1 Your death left me battered and bruised.

Do you ever feel yourself float away from your physical body in order to protect yourself?

Do you ever experience pain so fresh, it feels like your entire body is ignited in flames?

Do you ever sit back and question why? Why me?

A slap, then a punch, followed by a kick.

"Next time, you do as I tell you. No questions asked!" Trevor hisses at me through clenched teeth. His pale face is turning bright red, seething with anger. I nod furiously, pushing my petite frame as far up against the wall as I can. My hands physically shake, trembling from the fear overtaking me.

Whatever you do, don't make eye contact with him Emily. . . Eye contact is seen as a challenge.

I squeeze my eyes shut, wishing I'd remembered to wash the dishes left over from last night. I know it isn't a reason for him to hurt me but in Trevors eyes, it's justified.

His hand wraps itself in the strands of my hair and he pulls my head backwards, my scalp throbbing.

"Please stop! You don't have to do this!" I yell, pleading with him. My screams of agony fall upon deaf ears so I give up and lie there emotionlessly, letting him torture me like his little rag doll.


I stare at my reflection in the mirror and sigh, hastily wiping the tears away from my eyes. I refuse to cry. . . That's exactly what he wants. He wants me to suffer and I'll never give him the satisfaction of knowing I already am.

A big clump of my dark brown hair is missing, the scalp throbbing painfully where he'd ripped it out. My finger trail down my cheek under my eye where the stinging is now turning into a tender blue bruise.

I'm grateful for my tanned complexion because the bruises don't show up as easily.

I bite my bottom lip and let out a small whimper as I attempt to lift my top to see the damage he inflicted. As expected the bruises run up my side but thankfully nothing feels broken.

How sad is it that I can tell the difference between a bruised and broken bone?

"Why did you leave me like this Dad?" I whisper, glancing at the frame on my bedside table. A photograph taken of me as a little girl. . . large brown eyes shining happily as I sat on my fathers shoulders, holding onto his hair. His own eyes mirror mine, a pearly smile so white and wide.

Dad and I were inseparable.

I adored the ground my father walked on. Every time he entered the room, I craved his attention. Mum had taken the picture on my sixth birthday party. I remember that day so well, the way my father smiled at me as he sang 'Happy Birthday'. I remember him clutching the cake in front of him, telling me to make a wish and blow out the candles. He cheered and clapped so loud, it felt like I had my own personal cheerleading squad.

Dad died suddenly the following month leaving his only daughter behind with a shattered heart.

Ten years without the man I love and adore.

I shuffle towards my bed, sitting down on the edge of it. I lift the picture up to my lips, placing a gentle kiss over the glass. It feels cool against my lips and I close my eyes, taking slow breaths. I allow the oxygen to fill my lungs and calm my thoughts.

"Night night, sleep tight my little princess." Dad would say every single night, tucking me up tightly before leaving the room and closing the door over slightly.

He knew I didn't like the dark.

"Night night Daddy," I whisper, clutching the picture frame tightly to my chest.


I walk into college, scanning the crowds for my best friend, Trisha Lockwood. The friendship between Trish and I has always been peculiar to anyone looking in from the outside. I'm relatively quiet whereas Trish is loud and bubbly. My dark hair is the complete opposite to Trish's bright blonde locks. She wears pink skirts with frill tops whereas I prefer to stick with denim jeans and a simple t-shirt. The one thing I regret every day is not telling her about my stepfather.

It's been a secret for so long that I don't know how to tell her anymore. Trish knows I despise my stepfather and mother but doesn't question it often as she knows it's a sensitive subject.

The girl has the ability to make me laugh until my sides hurt . . . cherish the people in your life who can do that. Even though she's wild at times, I know she has a good heart. We've been friends for years now, first meeting each other in primary school. We clicked from the start, she's wild and I'm calm. I tame her behaviour and she inserts some craziness into my life.

Trish is surrounded by three boys which doesn't surprise me in the slightest. She receives enough male attention for the both of us. I watch as one of the boys lean in, whispering something in her ear. Trish immediately giggles like a love-sick school girl, batting her long eyelashes at him flirtatiously in return.

I roll my eyes and walk over to them, ignoring the pain flaring up my side from the simple movement. Images of my step father raising his fists last night cloud my mind, making my hands clench into tight fists. I'm not a violent character. . . I'm too scared to fight back. I tried once when I was twelve years old and ended up breaking my thumb.

How was I supposed to know I shouldn't tuck my thumb into my fist when punching?

Let's just say my thumb has never been the same after that accident. I chuckle at my own stupidity, shaking my head.

"What's funny Emily?" Trish asks, walking over to me and linking her arm through mine. The boys behind her appeared to be heartbroken at her lack of attention and I mentally roll my eyes again. I shake my head at Trish, giving her a small smile.

"Nothing, how was the concert this weekend?" I ask her eagerly, partly wanting to change the subject. Trish winces from the memories before letting out a small chuckle —

"First of all, I was so drunk, I ended up peeing in a bush."

I laugh, shaking my head. Typical Trish behaviour.

"What about the music? You know, the actual reason you wanted to go."

"The music was awesome but I enjoyed the boys a little more." Trish giggles, waggling her eyebrows in a suggestive manner.

"Meet any cute ones?" I respond, giving a brief wave to a group of girls walking past. Trish nods eagerly, her eyes lighting up —

"The cutest. Let me tell you all about it!" She giggles, dragging me towards a nearby chair. I take a seat and Trish inhales deeply before diving right into every male she encountered at the concert. Whilst she gushes about a handsome blonde, I quickly scan the room.

My eyes land on a hunched over figure at the back of the class. I frown, tilting my head to study him. He's wearing a grey jacket, the hood pulled right over to mask his features. His shoulders are broad and a hint of dark hair sticks out from under the hood. His right hand scrolls through his phone and his other is bandaged tightly. I raise my eyebrow at him.

"Hey Trish, who's the new boy?" I ask, interrupting her and signalling in his direction. I watch as her eyes widen once she notices who I'm referring to.

"That's Jake, don't give him any attention." Trish whispers under her breath, not wanting to be heard.

"Jake? As in Jake Melvin?" I ask, knowing the name well. All purely through gossip, of course. Trish nods, her eyes quickly scanning over him.

"He's beautiful but he gives me the creeps."

"Yeah. . ." I agree quietly, my gaze still fixed on Jake Melvin. He isn't surrounded by any friends but the confidence that oozes from him is undeniable. I know he's bad news but that doesn't stop the fact that he's very good looking. Despite the permanent scowl on his face. . .

Rumours fly around town about how Jake Melvin is involved in a local gang. He lives with his mum but no-one ever mentioned a father. People avoid Jake due to his dangerous reputation, nobody wants to get involved with the wrong side of the law.

Jake slowly lifts his head and raises an eyebrow at me, clearly catching me gawking at him. That's when I notice his eyes, a dangerous dark shade of blue. They narrow in my direction, flashing with hostility as he silently dares me to look away. I swallow the nerves, ignoring the way the small hairs on the back of my neck prickles with fear.

"I can see why he gives you the creeps."

His icy stare resembles Trevor, my step father. A chill runs up my spine and my fingers brush over the bruises on my side that continue to throb with pain. I close my eyes, images of Trevor beating me up yesterday flashing through my mind, again. I bite down hard on my lip in an attempt to stop the tears I can feel forming in the back of my eyes.

"Emily?" Trish says beside me, nudging me slightly. I snap my eyes open, giving her a reassuring smile. Trish smiles back before turning towards the teacher and I do the same. Her voice eventually dulls out until her words start blurring together, making no sense. It's hard to concentrate when all I can feel is the throbbing of my injuries.

I feel someone's burning stare from my right and I turn slowly, meeting eyes with Jake Melvin. The intensity in them causes me to suck in a breath and I know no matter how hard I tried, I'll never be able to replicate his intense gaze. He's sat in his seat facing me, his fingers rhythmically tapping away on the desk in front of him. His head is cocked to the right as he studies me, thick dark strands of hair almost falling over into his eyes.

I shudder from the effect of his piercing stare, an uneasy feeling settling inside my stomach. Jake doesn't blink once, challenging me to break eye contact. The corners of his lips twitch upwards into a victorious smirk as he notices how uncomfortable I'm becoming. I turn my head away from him, a shiver running down my spine.

Mental note to self —

Stay out of Jake Melvin's way, at all costs.

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