Authors: J.M. Sevilla
When To Let Go
By J.M. Sevilla
Copyright 2015 J.M. Sevilla
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental.
When To Let Go
By J.M. Sevilla
For my children—Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts. Find your voice. Love with all your heart. Dream. Work hard at everything you do. Believe in yourself. Know that I will always be here for you no matter the mistakes you make or problems you face.
Five-year-old Ava quietly colored on the coffee table, occasionally glancing at the clock on top of the television. She was waiting for when the first number read three; that meant her brother, Parker, would be home soon.
Ava squirmed on the floor, needing to use the bathroom. It was getting to the point that it took everything in her not to, but the only bathroom in the tiny apartment was next to the only bedroom. The one that belonged to her sleeping mother.
Nobody wanted to be the reason she woke up, or at least Ava never wanted to be. She still had the bruises on her arms from last week when she couldn't stop sneezing. She had tried to explain that she couldn't stop them, but her mother didn't care. She still taught Ava a “lesson” about staying quiet.
The need to use the bathroom was starting to get so bad that Ava was unable to concentrate on the schoolwork her brother had left for her to complete. Every day before Parker left for school he would write a number and letter for her to practice while he was away. Her favorite part was getting to draw a picture to go with it and seeing how her brother was always so impressed and proud of them.
Today it was an upper and lower case P. For the sixth day in a row. Ava kept writing the lower case as a “b”.
Parker was always patient with her, yet some days it even frustrated him how she always seemed to flip words and numbers around, jumbling them up in her head.
That's why her mom didn't want to pay for Ava to go to preschool before she started kindergarten in the fall. Her mother's reasoning was that, “they'll never be able to teach the stupid out of her, so why waste hard earned money on an ugly retard?”
Parker always got angry and lost his temper when their mother put Ava down. He would yell at her, reminding her that it would be
hard earned money that paid for it, since
was the one pushing drugs for
That usually had their mother's boyfriend joining in, wanting to show Parker what happened when he disrespected his mom. Parker always made Ava go to the kitchen, to the far corner by the window. She'd squeeze her eyes closed as tight as she could and cover her ears until Parker came and got her. He would always have bruises that looked to be the size of Ava's head, and either a broken finger or a fracture to a bone – nothing that couldn't be concealed or needed hospital care and warrant questions.
Ava never felt worthy of her brother's love and protection, always wishing it was her taking the beatings. It was her fault it was happening. He wasn't the one who messed up, she was. It was always her fault, yet her brother paid the consequences. She wished she wasn't such a burden on everyone's lives. No matter how many times a day Parker told Ava how smart and beautiful she was, she still believed all the nasty things her mother said to her. What she craved more than anything in the world was for her mom to love her back.
Ava finally couldn’t take it anymore and tiptoed to the bathroom. She didn't flush or wash her hands, fearful of the noise. She sat back down on the filthy, stained carpet, scrunching her shoulders over the coffee table to finish her picture of a pool. She had placed it in a huge backyard that had a swing set, sand box, and so many colorful flowers. She couldn't wait to show Parker the drawing. It had all the things they would wish for at night before they fell asleep in their sleeping bags on the living room floor.
The sound of a lighter clicking made Ava tense up. The bedroom door behind her creaked open, and cigarette smoke infiltrated the room. Ava's mom sat down on the ratty old couch behind her, using the remote to turn on her daytime talk shows.
Ava got up, soundlessly retreating to the kitchen to pour her mom a drink. She grabbed the plastic bottle of vodka that already had the cap twisted off from the night before. She searched the littered counter top for a semi-clean looking cup, pouring the alcohol into the glass. Then she used the stepping stool to get two cubes of ice from the freezer, dropping them in with the liquid. As careful as she could, she splashed in some juice, filling it to the brim.
A bit sloshed over as she walked it back, spilling onto her hand. Ava paused fearfully, ready for her mom to come over, reminding her of how she couldn't do anything right and she never should have had her. To Ava's relief, her mom didn't notice. She licked her hand, cringing from the taste, but she didn't want any evidence of how useless she was.
Ava placed the glass on the side table next to her mom and returned to her drawing. She slowly colored in the blue of the water, not wanting the noise of her crayon to irritate her mom.
A few minutes later, Ava anxiously looked up at the clock. It was after three and that meant her brother would be home any minute! An excited gasp accidentally left her mouth, stupidly drawing attention to herself.
“You think your brother loves you?”
Ava's hair was yanked back so hard it set fire to her scalp as her mom brought her face close to Ava's, her nicotine breath hitting Ava’s face. She kept her eyes cast down, hands trembling, dropping the crayon she'd been coloring with.
Her mom continued to spit out damaging words, “You're worthless. I know it. Parker knows it. The bum on the fucking street knows it. No use drawing him those ugly-ass pictures, he just throws them away.”
Ava knew Parker didn't, but she knew better than to speak up. Her brother kept every picture she drew him. He hid them in a folder inside his backpack so their mom wouldn't find them and throw them away.
Her mother spit in her hair, yanking it back harder before pushing it forward, colliding Ava's forehead and the coffee table with a crack. Ava's vision blurred, her head throbbed, and tears stung her eyes, yet she didn't make a peep, knowing any kind of noise would only anger her mom further. She stared fuzzy-eyed at the screen, wanting the room to stop spinning. Her mother finished her drink in two large swallows and got up, mumbling that she needed a shower.
A few minutes later, once the water was running, her mother's boyfriend came stumbling into the living room and flopped into the seat directly behind Ava. Ava hated it more when he was awake than her mom. He always stared at her and wanted her to share with him what she'd been drawing, while she sat on his lap and he touched her between her legs or forced her hand between his.
He patted his lap, “Come show me the picture you drew today?”
Ava pretended she didn't hear him.
His hand reached out to stroke her hair, “Never seen hair like this before. Can't tell if you're a redhead, blonde, or brunette. It sure is pretty, dollface.”
Ava curled into herself, praying her mom didn't hear him; she hated it the most when people complemented her hair.
His hand kept stroking her hair, causing her tummy to feel sick. He brought a strand to his nose and inhaled. She recognized the sound of a zipper unfastening.
The sickness in her belly got worse.
“Turn around, dollface.”
Ten-year-old Parker took the long way home that day. Not because he wanted to; he still had another eighth of chronic to sell and this way took him right past the quickie mart, where his best customers hung around.
Ever since his mom met that asshole she called a boyfriend he'd been making Parker sell his drugs instead of doing it himself. He figured no one would suspect a kid. So far the asshole boyfriend was right.
Parker hated that his mom didn't care. She had always been that way with men, needing their attention to the point that she let them beat up on her and her son. The previous boyfriend did things to Parker he'd never tell a soul about. Shameful things that took away any innocence he had left.
They never touched Ava though, Parker made sure of it. He knew his protection over her only pissed their mom off, making her extra evil towards her daughter, but Parker figured it was better their mother's thin bony fingers than the big, rough hands of a man. One of these days Parker would fight back, hurting them worse than they hurt him. For now, he was a coward who took the beatings, never trying to escape or cry for help.
He'd thought about telling his teachers over the years, but he was too worried about his little sister, who he adored and had taken care of since birth. What if they got separated and he couldn't protect her? Who would make sure she was fed and didn't get too cold? Who would sing to her at night? Would anybody take the time to bake cupcakes with her and pick out all the yellow sprinkles because that was her favorite color to put on top? What if they ended up somewhere worse? He'd seen enough movies and television shows to know they had it easy compared to some. Parker could endure beatings, hands he didn't want touching him, and drug selling if it meant he could make sure his sister was safe from those things happening to her.
Right away, Parker met some addicts who finished off his lot. He was thankful he didn't have to spend all afternoon there.
He jogged home, ignoring his grumbling stomach.
When was the last time he had eaten? He believed it was lunch time…yesterday. He kept running anyway, not letting the lightheadedness slow him down. With luck, he'd still make it home before his mom woke up.
When he was near the decaying apartments they lived in, he heard shouting and screaming coming from what sounded like his place.
Parker sprinted up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
Let Ava be okay. Let Ava be okay
. He chanted it over and over again in his head, the long stretch to the end seeming miles long. He threw open the door to find his mother screaming at a tear-streaked Ava, whose face was covered in red hand prints.
“You filthy whore!” Their mom screamed, raising her hand and hitting Ava again.
Parker ran to his sister's rescue, “Let her go!”
He pulled Ava back, pushing his mother out of the way with more force than he'd meant to.
“Take that piece of trash and go!” Their mom screeched, jabbing a finger at the door. “I never want to see that useless little shit again!”
Parker remained frozen with a crying Ava wrapped in his arms, “We have nowhere to go.”
“I don't give a shit. I can't put up with you two anymore. This was the last straw. I clothed you, fed you, put a fucking roof over your goddamn heads. Not anymore. Not after this.”
“You're our mother!” Parker shouted back, letting his built up rage inhabit his senses, “You're
to do all those things!”
“Boy,” the boyfriend barked, coming into view, “What have I told you about disrespecting your mother?”
His mother got a glassy, lovesick gleam to her eyes as she fondly smiled at her boyfriend, loving when he came to her defense and showed that he cared.
Parker watched his mother coo as she pressed her body into the boyfriend’s, “I'm sorry you had to deal with my whore of a daughter.”
Parker thought he might vomit as he clued in to what had happened. He placed Ava behind him and took a step forward, his fists balling up, ready to strike. Any cowardice was gone; a new Parker had been born. One full of fury.
“What did you do to my sister?” Parker snarled through his clenched teeth that were grinding from the adrenaline pounding through his body.
“He didn't do anything,” his mother had the nerve to defend the sick bastard, blazing her hatred-filled eyes on Ava. “He's only a man. How's he supposed to say no?”
All he saw was red as his fists, arms, legs, feet, mouth, any part of himself he could use to achieve his goal of killing the man. He was pretty sure he even hurt his mom a few times when she tried getting in the way. He didn't care. Later he would, but not now. Now he just needed to make the man pay.
Parker was getting more of a beating. He finally gained the upper hand when they fell and the boyfriend smacked the back of his head on the corner of the coffee table, knocking him unconscious. Parker kept right on hitting him. Over and over again, to the point that he couldn't tell if the red he saw was just from his anger anymore.
The distant sound of his sister's sobs made him aware of what he was doing. He fell back, scurrying backwards on all fours like a crab.
“Is he dead?” Their mother cried, throwing her body over the boyfriend, whose chest was barely moving.
Parker grabbed Ava's hand and ran. They kept running, even when Parker hadn't a clue where they were, needing to get far, far away. At one point Parker had to do it with Ava on his back.
That night, in a town he had never heard of, he locked them in a park bathroom that smelt of piss. Parker cleaned up his sister’s face as best as he could with paper towels and sink water, then she did the same for him.
Ava had stopped crying, but her little chest was still hiccupping from crying so hard. Parker had her tell him what had happened, even though he didn't want to hear it. To his relief – if one could call it that – it hadn't gotten as far as Parker had thought. The boyfriend hadn't done what the previous boyfriend had done to him. He had forced Ava's mouth over him, but it wasn't long before their mother walked in. Ava was ashamed.
Parker soothed her, trying his best to reassure her that the boyfriend was the bad guy. Sadly, he knew from experience that that didn't take away the shame.