The first thing I noticed when she walked in were the bruises. Black and blue, fading to purple and tinged with green at the edges. I felt my heart surge and the beast that I had so painstakingly hidden awoke. “Who?”
“Don’t worry. I’m fine,” her soothing voice does nothing to douse the fire raging in my chest.
“Who?” I ask my voice a wall of steel. I stare her down and when she looks up at me, I feel my heart break. Her beautiful blue eyes, blended with green and gray, glisten with unshed tears.
“You’re too young to deal with this,” I whisper under my breath.
“You were worse, I know,” she retorts, holding her head high. “Mom told me.”
“Mother never once understood me. Don’t you listen to a word she says. That woman didn’t even know I existed when I was your age,” I feel the old wound inflicted on my past sear with pain.
“She claims to know you very well. She told me stuff about you, bad stuff,” as she says it, she looks down at the floor.
“That’s beside the point,” I feel the old knot forming in my throat and I can feel myself tense. “Who,” I ask firmly as I lift her chin, so she meets my eyes.
“It doesn’t matter. It won’t happen again,” she says, a smile tugging at her split, bloodied lip.
“Teachers,” with that one word I leave the real question unsaid but implied.
“None,” the semi smile lifts the right side of her mouth. “No one saw us.”
“Who,” I repeat and this time she answers.
“Alondra.” She holds her head high and looks me in my eyes.
“That bitch,” I can feel the spite corroding my heart. “That lying two-faced bitch has the balls to constantly ask you for help and then she goes and does this.”
“It’s done and the problem is solved. Like I said, it won’t happen again.”
“What was the problem,” I ask, feeling doubt creep into my heart.
“She was hitting on my boyfriend, sitting on his lap and telling him to end it with me. Later I went to talk to her; one on one. I asked her why and what she hoped to gain with all her nonsense. Then insulted and slapped me,” my beautiful baby sister holds her head high and stands tall, daring me with her body to challenge her choice. “So, I punched her. And she was pissed, but too bad, so sad. She’s a slap kind of girl, and I’m a punch kind of girl.”
“Good for you,” I smile at her sense of justice and righteousness. “You had every right to defend yourself.”
“Things got messy when her three friends showed up,” my precious girls face darkens, and she glowers at the wall.
“They didn’t,” I exclaim. “That is a dick move,” I can feel my face heat with anger. “Four against one is beyond dishonorable.”
“Trust me I know,” she rolls her eyes and continues. “I managed to break at least two noses, I bit several of them, I drew blood on all, and I know they all are going to have just as many bruises as I have.”
“Be proud of defending yourself but know the difference between righteous pride and gloating over victory. It was after all, a fight.” Her blood thirstiness is a constant reminder of what I lost, what I miss. She is a fighter, a warrior at heart. What I wouldn’t give to change that, to make her gentler, if only so she doesn’t meet the fate I know is coming.
“Yeah, yeah,” she says flippantly over her shoulder as she turns to leave the room.
The next day I hear the noise I’ve been dreading since Grace walked through the door bruised and beaten, the awful sound of the landline ringing. The landline is the number I gave Grace’s school in case of emergencies, and I am not looking forward to this call. I trudge over and pick the phone up out of its cradle.
“Hello,” I answer as sweetly as possible.
“Hello, Ms. Anne, I am calling to request a meeting with you as soon as possible today. The matter is rather grave, and it has to do with your sister, Grace.”
“Yes, I am aware of the problem, what time should we meet?” I hope they give me a couple of hours to at least wake up before calling me in so early.
“Does half and hour to an hour work for you?”
“Yes, I will be there in about forty-five minutes,” I sigh.
“Thank you very much for understanding, we appreciate this. Have a nice day and we will see you soon,” I hear the click of the call ending.
“Fat chance of it being a nice day now,” I say aloud to no one in particular.
Half an hour later I am walking up the front steps of the high school building, wearing my favorite black jeans and a silver blouse with a jacket. I enter and follow the signs leading towards the principal’s office. I am aware of all the stares I get, for all the rest of the students know I could be in college, or I could’ve been held back a year or two. I’m only twenty-two, but I look like I’m eighteen or so. I hear at least two catcalls as I walkdown the main hall.
I resist the urge to glare in the direction the catcalls came from and instead of telling the boys to shut it, I walk down the hall like I didn’t even hear them. I finally reach the main reception area and I walk up to the secretary’s desk.
“Hi, my name is Anne and I am here to see the principal about Grace.”
“Are you her mother,” the secretary gawks at me in disbelief.
“If were any of your business I would tell you I’m her sister and her legal guardian,” I retort, my anger finally escaping me.
“Sorry,” the secretary responds with downcast eyes.
“No, I’m sorry for lashing out. It’s been a rough week.” Of course, I am not actually sorry, but society’s norms state that one must apologize in cases like this.
“I understand,” the secretary tries to sound sympathetic, but I hear the pity in her voice. “The other parents and the girls are already in the office so feel free to head right in.”
“Thank you,” I say through clenched teeth. It’s going to be me against four other sets of parents and the spoiled brats. Steeling myself I straighten my back; lift my head and I walk towards the door labeled ‘Principal’. I knock twice and open the door when I hear a terse ‘Come in’.
“Hello,” I say looking the principal in the eye, ignoring the six other adults standing in the room. Four moms and two dads turn to glare at me in union. I resist the urge to laugh and I glance around the room. Four girls including, my baby sister, sitting side by side, their backs to me, in front of the principal’s desk. I can tell which one is Grace by her long blond hair streaked with black tumbling down her back, and by the fact that while the other three girls sit together, she sits off to the side on the left.
Four backs, all turned to me; my beautiful blond, two brunettes, and one raven haired girl. Grace doesn’t turn to face me or acknowledge me in any way, and I smile slightly. I know what she is doing; she is showing strength, showing that she doesn’t depend on someone else to fix her problems. Her pride is physically noticeable in the way she sits up straight and holds her head high. The other girls slouch or have the heads ducked in shame and one girl has been crying recently.
Alondra turns slightly and glowers at me. I smile serenely in response and bury the urge to slap her. I walk forward and stand next to Grace, on her left. I place my hand on her shoulder and let it rest there for a few seconds before removing it. All the while the other parents can’t take their eyes off me, and I can tell they are surprised by my age and apparent youthfulness.
“Ahem,” the principals ‘cough’ calls all the other adults to attention and they finally take their eyes off me. “Now that we are all here, I believe we can sort this out”
“I highly doubt that, unless that violent, out of control, freak of a girl is expelled,” the woman I assume to be Alondra’s mother, due to her looks, spits vehemently.
“There is no need to react that poorly,” the principal says, frowning at the lady’s outburst.
“Expulsion seems more than adequate for what that monster did to our daughters,” another mother chimes in.
“What did Grace do to your daughters? Apart from defend herself against three attackers,” I say, fed up with their lies and name calling.
“Your daughter was unprovoked,” the third mother responds with a glare meant to send shivers down my spine, but only annoyed me more.
“Good lord, did your daughter seven tell you half of the truth? Alondra dealt the first blow, my daughter defended herself, and these two other girls joined in, both on Alondra’s side. It was those three against my sister,” I say glaring pointedly at the mother who referred to Grace as my daughter. “And Grace was not only provoked, but she needed to defend herself.”
I see Alondra and the other two girls blanche at the cold hard truth and it is obvious that they are nervous that their lies will be discovered.
“Bullshit,” Alondra’s father retorts.
“Watch your language,” I spit back.
“I don’t take orders from bitches like you,” I can see he is livid, but I can see that the principal is definitely on my side now. I bite back the three million comebacks that immediately come to mind and let the principal intervene.
“That is quite enough,” she practically yells. “Each of the four girls will tell their version of the story, without anyone, and I mean ANYONE, interrupting. Then each of the parents or legal guardians will tell the version of the story that the daughter told them, again without ANYONE else speaking. Am I clear?” Every time that she says anyone, she throws a pointed glance at Alondra’s parents.
I join into the chorus of agreements and acknowledgements with one word, “Yes.”.
“Very well, Alondra will start,” Her mother cuts in.
“Fine,” the principal sighs. “Go ahead Alondra.”
“The truth is that Grace called me over to “talk” to me,” she makes quotes when she says the word talk. “So, I walked over to her and she started calling me names like whore and slut. I started to turn away, so I could leave and ignore her, but she pulled me around and punched me. I fell to the ground and lucky for me Izzy and Fern were walking by. They saw her hit me and ran over to help. Grace went to hit me again, but my friends defended me and were able to beat her back. However, the entire time she was fighting back and hitting them. By then another student saw us and called a teacher; who was finally able to get that freakish she-devil away from me.”
After Alondra finishes, she leans back and puts on the fakest, the most pathetic, the most awful sad face I have ever seen. I push down the laughter bubbling up inside my chest and I take a deep breath. “Who’s next,” I ask.
“Izzy can go next,” the woman who I suppose is her mother says.
“Well I guess I Fern’s version is the same as mine, seeing as we were together the entire time and we say the same things,” Izzy says hesitantly.
“Then we only need to hear it once,” the principal says. “Go ahead Izzy.”
“Well, Fern and I were walking, and we had just come around the corner of a building when we saw…” Izzy trails off and I notice as Alondra turns to glare at her. Izzy gulps, glances at the floor and continues. “We saw Grace take a step back and hold her hand to her face. Then she punched Alondra and Alondra fell. We rushed in to help Alondra, but Alondra lunged at Grace and they started fighting. We took Alondra’s side.”
“That’s not true. I didn’t lunge at Grace, she lunged at me,” Alondra yells at Izzy. Izzy flinches away and looks at her shoes.
"That could have been how it went.”
“Now she’s changing her story,” Grace says.
“Please understand that there are only consequences if you lie,” the principal says, trying to coerce Izzy into telling the truth.
“That’s not true,” Grace says with a voice that sounds so weary and sad it breaks my heart. “If she tells the truth there are consequences, if she lies there are consequences, there are always consequences. What matters is that you take care of yourself.” I understand what she is saying, and I rocks me to my core. She is telling Izzy to lie, so that Alondra doesn’t get mad at Izzy. She is sacrificing the truth for someone else’s toxic friendship. She turns to face me and I see it; the same spark in her eyes as her father, the steel in her stare, the only piece of him I have left.
That’s when it hits me. Maybe she isn’t most like me. Maybe I don’t have to worry she end up trapped like me. Maybe, just maybe, there is enough good in her to get her out of this hellhole. Maybe she is a bit like him. I pray to god she is a little like him. I had to much of mom in me, it drove me to the brink and back. But if she’s like him, will she do what he did? Will she bow down and quit? Will she make it through life with her soul intact? So many questions flood my mind, yet their answers elude me, out of reach until the day she becomes her own independent person. Maybe even then these doubts will still haunt me.
I smile and I smother the laugh building in my stomach. This teen drama fight will be irreverent in the near future. What matters is that she has pride, and dignity, but she is also kind, and thoughtful. She is everything her adult ‘role models’ never were, something I never was. She is going to be a good person. I can only hope she has enough of me in her that she doesn’t end up like them. Dead by their own hands.