LJ Idol Exhibit B | week fifteen | 994 words
It's Super Seekrit (Note: trigger warnings for implied sexual abuse.)
I'm Susie Barrett, and I live in Schuyler, Virginia. It's a nice enough town. Everyone says it's full of decent, honest people, and that matters more than anything.
I don't really know if it's true, though. There are things I am not allowed to tell other people, and that doesn't seem very honest:
I first noticed Lila's bruises last June, when we were changing into our bathing suits to go down to the creek. Lila's legs had ugly brown marks, like Benny's ribs do when he's been wrestling on top of a bunch of rocks. Lila was embarrassed when I asked about the bruises, and wouldn't say where they were from. We never did go swimming—Lila's Daddy came by a few minutes later and hollered that he wanted her skinny little rump back home that instant. He used a different word than 'rump,' but if I said it I'd get a spanking.
Lila looked real scared then, but he sounded pretty mad and I never like it when my parents get mad. Times like that, I sometimes wind up in trouble without even knowing what I did wrong.
Lila comes over to our house a lot, like best friends do. Her Mama died after Lila's little sister was born, so it's just those two girls and their Daddy. Sometimes Lila has to bring her sister along, but nobody minds. They're both happier here than when they're at their own house. Maybe they'd like it there more if their Daddy just didn't drink so much.
We like to run through the back field and chase after bugs, or pick flowers, or draw with chalk. We play hide and seek in the house, but not very often because Lila always wins. She brings her Barbies over sometimes, or if she forgets then we just play with mine. One day, while we were dressing them up, she took my Ken and put him on top of a naked Barbie and mashed them together.
"What are they doing?" I asked.
"Grownup things," Lila said.
"That doesn't look very fun," I said.
"It isn't." I didn't know why Lila sounded so angry, but I decided I'd better just let her borrow my Ken doll and ask for it back when she was done being mad.
Later, I asked Mama what kinds of things grownups did.
"Oh, going to work or the supermarket, or driving a car, or going out dancing."
I still don't think Barbie and Ken were dancing, not like that.
Lila came over the next day, so I asked her what she meant about grownups, and she told me. I didn't really understand it. Why would anyone do that? She said her Daddy did those things to her and it really hurt, which was why she didn't like to go bicycling to the store with me anymore.
"Maybe you could ask him to stop," I said.
"I ask him all the time, but he doesn't listen! Even when I promise I'll never ask for anything else ever again!"
Lila was crying so hard it made me cry, too. I didn't know what to do. "What if my Mama or Daddy explained it to him? So he'd know why it was wrong?"
"You can't tell them," Lila said. "You can't tell anybody, ever."
I knew Lila hated what was happening to her. But being sent away and having to leave her sister behind scared her even more. Her Daddy told her that's what he'd do if anyone found out.
That's when I knew what a horrible man he really was.
Sometimes, I think the truth about Uncle Bobby or Mrs. Waterton might just slip out one day. I'm only eight. I can't be careful all the time. But Lila's secret is a hundred times harder to keep inside.
She's awful skinny these days. Mama bakes her favorite treats, just to have them around, but Lila's never hungry. Her skin is pinched and grayish (what Mama calls peaked-looking), and she's sad a lot. And tired—when she stays over, she about sleeps forever. I wish she hadn't made me promise to keep quiet about her Daddy. It doesn't seem right. But when I bring up the idea of telling someone, she goes into a panic.
Her Daddy is a monster, and I don't think she sees how much of her he's already taken away.
In the end, someone else does the talking. Lila's aunt and uncle stop by one day while her Daddy's off at work. They want to know about bruises and bedsheets, and other things nobody will tell me. People whisper about the rest, but it's too soft for me to hear. The police come for Lila's Daddy by supper.
Lila says she and her sister will go live with their aunt and uncle now. That's four hours away! I don't understand why she's not more upset—it seems like everything she was afraid of is happening anyway. But she says it'll be different, because her sister will be there too. Lila's eyes shine like summer morning, and I try not to think selfish thoughts about how sad I'll be when she's gone. Mama says this is happy news, all around. We both pray it's true.
I tried to be a good friend, but I still wonder if I made the right choice. I'm glad Lila spoke up and that things will be better, but I'm also glad she blabbed instead of me. She might've been mad at me forever if I'd told anyone, even though doing what she'd asked wasn't helping either.
The truth found its way out, not just about Lila's Daddy but about how to make the whole thing right.
Some promises are meant to be broken.
Some secrets just need to be told.
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