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Creative Nonfiction Coming of Age Inspirational

CW: abuse, violence

“You aren’t going anywhere! You work for me! I own you!”


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.


I fight to keep my frame from shivering as her voice claws to an octave higher, the stapler waving around her head like a magpie waiting to divebomb an unsuspecting victim.


This isn’t the first time she’s threatened to hit me with the small mechanical device. It isn’t the first time she’s followed through with her threat, either.


She screamed and screeched like this for another 20 minutes, never seeming to take a breath in between her words. Even behind thick glass framed with dark pink plastic, her eyes were getting more blood shot with each syllable.


My life wasn’t supposed to end up being whittled down to nothing more than a bitter woman’s punching bag. I was supposed to have graduated college with a degree in Journalism, move to the city in an apartment with good roommates, meet a handsome guy with a good job, get married, and live my life in happily ever after.


Cliché, I know. But it’s what I wanted.


What I got instead was a boss who loved using me as her emotional punching bag, often calling me stupid to my face, and slapping me whenever I was too close because she felt like it. I had tried complaining to HQ and HR several times, but they told me the same message over and over again: Let her do what she wants. She produces results, so she can do what she likes. Just be patient. She’s going through a tough time right now.


My apartment life wasn’t great either. I ended up living with 6 other roommates in an old house with leaking windows and poorly insulated walls, including two drug addicts who loved to shove everyone into the walls when they were tweaking, a 50-year-old man who not only has just started living away from his childhood home, but is also a first-class pervert, and one clueless girl who thought it was a great idea to use other people’s razor and never clean it.


I tried to pray every night, wishing to wake up from this nightmare and end up in my favored reality, but it never happened. Not yet at least. I don’t know how, but there still lived a small kernel of hope somewhere deep within me. It was tiny and shone no brighter than a star far away in the night sky, but it lived.


I had tried to quit this job several times before, but it always ended up the same. I would try to talk with my boss, tell her that I wasn’t happy in my role and wanted to try something new and refreshing, but the conversation somehow always ended up with her yelling at me and threatening to have me black-listed from every company within a 60-mile radius if I ever dared to leave her. Sometimes she would even throw something at me to drive her threat home. Once, I needed to go to the ER for a “sudden gash to the forehead”. I had told the doctor that I had slipped on wet cement, but I don’t think she believed me. She had the nurse slip a Domestic Abuse Hotline card into my purse. At least, I think she had asked the nurse. Her warm smile matched the sunbaked earth in her eyes and the afternoon rays woven in her tied-up hair.


It was that same smile my mind turned to as my boss’s voice slashed at my arms and face, splashing me with invisible blood from gaping wounds invisible to the rest of the world.


But not to me.


I fought the shivers that tried to overcome me, begging me to cower and curl into a ball as my boss wanted. It was as though another’s pain was her one comfort in this life. A life that turned dark and dim with each poor decision made: A divorce messier than floods during hurricane season. A cold mother’s death who could only love herself in life, not even a drop left over for a child. A feud against brother who preferred the comfort of a stranger instead of his sister. And a father’s cancer that threatened to bury what was left of her beating heart, now nothing more than a shriveled plum more rancid than garbage under a hot sun.


“I can’t do this anymore!” her voice cried out against my ears, swinging the stapler down upon my head like a hammer. “I can’t deal with your abuse anymore!”


Wait. My abuse? When did I abuse her? When did I raise my voice against her in attack? When did I ever hit her with a stapler?!


What followed next felt like a dream – as though someone else struck my head with lightning and took over the reins to my muscles.


My hand flew into the air, fingers wrapped around her fat wrist. The stapler clattered against the counter, springing open and sending clumps of unused staples everywhere.


Time paused, unsure whether to take another breath.


Her mouth gaped and sucked in air like a fish.


Slowly, I dragged her hand through that heavy air and forced it to her side. Her other hand sprang up and contorted into claws, like a cat swiping at an enemy. Somehow, I was quicker. I caught her wrist and forced her nails into her own flesh, raking it across her face. I watched as she stumbled backward and slammed into her glass office door, nearly shattering it into a thousand pieces.


“I quit.” I could hear the words whisper. Did they come from me? Did I utter them into existence?


As though invisible strings attached themselves to my joints, I jerked away from my boss and wobbled toward my desk. All my things, what few items I managed to bring in at the beginning, were already packed into a Wegmans reusable bag.


“I quit.” I heard the words again, this time louder and stronger. Two more seconds, and my purse, phone, and bag were in my hands.


“You can’t…” I heard her whimper.


Before I could even stop myself, I turned away from the front door toward my now ex-boss. Strength I didn’t even know I had surged into my muscles. Strange giddiness bubbled in my throat.


“Watch me,” I spat.


Ten steps, and I was off the front porch, away from the office, and floating toward my car.


I can’t say for certain what just happened, but I can tell you one thing…


The sun is shining brighter now. 

September 03, 2021 11:35

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3 comments

Ds Vacillation
06:40 Sep 10, 2021

I love stories about ordinary people like this where the writing is free to just explore universal themes without needing to make something crazy or outlandish happen. To that end, I like that you put in a reference to the boss's own trauma as a sort of explanation of her lashing out, rather than reducing her to a one dimensional evil villain type boss. Personally, I actually would have liked to see that part elaborated on more, maybe even a bit from the boss's perspective for example, to kind of explore that dynamic further. Oh, and unrelat...

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Dee Wes
13:07 Sep 09, 2021

Wow. The protagonist in this story took a lot before finding her strength to leave. The story moves full circle allowing the deceased mother to be visible, possibly, in the boss. It conveys as reason abuse of this nature had been accepted for so long. This was a well written story.🎉

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Johana Htwe
06:03 Sep 09, 2021

Although it is really hard for me to believe such terrible boss exist in this world, I am really intrigued by your story, Leah. It feels so real. And I love every single sentence. All the sentences are so creative. And I love how you portrayed who is the protagonist, like where she lives, what she want and who are her family. I love it!! Great Job!!

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