventually both of them turned forward again. Rose looked out the window, missing the looks her friends exchanged. Katy turned the radio up and a storm warning blasted through the speakers. Everyone jerked in surprise and Riley batted Katy’s hands away to change the station. Eventually, rock music replaced the monotone voice of the weather reporter and everyone relaxed. The rest of the ride was uneventful.
Riley and Katy were walking back to the car with Rose when a football player walking backward slammed into Rose. She yelped as his elbow connected with her left ribs. She fell onto her knees and he pivoted around. Apologies flew from his lips as Rose nodded tightly and attempted to get up. He reached his hand out and helped her up. Riley wrapped her arms around Rose’s hunched figure and glared at the boy. Rose squirmed and waved away the football player, murmuring about how she should have been looking too. He left after another slew of apologies. Katy reached for the hem of Rose’s shirt so she could see the bruise. Rose yelped again and jumped away. Katy was studying to be a doctor and read medical journals in her free time. She would instantly be able to identify signs of abuse. The wind tossed the girls’ hair as they started walking to Riley’s car again.
Katy looked at Riley. Rose always jerked away from people’s touch but that leap was hiding something else. They couldn’t do anything just then but they were going to tell someone first thing next morning. Riley dropped Katy off first because she had to babysit her brother. Then she turned the car into a street a couple of blocks away to drop off Rose.
“Rose you know you can tell us anything right? We love you and nothing is going to change that.”
Rose nodded again with tears in her eyes and her hand cradling her side. “I know Ri. I know.”
As she watched the car drive off, Rose wiped the tears from her eyes. Neither of them knew how bad it was. She knew they were beginning to suspect something was wrong but neither knew it was her father who nearly killed her during that stormy night a few weeks ago. She opened the front door and tossed her bag down. She heard an angry sound in the living room and froze. Looking to her right, she noticed her father’s work bag leaning against the wall. He was home.
Within a few seconds, her father stood in the doorway to the kitchen. His fingers clasped loosely around the neck of a beer bottle as he charged towards her. This time curses and accusations flew from his lips as he kicked and punched every inch of her.
“It’s all your fault! You stupid girl! If you had been paying attention then she never would have died! You should have warned her! You are not my daughter! You are a bratty fool who has only ever been a thorn in my side.”
His voice slurred and stuttered. His fist connected with her face and the night of her mother’s death flashed before her eyes.
It had been raining heavily and a drunk driver had swerved into the wrong side of the road. The driver’s side took most of the impact and her mother’s head hit the steering wheel as Rose was thrown towards the dashboard. Her body ached and her head spun as she turned to her mother. Clumsy hands reached for her face frantically. Blood was everywhere and her mother’s eyes were open, unmoving. Rose screamed. The scream was filled with grief and pain. She screamed until paramedics cut her seatbelt and sedated her. The last thing she saw as her eyes closed was a man covering her mother’s lifeless face with a white sheet. The face of a beautiful woman who shined brighter than the sun and sang along to the radio. A woman who gave her daughter some of her light and told her to make it her own. Rose’s heart shattered as darkness pulled her into its inky folds.
Rose lay in the foyer of the house. She couldn’t move. All she could hear was the ferocious storm outside. Wind rattled the windows and raindrops battered the roof. She reached a tentative hand to her face and they came away red with blood. She could feel pain in her nose, cheekbones, and in her head. The light in the foyer seemed a little too bright. She tried to sit up but her ribs painfully protested any movement. Some were definitely broken. Her arms could barely hold her weight as she pushed herself up against the door. She could see bloodstained cuts in her clothes. She used the handle of the door and pulled herself up. Her teeth grinded together as broken ribs stabbed her with every breath she took. Rose pulled the door open and disappeared into the storm.
She stumbled as the gales of wind threatened to fly her away. Rose was losing consciousness. The feeling of pain was subsiding as darkness eagerly invited her from the edges of her vision. She grabbed a nearby railing and dragged herself along it. No one was out in the streets. She just had another block to go. Then she would be in Katy’s street. Moaning out loud she pulled herself another few feet. Slowly she inched her way to Katy’s house. The lights were on inside. It looked warm and homey. She probably shouldn’t disturb them. The rain no longer felt punishing and brutal. It almost seemed to wash away her pain and her sadness. She smiled. She could just let go. She could just give in. She slumped against the door and her hand slipped and activated a motion sensor. She smiled wider and began to give in to the too bright light coming from the streetlight. Then suddenly the door opened and she fell into the house. Blood immediately stained hardwood flooring. Katy’s blue eyes filled Rose’s vision as she giggled deliriously and ran her hand over the floor.
“So soft. Kate, your eyes… so blue… so pretty.”
Kate eyes shone with tears as she quickly handed her brother a bag of chips and sent him to his room. Dragging Rose to the kitchen table, Katy’s hands flew into motion. She reached for the first aid kit in the drawer next to the fridge. She pulled out the disinfectant and pulled Rose’s top off. Rose jumped and yelped as the fabric rubbed against bruises and cuts. Tears spilled from Kate’s eyes as she did her best to disinfect the cuts and put bandages on. She grabbed an ice pack and pushed it against Rose’s ribs to keep it steady. Rose obliviously obeyed as she muttered about how the rain sounded like bullets. As she carefully pulled off Rose’s jeans, Katy used voice control to call Riley. She silently thanked whatever Gods who were listening that her parents loved all kinds of techy gizmos. Her voice was steady, a doctor’s voice as she explained. Her eyes kept dripping tears but her hands never wavered. She carefully dressed the injuries all over Rose’s legs. Then she looked at her face. Her nose wasn’t broken so she carefully cleaned it and put a gauze pad on it. The cut on her right cheekbone was shallow and didn’t need immediate attention. Finally, Katy’s eyes fell upon the massive bruise on Rose’s forehead. She reached for it, ignoring Rose’s protest about how she was “blocking the beautiful sunlight”. She cleaned the blood and pressed another ice pack onto her head. Rose definitely had a concussion. She was mumbling unintelligibly about bullets and rain and bright shining lights. She kept apologizing between breaths.
Riley entered the kitchen, wet and harried. Her eyes were brimming with tears as they wrapped a blanket around Rose and carried her out to the car. Katy pulled Rose down into her lap so she could keep pressure on the ice pack on her ribs and the one on her head at the same time. Rose’s skin was so pale. She had lost too much blood. Katy’s hands could feel the obviously broken ribs under the ice. Riley wiped at her eyes as heavy silence blanketed the car. Thunder boomed and Rose giggled again. Riley’s worried eyes met Katy’s in the rearview mirror. The emergency room was brightly lit as they rushed in with a nearly unconscious Rose between them. Doctors and nurses surrounded them and quickly put Rose on a stretcher and pulled her away. Another nurse walked over.
Katy collapsed into a chair and let Riley talk. “We knew something was happening with her at home. Since her mother’s accident she wouldn’t let anyone touch her. She jumped at the slightest sounds and flinched whenever you moved too fast. She thought she was being subtle but she wasn’t. We were worried but she pushed us away. It went too far today.”
Katy spoke up tiredly. “My house was closest to her so she somehow stumbled her way over. I have no idea how considering the condition of her legs. She activated a motion sensor and I opened the door to her deliriously wondering about giving in to the darkness. I dragged her to the kitchen table and fixed her up as best as I could and called Riley. I couldn’t think well enough to call an ambulance. I was too frenzied and too shocked. Then Riley was there and it would take half the time to get here than wait for an ambulance.”
The rain was letting up a little as Katy walked outside and called her parents to explain the situation. They promised to be home in 15 minutes, pick up her brother, and then come to the ER. Riley walked up beside Katy and they stared into the rain. Pelting down in sheets. They were both thinking if Rose ever felt sadness like rain. Soaking her and dragging her down. Making her already weighted shoulders droop a little lower each time. They gripped each other’s hands and walked back inside.