“What did you tell them?” the man snapped his hand raised. The young boy named James in front of him flinched waiting for the sting of the strike. It hit its mark across the young man before him’s face with an audible noise, leaving a bright red mark. James felt like his brain rattled with the impact that had left his face stinging and his thoughts scrambled. He gripped the aged table to stabilize himself. He tried to straighten his buckled knees and, looked at the larger man towering above his smaller frame. He felt anger bubble up, burning him up from the inside. His nails dug into his palm as he glared up at the larger man while baring his teeth in a sort of almost snarl. This monster was supposedly his father. That’s what everyone said at least. James had a hard time believing it though. Who did this… to their child? The others in the village didn’t face this.
“You should be grateful” the older man huffed taking large strides closer to James, as if daring the young man to fight him. James tried to swallow the words that bubbled and threatened to escape coated in venom. He wanted to ask what the hell he should of been grateful for. He wanted to take a swing but he knew that’d only make the situation worse. He didn’t even recognize this man so why did he hold back? James glanced beyond the looming threat in front of him to the woman behind his father. Right… his mother. She had gotten him into this situation. He hated her. She was disgusting. She lied about things and had on occasion hit him. Why did she look concerned though clasping her pale hands with eyes wide. She was the reason he got hit. She was probably the reason his mind was a fog. He wanted to lunge past his father for a moment. He had told people what how she had hit him, and this was what happened. It made him sick.
His father took his silence and his glare and backed away a moment. James took the opportunity to move upstairs. However before he could even leave the dining room his father had more words to yell. He wanted to roll his eyes.
“No leaving until this is resolved young man” his father snapped. James bit his lip biting back more unspoken words. How did it end up like this? His father was supposed to protect him. Not join the woman who abused him. He felt like the ground might crack beneath his feet. He couldn’t piece together why his father had betrayed him like this. He needed to be out of this room. It was like being a trapped rat.
His mother moved closer to him with a cool cloth in her hands. She tried to place it to his face and he pulled away.
“Don’t touch me” He snapped.
“Now now, don’t be petty. You were just being disciplined” she hushed softly. The way she was trying to be gentle now considering what she had done in the past made bile rise in his throat. He wanted to push her away. He wanted them both to be gone. He just wanted to be free of this cage. The woman who had choked him trying to be so… gentle was worse than being cruel. He wanted her not to touch him but every time he moved away she just moved closer until he was cornered back to the table again enduring her pressing the cloth to his face. Oh he knew why she did it too. The cool cloth kept the mark from bruising… another way to hide what they really were. Each second felt agonizing. His chest felt heavy as he waited for the moment he could break free.
Something dark though lurked at the back of his mind. It was a wandering little thought what if he stopped the same sort of pains from repeating. James wondered if it’d be hard… there was the knife block so very close but those thoughts didn’t last long. He was weaker and part of him that was a bit more sensible knew it would only result in him being killed or worse. His brain rattled over everything replaying scenarios in his mind that just all ended in the same place… his mother’s fingers around his neck closing slowly around it as he kicked again. However if it happened again now he could tell no one.
Time inched forward and his family eventually dispersed leaving him standing alone in the kitchen with eerie silence and every shadow creeping towards him. The shadows though didn’t judge him. They couldn’t hurt him and say they loved him in the next breath. James quietly slid to the ground infront of the kitchen counters. His breaths were uneven strained as he bit back tears trying to hold what he could in or at least keep the noise down if he did cry. He drew his knees close trying to make himself as small as possible. Slowly he closed his eyes.
There were always little escapes from what he hated, in small fantasies when he had time to himself. He painted pictures in his mind of a far off island nestled on the crystal blue sea with the surf lapping at its glittering shore. The palms swaying in the wind and at the base of the tall tree a small wooden box over stuffed with trinkets like spy glasses and other things all his own. He could imagine himself there with the warmth of the sun on his skin and the soft smell of the sea surrounding him. In the sand he buried little memories written on paper where no one could tarnish them or yell at him.
You can’t live in fantasies though.
The sound of his mother yelling jolted him from the white shores and blue depths “James are you done in there?”. His eyes fluttered open and he felt the warmth of tears remaining on his face. He wiped them away fast and jolted up standing up on his rattled legs. His jaw still stung from earlier but he left the kitchen slowly.
The next lecture didn’t wait for his emotional well being.
“We don’t want you hanging out with those kids you have been lately. They’re a bad influence on you. You’ve been lieing lately saying things that make your father and I look bad” his mother sighed. His fingers twitched but he folding his arms across his chest. He couldn’t say no could he? They always made him the liar… someone had to be the villian. He nodded slowly.
“Yeah” he muttered softly.
“Good now go to bed. You know you hurt us so much when you act like this. We only want whats best for you” his mother sighed. James took the opportunity to escape the suffocating space, scampering like a rat might from a cat watching. He couldn’t get to his room faster if he wanted to.
James closed the door quickly. The shadows of empty dressers and empty shelves stretched across the floor till they reached the mattress resting on the floor with the singular lumpy misshapen pillow and threadbare blanket. Slowly James kicked off his boots tossing them in the corner and making his way over to the window. The moon gazed back at him as he glanced up at it wondering how easy it would be to just open the window.
He could just creep out… but the words of his parents stopped him and the images of their threats to send dogs after him stopped him, his fingers on the latch. He let a small breath escape his lips and let his gaze drop from the moon to the street outside the window. The street was already dark and he could see the lights in each house go off one by one until the blue of the street lanterns lit by magic was all that was left. It was like time stopped just for a small moment as he watched the stillness longing to roam it himself. He longed to see the ships out by the dock. No one would find him among the boxes. He’d go far away if he could.
A few minutes… he could spare those right? They wouldn’t notice. He could already hear the snores of his mother and father. Slowly he padded across the wooden floor making sure to avoid the spots on the floor that creaked. His fingers curled around the door knob feeling the cold metal in his palm as he slowly turned it being careful to make sure it opened and closed without a noise. He made his way back to the kitchen since he knew it could be easier to slip out the back door than the front. The tile of the kitchen was much quieter than the floor in the rest of the house. The small rug in front of the back door only quieted his steps more.
Just one door stood between him and the outside. He felt his heart quicken. He wanted to believe just for a few minutes he could escape. He needed this. He began to turn the knob.
A noise behind him caused him to stop. He heard a creak behind him and his heart dropped. He turned around to see his parents at the door way. He felt his stomach churn. Before words could even be said he tossed open the door. He needed to run. They saw him.
His bare feet hit the wet grass one quick step after the other trying to make it to the back gate. Large fingers grabbed his hair yanking him back though sending his feet slipping out from under him. As he fell he saw his father’s face full of rage. The man easily grabbed him tight enough it felt like his arm might be crushed pulling him towards the open door. James squirmed trying to get himself free like some pitiful rat squirming to escape a hunter. Every movement just made the pain worse. He tried to open his mouth watery sobs about to slip out before a hand went over his mouth.
His father threw him into the kitchen and his back hit the table causing pain to jolt up his back. His eyes wide he stared at the man who took up the whole door way. Next to him was his mother getting closer. He moved to get away to the other side of the table but he didn’t move fast enough. Her hand collided with his jaw. Bright white flashed before his eyes as she hit him right where he had been hit earlier… harder than before leaving his ears ringing and his mind more rattled than it was. His vision barely cleared when he saw her hand raise again. Her mouth moved but he couldn’t make out words.
They would kill him. They were going to kill him. Thats all he could think. Anger was long gone. Now it was just fear. Instinct took over. He grabbed the knife. Before she could hit him he lunged sinking it into the soft flesh all the force he could. Her scream broke through everything. He gagged and pulled away as she stumbled back. His hands shook still holding the knife. He could feel the warm splatter of blood. His father moved rushing to her side holding the wound as she cried. This was his family… he stabbed her but she was going to kill him right? They were going to hurt him. He felt another threat of vomit try to overwhelm him and his whole body lurch.
The way out was free now though. This was worse… his father would kill him for this for sure. He needed to go. James clutched the knife tightly and bolted out the backdoor into the darkness. He could hear his father screaming for the police behind him echoing in the night with each step that carried him further. He couldn’t focus on where he was going anymore. He couldn’t even think about anything other than the knife in his hands.
His lungs burned when he reached the point where he couldn’t run anymore. Each breath came with strained coughs between wheezes. He glanced down at the knife. The tip was still dripping with a bright red. His heart ached as it rapidly beat in his chest. Every thought in his mind felt like a jumble layered on top of each other like a tower about to collapse. Guilt mixed with relief into something he couldn’t describe. His eyes wandered up from the broken worn cobblestone to examine where he was.
The only light illuminating his surroundings was one of the blue flame lanterns he had seen from his windows. They looked so much brighter up close. Around him the light reflected in the shop windows. Everything seemed silent again. He was alone. He could feel tears roll down his cheeks and laughter escaped his lips. He could go anywhere and he knew exactly where he wanted to. The docks called to him. The sea and the waves he longed for were right there.
He ripped the sleeves from his shirt and wrapped the bloody blade in the cloth before tucking it into his belt. He gave a glance to the glass window of the stores surrounding him. His reflection looked odd but he couldn’t help grinning a bit. Despite the bruises decorating his thin neck and his face, he felt oddly free. His hair clung to his face damp from sweat that had formed when he had run. He brushed it back out of his face and began to make his way squeezing through the small space between buildings to cut time.
He could smell the sea with each step through the maze of aged brick buildings. The silence gave way slowly to the sound of the sea. The wind grew colder near the sea and his blood and sweat soaked shirt didn't give him much protection from the sea. He could see it just past two buildings ahead after a while... the sea and the bright reflection of the moon on its waves. It called to him.
He steadying himself on the wall he slipped out between the shadows of the building on to the path across from the dock. The streets were empty of carriages and he watched the ships bob gently in the embrace of the sea as they rested at the wooden dock. Crew members ambled about carrying various crates onto the ships. He watched for a moment eyeing the ships looking for one that might seem right. His heartbeat quickened realizing how close he was to what he had daydreamed about. He'd never have to come back to this town. He wouldn't have to spend everyday biting back words just to live. He could be free.
Crouching low to the ground he made his way across the street as fast as he could, trying not to be seen. Despite how peaceful things were some part of him had a bit of paranoia that maybe the police might find him if he were too brazen about making his way to the port. The knife felt heavier tucked under his belt as he used his size to his advantage creeping closer and closer to the docks until his bare feet finally hit the sea dampened wood. The voices of dockworkers broke the silence that he had the whole night. It was like time started moving in a way.
He glanced at the ships trying to figure out which one was the right one for him. His eyes settled on one. The hull was painted a deep rich red almost like blood... or rubies and accents of gold decorated it. Despite how much it glittered there was something else about it though. The Cannons resting on it appeared worn... like they had seen countless battles and fired cannon after cannon. He began to let his mind wander gazing at it, trying to picture the captain whole led such a vessel.
His mind was jolted out of another daydream as the light of a lantern shone on him. His gaze shifted to the source. It felt like ice covered his whole body down to the bone the minute he saw the uniformed man... one of the police officers looking right at him with hand on the hilt of his sword.
"Young man I'm going to need you to come to the station with me" the officer said his words stern. James struggled to open his mouth to say something... anything. Words shriveled up and died before they even escaped his mouth. He instinctively took a step back.