12 hours left
Amery sighs as she drops the heavy box of her clothes into her new room. For every step, the floorboards creak as if they are about to crack through. Her room is very small, barely enough for a mattress and a nightstand. There isn’t even a closet but it isn’t something new for her. The last time she lived in a proper room with a bed, mirror, and closet was when she was five. Now after 11 years of moving here and there, she is used to these unpleasant rooms. This is the fifth time she has moved in five months. And Amery knows she will be moving soon again.
Dust is floating everywhere and the streak of sunlight makes them visible. She goes to open the windows but they are firmly closed as if they had been left closed for decades. After trying for the third time, she stops trying, knowing she shouldn’t be wasting her energy on things like this. The next meal would be tomorrow morning which left her to live with 350 calories for the next 12 hours. Last night’s dinner was a box of Kraft mac and cheese. It didn’t fill her up but if she complained, it wouldn’t be any good for her.
11 hours left
“AMERY, COME GET YOUR OTHER BOX RIGHT NOW,” her mom shouts. Her sharp voice fills the tiny house and Amery immediately runs to get her box.
“DON’T LEAVE YOUR BOX HERE!” Her mom stares at her furiously as Amery silently nods. Unsatisfied by her reaction, she pulls Amery’s chestnut hair back.
Amery closes her eyes, just praying her mom won’t chop off her hair like she did last time. She hates having short hair because people would tell her she looks like her mom. Her devilish mom.
“S-sorry, sorry mom,” she apologizes.
She feels her mom let go of her hair and she lets out a sigh of relief as she opens her eyes. She looks at her mom to make sure she isn’t too mad.
Her mom’s face is cold and shows no sign of emotion. Amery quickly picks up the box and runs across the hall and into her room.
“I’m gonna be looking for a job on my phone,” Amery says to her mom, knowing this is her only way of getting some time alone in her room.
9 hours left
Amery puts her back to the clean corner of her room, feeling the hot teardrop fall down her dusty cheek. She is used to her mom acting like this towards her but it hurts every time. Don’t cry, you, idiot. You faced worse things from her. It was true. Ever since she turned six years old she forgot what love felt like. Love felt like a fiction story. The thought of her dad fills her mind and Amery buries her head in between her arms. Quickly coming back to reality, she wipes away her tears, knowing her mom won’t feed her breakfast tomorrow if she is to find out she had been crying.
“Amery, help me with this,” her eight-year-old brother calls for her.
Amery doesn’t want to help him but she has no choice. She drags herself up and wipes away the welled-up tears.
“What is it?” She asks with a stuffy nose.
“Move the teddy bear next to my bed and move the lamp to the corner,” her brother commands. His room is much bigger than hers. He has a bed and even a small TV.
Amery stares at him in disbelief. You really can’t do that yourself? You’re twice my size and at least five times stronger. He gets to eat meat at least three times a week and the meat was rare for her. Maybe once or twice a month. And it wasn’t even good meat her brother got. They were some leftover meat from her brother’s meal.
She pushes down her anger with all the strength she has and starts moving according to her brother’s commands.
Suddenly, tears welled up once again, fogging up her vision. Then uncontrollably, big fat drops of tears fall straight from her eyes to the teddy bear. The overwhelming emotion of embarrassment, upsetness, anger, and confusion sweeps across her. She can’t understand what she did so wrong that everyone hates her so much.
“What are you doing? Move my things quickly so I can watch TV in here,” her brother’s voice rises and it scares her. After moving his stuff, she scurries back to her room.
5 hours left
She slightly closes her room door and opens up the thin mattress after wiping the floor clean with a worn mop. She lays down and right as she closes her eyes, a cold cup of water splashes her, causing her to scream in shock and wipe away the icy water out of her eyes.
“What is this for?” She says half crying.
“WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING RIGHT NOW? DIDN’T YOU SAY YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A JOB?” Her mom’s cold blue eyes stare at her, filled with anger.
“I just finished cleaning my room up a bit and wanted to lay down. I’ve been moving boxes for you and Mason the whole day today. My back hurts,” Amery starts crying, “a-and my knee hurts and my head hurts. Why are you so mad all the time? Do you know how much your words and actions hurt me? Did you forget I’m human too?” Now she doesn’t care what her mom does to her. It is too much for her to handle. She doesn’t want to feel foolish anymore.
“What did you say?” Her mom says in a dark voice. It is a voice Amery had never heard. Goosebumps rise onto her arms and her face feels numb.
Amery can’t say anything. Her eyes nervously travel up her mom’s legs and up to her face. Her mom’s face is solidly frozen and no emotions are showing. This time, she doesn’t avoid the cold blue eyes staring hard at her. She observes her mom’s face for the first time. Sharply arched eyebrows, eyes heavily outlined with black eyeliner, thin, pointy nose, and lips painted dark red strictly around the border. Her hair was loosely curled and she can tell it hadn’t been washed for at least a week.
To Amery’s surprise, her mom’s eyes become glossy and teardrops start falling down her face like rain on a sunny day. One by one, they turn black from the eyeliner and mascara.
“You don’t even know what pain feels like. Do you know what it feels like to get kicked out of the family for getting pregnant with a girl? With you. I got so much hate and everyone would point fingers at me and blame me for the gender I didn’t even choose,” her mom continues with a shaky voice, “you are the reason why we are living like this. If it wasn’t for you, I would be living with my husband happy in his mansion,” Her voice gets louder with every word.
“That’s not my fault. I never asked to be a g-” Amery argues back but gets cut off by the stinging pain across her face. She slowly starts feeling the burning pain on the right side of her cheek.
Amery’s hands ball up to a fist and she feels her sharp nails dig into the palm of her hands. It’ll be different this time.
She turns around from her mom’s face, still emotionless. She silently returns to her room and reaches for her backpack in the corner of her room and starts packing some clothes and some other things she can’t live without.
3 hours left
She steps out of her room and starts walking down the hallway.
“STOP RIGHT THERE AMERY KATELYN HENNIS!” Her mom yelled, louder than ever. Amery jumps in surprise but she ignores her. This time, she would be different. She double-checks her backpack on the dining table and packs a few cans of corn, chicken, and packs of soup powder.
“WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?” Her mom stomps up to her and grabs her fragile wrist. Amery freezes again but shakes herself awake, telling herself to be different this time.
“Let me go,” Amery whispers, tears welling up in pain from her mom’s giant rings squeezing in tighter every second.
“Where do you think you are going?’ Her mom asks with a trembling voice.
“Nowhere. I’m just getting ready for the school field trip next week,” Amery responds.
“Oh,” her mom lets go, avoiding her eyes. You’re so dumb. Amery laughs silently.
Amery refuses dinner because her mom is giving her disgusting green peas. Again. She’s been hungry for almost 20 hours but she doesn’t notice her pain.
2 hours left
Her stomach tickles and she feels nauseous. She can’t tell if it’s from hunger or her excitement. She turns on her phone and looks for a place to stay. She scrolls down again and again but they are all so expensive. She only has $150 she barely got to save secretly behind her mom’s back. Her goal is to live for a week outside her house and get a steady job somewhere. School. Well, school is a different problem right now. It isn’t her focus right now.
1 hour left
It’s 11 PM now and every muscle is starting to loosen up. Amery starts feeling the sleepiness creeping up on her and her thighs are bruised purple from pinching them so much. She sighs, realizing what she got herself into. You’re insane. She laughs, knowing this would destroy her already-ruined life. The house is still and silent as if she is the only one in the house. She hears her mom snoring, calming her for the first time. Everything is going the way she planned it to be. Her body tickles and she isn't sure if it’s from the nervousness or excitement.
30 minutes left
Amery is falling asleep now. She never stayed up for this long. Wake up, wake up. This is the only chance of her escaping for the next three months. Every three months, her mom takes medicine to help with her sleeping problems, depression, and anxiety. It is the only day she sleeps without waking up until 6 AM. From her observations for the last couple of years, her mom completely fell asleep around 11 PM. Amery puts on her backpack and takes a deep breath.
10 minutes left
Amery steps out of her room silently as if she is floating. She peeks into her brother’s room and smiles. No more looking at your face you brat. She then makes her way to her mom. Bye mom. Thanks for giving me a new life.
2 minutes left
Amery slowly and carefully opens the door, her hands trembling with fear that it might make a creaking noise, waking up- No. It can’t happen. She shakes her head, focusing herself on opening the door. Thump. The door is open. No big noises and she has done it. She is free.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Fireworks welcome the new year. The year that she will have a new life in. She breathes in the cold air as she tightens her scarf around herself.
She starts running. Running to freedom and protection. I’m free. This year will be different. I will make it different. She thinks over the words again and again as she runs away.
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