Coming of Age Drama High School

This story contains themes or mentions of sexual violence.

I grab the watering hose and give a low, whispered shout to my daughter to turn

the faucet on full blast. I hear water, burbling, and gurgling, wending its way

toward me, emitting the random expulsion of trapped air, and after a flex of

the hose, water begins to spray from the attached nozzle. I take care to

spray the grass around the fire pit area. I had already carefully poured dirt

and sand onto the embers of that night’s campfire. I turn the nozzle on the

hose to the “rain shower” setting and soak the area around the old fire pit

until my feet are making squelching noises in the lush, green lawn. I try not to

saturate the cushioned chairs set in a loose semi-circle facing out, toward the

quietly streaming, moonlit river.

The evening had been fun: the kids, now grown, the grandchildren, sticky

s’mores, guitar, singing, story-telling, and a silly 20-Questions type game… I

had not played that since I was a young girl at camp trying to get to know one

another better. Those questions posed almost thirty years prior to this

evening seemed so much less invasive and more along the lines of, "What is

your favorite ice cream, and why?"

I finish dousing the area so no stray ember could flare up and cause mischief

later on and then allow myself to drop, exhausted, into one of the chairs. I

light one of the last cigarettes and stare out at the moonlight river, the

water the darkest, inky black - lost in thought.

Some of those questions were pretty intense and took some serious contemplation,

such as; “If you could travel to any year in a time machine, what year would you choose and why?” or “Now, as an adult, which summer would be the summer that you’d say made you grow-up? Why?”

I really had to consider that one. Regardless of the random reply I gave the family, I kept coming back to the summer of The Recruiter: everything that led up to it, and everything in the aftermath.

I had loathed living at home with my assigned parental units with their double

standards, arbitrary rules, and archaic punishments. I was caught sneaking out

at age fifteen and my mother tanned my hide with one of her, somehow well-preserved skinny belts from the 1980’s. That thing really fucking stung! It felt like being whipped with an actual whip; if that whip was also on fire. How that thing didn't disintegrate upon impact, I'll never know. Did she keep that thing in a cryo-chamber somewhere?

Furthermore, I was grounded for eight months, even from the phone! That was unrealistic in the extreme. I'd rather be whipped with the skinny belt some more! Adolescents, everyone, actually, but especially adolescents require human interaction and need an outlet of some kind, lest they burst!

It was the summer after my junior year of High School that things did a solid

one-eighty on me. It began with me becoming notoriously known in the community

as a 'runaway,' and truant teen. I was a shame to my parents; a faux pas that

tarnished their otherwise luminous facade. It was the summer of the car

chase down that windy ass road. It was the summer of, “IT’S TIME TO DIE, MOTHER FUCKER’S!” It was the summer of the shotgun, its chambers like eyes of the flattest black, staring holes right through me. It was the summer of the police

report finally filed against Stepfather v.1.0 that resulted in charges of a misdemeanor "terroristic threat" charge and an overnight stay at the

County Hotel. It was also the summer of the tersely whispered conversations

between my parents and the High School Bigwigs about sending me to T.Y.C. It

was a lot for someone in their formative years. I wanted out of that house at any

cost; it’s not like I could do much worse parenting myself….

It was also the summer of being held hostage, by my self-made reputation and my

actions over the course of the year. It was the summer the farce that was my

family, educators, and other people in a position of power revealed a crack in

their shiny, Faberge egg-like exterior and the entire thing came tumbling down,

almost like a house of hit by a gust of wind, the pieces just whisked away. There

was simply no adult left to place my trust in.



My hands tremble fiercely as my bare feet smack the pavement of the narrow

residential street. They sound alarmingly loud, I’m scared the sound of my own

feet will betray me. My fear is so acute, that everything is stunned into

blissful, numbing disbelief. I don’t feel the jagged pebbles that puncture my

skin and elicit small bloody spots that follow me as I point my body left,

toward a dense entanglement of juniper and oak trees. To my right, was a row of

endless duplexes, one as indistinguishable as the next; their cookie-cutter,

blank-faced windows tracked my every move. Heart jack-rabbiting in my chest, I

flee, now sprinting flat out, terrified. It felt like the night sky was

pressing down on me. It was suffocating. I practically dive off the road and

continue onward and away from that.

I reach the edge of the treeline and enter a vast jungle of groping branches,

reaching out blindly toward each other, eerily silent. As the glow of the moon

is curtained, the fleeting sense of amnesty is quickly replaced by panic as the

pitch black robs me of breath and the branches continue their needle-like

inspection of my body. Feeling paralyzed, yet ready to break free, I force

myself into a shrinking crouch. Stay put! I need protection from the open road.

I stay there for what feels like forever until I recognize sweet salvation in

the crawling approach of a friend’s vehicle. I dash out of the trees and to her

car, hopping in and slamming the lock down with the bottom of my fist, hard. I

yell at her to drive!

I had called her before my hasty exit and was forever beholden to her for coming

to my rescue. Although, she was the one who recommended

this location... Admittedly, he was a ‘trusted adult,’ an

‘authority figure’ who had worked at the school the previous academic year. He

was almost like a teacher. He was around so much.


Before Then:

I had run away from home to my friend Cindy’s. She lived with her girlfriend and

her Dad, who was cool with harboring a teenage runaway, so long

as she was cute, and if she was flirty, even in a playful way, all the better!

That lasted about five days.

One very early morning there was a torrent of sharp raps on the door that could only be law enforcement; it was the 'Cop Knock.' If given a bird’s eye view of the

situation, it would have shown: One side, frozen in fear, searching each

other’s faces, and silently weighing choices and consequences, the other,

serious-faced, middle-aged men, in a cluster, walkies squawking, their uniforms

making them appear dressed out for some unusual team sport. I look at Anne and I decide, “Fuck it," I was busted. I knew it.

I answered the door and a pudgy man who clearly needed caffeine stood before me, asked for my name, and date of birth, and then asked me to step outside. “I don't think this is where you're supposed to be." He was a heavy breather. He adjusted the belt on his ample waist. "I'm gonna hafta take you into custody, Ma'am. Are we going to have any issues with you?” he asks.

 “Sir, I smoke. I just woke up. I clearly don’t have my shoes on. And I bet I’m about to be handcuffed. So, no Sir, I don’t see some big break for freedom in my immediate future. No trouble here, Sir.” Next: the silly, ostentatious demonstration for whomever to see!

As predicted, he pulled out his handcuffs, put my arms behind my back, and slapped them on my wrists as if I had murdered someone! This was no doubt an

oft-practiced move, almost certainly in front of a mirror. I rolled my eyes.

Cindy lived in an alarmingly high, stilted house, despite its proximity to any

body of water. The staircase going from the front door down to the ground was

comically narrow and rickety. Our descent was a slow one, as I was essentially perp-walked to the nearest car, cherries ablaze and spinning.

From the neighboring houses, moon faces peeked audaciously out from windows or from behind drapes. Outside, all pretenses were cast aside; as they stood at the end of their driveways and plainly gawked. Apparently, this was big news! Anything is big news in this comatose berg...

I remained silent as the morning hoopla came quickly to its end and the

neighbors; those harbingers of gossip, snapped their drapes shut and shuffled

back up their drives. The officer opened the driver’s side door and settled

himself into the captain’s seat. He pointed the long cruiser's nose toward the

road, leading out of whatever subdivision we were in. He made a sharp right at

the main highway. I found myself very gracefully leaning into a fall, unable to

use my arms to catch myself, almost lying flat on my left side then coming

slowly back upright as he straightened out the cruiser again. I felt like one

of those…   "Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down!"  Weebles!    

 “Where are we going, Sir?” I asked, my voice quivering.

“To the hospital to meet your parents, Miss. They’re beside themselves with worry,

your poor mother…”

“Yeah, I'll bet,”

My parents weren’t worried sick; they were inconvenienced and pissed off.

The officer then launches into The Obligatory Talk and despite his true

fervor, I tune him out, my give a fuck gauge-broken, beyond repair. 

At the hospital, the nursing staff was kind but curt as they drew my blood... The

officer faded into the background, and I was met with the even stare of My

Parents who, I knew, were holding their tongues until we got into the Suburban

and it was just the three of us. For right now, ‘Appearances!’ regardless of

the situation!

 You know, I can just tell you what you’ll find in my system. It would save you a lot of the time and money you’re constantly bitching about marijuana, alcohol, and possibly Ecstasy if that shows up?"

My quip was met with more silence, ever more intense stares, and the transference of weight from one foot to the other. Once the blood draw was complete, there

would be no frazzled, hackneyed social worker coming, no hospital therapist,

only, maybe, a pamphlet on drugs.

With my recent pattern of running away and truancy, I overheard discussions about

sending me to T.Y.C. The Texas Youth Commission was a state agency that

operated juvenile correction centers across Texas. It was widely known, that

being sent there was like being fed to the wolves; kids went there and were

rarely heard from again. I was sixteen. Going away for two

years felt like a Life Sentence.

I had been an A/B student at the same small school district since Kindergarten.

From Elementary School on, I was torturously bullied by my peers. At first, I

was a dog, or, The Dog. I was barked at continually; next came the Raisin Tits moniker. Kid shit, but still hurtful; but, why? My Mother told me it was because they 'got a rise out of me,' I should just ignore it. To me, that sounded a lot like, ‘Just shut up and take it.’ I was a normal kid!

After Elementary, Jr. High School swept in, a notoriously shitty time of anguish for

many. As High School rolled around, those same bullies would often not be able to keep their eyes, and later, their hands off of those Raisin Tits; but only swathed

in moonlight, of course! For the boys, these trysts were late-night boner relief; to me, a rendezvous full of possibility! Come sunrise, I was a distant memory. I mistook desire for kindness, a mistake made over and over again.

These nighttime activities gave me brand new nicknames like, “slut,” or “easy.” My

favorite was, “party favor.” I was in Biology II in my junior year when 'The Plucked Pubes,' incident occurred.

I had the great fortune to sit in front of two jocks, Roger Parsons and Clifford

Echols. I tried “ignoring them.” I kept facing dutifully forward but heard the fake coughs that did a shit job of covering up the names lobbed my way. That morning, I had no idea what to make of the bizarre quiet coming from the usually active Peanut Gallery.

Unbeknownst to me, the reason was that Roger had been gradually plucking pubic hair from his body, one by one. Ouch! After he had a palm full, he began whispering my name, my actual name, persistently.

I think that’s what got me to turn around and exasperatedly reply, “Wh-?” I

heard a quick expulsion of breath and immediately, I was vociferously choking,

gagging on the pubic hair. I staggered toward the door, speech impeded,

coughing and retching. The teacher actually got pissed at me for making a racket with my distress and disgust.

I scrambled from the classroom, laughter on my heels, and made a beeline for the

restroom. I spent the next two periods in a stall; head bent over the bowl,

alternating deep bouts of vomiting and sobbing, riddled with shame.

While home should be your safe space, your sanctuary, mine was filled with my

father’s lifetime absence, my ‘new’ fathers, and the ever-changing rules that

accompanied them, drinking, violence, scrutiny, and indifference.

In the days that followed my rescue from Me by the County, I was grounded: no phone, no friends, and no extracurriculars; school and straight home only. School wasn’t even the same; I had been moved to Alternative School, ISS-Maximum Security. It wasn’t even held on the same campus so there wasn’t even the possibility of a distant smile or a friendly wave. I was desperate, searching for the most minuscule fragment of sanguinity.

I needed a place to lay low a bit, a place my family didn’t know of. Anne and

Cindy had been getting kind of close with this military recruiter, Tracy. They

kind of flirted with him and had even hung out with him off campus and he was a

‘cool older dude.’

Anne recommended I stay at his place. He was agreeable and said he could use extra help around the house because his young daughter was coming for the summer. Her presence was one of the things that made me feel safe. Cindy, Anne, and I met with Tracy at his house. While he knew he had no shot with them, he still

stared fixedly when they kissed. I stood there, feeling awkward, not because of the

kissing, which was old news for me, but because of the situation. If this was what I

gave for freedom, so be it.

I think there was a part of me that knew he expected certain things but I tamped it down and ignored it. When the time came, I was afraid. He had directly hinted at turning me in whenever I was reluctant about something he wanted. He would ask me who I thought the police would believe: a teenage whore or a military officer and respected family man.

One night I was in the bath. His daughter was there. I wanted to lock the door

because I didn’t think a four-year-old should see some random naked girl in her

bathtub and I wanted privacy. Alas, one night, he was kneeling beside the tub,

my body awkwardly on full display, and he proceeded to go over me, head to toe,

and tell me the things he would change about me. Why did I give a shit what

this perverted 36-year-old man thought of me? Somehow, though, the words hurt.

Then he said something that caused my digestive system to quiver and my body to explode with adrenaline. “I should call some of my buddies to come over and we could run a train on you. That could be real fun.”

It was terribly hard to keep my composure. I had to get the fuck out of there but

I had to be smart. He strongly 'discouraged' telephone calls. I could scream

bloody murder but what would that do? Other than upset his young daughter and

potentially getting me sent away to T.Y.C.?

First, I needed a phone and a friend. I was miles away from any of my friends or

family. There was no way I could walk it. He would find me. People would think

he was a parent yelling at their rebellious kid to get their ass in the car...

“Oh my God, I am a kid,” I thought, rather hysterically."

I waited until Tracy had gone to shower and his daughter was spellbound by Blue's

Clues. I used a phone attached to the wall in the kitchen. I called Anne and in

bursts of hysterical sobs, begged her to come get me and then I exploded out of

the front door and ran for my life.

It was the summer I realized I wasn’t unshakable. It was the summer I found out

that some hippie guy in striped bell bottoms with little, ironic, green hipster

glasses, had knocked me up. Or, maybe it was the military guy? It was the

last summer I spent as a kid. It was the summer I eagerly reached back out to

the family that I had violently shoved away. It was the summer I became accountable for someone other than myself. It was the summer I met the family I chose. While some of these things scared me, they also saved me.

September 05, 2023 21:06

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Delbert Griffith
10:40 Sep 09, 2023

Damn! That's one hard-hitting tale, Kay. Gritty, dark, disturbing. You have a few issues with formatting, I think. Some lines are double-spaced and some aren't. I live in Texas and I used to be a teacher, so I know all about ISS and alternative school. TYC as well. Man, these are rough experiences for the MC. One can only hope that she finds redemption for herself and justice for those who wronged her.


Kay Smith
12:19 Sep 09, 2023

Thank you! I imagine the MC did at least make peace with things so she could do a better job with her own family. I spent some time in Alternative School and disagree with its purpose. Even now, as an adult. The formatting- I'm doing something wrong... I formatted and reformated but each time I hit Submit, the text went all wonky. I'm open to any help! I finally just had to leave it as it was because each time, I would mess it up more and more? Thank you for taking the time to read this! I appreciate the feedback!


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Mary Bendickson
15:05 Sep 06, 2023

Hope this nightmare wasn't real.


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14:46 Sep 06, 2023

wow Kay kind of speechless. very very very powerful and heartbreaking stuff here. The world can be a cruel place for many.


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Ty Warmbrodt
15:00 Sep 11, 2023

Wow! Through observations and stories I've heard from people who have led such lives, this id more creative nonfiction. I love your word usage in this story as it really brings to life your protagonists emotions. It really pulls me in as a reader as has me on the edge of my seat concerned for this girl. After reading the whole story, I had to revisit the beginning, which was the happy ending where she's a grown, happy woman with kids and grandkids. This is superb writing, Kay! Thanks for sharing this story.


Kay Smith
15:12 Sep 11, 2023

Thank you so much! And thank you for the follow!


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AnneMarie Miles
02:30 Sep 10, 2023

Hey Kay! Wow, this is an intense story, up and down and all around, huh? Being an adolescent is tough, and sometimes scary. Honestly, looking back on it, it's a miracle any of us survive it. I'm glad this MC survives, though it's sad she has to go through so much. I found your timeline interesting. I like stories that go back in time and jump around. I think to enhance this piece it might be helpful to revisit the beginning when the MC is with her family around the fire pit. I kept wanting to go back there. Either way, you take us on a wil...


Kay Smith
02:52 Sep 10, 2023

Thank you! I agree, I should have taken it back to the beginning! Thank you for your feedback!


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