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Chapter 5

*Faith POV*

My phone sits on the kitchen table vibrating relentlessly as we eat dinner and I happily ignore the phone calls that are going to voicemail. Mom, who is sitting across from me, is staring as I twirl my spaghetti and spear a meatball, shoveling it in my mouth and moving quickly onto my garlic bread. I can see her nudge Mia in my peripheral vision, who looks up at me and sighs. Placing her fork down and crossing her arms across her chest. I look up at them as I swallow what’s in my mouth.

It’s times like these when they are both cross with me that they seem to look similar. Though Mia is more of an exotic beauty, gifted to her by her deceased father, she and my mother have the same slim face shape and stick straight dark hair. And when they both are sitting in this position, even their sour looks seem to be identical. I groan in annoyance and place my fork down and dab my face pretentiously with my napkin. 

“Ok. What?” I say, sitting back.

Simultaneously, they both flick their eyes towards my vibrating phone. 

“I think it might be Dad,” I say, paying it no mind. Dad is the very first person that taught me to be invisible. Growing up with him was the opposite of easy. It was downright painful, and I had a scar or two to prove it. But in growing up around him, I learned it was easier to shut up and stay in the darker corners to avoid detection. 

For about 3 years, he hit me where mom wouldn’t find it, threatened me with death and I fiercely believed him. When mom noticed the bruises, she asked questions. I would tell her I was getting beat up at school. Dad would confirm he talked to the school and that it was being taken care of. Dad wasn’t always mean or violent. If I’m being honest, he treated me like his wonderful princess every single day, treating me to ice cream, taking me to the zoo, teaching me to ride my bike. I craved more hours of daylight because that meant more love before the hate would settle in with the rising of the moon.

 It was gradual at first. It started as he just had too much one night and he scared me. I mentioned it to mom, and he agreed he wouldn’t drink again. Then mom worked more and her stress levels increased. Mom and Dad fought more, always yelling about bills and where money was going. The typical married life stuff, I guess. Every single time they fought before she left for work, he would end up drinking.

The months leading up to the day that it was revealed he was beating me. He would get delirious and talk about mom cheating, how she is working more to be with him, this imaginary man he had dreamed up. ‘She’s a liar’. ‘I’m not his’. ‘I’m a product of an affair.’ All his favorite things to slur as he struck me.

The day my secret was discovered, Dad had woken me up and dragged me from the closet I was regularly sleeping in to hide. He dragged me out by my arm, popping my shoulder out of the socket once more. He kept telling me I looked like him, my ‘real’ father. The jerk who was stealing his wife. It was my fault I ruined everything. I lay sobbing on the living room floor, staring out the window, praying for someone to peek in. Mia had snuck out that night to get away from her mom, and she had witnessed him kick me over and over. She sat outside on the front porch watching in complete shock and the moment I saw her; I begged her with my eyes to save me. And she did. 

That amazingly strong 12-year girl breathed deep and screamed the most earth-shattering scream she could. Every single neighbor came running, the cops were called, CPS was called and our family that had been broken for years, finally fell apart. That was just over 5 years ago. He apparently got sober 3 years ago and has been since, but I refuse to talk to him.

“Why would he call you?” Mia asks trying to keep her cool.

“He’s been trying to get a hold of me a lot more lately. He usually leaves a voicemail, fills me in on his life and that’s that.” I shrug.

“But you don’t call him or answer or anything.” she verifies.

“Exactly. He calls. I ignore him and he leaves me a message. My guess is he is leaving several because I decreased the limit on my phone for voicemail length.”

“Well, don’t you want to listen to what he has to say?” My mom interjects.

“Not really.”

“Faith.” She says sternly.

“Mom.” 

“Maybe just this once you can answer it?” Mom asks hopefully.

“Why would you encourage me to answer his calls? All I want to know is where he is at so I know he is staying away. I don’t want him near me.”

“He is your father,” she answers weakly.

When mom found out he had been hurting me for years, it gutted her, not just because she loves me but she felt like she had failed me and because she truly deeply loved my father. It often felt like whenever they fought, he couldn’t handle the stress and it drove him to drink far too much. It always seemed so strange to me, how when he was sober he was an amazing father not remembering a thing about the “punishments” he gave me for disobeying him, just recognizing he had done something and needed to save face. 

I remember exactly the moment I realized he wasn’t really the same person when he drank. The first few strikes were months apart and small, a shove into a wall, a kick as I walked by. But it was the 4th time he ever hit me I could noticeably see the change in his eyes. He looked completely void of anything human, dark and haunting, and every so often I would wake up in the early morning and look to the corner and I could swear I see his lifeless looking eyes as he waited to pounce and finish the job he so often set out to do. 

Mia likes to joke that my coping mechanism is sarcasm and laughing, but when I remember, when I feel the phantom pain of strikes where a father’s love should be, I don’t feel sarcastic or like laughing. I feel like running. It feels like no amount of love in the world can make me feel worthy again. I feel like if someone genetically programmed to love me can’t love me, then I must hide so no one can truly, deeply know me. If I let someone in, I risk never coming back out. 

“Hello to Faith,” Mia says, waving her hand in front of my face. I look up at her and offer a sad smile. And she reaches over and squeezes my hand. 

“Where did mom go?” I ask, looking at her empty chair.

“The doorbell rang, and she went to answer it.”

“I wonder who is here.” I stand slowly from my chair and Mia follows suit, following me through the archway, down the hardwood hallway, and into the large shiplap foyer.

“Mom, who’s here?” I ask, getting closer. She turns to me, opening her mouth to speak when the door pushes open further, and there he is, standing in all his jerky glory, staring right at me.

“D-d-dad?” I stutter slowly, looking at him. I don’t remember him being this well muscular. Instinctively, I take a step back. I gulp at all the pain he could cause me now with just one strike.

“What... why are you here?” I stutter out.

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you,” He says as if it’s a good enough excuse.

“Why are you here, John?” Mom asks sternly, and he looks to her, his eyes softening, a look of longing clear in his green eyes.

“I’ve been sober for 3 years and I wanted to see my baby girl.” Tears glisten in his eyes as he looks me up and down approvingly. “You have really grown up, sweetheart,”

“Don’t call me that.” I retort.

For years I have thought about seeing him, the things I would say to him, the script I had written and rewritten in my mind. I had always thought I would see him on my terms, but here we are and all my rehearsed speeches are out the window as the little girl in me wants to run for the man she knew was a good father and the rest of me is old enough to know that no matter how good he was when he was sober he was a thousand times the opposite when he would drink. 

He hangs his head low and looks to his feet, ashamed. And he should be. Any man who lays his hand on a child in a violent effort should be beaten to a pulp. Even though I know in an instant, I would try to save him from such a fate, even after what he had done to me. That’s the Sympathetic soul from my mom that I inherited. 

“Why are you here?” I ask flatly. 

“I needed to tell you in person.”

“Tell me what…?” A shiver of fear runs up my spine.

“I accepted a position locally.” the blood leeches from my face as I look at mom scared. “I want to go to therapy with you and be here for you.”

“No.” I shake my head violently, stepping back, panic and anxiety rising like the tide.

“Baby, maybe just hear him out?” Mom offers and the stab of betrayal hits hard. I stare at her, my mouth gaping open. I turn to Mia and find her stunned face the same as mine and we make eye contact and, as always, she saves me.

“Uncle John, I think it’s best that you leave and do not contact Faith. She will reach out if she wants to see you.” She moves to push him out of the door.

“That’s the problem,” He says, looking at me, ignoring Mia’s gentle pushing towards the door.

“I saw your name on the roster.” 

“What are you talking about?” I ask, feeling a horrible headache coming on.

“I-I’m the new economics teacher at your school. You are probably going to see me in passing” I can’t tell whether he is excited or worried. His face is contorted with emotions I have never seen before and trying to search for hidden messages that aren’t there is causing the room to spin. I hate this. I hate how he makes me feel weak when I know I am much stronger now. 

“I’m not here asking for forgiveness, Faith. I just didn’t want to blindside you with my presence.”

“Why? you were always so good at blindsiding me with your fists.” I seethe pinching the bridge of my nose. Emotions are so taxing.

The silence in the room has me looking up as Mia and Mom stare at me in shock. Apparently, my quippy-ness has taken a turn towards bitter. Why should they be shocked? The least shocked by it is my Dad, hell at least he is smart enough to know he deserves it. I roll my eyes as I walk towards the stairs. Placing my hand on the railing, I look over my shoulder. 

“I can be civil at school. But you’re not my father there. You’re just a man with the same name. I don’t need any attention on me.” and with that, I walk up the hardwood stairs counting each one as I go to ease my mind.

The moment I step onto the beige carpet at the top of the stairs, I break into a run to my room, where I close the door and lock it behind me. Dragging my comforter from my bed and turning to the closet, I crawl to the furthest corner from the door. I will not cry, I will not cry.

I miss my dad. Not the asshole who hit me but the man he was during the day, the man who took me for ice cream and had nerf gun wars with me and Mia. The man who loved me even when I was terrible and naughty. But all I can see when I look at him is him drunk. His smile makes me flinch, and his eyes make me cower. The love I see there frightens me more now than the anger when he was drunk. Because when he looks at me like he loves me, I break all over again. 

I hug my comforter closer, closing my eyes, I drop my head and let my emotions flow. Life is good right now. I finally have a rhythm. I have an awesome friend, a great mom and I’m pretty dang smart. Heck, I would even say I toe the pretty line in the looks department. Why is this all crashing down on me? Why can’t I be happy when he is around? I hate that all I feel right now is heavy and empty at the same time. Sobs wrack my body as the door unlocks and everything in me freezes.

Is he coming back for me? I look up, my eyes foggy with fear as I see someone turn on every light in my room and I see it’s Mom. She circles to my bed as she searches for me, turning to see me in the closet as the sobs I was trying to control take over again. I can see her heart drop as she rushes to my side, lifting the blanket and crawling up next to me. 

“Oh, my sweet sweet baby girl.” she coos, wrapping her arms around me.

“Mom, why? Why can’t I just get over it? I just want to be over it.” I curl into her arms as her tears mingle with mine. 

“Oh, sweetie. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,”

Comments (4)
goodnovel comment avatar
Mary
Shouldn’t there be a restraining order against him. How could he be in a school much less her school.
goodnovel comment avatar
Grace Stephens
Especially if the cops were involved and caught him abusing his kid. So I’m with Leslie on that one. He’d have a record and schools don’t hire ppl who commit crimes against children or any sex offenders.
goodnovel comment avatar
MiriGoogag
More on this later in the book! It’s meant to be a big question!
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