Home > Pained

Author: Vera Hollins





“You’re so dumb,” my classmate Ethan said from the back of the classroom, and almost everyone started laughing. “And red like a tomato.” My blush intensified.

I stood in front of the blackboard, done with my long-dreaded presentation about the relationship between setting and theme in Pride and Prejudice. I didn’t like public speaking, and I counted the seconds until the teacher finally allowed me to go back to my seat.

I couldn’t calm the sickening tempo of my heartbeat, and I tried my best to ignore the stares as I looked at the floor. I detested being the center of attention. I’d barely managed to collect myself enough to finish the presentation successfully.

“Silence, Ethan. I don’t want to hear a word from you,” Ms. Simmons said.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m sorry Ms. S. I won’t say a word to Tomato.”

Ms. Simmons glared at him. “Ethan, unless you want detention, you better keep your mouth shut.” She turned to me. “Well done, Sarah. Your presentation was thorough, and you showed a good understanding of the story’s elements. Keep up the good work. You may go to your seat now.”

A few students whispered that stupid nickname as I passed their desks. Ethan sat right behind me, but I didn’t look at him. I couldn’t wait to leave school. We had early release today, so only several minutes separated me from the end of this torture.

“Hey, Tomato?” Ethan whispered. I didn’t move, sensing him very close to me. “You’re an ugly creep. Why don’t you do us all a favor and put a bag over your head next time?”

“Or you could stay out of our sight for good,” a girl at the desk next to mine muttered viciously. My throat tightened. I hated that I could never defend myself. I could only feel fear and embarrassment, which made me incapable of fighting back.

The bell rang, and I didn’t waste a second. I rushed out of the classroom, finally able to get away from this suffocating place.

Just one more month, Sarah. One more month until the end of junior high and you won’t see these people anymore.

I quickly darted out of the school so my bullies wouldn’t catch up with me, reaching the school gates in no time. I welcomed the noisy streets of New Haven, Connecticut that provided a temporary escape from the nightmares of my life.

Those nightmares were everywhere—at school, where everyone found me an easy target, and at home, where I had to deal with my drunk, moody mother and her latest boyfriend, Brad.

I slowed down my pace, the thought of him instilling cold fear in me. I was in no hurry to go back to our apartment. I couldn’t know if Brad was going to be there, and I didn’t want to see him. I wanted him gone from my life.

I was terrified of him. He was one of the most despicable people I’d ever met. They had been dating for a couple of months, but Brad only showed his true colors recently. He started to beat my mom and force her to do whatever he wanted. Each time I tried to defend her, he would slap me or threaten to break my bones if I didn’t lock myself in my room and leave them alone.

I called the police once and told them about the abuse, but it was futile since Mom hadn’t confirmed my accusations. Brad retaliated by beating her next day. She was a silent victim of abuse, and I was useless and unable to do anything to help her.

She never said a word about Brad, and I didn’t understand why she protected him. Why did she stay with him? Why did she defend that sick bastard?

I climbed up the rusty stairs of our old, half-deserted apartment building, hoping for the millionth time that my mother had finally decided to leave him. I hadn’t slept well these last few weeks, anxious about Brad when I was supposed to focus on my final exams.

I reached the third floor and continued to our apartment at the very end of the hallway, taking the keys out of my jeans pocket. An ear-shattering scream pierced the silence, and I halted, my blood freezing. It came from our place.

I opened the door in maddening haste, darting inside. I found Brad on top of my mother on the floor in our living room. He was punching her in the face, his ferociousness striking terror into me.


“P-Please... Stop!” My mother pleaded and wailed, half-naked and trapped under Brad’s huge body. Her ripped skirt and panties lay discarded next to her.

I let my backpack fall and grabbed the wooden chair next to me as he started unbuttoning his jeans. With a visceral cry, I raised the chair and slammed it into his massive back.

He growled and dropped to the side, seemingly knocked out. I let go of the chair and wrapped my arm around Mom to help her get up. We had to leave fast.

“Come on, Mom. Let’s get out of here.” I swallowed when I took in her horribly injured face and glassy eyes. She clung onto her shirt, trying to cover herself as she stared vacantly at the floor.

Just as I managed to get her up, a quick movement to my right caught my eye. I moved, but I wasn’t fast enough, and something hit me. Pain exploded in the side of my head. I lost my balance and collapsed on the floor. My mother screamed, and I looked over my shoulder. Brad punched her, leaving her incapacitated.

His sinister blue eyes found mine. “You’re going to pay for hitting me.”

I whimpered and scrambled to my feet, looking for any object that could help me against him. We were the only residents on this floor, but I hoped against hope someone would hear and call the police. I spotted the phone on the coffee table but reaching it seemed impossible now.

He grabbed my upper arm and spun me around. “Where do you think you’re going, bitch?”

He swung his fist, and I barely had time to protect my face. A burning pain pierced my shoulder, and I couldn’t even recover before he landed a blow to my stomach. I was unable to breathe, collapsing to the floor in nauseating pain. He sat on me and pinned my arms above me, leaving me unable to defend myself.

“Why don’t you leave grownups to play, huh?” He grinned savagely, and a chilling, disgusting thought came to my mind when my eyes fell on his open jeans. He’s going to rape her. “How about you take a nap?” He swung his fist at my head, and I braced myself for the worst.

The last thing I saw before I was plunged into terrifying blackness was my ghostly pale mother lying in a fetal position on the floor. She was silently staring off into nowhere—completely lost and broken.



Chapter 1




“Try not to get too drunk.” I read Mateo’s message and smiled.

“Same to you,” I texted back, adding a smiley at the end of my message.

It was Saturday night, and Jessica and I were having a sleepover at Melissa’s place. We were playing Truth or Dare on the floor of Mel’s room, dressed in pajamas and drinking the beer her parents had left in the fridge. We were all alone in the house since Melissa’s dad had stayed at his law firm to work on one of his cases, and her mom was on a business trip.

My phone beeped every once in a while, notifying me about a new message from Mateo, who was hanging out with his friends.

“Mateo told me not to get too drunk.” Jessica and Melissa looked at each other and chuckled, clinking their cans.

“He’s such a sweetheart, worrying about you. He’s not able to breathe without you,” Mel cooed, and I smacked her knee. “What? That’s true! You saw each other earlier tonight, and he’s already texting you. He misses you so much! Moreover, he cares about your alcohol intake. Such burning love! Such passion!” She stood on her knees and raised her arms in air, her expression overly dramatic.

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