This story is by Heather Anderson and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Spending the past two years on the streets taught me two things: One, you must fend for yourself. Two, running away from my family was the biggest mistake of my life. I, at one point, envisioned my life to be filled with sex, drugs, and freedom. These people I called my friends, made me into everything my father despised. I was once a perfect daughter. Blonde hair, green eyes and in every sport that my mother could throw me into. I was like Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby. I was loved by everyone.
Then Tony happened.
He was your typical bad boy. Tattoos, high school dropout, and he rode a motorcycle. I met him while I was at the mall with my former best friend, Maya. He oozed coolness and forbidden temptations. I remember that day like a shot of kerosene. He leaned up against the bike, a cloud of confidence filled the lungs of anyone who walked by. A mop of black hair and gypsy eyes assessed me, obviously liking what he saw. I mean who wouldn’t? I was a blonde little thing with tiny white shorts and a hot pink halter top. I was the light as he was the dark. Or so I thought.
After that day, I started to see him more and more. Until the fateful day that he asked me out to a party. I was over the moon in happiness. I finally got to go to a party with Tony. I dressed in a short black dress and the highest heels I owned. After watching YouTube, I did my makeup dark and dangerous looking. I must have added about 10 years onto me. But that was what I wanted, to look older in Tony’s eyes; for him to treat me like a woman. I don’t remember much from that night, but I remember the plethora of people packed into this old building in a rough part of town. I had several solo cups of the most god-awful drink I have ever tasted. Tony insisted that the more I drank, the better it would taste. I was not convinced, but I drank it regardless. Soon after, I was pinned against the wall with Tony’s tongue down my throat. I was practically putty in his hands. I wasn’t watching when he slipped something into my drink.
“Don’t worry Kitten, it will make you at ease with the world.” He whispered in my ear. My drunk mind didn’t understand it at the time, but I do now. When the drug hit me, I felt like I was on top of the world. I laughed and danced without a care in sight. I lost my virginity while I was stoned out of my mind. I imagined my first time being romantic and loving. Honestly, I only remember bits and pieces. Just the taste of Camels on his breath, and the lingering feeling that I lost something prematurely. He took my innocence in every way possible that night. I woke up in my own bed, reeking of alcohol and cigarettes. I took a long hot shower and bawled. My body felt weird, like it did not belong to me anymore. I ended up throwing up soon after. I was begging someone to just kill me, the pain I felt was unreal. Every square inch felt wrong. My mother kept me home from school, at my request. She asked what was wrong; I just told her that I had a bad migraine. It was the first time I ever lied to my mother, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
The months following were filled with more parties and drugs. I dyed my hair black; Tony said I would look sexy. I became a ghost in my own life. I lost weight and my grades were just short of destroyed. My mother yelled at me, saying that I needed to stop my nonsense at once. I quit all the sports teams to instead spend my time with Tony. He told me that he loved me. All the while, my real family had become distant from me.
One evening, I got home late like usual to find my parents waiting for me. My mother had a look like she ate a bowl of sour grapes. It was obvious that she had recently cried. My father told me that they were getting divorced. My world came crashing down and I lost my temper. I grabbed the lamp and threw it against the wall, knocking down the pictures. My father shouted at me as I continued destroying his house. I shoved my clothes in a bag and took off into the night.
When I did the math, I had probably caused about a thousand dollars’ worth of damage to my father’s house. I ran to Tony’s place as fast as my legs could carry me, only to find he was not there. I refused to return home. Kara, one of his many friends and drug dealers, took pity on me. She took me in and told me that he had skipped town. She kept me stoned and drunk to help with the pain.
About a year later, I was arrested for drug possession. Granted I wasn’t quite 18 yet, thankfully. Just a few days short of it. The Judge did me a solid and sent me to the rehabilitation center. Taking my anger and hate with me, I spent 6 months and two weeks there. It was a horse ranch where I worked from sunrise to sunset. The withdrawals made me feel like death warmed over. Complete with screams, shaking, and hurling my guts up. I made a couple of friends, finding comfort in my misery. I even pulled a 2000’s Britney Spears meltdown and shaved my head. I did not want to see my faded, disgusting looking black hair anymore. I felt like I was free and improving.
On the day I was released, I was put on probation for two years. I do not plan on travelling down that road again. I lost track of what was important to me, because of one man. I stayed at a low-income apartment once I got a job at a gas station. My parole officer, Officer Mills, believed that I have good in me. We sat in my apartment one afternoon. Typically, this would mean a drug test; one of the conditions of my parole.
“You know kid, you need to talk to your folks.” He sat at my little kitchen table. Officer Mills had grey hair, sharp blue eyes and a small beer belly. He was the closest thing I had to a father figure these days. I will always be grateful for his strict, but kind demeanor.
“No. I can’t. They don’t want to see me. After everything I have done and all the damage I have caused. Do you have what I asked you for?” I poured some coffee for each of us. He smirked and sat up a little straighter.
“Your parents only were divorced for about six months. They got back together while they were looking for you. Your mother cried when she saw how thin and worn-out you looked at the sentencing. They ended up adopting a child, a little girl for your sister to play with. The sisters are about seven years old now. I think you need to return to that house and talk to them. It would be good for you.” He drained the last of his coffee and walked out. I sat at that table for what seemed like days. Tears flowed; I grabbed some paper and a pen. I needed to write down the words that fell short, vocally. I just wrote and wrote, until my hands hurt.
A few days later, I had the day off and alerted Officer Mills of my intentions. I couldn’t stop trembling during the cab ride. The driver asked me if I was okay. I was not. I wore my hair in a pixie cut and no makeup. I wanted so badly for my family to forgive me for my mistakes. The reality is that, there is a chance that I wouldn’t be forgiven. The house still has its pale hue like the sunflowers out front. The picket fence had been repaired and repainted. I exited the cab with hesitation. I saw my mother with groceries in her hands, oblivious to my existence. My father, however, stared at me with wide eyes. He quickly covered the distance from the front door and wrapped me in his arms.
“Hello daddy.” I buried my head in his shoulder. My heart melted and swelled at the same time. I needed to know that my father still loved me, no matter what I had done.
“Hello Nikki, oh how I missed you, my little girl.” His voice cracked. I felt tears on my back as my father held me tighter.
Maybe now, I can forgive myself.