As I laid in my bed, a loud crash echoed from the living room, waking me up. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and listened to see if I heard it again. I knew I couldn’t go downstairs. I wasn’t allowed. My daddy’s number one rule once he put me to bed was I had to stay in my room. “Stay up here, Squirt, don’t come down those steps. Do you understand me?” I gave my daddy the same response every time he told me that. “Okay.”
I didn’t understand why it was a rule. Why did I have to stay there? What if I had to pee? What if I got thirsty? He seemed to have a party every night when I went to bed. Sometimes there were loud voices downstairs, voices I didn’t know.
I went downstairs once after my dad put me to bed, and a lady with long red hair sat on my daddy’s lap on the couch, rocking back and forth. When she noticed me, she didn’t stop, the lady kept doing it, but she closed her eyes and made a funny noise. I never saw the lady before, so I asked, “Who are you?”
My dad turned his head and saw me. “What did I tell you, Jules? Get back to bed. You know the rule, do not come back down once I put you to sleep,” he yelled.
My daddy never yelled at me. But why was that lady here? What was she doing to him?
The next day, my dad told me if I didn’t follow the rules, I was going to get spanked. I never went downstairs again.
My hands shook as I clutched my fuzzy pink blankie to my chest. I didn’t know what to do. If I went down, my dad would be really mad. But I was scared.
People yelled at each other, then I heard our front door slam shut. I tiptoed over and eased my door open as slowly and quietly as I could to make sure I didn’t make any noise. I leaned my ear against the cold wood. The house was quiet.
I walked softly down the steps, so no one heard me, and my eyes bounced around the room. It was all dark, and no one was there.
Someone laid on the floor, and there was a lot of red stuff around them. My eyes widened when I saw it was my dad.
“Daddy, wake up!” I screamed and pushed against his arm. Blood came from his belly—so much blood.
“Daddy, wake up, please,” I begged, but he didn’t move. I pushed my hands against his belly and tried to stop the blood. I jumped up, ran to the bathroom, and grabbed a box of band-aids. That should help. Daddy always put band-aids on my boo-boos.
When I got back, I lifted his shirt and wiped his belly with my blankey. I put the band-aids over his cut, hoping they would make him feel better. Maybe he needed some rest. Maybe when he woke up, he would be all better. When I didn’t feel good, daddy would tell me to take a nap, and when I woke up, I’d be as good as new. That’s what he needed. He needed to sleep.
The sun was shining through the windows when I lifted my head off my daddy’s chest. He was still sleeping.
“It’s time to get up,” I said as I pushed his shoulder. He didn’t move.
I jumped to my feet and ran through the living room to the front door. I pulled it open and ran down the steps, across the lawn to the house next door. I banged on the door. “Mrs. Keller. Mrs. Keller,” I yelled.
The old lady who lived next door gasped and grabbed her chest when she opened the door. “Oh my goodness, are you hurt, Juliette? Honey, what happened?”
“My daddy won’t wake up!” I cried.
She bent down and lifted me into her arms and rushed into her kitchen. She pulled out a chair from the table. “Sit here, Jules. I’m going to call for help, okay?”
I nodded as I twisted my hands in my lap.
Gentle hands lightly shake my body side to side. “Hey, wake up,” a groggy voice next to me says.
I struggle to emerge from the dream. My eyes finally open to find myself in a dark room.
Gripping the sheets wrapped around my body, I tremble. My chest aches as I think about that horrible night. The night my entire life changed.
A hand touches my shoulder, startling me. “Are you okay?”
“Get out,” my voice breaks as I pull the sheet tighter.
“What?” His hoarse whisper breaks the silence in the room.
“I said, get out. Get dressed and get the fuck out of my apartment,” I growl as I snatch the sheet off my bed. I stand to reach for my robe on the chair, and once it's secured around my naked body, I reach for his clothes and throw them at him.
“What part did you not understand? Get the fuck out. Now!” I yell.
Whatever his name is moves quickly off the bed, dressing as fast as he can. “What the hell is your problem?” he snarls at me. “You were screaming in your sleep. You were having a nightmare, so I woke you up.” He turns toward me with palms in the air. “I swear, I didn’t do anything.”
“Shut up.” I run my hands over my face. “Please stop talking. Just leave,” I plead, letting out a few long breaths.
He snatches his jacket off the chair, opening my bedroom door with such force it slams against the wall. “You’re some crazy bitch, I’ll tell you that.”
Following this prick out of my bedroom, I scream, “You haven’t seen crazy yet.” I pick up the closest thing I can get my hands on and throw it at his head. My black combat boot hits him with such force, he stumbles forward, losing his footing. He turns toward me, chest heaving up and down.
“You’re one fucked up bitch,” his blue eyes meet my gray ones.
I close my eyes and inhale a deep breath, taking an abrupt step toward him. “You have no idea how right you are. Now get out!”
He turns on his heel and strides to the door. Yanking the door open, he slams it shut behind him. I flinch.
A laugh echoes through the apartment. “Jules, you are crazy,” my roommate and best friend, Quinn, says.
I met Quinn when I was ten years old. It was my first day in a new school in Philadelphia. I remember the day vividly. The teacher, Mrs. Lee, introduced me to the class, and Quinn stood and said I could sit next to her. When I sat down, she leaned over, introduced herself, and told me she’d be my first friend in the school.
I hadn’t spoken a single word to anyone in weeks. I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to continue to feel numb. I wanted to be unseen to the world. She had pointed to my arm and wanted to know what happened. When I didn’t answer, Quinn never pushed. She invited me to sit with her friends at lunch, and we’ve been inseparable since. New friends, new beginnings.
I didn’t even notice her lying on the couch. I didn’t know I had an audience to this shit show. I don’t have the strength or patience to deal with her right now.
“So, what’s this one’s name?” she asks as she sits up, patting the cushion next to her.
Sitting next to her, I pull a corner of the gray throw blanket she’s using over my bare legs and shrug my shoulders.
Quinn’s eyebrows raise. “You don’t know it, do you?” Her mouth quirks with humor. “Did you bother to ask before you left the bar with him?”
“I think it was Dave, but I’m not sure.”
Quinn reaches for the bowl of popcorn on the coffee table, popping a piece in her mouth. “He was cute. After the way things just ended, I don’t suppose he’ll be back.”
My expression holds a note of mockery. “They never come back. I don’t do repeats.”
“I thought maybe this one would be different.” She pastes on a smile of nonchalance.
My fingers curl into my palms as I get the urge to get up and walk away. “You know how I am.”
“I know, but I was hoping one of the men you parade through here would make you happy, and you’d want to change your way of thinking.”
My eyes widen. “My way of thinking?” I raise a challenging brow. “What’s wrong with what I do? I fuck. I have orgasms and move on. I don’t ask for anything from them, and I sure as hell don’t promise to give them more than one night.”
A small chuckle escapes Quinn as she stares at me for a long moment. “You know, you sound like a prostitute.”
“A prostitute gets paid. I don’t get paid. I have one goal, a good time. Let me ask you something, how come a man can screw as many women as he wants, yet when a woman has sex without being in a relationship, she’s a whore? Can you explain that to me?” I reach over and grab a handful of popcorn from the bowl.
I know Quinn doesn’t approve of my lifestyle. She thinks I should be in a committed relationship, and I mask the pain from my past with the pleasure of sex. Maybe I do, but it’s my decision to make. Not hers.
I don’t promise these men anything, and I don’t ask for anything in return. Am I uncertain what the guy’s name is who I tossed out tonight? Yes. Does it make me a bad person? Absolutely not. My lifestyle might not be for everyone, but it works for me.
“First of all,” Quinn turns toward me. “I don’t think you’re a whore. I think you fuck all these men to try to hide the pain you feel.” Quinn throws some more popcorn into her mouth. When she’s finished chewing, she raises a brow. “I don’t think it’s purely for the pleasure you receive from an orgasm, as you politely just said. You have an entire drawer of toys that can give you an orgasm. So stop bullshitting yourself.”
I tilt my head and look at her. The muscle in my jaw ticks. I don’t want to have this conversation with her, not with my nightmare still fresh in my mind.
Quinn stretches her arms out to me. “Come here.”
Scooting across the cushions, I settle my head in her lap as she plays with my hair. The calming strokes of her fingers suddenly have me feeling less angry.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. You know I’m not judging you. I never would, Jules.”
I stay quiet for a long time. When I finally speak, my voice is low. “I know.”
“Why the sudden exit of tonight’s conquest? Another nightmare?” Her voice is laced with concern.
Quinn continues to run her fingers through my hair, soothing my panic from the nightmare. “Do you want to talk about it?”
I shake my head, and my hand rubs mindlessly against my left arm over the intricate artwork decorating my body.
“Are you sure? Maybe talking about it will help.”
“You’re one of the few who knows everything. The good, the bad, and the gruesome. I don’t want to rehash it.”
Quinn doesn’t push any further. It’s one of the many qualities I love about her.
We are an odd couple, and our friendship was one I least expected. Quinn is all prim and proper with manicured nails, the perfect amount of makeup, azure eyes, and long, beautiful blonde hair. She’s about five foot six with a runner’s body, all toned and fit. I am the complete opposite, sticking out like a sore thumb with my head buzzed short on the sides, leaving my hair longer on top to blow out and style with piecey definition and texture. My hair color changes frequently, usually depending on my mood. The guys at the shop never know what color I will walk through the doors with. It could be peach one day, bleached out to be silver the next.
Quinn and I came into each other’s lives when we both needed a friend the most. She is my person.
I was dealt shitty cards in life. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on my worst enemy. But things changed for the better when I was ten. I was no longer a prisoner in the hell I had been living in.
Maureen and Charles swooped in, taking this broken girl into their home, showing nothing but unconditional love, and finally adopting me. But it was bittersweet. They may have saved me, but by doing so, I lost another person I loved. I lost my best friend, who I’d met when I was five years old. I lost him like I lost my father. Both snatched without warning from my shitty life.
One thing I've learned on this journey of life is when you find a best friend, you better hang on to them. Dig your heels in the dirt and hang on for dear life. I thought Brennan was my best friend, but he ended up stabbing me in the back. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He betrayed me. Or at least in the mind of a ten-year-old, he betrayed me, when in reality, he saved me.
After losing two important people in my life at such a young age, I’ve never allowed myself to get attached to people. I choose not to let people in. It’s easier that way. Less chance of being hurt. Focusing on my family and friends works for me. My motto is to keep my inner circle small. And by small, I mean Maureen, Charles, and Quinn.
My already fractured heart can’t tolerate being broken again. Therefore, I don’t do relationships with men. If your heart isn’t involved, it’s one less scar to walk away with. Lord knows I have enough of those marking my body.
Another reason I don’t get attached to anyone.
IF YOU'VE LIKED WHAT YOU READ SO FAR, BE SURE TO CLICK TO CONTINUE TO FOLLOW LEE AND JULES' JOURNEY TO FINDING LOVE.
IF YOU'VE LIKED WHAT YOU READ SO FAR, BE SURE TO CLICK TO CONTINUE TO FOLLOW LEE AND JULES' JOURNEY TO FINDING LOVE.