Settle in, my fair readers, for this week’s work is a bit on the unnerving side. New WPN writer, Jessica Farley, takes us inside the mind of a troubled girl. A girl who was put into an impossible situation. A girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders before she has even made into her teens. We’ve all messed around with notions and different possibilities when we are left alone with our thoughts, but Leah must reflect on the terrors of the things that have happened in her past, wondering whether or not she has made the right decision to finally speak up.
Leah was wearing the floral dress with the ribbon that tied up around the back and the lace detail around the shoulders and neck, the one usually reserved for church and baptisms. She was trying to keep a strong face, even though all she could feel was butterflies. She wished they were the kind that came while heading up a steep hill on a roller-coaster about to plummet down, rapid descent intertwined with exhilaration. But she was here, in a courthouse, shortly after her tenth birthday, waiting to testify. Her heartbeat was so loud it felt that it might crack her ribs and punch its way straight out of her body.
In this lonely office, she gripped her teddy, trying to push her pain away, tears fell down her cheeks onto her freshly pressed dress. Worried she might ruin her appearance and lose the case, she reached for the Kleenex on the district attorney’s desk. She blew her nose and then patted her face with another tissue in order to dry the loose tears.
At parent teacher conferences every semester the same words were spoken. ‘She’ll go far. She has so much potential. She’s such a well-mannered, bright girl.’ Yet she was sitting in a place that could only haunt a mother’s nightmares. Leah could do anything, honor roll, various dance lessons, play the flute and participate on the softball and basketball teams; however this life changing moment would affect her for years to come. Sitting alone in a dimly lit office, she reflected on the situation. Flashbacks of endless weekends of him sneaking into her bedroom late at night fluttered her mind. As each painful memory ripped through her, her body juddered, and her gripping fingers displaced the stuffing in her bear’s body.
Many young girls dream about their first kiss. Who will it be with? Where will it happen? Will it be any good? But not Leah. No, she learned at age six. She woke up to her step-father bent over her, kissing her lips and tracing his fingers along her body. Scared of what to do, she just laid there and pretended to sleep. It was awkward and she felt violated. Worried her mother might not believe her or even worse get upset with her, she decided it was best to pretend it didn’t happen. Besides, how does one bring such a topic up with their mother anyway?
While most girls wanted to invite their fathers to daddy-daughter dances; she found comfort in avoiding him by curling up in her bed, hoping he’d leave her alone. He was only her step-dad, so what right did he have coming into their lives and messing with it?
Leah tried to keep her mind busy by looking around the office. She noticed the carpet in this office was similar to her Barbie dream house. She wished it was just her Barbie dream house and she could be playing house with her dolls. Even chores sounded better than sitting here. There was a glass jar filled with an assortment of chocolates. She wanted to grab a chocolate, just one, remembering the many times her mother spoke of chocolates making her feel better. But she was too nervous to move and feared they might walk in at any time. She wasn’t a troublemaker and this wasn’t the time to start.
Everything inside her was shutting down. The butterflies continued. Leaving the note in the bathroom for momma to find was a horrible idea. She was hysterical. Ten o’clock was near approaching, but not fast enough. Every tick edged her deeper into sadness, knowing it was only just beginning, the worst of it, still to come.
Her mother left for a pop ages ago. Or at least it seemed like it as time was barely inching by. Just then, the door opened and in came her mother with what looked like sorrow in her eyes.
“It’s going to be okay baby girl. Almost over!”
“But—I’m not ready. What if I say something wrong?”
“You could never be wrong. And I’m so sorry that you went through this. I should’ve noticed. I should’ve—”
“Momma.” The little girl wiped a tear from her eyes and tried to calm down her panicked cries. “I’m not ready, I can’t—”
Her mother hugged her tightly, cutting off her circulation. “Breathe baby. In… one, two, three. Out… one, two, three. Slow. Deep Breaths. In… one, two, three. Out—”
The door swung open. A man walked in and sat down.
“It’s all over.” The man took a deep breath, “He’s pleaded guilty. You’re free to go home.”
Leah’s breathing slowed down. Her chattering teeth and crying dissolved. All that was left were puffy eyes and a few splotches on her dress.
Her mother brushed a few freshly fallen tears from her eyes and whispered in her ear “We’re going to get through this. Together. I promise.”
She gave a half smile to her mother and quietly asked, “It’s all over?”
“Yes, baby girl. It’s all over. Let’s go home.”
Much of the power in this piece lies in the little details. The sorts of things only a child would notice when she is fighting with the harsh realities of the world. You can almost feel the butterflies in your own stomach twisting and turning as Leah wrestles with the responsibility of doing the right thing, and the repercussions that come with telling the truth. Check us out next week as we introduce more new writings to the WPN blogosphere (and, most importantly, to the world).