I can’t take it anymore. I need to leave.
Hope moved around her small room hurriedly, throwing whatever she could find into her backpack. She didn’t have much money saved up, but she knew if she didn’t leave now she might not have another chance.
It was almost dark outside. Sneaking out of her room, she made her way down the stairs as quietly as she could. Hope knew that her step-father was watching television; she could hear it blaring out of his bedroom. Her heart pounded wildly against her chest, trying not to think of what he would do if he caught her sneaking out. Her arms and legs still ached from the beating she had received earlier.
Very slowly she unlocked the front door and eased it open. As soon as she stepped outside,Hope broke into a run. Adrenalin coursed through her veins as she flew through the streets, the houses a blur of brown and the trees a blur of green. It seemed like forever before she slowed down to take a breath. Hope looked at her watch, normally by this time she would have been instructed to make dinner. After that her step-father would permit her to eat whatever remained on his plate; usually morsels. She would then lie awake for the rest of the night listening to her stomach rumbling and waiting for her step-father to fall asleep. Once she heard him snoring in his room she would make her way down to the kitchen to find something to eat. Hope always made sure not to take too much food in case he noticed and gave her an extra beating. Sometimes she had no choice but to endure it in order to avoid starvation.
The night sky was gradually getting darker and the breeze was getting chillier. Hope looked around nervously, where would she go? She had no friends at school she could stay with and no family that lived nearby. Her stomach growled loudly; she had to take care of that firstly. Hope continued walking until she found a fast-food restaurant. Ordering the cheapest items, she sat down and tucked in hungrily. She had only managed to steal twenty pounds from her step-father’s wallet; he rarely kept cash lying around. After the meal her eyelids started to feel heavy, leaning her head against the window, she dozed off.
‘Hello, excuse me!’ someone shouted in her ear. Hope opened her eyes groggily, startled by the loud voice. An employee of the fast- food restaurant towered over her like a predator over its prey. His hand was on her shoulder and he had an impatient look on his face.
‘You slept here all night didn’t you? What do you think this is? A hotel?!’ he barked at her harshly. The employee grabbed her roughly and pushed her towards the door. Hope wasn’t bothered that she had been kicked out; at least she had a good nights’ sleep. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes she pondered what to do next. She decided to walk around until the shops started opening. Hope expected people to look at her curiously and ask: ‘What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be at school?’
But no one gave her a second glance. She was grateful for the anonymity.
At school she didn’t exactly blend in, nor did she stand out. Hope knew people occasionally talked about her; the way she behaved, the way she looked. On numerous occasions she had been called into the counsellor’s office. Sometimes Hope would deliberately skip appointments and other times she would fabricate lies about how she got her bruises. Everyone knew. No matter how hard she tried to cover them up with bruises- everyone already knew. Sometimes when she walked past groups of friends they would whisper: ‘There’s the girl that gets beaten up by her father.’
‘Step-father’ another would correct them.
I didn’t mind. I didn’t mind that everyone knew. But what I did mind was people trying to “help” me. The fact is that no one can help me. What exactly would they do? Try to “talk” to my step-father? No. That would just make things worse, that would be like asking for extra beatings.
Hope was so caught up in her own world and her own thoughts; she didn’t notice where she was heading. By the time she came back to her senses, she found herself sitting on a bench in a cemetery; the one her mother was buried in. Hope didn’t let herself think about her mother too much. She could handle thinking about the beatings and thinking about starvation. But thinking of what life would be like if her mother was still alive gave her a pain so unbearable that she would have to stop whatever she was doing until it ceased.