I sit with my back against the wall in his tiny office, my arms wrapped around my knees. Maybe if I curl up small enough, he’ll forget about me. Maybe he’ll stop drilling me with his eyes. But he doesn’t; he loves the sound of his own voice, as he talks on and on about my duty and responsibility to stay with them forever until he finds a suitable mate; about his own authority over me; about all the bad things he could do to me, using the Old Testament as his example.
The trials you now are facing,
They are not greater than your will,
For there is nothing under Heaven,
You cannot overcome.
This song plays in my head as I sit there and listen to him for hours. She is sitting there too; she never sits in on our lectures, and her being there means something. This isn’t an ordinary lecture. It’s longer, and worse.
His words make sense as they come out of his mouth, but I can no longer feel anything but desperation. I may go to hell for it (and I definitely will, according to him), but I can’t do this anymore. Somehow he has not broken my will completely. Somehow, there is still a small spark of life in me, deep inside.
See the door that lies before you,
And know – this too shall pass.
The confrontation of your fears,
In strength drawn from the past.
Will he ever finish talking? The words jumble in my head, tumbling around until they are meaningless. I try not to tune him out completely, because I have to remember at least something that I can bring up at the end when he says “Well, what do you think?” I usually say “You’re right”, which mostly satisfies him. He is always right; he has to always be right, because in his own words, he is god to us.
Where the silent voices whisper,
‘Find the course that is your own,
And however great the obstacle,
You will never be alone.’
It’s been at least three hours, maybe four, since he called me from my room. I had heard the kids playing outside. I didn’t know it was the last time I would ever hear them, or I would have gone to the window to watch them play. By now they were all in bed; it was late.
He finally stops talking. I struggle to remember what the last thing he said was, but he had only paused.
“Well? Are you leaving? This is your last chance.”
If I stayed, I died. Physically, mentally, it didn’t matter — it was my death warrant. But if I did leave, I was damned to hell.
For I have watched the path of Angels,
And I have heard the Heavens roar.
There is strife within the tempest,
But there is calm in the eye of the storm.
Twenty minutes of silence. Twenty minutes I didn’t look at them. Twenty minutes, the song running through my head on repeat. Twenty minutes of agonizing terror. What if I said something? What would he do? Saying nothing seemed safer. I sat for twenty minutes, wrapped up in myself. Maybe if I say nothing he will leave. Maybe I don’t have to decide anything. Maybe everything will be okay.
I open my mouth, dry lips cracking. “I need to use the bathroom.”
I could feel his frown. I could sense he was about to deny me that.
“I need to go, too,” she said. He would listen to her.
“OK, let’s take a little break. You’d better say something when you get back.”
I flee to the bathroom, which is the only place in the world I can be alone. I sit on the toilet, and pull out a little paper packet from my pocket where I keep my sanity. A few neat little lines on each leg, and the terror isn’t quite so paralyzing, but I still don’t know what to do.
I can’t stay in the bathroom forever. I flush and wash my hands, and walk back to the office. I curl up again.
Ten minutes. If this is my only chance, I have to say I’m going. But I can’t; these are the people I’m closest to. I can’t hurt them; I love them. Am I willing to sacrifice myself? Am I willing to give up everything I’ve ever known, and start on an unknown path, completely alone?
“What are you going to do?” she asks him.
“I don’t know, but I feel like knocking her block off.”
Terror grew again, but also a growing certainty. If I continued my silence, he very well may do bodily harm to me. If I speak, it couldn’t be worse.
I’m taking back my love,
taking back my pride,
taking back my dreams,
and my life.
This is the ground,
I will defend.
A rage of Angels
bears the end.
I’m taking back my hope,
taking back my goals,
taking back my memories,
and my soul.
this brand is forged…
to my Crusade.
the future belongs to the brave.
Another song started running through my head.
The future belongs to the brave.
I was not brave, but my future was mine, and mine alone.
With courage face the thing you fear so the pawn becomes the queen.
“I’m leaving,” I whisper.
“What did you say?” he asks.
I clear my throat and say again, “I’m leaving.”
A sense of calmness washes over me. It was over. I wait for a response.
For a long moment, nothing happens.
“Why are you leaving?” he asks, in a surprisingly conversational tone.
I wrack my brains trying to think of a suitable reason that he will accept. Anything besides the fact that I was being smothered to death in that household.
I finally think of something. He probably won’t accept it, and I’m not used to sharing any of my actual thoughts with him anyway, and especially not her.
“Because…if…I love someone, I want to do things for them because I want to, not because someone tells me to because I say I love them.”
The antithesis of everything he ever told us about how to love his god was out in the open. This was, after all, the reason I stayed: if I loved his god, and wanted to follow him, I was supposed to do everything he told me to. It wasn’t my belief, it was his. It wasn’t my love, it was his.
“Okay,” he says. “You have tonight to pack up your things. Ben will take you into town tomorrow morning.”
I’m in a dream. I’m numb.
I leave the room, stumble up the stairs to my bedroom that I share with my next sister. She was as close to a best friend as I had.
She’s still awake. I kneel by her bed and take her hand. I realize I will never see her again. “Beth,” I say, my throat closing up.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” She’s worried for me.
“I’m leaving,” I choke.
To my dying day I will never forget the way she said that one word, and there’s no way I can describe it. It cut me to my core.
“I have to,” I whisper, hoping she will remember everything we had talked about the last few months. She, more than anyone else in the house, knew what a hard time I was having.
She’s crying. I’m crying. We’re holding hands and hugging, when the bedroom door bursts open.
“Elizabeth,” he says, “Go to the girls’ room.” She obeys immediately.
He gives me a hard look. “Stop crying. This is your choice. You did this.”
I’m in agony inside. I’m a good pretender. I put on my mask for the last time.
He brings me cash, and a piece of paper. “I closed your bank account. Here’s the amount that was in it. Sign this paper to show that we don’t owe us anything and you won’t [I don’t remember what it was, something to the effect of “you won’t take us to court” I think].”
I sign. I just want this to be over. I can’t fathom why I would want to do whatever it was he was talking about.
I pack my things. I had made a list a few weeks ago, but it was on my computer. I try to remember everything on my list.
My brothers take turns shadowing my every move; one brings my boxes out to the trailer, the other watches me.
I fix Beth’s broken pearl necklace, and leave it for her in the shape of a heart, hoping she would see it and know this wasn’t because I didn’t love her.
I finish packing, then go downstairs. She had requested some photos and files that only I had. Because I want as little ill will as possible, I copy the files to her computer, dozing on the floor.
Six AM, and everything is done. I wait.
[I don’t remember what happened between 6am and 10am. I don’t remember if I slept, if I was awake, or anything.]
Ten AM. I hear the kids waking up, but she’s telling them to stay in their rooms. I’m a rotten seed. I can’t be around them, lest I taint them as well. I can’t even say goodbye.
I find the cat pennybank I was going to give to my baby sister on her birthday in four weeks. “Can you give this to Elle?” I ask.
His face is a mask of fury. “No. You don’t deserve to give her anything.”
My cat works her way out of the box I put her in, and runs downstairs. I begin to panic. I can’t leave without her. My brother helps me catch her again, and put her back in the box.
“Once you leave, you can’t come back. Not unless Scottie is dead.”
I was going to check my bedroom again, but he stopped me. I grip the cold iron rail of the stairs.
“Any children you may have will have to be left with someone else. You can never see them again. And you must be prepared for things to be worse for you than they are now.”
Some tiny part of my brain gives a wry chuckle at that last comment. Worse? What could be worse than what they had already done to my soul.
[I think more things were said. I don’t remember.]
I climb into my brother’s pickup and we drive away. I say nothing. I’m waiting for this horrible dream to be over.
“What made you decide you’d rather go to hell than live with your family?” my brother asks, breaking the silence.
I try to think of what to tell him. He never listens to me anyway. He is far too much like our sire. Finally, I tell him exactly what I had said the night before.
[I don’t remember if he replied.]
We get to the vet’s, I board my cat, just like I had planned weeks before. I’m glad I had planned something. It helps, knowing what to do already. We go to a storage unit, and unload my things, then we go to a motel where I rent a room for a week.
My brother leaves. I close the door, lock it, and sit on the bed. I suddenly have the urge to call and check in with the parents. I ignore it, and sit. Alone.
I don’t know who to trust. I don’t know who my parents will get to before I can say anything. I have no phone, no transportation, no job. I’m completely numb.
I walk down to Walmart, just down the street from the motel. I stop at the McDonald’s inside and buy two hash browns. I’m not hungry, but I know I need something in my stomach. I take a single bite, and can’t eat any more. I wander to the back of the building, and buy a prepaid phone. I activate it, and call Scottie.
I’m wandering around Walmart in a daze, talking to him on the phone. Finally I sit down. I’m on the verge of a panic attack, and mostly incoherent.
I manage to buy a few toiletries before I walk back to my room and set up my computer. I buy black nail polish…because I can.
Scottie has to go to work. I’m in my room. I remove the stupid internet filter from my computer…because I can.
Then I realize I had left my last diary, the one that had everything about the last few months in it, at their house. I nearly panic, until I realize there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m gone. They can’t hurt me, even if they know my private thoughts.
I hear a knock at the door. It’s my brothers. They brought a few things that I forgot…including my diary.
They leave, so I check Facebook, and my family has me blocked. My inbox is crowded with messages.
Are you OK? What happened?!
I find out from my cousin that my parents sent out a letter to all my friends and family, telling everyone they are no longer going to have anything to do with me and that I’m on my way out of the state, running away with a bartender I barely know. I hope everyone thinks they are ridiculous and don’t listen. I tell them what happened, and that I’m okay. I paint my nails black, because I can.
An estranged friend contacts me and asks me if I need a place to live. I do. She asks if I want to hang out with her and her friends. I go, because I want to. Before I go, I take pictures of myself, to document this.
I am free.
[Songs listed — Quicksilver, The 8th Square, and Eye of the Storm, all by Cruxshadows.]