April 10, 2017

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A Man Like Her Father

“What do you think you’re doing,” Jared shouted at her, “hanging out with that freshman freak you call a friend? I don’t want you hanging out with him anymore.” 

Casey’s jaw dropped as she stared at Jared. “Freshman freak? You mean Ian? He’s my best friend here, Jared!” She and Ian, Casey would admit, did spend a lot of time together. They helped each other study, proofread each other’s papers, and made sure the other got to class on time. Ian was the kind of friend that Casey felt she could talk to about anything, from the most trivial matter to the most philosophical. During orientation, they had been put in the same tour group and immediately bonded. “And in case you forgot, Jared,” Casey continued, spitting her words out, “I’m a freshman freak, too.” 

“You can’t hang out with him anymore,” Jared stated as a matter of fact. “He likes you.” He meant the words to sting, but Casey simply laughed. 

“There’s no way! And even if he did—“ He did. – “he would have the sense to leave me alone. He knows I have a boyfriend. Unlike some people…” She stared directly into his eyes, hoping he understood her insinuation. “He has some self-control in regards to women.” 

Thinking she had put Jared in his place, Casey turned on her heel, headed for the door, but Jared grabbed her by the arm, yanking her back to face him. 

Her thoughts fill with confusion and fear as her parents’ shouts echo down the hallway, entering her room. She glances over at Meg, lying on her bed texting, and then glances back at her book. She flips the page, finding herself on the story of Cinderella. Her favorite. Telling herself that the shouting would pass, she forces herself to focus on the words filling the page before her. 

Before she reads even two words, the bedroom door swings open, slamming violently into the wall behind it. She winces as her parents stride in. Her mother, frantic and flustered, her face bright red, urges the two girls to get out of the house, to get to the car. Her father grabs her mother’s arm and yanks her back, turning her to face him. 

Casey swallowed the lump quickly rising in her throat. “Let me go,” she said through gritted teeth. Tugging at her arm, she attempted to free herself from his grasp, but Jared was much taller and much, much stronger than she was. As tears began to rise behind her eyes, she forced herself to blink them away before they could show Jared how weak and vulnerable she really felt. 

“Let me go,” she repeated, but Jared still didn’t listen. In the heat of his anger, he slammed her against the wall, her head knocking sharply against the surface behind her. She could feel a bruise forming. 

Casey can’t take her eyes off the dramatic scene before her. Meg crawls off her bed, dragging Casey closer to her and holding her in her arms, protecting her from all harm. Squirming far enough out of Meg’s grasp to be able to see what happens, Casey peers out at her mother and her father. 

“Either you stop yelling or you let me take the girls! Those are your choices, Darren!” her mother shouts. 

Her father replies, his voice even louder and angrier than her mother’s, “Bullshit. I won’t let you take the girls away from me. You’ve taken so much already. My time. My life. My money. The least you can do is leave me my children.” 

“Your children?” her mother spits, pulling herself up and puffing herself out with confidence. Though Casey gets the feeling it’s more of a show she puts on for their sake than anything. “You hardly ever talk to them. You never do anything with them. The only way you’re their father is biologically, and you know as well as anyone that biology doesn’t mean squat unless you actually put in the effort to be their father.” 

“Don’t you bring my dad into this!” her father warns. 

“Why not? You’ve turned out just like him!” her mother shouts back. 

In the heat of his anger, her father slams her mother against the wall, her head knocking sharply against the surface behind her. Casey imagines a bruise forming. 

“Don’t you dare talk back to me,” Jared hissed, his voice low and scratchy, his breath hanging heavily in front of Casey’s face. She almost gagged breathing it in. She raised her eyes to his face, looking into his flashing eyes, seeing there pain from the past and anger in the present. Nothing else but anger. All signs of rationality had fled. 

“I will if it means standing up for my friends,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. She could hardly control herself. Tears threatened behind her eyes, but so did word vomit behind her tongue. She wanted desperately to let herself loose on the man pinning her to the wall, but that would make her no better than he. She took a deep breath. Gently, she pried Jared’s fingers from her shoulders, where his fingernails had dug into her flesh. His grip loosened, but only just. 

Jared slammed her against the wall again, harder this time. 

Casey watches as her mother steels herself against her father. Even from her distance, she can see the determination glimmering behind her mother’s eyes. Never has she admired the woman more than in this instance. Her mother slowly, gently, moves her fingers to close in around her father’s wrists as she pulls them off her shoulders. Casey can see the red marks left on her skin and winces. 

Her father’s grip loosens, but only just. He slams his wife against the wall again, harder this time. “Behave, woman!” 

“Behave, you whore!” 

Jared’s words rang in her eyes, his final syllable echoing in her mind. Her breath caught in her throat. The tears began to spill down her cheeks against her will. The only clear thought in her head was that word, that hurtful word that he deigned to call her. He had no right. He had no reason. His anger had taken control of the wheel, steering him from deep within. 

Perhaps she should have seen it coming. Perhaps no one could have predicted what happened next. 

After she managed to tug herself out of his grasp, she stumbled a few steps towards the door, but his nails dug into the flesh on her wrist as he jerked her back towards him. “I’m not finished with you!” he screamed, his face right next to hers. 

“You’re finished with me if I say you are,” she replied, her voice stronger than she had imagined it would sound. It gave her hope. 

“I’m not finished with you!” her father shouts, pulling his wife back towards him as she tries to escape towards her children. His fingers dig into her wrist. Casey notices the deep marks his nails leave in her mother’s flesh. 

Her mother lifts her eyes, slowly, to look into her husband’s. “Not if I say otherwise,” she says, her voice oddly calm. She shoves the much taller and much, much stronger man away from her and stumbles towards her children. She kneels in front of them. Casey lifts a hand to her mother’s wrist, running her fingers over the marks in her skin. She looks up at her mother…

Only to see her father looming above them. He grabs her mother by the waist and throws her to the ground in the corner of the room. He kicks her squarely in the stomach, again and again, shouting abuse and profanities, word after word after phrase after phrase. With each word, he kicks her again. With each kick, he shouts something even fouler at her. 

Casey trembles in her sister’s arms, transfixed by the sight before her, wanting desperately to turn her eyes from it but unable to will the move. Her mother makes feeble eye contact with her, her eyes never filled with so much love. “Go,” she whispers, the word hardly breaking from her lips. 

The two girls run from the room. 

Casey shoved Jared away from her, somehow managing to push him to the ground. She raced for the door, her fingertips brushing the knob before his hand reached out, grabbed her by the leg, and dragged her down. Tears running down her face in streams, she kicked at him, she kicked and she kicked and she kicked. With each kick, she shouted at him. With each shout, she kicked. She kicked until she felt his grasp loosen. 

Then she pulled herself, hobbling, to her feet and she ran. She ran as fast as she physically could right out the door and right towards her dorm room. She didn’t once look back. She didn’t dare, too afraid that she would see his face looming above her to pull her down. 

She ran for God knows how long, out of the building, out of the campus, out of her comfort zone. Out of breath, she sat down by the nearest tree and wept. How did she not see? There must have been warning signs that she had blinded herself to. She could never have a future with a man like Jared, violent and manipulative and pure evil. Her father fit the same description, at least the picture she held of him did, and she had promised herself long ago, back when she witnessed her mother’s assault, that she would never marry a man like her father. 

And she was, dating a man exactly like him. She shivered at the thought. 

*** 

Prompt: Use flashback in a scene to portray a character’s thoughts and emotions. 

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