Took a little bit of a break but I will get back to this shortly. The alternate writing program I am using is giving me something of a hard time. I own several licenses for Microsoft Word but on other PCs. I guess I take it for granted it would just be free on this laptop.
A Mason jar was gripped in Vanessa’s hand. She was running about her yard, every so often stopping, searching…her eyes waiting for a small flash of light in the near-darkness of sunset. When she saw the bioluminescence she darted towards it, capturing it gently with her free hand. Before it could escape from between her loose fingers, she plunked the small light into the jar.
Holding it up to her face, she couldn’t tell how many of the lightning bugs she had caught, but it seemed like a bunch. She brought them into the house and ran into the bathroom to make a better count. She had at least twenty-five.
She shut the lights in the room off, waiting for them to glow…but none of them gave so much as a dim flicker. The small insects scurried to the top of the jar and clung on to the makeshift holes poked into the lid. Why don’t they ever light up in the jar, she thought. They would be cool to watch like a night light. They do on TV shows.
Vanessa showed them to her Grandfather. “I have twenty-five lightning bugs!”
“Oh wow,” he said, with gently forced astonishment. “Looks like you’ll have a LOT of pennies tomorrow.”
Her grandfather had told her that capturing fireflies made them turn into pennies overnight, not unlike the way caterpillars became butterflies. In some strange way it made sense, and she saw the proof the next day when a batch of pennies were left in the jar; although she questioned why some pennies looked old and some new. It was a fun summer way of making some money to buy candy at the store.
Beneath a massive statue of Jesus soaring upwards into the ceiling with a raised arm, a priest’s voice was echoing over the crowd before him. His speech was a strain of lingering words, like a voice extended for some purpose to sound like a song. It seemed to bounce all over the walls and go on and on…and it made her anxious to hear it and follow along. It was arduous waiting for the end of those sentences.
She was doing her best to sit quietly, to look like she was paying attention. She looked down at the row of thick Bibles being held by the back pockets of the pews. None of them appeared to have been rifled through. On the walls were the Stations of the Cross showing the misery of Christ. At least the statue at the front showed Him happily rising up to Heaven and not nailed to a cross and bleeding like others she had seen.
She swung her legs, which were wrapped in white silky stockings she hated due to their tightness, her feet clad in her “sunday best” shiny black shoes. She hated wearing dresses and her grandmother insisted upon it…especially on church days. She constantly picked at the thin fiber that bound her, snapping it back against her knee.
Suddenly everyone had to stand. She knew the routine but never understood it. Next would come kneeling and, sure enough, everyone had to kneel. Several people couldn’t so they instead sat back down, but then would soon have to stand back up again. She found this annoying, and how everyone seemed to do it in unison at some secret signal. Then was something else she watched the adults do which she tried to mimic…the use of the thumb waved across one’s forehead, mouth, and chest? It was as if they were shooing a bug away really fast from their noses.
She didn’t know what it was for but she tried her best to make it look like she knew what she was doing while waving the invisible bug away.
Slinking down against the back of the pew, sighing quietly while the priest continued to drawl on about something making her feel guilty, she saw everyone get up to go to the front of the church. They were to take the bread and wine communion, which were supposed to be the body and blood of Christ, which she wasn’t allowed to have yet. She wondered why people would want to drink blood, and if those little cookie-like wafers tasted like human flesh. Of course the adults told her they are bread and wine but became something else, or were merely symbols, but it was still something really strange to her.
Finally came the time when they passed out the collection plate everyone put money in, then turned to shake hands in an array of “Peace be with yous” and “Also with yous,” which meant they would soon leave. Finally.
“Why don’t I get to go up there?” she whispered to her grandparents.
“One day when you’re old enough you’ll get to,” they quickly responded with a hushed tone.
“Why do we have to stand and kneel all the time?”
“It’s just what we do to pray and show respect.”
“Why do we have to come to church to pray? I pray at home by my bed. Doesn’t God hear me there?”
“Yes of course, anywhere you are. Now shh, we have to pay attention.”
Then why do we have to go to a church and feel guilty? she wanted to reply.
After another church session she was only too happy to get free of, they arrived home so she could go seek out her firefly jar. It was devoid of crawling creatures but clanked with coins lying on the glass bottom. When she counted the pennies she had only found twenty-three. Vanessa asked her grandfather what had happened to the other two she was sure she had caught…he said there must only have been twenty-three since that was how many pennies there were.
She resolved to do a better job of counting next time, while her grandfather realized he needed to have more pennies on-hand.
Dammit Grandpa! You had one job, give her money!
Two dark brown eyes peeked from between a circular array of hanging blouses. The shirts smelled something like a plasticy perfume, with little hanging tags attached to the sleeves. Vanessa was out with her grandparents, clothing shopping at JCPenny. While her grandfather was elsewhere seeking out the men’s section, she was weaving her way from one mass of clothing to the next, playing a secret game of ninja…trying not to be seen by her grandmother while hiding amidst the apparel.
Ellen continued to browse at flowery-patterned button-down shirts…the kind she liked to wear while getting her hair done up in the salon. She would go every so often to keep her hair balled up nice, like the rest of the elderly ladies. It seemed to Vanessa that finding the right “petite” shirt must be a difficult process. It took ages. They all looked like carbon copies of the same style to her…boring, plain, and she didn’t understand how this could ever be a pleasure…to shop.
At least it was not, however, shopping for her own clothes. That would be even worse, as she would have to try on multiple pairs of pants or shirts that she couldn’t even choose, or even worse things like dresses and skirts. While Ellen was looking among a new set of blouses, she slunk away like a panther in the tall grass, merging with the clothes.
All over the soft carpeted flooring were small pins that glimmered in the light. They must have fallen down from the fabric. They were so small nobody would ever notice them unless they were bored out of their minds, looking for anything else to capture their interest. It didn’t take too long before Vanessa spotted them.
She picked them up as if to turn in to a cashier later, but had found so many, and there was no end in sight to them; she decided to do something else. Slowly, delicately, she started to stick the pins across her fingertips, just enough for the thin skin to hold them there in place. She had to go slow so as to not go too deeply or cause pain, but she wondered how many she could get in a row.
There was an abrupt thud on the ground from a few yards away. Ellen had clipped her shoe along one of the racks and tripped. She cried out from the floor.
Vanessa plucked out the pins from her fingers by tearing the skin. She leapt from her hiding place and ran over to her fallen grandmother, eyes wide and panicked, seeing her there on the floor. She could she the top of her nose bleeding.
“Vanessa!” Ellen cried with a gasp, “Vanessa, go get help!”
There wasn’t anyone around when she tossed her head from side to side, but she did know where Vito was, and she ran to get him from the men’s apparel.
Vito was quick as he could be to Ellen’s side, kneeling down on the floor beside her. He wanted to try and help her to stand but she refused him.
“I can’t, Vito! I can’t get up!”
“Ellen, just help me. You can!”
Vanessa jumped from one side of her grandparents to another, looking in all directions. She was on the verge of tears, not knowing what to do or how to help. Her grandmother’s eye was bruised from the floor.
“Are you ok, granma?”
Angrily, Vito left to find somebody in the store, telling her to stay put while he went for help. His expression was hurt and frustrated, noticing that no staff was anywhere around.
“It will be ok, right?” she asked in a rushed whisper, which came without reply.
Vito had returned with a cashier, and before long more people came. Vanessa had seen these types of people before…uniforms of medical personnel from an ambulance. They all tried to get Ellen off of her chest, to ask if she could at least roll over or try to work with them to stand. It was no good, however, and between her own tears she shut her mouth in refusal to all of their suggestions, waving them away with her arm.
Eventually, with prodding, they were able to get her onto a gurney and wheel her out to a waiting ambulance. Vito took Vanessa back to their Oldsmobile and would follow the vehicle to the hospital.
Ambulances and hospital visits would soon become a normalcy in Vanessa’s young life. It had occurred to her, now for the first time, that her grandparents were not as young as other children’s parents.
God that was scary.
By now, an adult would have expected the disappointment; but still in the mind of a child, there was always foolish hope. Once again Vanessa was perched on the front room couch, elbows dug into the back of it, knuckles holding up her cheeks. She had a small keyboard next to her, and when she got bored of waiting she would tap on the electronic keys a bit, figuring out the tune to “Chopsticks” or “Swanee River.”
Ellen peeked into the room, then cicked her tongue in what Vanessa considered an annoyed fashion, even though it was really one of pity. She shook her head and returned to the kitchen. There was just no use attempting to dissuade the girl away from the window. Might as well attempt to stop a butterfly from kissing flowers.
“Hey, when she gets here I will play a whole song, ok?” Vanessa called back to her grandmother.
“Ok,” Ellen answered in resignation.
Way past the time of intended arrival, that familiar red car pulled up the drive. Vanessa tried to play a song on her keyboard but the excitement was overwhelming, and her trembling fingers fumbled as if she was a toddler striking aimlessly. She gave up almost as soon as she began and sprang for the door.
Her mother, Cara, and younger sister, Jamie, were on either side of her. She was being squeezed in the middle while they all spun again and again, swimming in the daze of flashing lights and the loud sounds of tinny carnival music. She couldn’t hear much past all of their laughter as the mitten-shaped tilt-a-whirl went ‘round and ‘round. Cara was shouting flamboyantly as usual, practically yelling while waving at the carnies to kick it up another notch. With her prompting, the three of them grabbed onto the bar and leaned one direction or another to get the ride spinning faster than before.
Next they went to the Gravitron. Vanessa wasn’t sure what to expect from this strange ride. From the outside it looked like a spinning UFO covered in rainbow bulbs.
Cara said, “Oh, you will like this ride. It has a surprise.”
They filed in, then stood against the massage-table-like walls. As the ride began, she could see other kids and teenagers starting to stick against the walls as the tables slid them up of the floor. They squirmed to turn sideways or up-side-down, no belt to hold them in place, no handles to hold on to…only physics to save them from falling. She felt her body slowly being pressed back against the table, forcing against her belly and face. It continued to build, and she tried to resist it, until she couldn’t even peel her arms and legs from the walls - stuck like a fly against glue paper, unable to even move her head.
Yeah, baby, yeah!” Cara laughed out loud, easily the adult most uninhibited in the great machine. “Whoooo!”
Vanessa didn’t understand how from the outside of the machine she could see it spinning, but from the inside it didn’t appear to be. It was as if they didn’t move at all, only the tables as they suctioned everyone in place. When the Gravitron eased the pressure off, starting to slow, the tables slid back down, allowing them finally to move again and break free.
“Aww,” Cara lamented. “The floor was supposed to drop out! Why didn’t the floor drop out?! Come on!”
Jamie bawked. “The floor was supposed to drop out!?”
“Yeah, but this one didn’t. What a rip-off.”
“That would have been awesome!” Vanessa exclaimed, much to Jamie’s amazement.
“Well that’s ok. Let me show you the best ride there is!”
They wandered past cotton candy racks and coin dozers, with Cara checking all of the slots for loose change, and past the upteen carnie games to win stuffed toys. At the far end of the carnival was a ride that had several linked cars that were suspended off a hill-like path they were set to. A sign full of white and blue lights strobed “The Himalayan.”
When they got on the ride, Cara signaled to the carnie to be sure to give her daughters the best ride ever, clapping and whooping as if she had just won the lottery. She hugged her girls and told them to hold on tight as the ride began. After a couple times around, Cara shouted for the carnie to punch it, raising her arms up as if it was a roller coaster. The carnie gave her a wink and sounded a siren that burned into the ears, then kicked the Himalayan into high gear. Possibly due to Cara’s red-haired beauty, or maybe her crazed vigor, he ran the ride forward, then backward, and forward again, making the siren (and Cara) scream, pushing the ride to its physical limits. Even the seats tilted nearly sideways as they flew over the hills. All of the single little lights flew around them like streams of color.
Vanessa thought this had to be the best ride there ever was…only made better by having her mother and sister beside her. Would it always be like this if they lived together? There was nothing but happiness, and it felt so good to feel like she thought all of the other kids surely did who lived with their parents and siblings. All her mother did was have fun and laugh loud. Her sister got to have that all of the time.
Once the ride was over they stepped onto the grass with wobbly knees, having to recover from the exhilaration. Cara slapped the carnie’s hand as they walked off, “Thanks for the ride, babe!”
The night was coming to a close as their tickets for rides ran out. The stars had come out but they couldn’t be seen past the glow of the Carnival. Cara leaned over to Vanessa, and in a semi-excited tone said, “Come on, I want you to see someone.”
Vanessa didn’t understand, but followed along…anything to keep the night from ending. They didn’t walk far before Cara stopped, knelt down, and pointed to a crowd of people standing around a tent where a live band was performing. The rhythm thudded in the air and through the ground, so unlike Vanessa was used to hearing music. She could feel it pumping in her chest like life itself.
“Do you see that man?”
Vanessa smirked as if this was a joke. Maybe her mother was going to make fun of someone. “Mom, it’s not nice to point at strangers,” she whispered.
“That’s not a stranger. That’s your father.”
Vanessa looked back at the crowd of people in the tent, jarred silent, her smile replaced by shock. She didn’t know where her mother was pointing, but a man turned around and met her eyes. He had a thin mustache that melted down around his mouth to cover his chin like a goat-tee. His hair was black and his skin looked like it had been in the sun a long time. In his hand he held a beer.
The man smiled, slowly approaching her. “You’re my baby girl.”
But why was she late!?
She was always a couple hours late when she did arrive, but I’d say 70% of the time she didn’t even show up.
Don’t want to sound like a nosy bitch, but are you like mad or disappointed about that?
When I was a child it was very disappointing. Things that go through your mind are not all sensible at 9 and 10. I was jealous that my sister got to live with her and I didn’t understand that, nor why I was with my grandparents. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be with my sister and though maybe I just wasn’t loved enough or something by my parents, especially when she wouldn’t come like on my birthdays.
“You are a Puerto Rican,” Reuben said, looking down at his similarly dark-haired daughter. He held her on his knee, showing her a tattoo of a flag on his arm. The flag had the same colors of the United States’ stars and bars, but with only one star, and just three red bars to two white.
“But, I’m an American,” Vanessa replied. “I was born here.”
Her father took a swig of his beer and looked her straight in the eyes. His seemed wetter than normal eyes, almost as if they were glazed. She could smell the scent of his drink remaining on his breath. “No, you are Puerto Rican first, American second. You have my blood, Puerto Rican blood, and you should be proud to be Puerto Rican.”
She found it interesting how her father and those that were told to be her family said their words. Where she would pronounce it “porto-re-can” they would say it “pwere-toe-re-kin.” Her father’s mother, Melinda, even pronounced her name as “Banessa” rather than “Vanessa.” How strange it was to have another set of grandparents that lived someplace else.
This was all new to her. She was introduced to a family she didn’t know existed. She couldn’t remember all of their names and relations as she was introduced to them, there seemed to be so many. There were cousins, aunts, uncles, and multiples of such, all happy to have her around…save for her newfound sister, Isabel. Isabel was her same age, and yet any time she tried to play with her, she would start the game but then abruptly stop mid-way through. She didn’t pay Vanessa much mind and spoke to her full of attitude.
“You don’t even know Spanish,” Isabel snorted.
Half of the time the language in her father’s house was Spanish, and Vanessa couldn’t understand a word. It seemed snappy and fast. “Well, I grew up speaking English.”
“Yeah, ‘cuz you live with your grandparents that don’t know Spanish, and not with us,” she said full of disdain.
“Do you want to go play hide-and-seek or something?”
“With you? No.”
Isabel went off to her room, leaving her behind with her father. He had turned on the stereo and was listening to music Vanessa had never heard before; again, with words she did not understand. It didn’t sound as flowing or sweet as Italian music, she thought, but it had a lot of rhythm.
Reuben’s siamese cat, Pucky, idly rubbed against the speakers. Vanessa really wanted to pet him but he was standoffish, and wouldn’t allow much of it. She really liked cats, and Pucky was beautiful with his tan and black coat. She couldn’t resist, and went to touch him…but he ran. She followed him into the kitchen where Melinda was cooking something that smelled amazing. It was better than the sickly stench of the beer. In the great pot was a heaping amount of reddish-orange rice.
“Rojo Gandules,” Melinda said as she stirred the pot. “We also have this…” She pulled the lid off of another pot. Within it were the fully formed feet of pigs, hooves and all.
“EWW!” Vanessa gasped as she covered her mouth, lest the pigs feet leap into it while it was shocked open.
“You don’t have to eat that if you don’t like to,” her new grandmother smiled, “but a lot of Puerto RIcans like the pigs feet. But you can have just the Gandules, don’t worry.” She laughed gently and had a way of saying her words that set Vanessa at ease. This new grandmother made her feel like she really was part of the family, and had never been absent from it.
“Why doesn’t Isabel want to play?”
“Oh, she just get a little crabby sometimes.”
She went to check on her sister, who had started to play a game of Monopoly with some other children Vanessa wasn’t sure were family or not. She sat down besides the multicolor fake money and asked if she could play, but then Isabel said they were finished playing, and started to put it all away.
She could tell from everyone’s reactions that they were not at all finished playing, but returned to the living room where her father was watching football. She’d rather just ignore Isabel, even though she really wanted to play with her like she could her other sister that lived with her mother. On the table in front of the TV were various bottles of emptied beer. She sulked and sat across from them.
“Show me the ‘high-sign’,” her father requested, leaning back on the couch while patting it for her to slide next to him. The bottle in his hand seemed almost like a part of him…something he couldn’t leave set down for too long.
“What’s that?” she asked.
Her father flared his nostrils several times, laughing deeply.
Vanessa mimicked him easily enough, causing him to laugh even more. She smiled too, unsure why moving her nostrils was so funny. Was it some new kind of funny face thing?
“Daddy? What’s a ‘high-sign’?”
He couldn’t contain his laughter and didn’t respond other than to say, “That’s my baby-girl. You’re Puerto Rican!”
Oml Isabel you don’t have to be a dick… you could teach her Spanish smh
I’ve never understood why people are so mean to their siblings when they found out they had a half-sibling… I loved it when my half-sister came to live with us. (It might’ve helped that I was the only girl my parent had lol)
I don’t really get it either. It’s just how she was.
Also, guys, there will be some things coming up in this story that will be unsuitable for the open forum. The best way I can think of to tell some of these sections is to put them into a private message and invite people into it. I know some folks are probably reading this anonymously but it’s really the only way I can post EVERYTHING for you to read and leave nothing out…remember this would be explicit stuff.
That said, I will note in this thread when something gets posted privately, and those that do not want to take part in some of the more heavy material do not need to see it.
Those that would like an invite to the private material can send me a message through the forum and I will give you an invite when the story starts to get heavy.
WARNING: Content starting to get heavier
“We can’t keep her father from seeing her,” Vito sighed, rubbing Ellen’s shoulder. “It will be alright.”
She gave him a knowing, yet fearful glance, saying nothing.
The young girl bounded down the stairs wearing her nightgown, having just washed up for bed. She was taught to use the sink basin with soap and a rag to bathe on weekdays, but come Friday night she was permitted an actual bath, which she relished until told to get out. It was almost like being in a small pool, and she played with her dinosaur squirt toys until wrinkles appeared on every finger and toe.
Vito sat with Ellen at the kitchen table. Vanessa took her seat with them.
“I’m ready to play now,” she giggled.
Ellen loved to play Dominos. They would match the numbered dots and lay down as many pieces as they could at once. Sometimes they could even clear their entire hand in a single turn, scoring up all of the dots of their opponents for a huge lead.
It was another weekend she got to spend at her father’s house. There were less people around this time…just her father, Isabel, Melinda, and her father’s girlfriend, Andrea, who lived with him. He had invited a couple guys over to watch the game, and they all were drinking in the front room.
As usual, Vanessa tried to find Pucky, who was a bit more playful and easier to deal with than Isabel, even though he ran off most of the time. She had gotten a bit bored of trying to get Isabel to play. She snapped a ruler-like bracelet over the back of her wrist over and over, letting it coil around her again and again. They both were given the snap-bracelets, but even though they were the newest “cool” trend, Isabel turned her nose up at Vanessa’s interest in the new toy, acting like they were no big deal or meant for babies…she could take it or leave it. She preferred to stay in her own room.
Vanessa went into the front room to sit next to her father, but he too didn’t want to play. He was very loud with his friends, and his words were beginning to run into each other as if one word didn’t finish leaving his lips before the next came leap-frogging out.
She settled in on the couch next to the one her father and his friends were on, and fell fast asleep amongst the noise.
At some point in the early evening, Vanessa felt something moving over her belly. She stirred in her sleep, half in and half out of it, but then realized she was feeling something in the real world. It was a hand from one of the friends of her father, and it was gliding over her belly, a finger sliding beneath the rim of her pants.
A cold wave ran over her, and she pretended to still be asleep, but carefully tossed around as if having a bad dream, rolling over onto her chest and covering her face with her arm, hiding even with her eyes closed. She didn’t know what was happening or if the hand would stop. It did for a short while, but then it came back, running along the edge of the hem against her back, pulling her pants upwards as if whoever it was were trying to get a peek down them.
She slit her eyes open just to the point of seeing through her lashes. She could see her father still watching the TV, beer in his hand. Why didn’t he see what his friend was doing to her?
The fear welled up in the pit of her stomach. It didn’t feel good, this feeling. She swallowed hard and the only thing she could think to do was escape. Pretending once again to have a troubling dream, she whined and flailed slowly, mock waking up and rubbing her eyes, although she was quite awake already from the rush of adrenaline. The man removed his hand immediately and acted like nothing had happened.
Vanessa left the room, heading for Isabel’s.
“Can I stay in here?”
Isabel sighed as she combed her hair, “Yeah, whatever.”
After dinner her father’s friends had gone. Reuben saw them off and had to walk back up the flight of stairs leading into the house. At some point he lost his footing, careening backwards down the steps. Vanessa heard him crashing against the walls and immediately ran for the stairs. When she opened the door she could see him all the way down, a mess of tangled limbs.
“Daddy! Are you ok!?”
From below, Reuben looked up at her, a bottle still clutched in his fingers. He unsteadily got up, said he was just fine, and more slowly made his ungainly way up the stairs. Vanessa went with him, hanging onto his hand as if to provide support. He went straight to his room and collapsed on the bed. Still worried, Vanessa clambered onto the bed with him, hugging him until she too fell asleep.
“Who are you!”
A voice jolted her awake, yelling into her ear with a long, snarling drawl. It carried with it the stink of beer.
“What are you doing in my bed! Who are you!?”
Reuben grabbed the little girl by the hair and lifted her up to see her face. She was squirming, and tears were already escaping her eyes.
“Daddy, it’s me! Vanessa!”
He growled down at her and swung her around by the head, then pulled her in tighter, ignorant of her squeals of pain. “You some slut, some whore in my bed!”
“No, daddy! Please, it’s me, daddy!” She didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t understand how he didn’t know who she was. She grabbed at his hand pulling her hair, but there was no fighting against his strength.
He lashed out and viciously grabbed at her chest as if he could determine who she was by what he felt. Desperately she tried to get free of his groping hand, to no avail. Then, slowly, the tightness of his hand ebbed against her head, his other hand pulled away.
Reuben’s voice changed to a softer tone. “Vanessa?”
She sniffled, afraid to move in any way, having to will her lips to speak. “Yes,” she stammered with hair strands sticking to her wet face. “Daddy….it’s me. I’m Vanessa.”
“Oh, my baby girl!” he happily smiled, pulling her into an embrace that she was terrified not to allow. “My baby girl!”
Her eyes widened as she went against his chest, crying into his shirt with small clenched fists. She trembled against him and took her breaths shallowly, as if him hearing her breathing might unhinge him once again. She was unsure what his hands might do next, or if he would hurt her again while he hugged her against him.
My marks of “like” are to represent that I have read that part of the story.
That’s what I’ve been doing too lol
WARNING: Disturbing Content
Ellen and Vito were not too pleased when it came time once again for Vanessa to visit her father, but legally they could not prevent it…yet. They worried, sending her away for another weekend, and upset due to their daughter, Cara, starting all of this by introducing Reuben back into the picture. However, when it was Reuben’s weekend to get Vanessa, he never failed to do so.
It was another night with her father and his girlfriend, Andrea. Isabel was also there, and as haughty as ever. Even though they were the same age, they didn’t play at all like sisters…or even friends, and seemed to have nothing in common.
Isabel was playing “California Games” on the Nintendo system they had in the kitchen. It was hooked up to a very small portable TV set, with a few rented games on the side. Vanessa watched, zealous for a turn, her eyes following the surfer as he jumped the waves. Someone in the family had brought it over for the weekend.
“Can I play?” she asked. Patiently she waited.
Isabel, like clockwork, instantly got bored after she spoke, “Sure, I want to do something else anyway.”
With the controller in her hands, Vanessa nearly merged with the game. She wasn’t very good at the surfing but she tried a few others, and instantly fell in love with the technology, no matter what game she tried. The Nintendo was something she really would love to own, and she didn’t see how Isabel could just take it or leave it, especially when they could play together. She had left the kitchen and not come back.
Vanessa didn’t realize how long she had been playing, but she was trying to survive in “Nightmare on Elm Street.” When she finally realized that Isabel wasn’t just leaving to get ready for bed, and would be coming back, she set the controller down. Something wasn’t as fun about the Nintendo, playing it alone, and Isabel had no interest in playing Mario Brothers or Duck Hunt with her either.
In the living room she could hear a commotion. Andrea had started shouting in Spanish. The language in her ears always sounded a bit angry, but she went into the living room to see, because what she often heard as anger was not correctly presumed. When she entered the room, her father, Reuben, was standing in front of Andrea, and she was backing up from him, keeping the couch between herself and his approach.
She didn’t know what they were saying, but their postures were clear enough to read. Her father was trying to get ahold of Andrea, who was looking around for something to use in defense. She picked up an empty beer bottle from the table nearest hear, gripping it by the neck like a weapon. Reuben’s eyes were unblinking and large, his movements like a stalking cat as he edged closer to her, rounding the couch.
In a swift motion Andrea struck, slamming the bottle against Reuben’s skull. Pieces shattered everywhere.
It didn’t so much as make him flinch, his glassed eyes filling with newfound rage. When he spoke English his words were slow, almost growling, building pressure behind them.
“I can’t hear out of this ear, Andrea. I can’t hear out of this ear…I will kill you, Andrea, if I can’t hear out of this ear.”
Isabel had snuck up behind Vanessa at some point, watching as well. Vanessa didn’t notice, her heart racing as she took in the sudden violence happening in front of her. She could see the blood running down her father’s head, and splatters of it on Andrea’s shirt.
“Please don’t fight,” she tried to say, but the words resisted leaving her throat, coming out as a choked whisper.
Andrea ran, pushing the girls into the kitchen. Once again, Vanessa didn’t understand what was happening, only that pure survival instinct was taking over her veins. Reuben closed the gap between them easily.
Andrea reached for the phone on the wall but Reuben instantly tore the cord out.
“Trying to call the police against me!?” he shouted. He grabbed the phone’s cord and ripped it out of Andrea’s hands, flinging it on the floor.
Andrea, Vanessa, and Isabel were on the opposite side of the room to him, the kitchen table between them. Reuben grabbed hold of it and flipped it to the side as if it were nothing, kicking chairs out of his way.
“Get over here!” he lunged and grabbed Andrea, who was like a flailing worm in the clutches of an eagle. She struggled against him and yelled for the girls.
Vanessa darted from the room, Isabel close on her heels. They ran past the living room and made for the stairs, exiting out the front door. There, Isabel ran for the backyard.
“Isabel!” Vanessa panicked, “not that way! We have to run!”
“No! You go!”
“Isabel!” she pleaded, wishing Isabel would listen at least this once, but even now her stubbornness flew in the face of personal safety. She wanted to reach out for her, to force her by the arm to come her way, but she heard someone stomping fast down the stairs. There was no time.
She ran out into the street, her bare feet striking the black pavement in quick slaps. She could feel the harshness of the road and bits of gravel sticking into her soft soles, but she kept running, her nightgown trailing from her speed. She didn’t know where to run to.
When she looked back she could see her father’s form coming after her, but not Andrea’s. Isabel was nowhere to be seen. Tears careened all over her face as she ran down the center of the street, hoping anyone at all would see her. There was a small corner store that appeared to still be open down the road…silhouettes of people were there against the bright lights from the windows. She had to make it there.
The only thing she could scream was for help, over and over again, as loud as she could against the night air chilling her tears, whatever her throat would allow.
Her father was behind her, but people came out of the store. Three men stopped him in his tracks, letting her continue to run…and run…and run.