When I'm Gone

By: Abbi Glines

Prologue



Reese


“Come here, girl!” My stepfather’s voice bellowed throughout the house.

Instantly, my gut twisted. The sick knot that came from being near him and knowing what he would do to me was a constant companion.

I stood up slowly from my bed and put the book I was reading—or trying to read—down carefully. My mother wasn’t home from work yet. She was supposed to be home by now. I shouldn’t have come back from the library so early. A man and his young daughter had come up to me while I was looking through the children’s picture books. He’d started talking to me and asking me my name. He’d wanted to know if I was getting a book for my little sister.

The embarrassment that came with that question reminded me of my stupidity, as always.

“Girl!” my stepfather roared.

He was angry now. My eyes stung with unshed tears. If he would only just beat me like he used to. Back when I was younger and I brought home poor grades in school. If he would just call me names and tell me how worthless I was . . . but he wouldn’t. Once I had wished more than anything that he would stop hitting me. I hated the belt, and the welts he left on my legs and bottom made it hard to sit down.

Then one day, he stopped. And I instantly wished he’d go back to hitting me. The bite from the belt was better than this. Anything was better than this. Even death.

I opened my bedroom door and took a deep breath, reminding myself that I could survive whatever he did. I was saving my money from the housecleaning jobs I had, and I would be leaving here soon. My mother would be glad I was gone. She hated me. She had hated me for years.

I was a burden on her.

I tugged my shirt down and tucked it into the shorts I was wearing. Then I pulled the shorts down so they covered more of my legs. It was pointless, really. I had long legs that were hard to cover up. There were never any shorts at the thrift store long enough.

It was only an hour before my mother got home. He wouldn’t do anything that she could walk in on. Even if she did, I wondered if she would accuse me and say it was my fault. She had already blamed me for the way my body had changed four years ago. My breasts had grown too large, and she said I needed to stop eating because my ass was fat. I had tried not eating, but it hadn’t helped my bottom.

My stomach had flattened out, and it had only made my chest look larger. She hated that. So I started eating again, but my stomach pudge never returned. One night, when I had walked into the living room in a pair of cutoff sweatpants and a T-shirt to get some milk before I went to bed, she slapped me and told me I looked like a whore. More than once, she called me a stupid whore who had nothing but her looks to get her anywhere in life.

Now I stepped into the living room to see Marco, my stepfather, sitting in his recliner with his eyes trained on the television and a beer in his hand. He had come home from work early.

His gaze swung to me and slowly trailed up my body, making me shiver with disgust. What I wouldn’t give to be smart and flat-chested. If my legs were short and fat, then my life would be perfect. My face wasn’t what attracted Marco. It was average enough. I hated my body. I hated it so much.

Nausea crept up, and my heart raced as I fought back the tears. He loved it when I cried. It made him worse. I wouldn’t cry. Not in front of him.

“Come sit in my lap,” he ordered.

I couldn’t do it. I had been able to avoid him for weeks by staying away from the house as much as possible. The horror of having his hands up my shirt or in my pants again was too much. I’d rather he killed me. Anything but this.

When I didn’t move, his face twisted into an evil sneer. “Get your stupid slutty ass over here, and sit on my goddamn lap!”

I closed my eyes, because the tears were coming. I had to stop them. If he’d just hit me again, I’d take it. I just couldn’t stand him touching me. I hated the sounds he made and the things he said. It was a never-ending nightmare.

Every second I stayed back was a second closer to my mother getting home. When she was here, he called me names, but he never touched me. She might wish I didn’t exist, but she was my only salvation from this.

“Go ahead and cry, I like it,” he said, sneering.

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