I turn away, remorse burning in my chest. Turn away, so he can’t see the regret plainly showing on my face. Turn away, so he won’t make me hurt someone else. I’m not supposed to show emotion. I’m not supposed to flinch away from pain. He will know, he will see that I am not made to be a criminal, that I will not hold up his title when he’s gone, like he’s making me to. Maybe when he dies, I can finally give myself up to the police. I can finally live a life of peace, without all this paranoia. Even if that life is inside a prison cell. I want to get out. I want to be free. My gut wrenches as I hear his deceptively soft voice say, “Look at me. Aren’t you proud of your first kill?”. I swallow hard, keeping back the all-too familiar taste of bile. Rage builds in me. This man is proud of his own daughter for murdering someone. I wish with all of my heart to yell, scream, hurt him for all of the lives he’s taken. But I can’t. I cannot oppose him, or he will lock me up again. He will take the little freedom I have left away from me.
I turn to face him, but I keep my eyes averted. Painfully, I force a delighted expression on my face. I grimace up at him, and say in a surprisingly cheerful way, “Um. Yes, I am… Um… I feel super happy when I hurt others!”. I try to keep the sarcasm out of my voice with all of my being. My head feels numb. I should have been more convincing. He will read my expression. I keep my face blank, though I feel the heat rushing through it. I hold my breath in anticipation, but he is looking away at our dank living space. “Good, good.”, he says dismissively. I turn away, the fear fading, being replaced with anger and ferocity. I loathe this man.
I wait for him to fall asleep- as I do every night- to have some of the only time alone I get from my father. I listen closely to his breathing, and once he’s asleep I get off my cot on the floor, and cautiously walk toward the exit. My father and I live in an abandoned Dairy Queen. Half of the roof is collapsed and lays on the ground in a heap. Neither me or my father has made an effort to clear away the rubble.
I walk castiously towards the sidewalk. I carefully step over a fallen street light. Taking an agonizingly slow breath, I turn and walk into a gas station. Someone inside hears the door squeak open, and they frantically drop their things and jog over to me.
The people living here in this gas station are “friends” of my father’s. They supply him with food, gas and sometimes ammunition. They are sort of like my second parents.
“Olive? Is that you?” I put on a nervous smile. “Yes, Katie. Where’s Stella?”. Katie walks up to me. She looks very rugged and tough with short black hair and tattoos on her arms. Stella, however is very quiet and serious. She has shoulder-length brown hair. Despite appearances though, Katie is very outgoing and optimistic. Stella is serious because of the trauma of her mother dying. When she was young my grandparents and her parents were enemies. My grandfather shot her mother, and now she and her father are working for my father.
“Stella is out getting groceries.” I seriously doubted that Stella was going to pay for all of the food. Katie glances up and sees my face. I must have not done a very good job at hiding my distress. I opened my mouth and it all came pouring out. I told her how father had made me kill someone. I told her about my remorse and my disgust. And I told her about lying to father, and my terror at him finding me out.
Katie’s face was a mixture of horror, pity, and astonishment. I turn away, not wanting to see her face. She reaches out her hand and delicately touches my shoulder. I half heartedly lean away, but after a second I turn toward her and hug her as tightly as I can. Katie hugs me back and she doesn’t tell me how hard I’m squeezing her torso.
I hold on to her for such a long time that my tears dry up. Katie pulls me away and looks straight into my eyes. After reading my expression she says, “Are you sure you’re okay?”. I pull away and begin to gather my things. “I just can’t do that again. Thanks for the hug, I really needed it.” Katie nods kindly. I reluctantly walk out of the door.
As a precaution, I think up an excuse for being out during nighttime. Carefully stepping over a crate that used to hold ice cream, I strain my eyes to see if my father’s body still lays on the mat. I come closer. The cot is empty. I look around. To my left he stands at the sink, sleepily filling up his water glass. My eyes widen.
My heart races. He turns on the faucet, and, Knowing it’s my only chance to get back unnoticed, I creep toward my cot. My eyes are on him, so I don’t see the shards of glass on the floor. I step on a broken bottle, and a piece of glass pierces my toe. I let out a restrained cry. I freeze, holding my breath.
Father whips around. He sees me, and then glances at my bed. The bed without the blankets messed around from someone sleeping on it. He looks back at me with those cold, knowing eyes. He knows that I have been leaving this place and going to Katie and Stella’s.
“Finally caught you in the act. I can see on your face that you’ve been doing something that I wouldn’t like. Now tell me what you've been doing. Now.”. I look away from him. All I hear is the blood rushing in my ears. He comes over to me, grabbing my neck, choking me. “Tell me where you keep running off to,” he demands squeezing my neck harder. My eyes water. In a raspy but defiant voice I tell him, “I go to Stella and Katie at the gas station every day.” I scowl at him.
He gives me a warning look, and then pushes me away on to the floor. I gasp from the pain of hitting the floor, but I refuse to touch my neck. I give myself 10 seconds of vulnerability, and then I stand and move to my cot. I am so tired that I don’t even worry about sleeping in the same room as my father.
I awake as the morning light shines on my face from the window. I open my eyes. I look at my arms. My hands are tied to each bedpost, and my ankles are tied together. My heart burns with suppressed anger. My own father has tied me up. I yank my wrists against the bedposts. They hold. I pull harder and harder. I lose control. I struggle against my bindings with all of my heart, screaming shrilly.
After a while, I lose my heart and energy. I fall limp, sobbing into my pillow. It’s then that I feel the note. A piece of paper is stuck to my cheek, a little wet from my tears. I strain my wrist around to reach the paper. It says:
You have failed me. You are no longer my daughter. I am leaving this town after I raid a truck containing valuable artifacts. You have been tied up for your own good. I hope this is what you wanted
I can feel the sarcasm like he was saying it to me in real time. The anger from before returns. I am going to get out of here, I think. I meticulously examine the floor. I spot a shard of glass from a bottle. Tightening my grip on the ropes, I swing my legs over the side of the bed. I get the edge of the shard between my toes, and squeeze. The sharp edge of the glass cut into my the crack between my first and second toes. I give out a little gasp. It's okay, I think, now it will be easier to hold the shard. I bring the shard up onto the bed, and release it into my palm. One side of it is bloody. I grab the shard with my right hand.
Wondering what my father is doing, I saw the bindings on my left hand. When there are only a couple of strands of rope left, I yank on the rope, and it gives way. I repeat the process with my right hand. With my hands free, I untie the bindings on my legs.
Once I am free I think about what I can do. Staying here brings back too many memories. I could go to Stella and Katie’s house. That seems like as good an idea as any, but somehow I don’t believe that’s the right choice. Then, I figure out what’s been bothering me.
I must redeem myself for all of the immoral things I have done. I have used the excuse of my father for too long now. Telling myself I did all of those things because he made me is a lie. I could have stood up to him, but instead I followed everything he wanted, did everything he wanted, and innocent people have paid. It is exactly the kind of thing Father would have done.
I am going to do something good for a change. I’m going to stop my father from raiding that truck. Determined, I get ready. I grab my phone, so I can call the police when I find the truck, and then I sprint out the door.
Running along the main road of our town, I feel a sudden doubt about what I am going to do. I don’t even know where Father is. Even if I do find him, how am I going to stop him? But, after only a moment’s hesitation, my sense of purpose and redemption brings the urgency back into my step. I know I can do this.
I listen for any telltale signs of a robbery: people yelling, the screeching of brakes, the wail of a siren, even the sound of items spilling about. Nothing. I have to give my father credit, he does rob quite stealthily. Some people don’t even know they’ve been robbed. Then, I catch the faint sound of a truck’s horn. Not thinking, I run towards the sound as fast as my sore legs can carry me.
The sight I see when I turn on to Hawthorne street makes me stop in my tracks. In the middle of the street lays a FedEx truck on it’s side. The nose of the truck is crushed in. Both of it’s headlights are shattered. On the sidewalk opposite me are three men. One man is holding the other man in a headlock while the other is searching his pockets for his keys. The captured man is, of course, the truck driver. The man facing me, the one holding the truck driver, is my father. The other man has his back to me, and I can’t recognize him.
This is the redemption I need. I back away, using the building next to me as protection. I dial 911. I tell the police about the truck crashing on Hawthorne street, and that two men are robbing the driver of the truck. I run towards my father. “Let him go!” I yell towards their backs. My father looks up at me, his eyes narrowing. “Olive. What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here. Go back home” I look up at him with murder in my eyes.
“You do not get to order me around after you tied me up and left me to die. You are not my father anymore. Now let. Him. Go.” The other man has turned around by now. He says, “You shouldn’t worry about anything that doesn’t concern you. We are going out of town we won’t concern you any longer.” I turn my glare to his red face. You should be ashamed. You are harassing an innocent person. You will be caught.”
We all look up at the sound of police siren. I smile to myself. Perfect timing. I launch myself at my father while he’s distracted. I grab his arms, pushing him away from the FedEx driver. I desperately need the police to arrive soon. Father is stronger than me. Biting my lip, I hang on tighter than I have ever held before.
I know that I can’t hold him forever without attacking. I hold his hands with my left hand, and, with my right, I claw the side of his neck as hard as my nails could take. I draw blood. He screams in pain, contorting his face into a snarl. At the sight of his neck, the bloodlust dissolves. I did that. Hurt my father.
I quickly go back to holding his wrists, not wanting to hurt him more. That is, until I see that he was just pretending to be hurt. My body fills with adrenaline. My fist connects with the back of his skull. He goes limp.
I look up to take in my surroundings. There are two police cars in the middle of the street, about a dozen feet away. Three police men are staring straight at me. Oh no, they just saw me punch father. My heart races. My mind searches frantically for a way out of this. It’s no use, they saw everything.
Then it hits me. Maybe this is my redemption, instead of saving the man. Maybe admitting to my flaws and mistakes is the true way out of this. I won’t make any more excuses. I will turn myself in, but I will knowing that I have done the right thing, and I can start anew when I get out of prison.
With a resigned expression on my face, I tell the cops everything that I know. How I helped Father, how I hurt people, how I stole from them.
Even though I am going to prison, I finally feel free. For the first time in my life I can be who I am. I don’t have to hide. I am fearless.