By Cassidy McGuire
My father was an abusive aristrocrat. He always left my face alone because it “reminded him of my mother.” Any B’s or C’s on my report card and he’d go nuts, force me into a dark room called “Happy Rock,” and lock it. I would sit in that room until he came to get me. Sometimes I would be in “Rock” for a few hours—sometimes a few days depending on the “severity.” He would always apologize, saying it “won’t happen again,” but it always did. I always knew he was lying. My father, if drunk, belted my hands, ribs, and legs; even then, he was in a fury.
My mother left me when I was six. Whenever I asked my father, he told me to leave the subject alone.
I was running away when a man found me.
“Hey, kid, you don’t look too well.” He was friendly, caring, and almost too sympathetic. I turned to run because of my fear. After the malicious treatment my father gave me, I developed a deep distrust of men.
He smiled in sympathy, but I tensed. “I don’t trust men.”
“Hey, come on, kid. I can be trusted! What’s your name, kid?”
He kept calling me “kid,” which I took as a pet name. But I was still not convinced. “How do I know you won’t return me to my father?”
“Because one of my friends distrusts men, too. Come on, kid. Put a little trust in me.” He patted my right shoulder, one that wasn’t treated by abuse, and smiled. “What’s your name?”
“I’ll only tell you my first name. It’s Brett.” I tried to jerk away when I realized I was really hungry. My stomach was growling for all the city to hear.
“’Hungry, Brett?” He was shadowed, because he was wearing a hat, but he assumed a confident air around me.
“Starving. I haven’t had a decent meal since I was ten.” That was the year that my father turned abusive, and four years after my mother disappeared. My father, the care-free but firm man, turned into my worst nightmare.
“Come on, kid. I bet Red Lobster is open.” He pulled me to his car. It was a purple Chevrolet with red velvet faux-leather seats. Needless to say, I was impressed.
“’Like it? This baby’s a fuel-injected four-wheel drive with turbo twin engines, 638 horsepower, and one fuel tank to go 65 miles per gallon.”
I got in immediately, food on my mind, threw my stuff in the backseat, and buckled the seatbelt.
“’Ready for the first real meal in years?” he asked, getting in through the driver’s side.
I eagerly agreed as we sped off to the restaurant. After a hearty meal—four bowls of shrimp scampi and two pounds of snow crab legs—we headed off to a small two-bedroom house with a garage.
He parked his car outside and led me in. It was dark, almost dragging me back to my days in “Rock,” when he turned on the light.
“Make yourself at home, Brett,” the man smiled.
After I turned ten, Dad barred me from TV and phone, and only homework research was allowed on the computer.
But I wasn’t in my father’s clutches anymore. So, deviously, I turned on the computer and searched up a YouTube video. It was what a girl in my class blabbed about often. It had the song “Blessed” by Christina Aguilera on it. She must’ve loved the song and it hooked me in an instant.
I loved the freedom this Samaritan gave me. It was true to the word free. Sweet relief swept through me as I knew I could trust this man. He gave me a home away from the lifestyle I went through. He was a human-training Dog Whisperer.
I saw something white and wiry out of the corner of my eye. I wondered, with a hint of fear, what it was.
“They’re headphones. Use them when you feel like it.” His eyes were a sapphire blue.
“By the way, you never told me your name,” I smiled.
“It’s J.J.G., James J. Gordon.”
That solidified the first friendship I had since I was ten. I started to regain my childhood. Over the weeks, James took me out to all types of restaurants to help me get back to normal weight. He took me to an acupuncturist to help me learn to relax around men. On Wednesdays, he had to work 11-2:30 as a therapist; then we would play videogames until dawn.
A month of safe haven later, I was starting to fill out a little. My arms were still bruised, but they were healing and I was able to trust men again, especially James.
It was obvious my dad didn’t give a hang about my absence. There were no Missing Person’s reports about me anywhere. The news showed nothing on Brett Adams’s absence. The internet or the papers didn’t show any sob stories.
But that Wednesday, everything changed.
James, I call him “Uncle J. J.,” had to go to work, but I knew he would be back to go head-to-head with me later. As long as I was with Uncle J. J., I was safe. As long as I was in his humble abode, no one could touch me.
I had made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when the mail came. After I ate, I noticed a letter addressed to Brett Adams.
Heart pounding, distrust starting to peak, I opened the letter, It read, in a very messy scrawl:
You know you can’t feel safe forever. I’m coming to get you.
But there was no signature. My dad always signed his letters, so I could deduce that it wasn’t his writing. Uncle J. J. also signed his letters, so I was left with the suspicion that someone was out to get me. And my agony would make it hard for my newfound trust.
To keep my mind off the mysterious letter, I searched up that “Blessed” video again. It was a good video and it helped to ease my fears.
At one o’clock, I heard a knock at the door. Thinking it was my acupuncturist, I went to answer. She always came on random days, except on Sundays, when she would go to church.
It wasn’t her.
Instead, a big hulking man with furious beady eyes was there. It wasn’t my father. Nor was it Uncle J. J. Shaking and sweating, I tried to take a few deep breaths. It might be time to fight, but he was huge and bulky, and I was small and ribby. Deciding that fighting his guy was no option, I ran up to my room, got in the closet, closed the door, retreated to one wall, and tried not to think of “Rock.” My whole body was shaking and shivering so much I heard my ribs rattle. The sound almost masked the
sound of the door breaking. I tried to push myself against the wall on one side of the closet, trying at the same time not to whimper.
A few minutes later, it seemed like the person left the premises. But I was not about to open the door just yet. All of a sudden, the door opened and I retreated further. I didn’t have much stuff, so not much noise emanated from my retreat. I got only to the wall.
“I know you’re in here. You can’t hide forever.”
There was one other choice. When the hand was near, I kicked it. Gunfire followed as the man was caught off-guard. As he fell backward, I jumped over and raced for the door.
I fell down at the door. Looking behind me, I saw a dart in the crook of my knee. I tried to pull the thing out, but I was paralyzed.
I heard heavy footsteps.
“When Uncle J. J. finds out,” I fought against the sedative’s effects, “you’re going to need a lawyer…”
As the darkness wrapped all around me, I had a bad dream. It was of my father dragging me to “Rock” again.
I felt someone tap my unbruised shoulder, and I shot up, hitting my head on something hard. “OW!” I also realized I was awake. Dad wasn’t dragging me to “Rock,” Uncle J. J. was probably looking for me; and my dream was all it was—a sick, twisted, evil nightmare brought on by a drug or fever.
“Geez, dude, calm down!” someone told me. I didn’t know who the voice was, but it was a bit squeaky.
I panted. “Just a bad, fever-induced dream,” I whispered.
“Uh, I think you mean drug-induced. That sedative knocked you out for several hours, man,” I heard another say. It was a boy’s voice, more like those stereotypical voices you might hear on television, often given to the guy of African American descent.
I stretched a bit. “Well, I’m awake now. What’s going on?”