She feels your eyes on her and she’s ashamed of how she looks; to her your eyes are burning judgement. The girl wonders if you can see what she’s feeling.
“Can you see me standing by myself? Can you see how I feel?” she wonders. “I know how bad I look, but you’re not supposed to know why.”
The little girl is about 12 years old. You see how pretty she could be if only she took better care of herself. Her eyes are a sparkling blue water and you can see the sadness on her face. She wishes no one would notice her. She wants to be like your daughter, but she can’t. She’s trapped and doesn’t know what to do. She wishes her Mom loved her.
“My mom doesn’t even care that I look like this. She doesn’t notice me at all.”
You look a little closer at her and you see her arms have open sores on them. To you they look ugly and infected. Your reaction is to pull your 10 year old closer to you so she doesn’t catch anything.
You’re not sure who this girl is, but you see her every morning and she always looks the same.
You start to wonder about her parents. “My God,” you think. “Who could let this child look like that? Why don’t people take care of their kids? That poor thing must feel so horrible.”
You see the other children standing around in small groups together, but this girl isn’t part of them, nor is she invited to join them. The other girls also turn to look at her. They point then turn away; saying things which you can only imagine.
Then you watch as the girl pulls her arms in around her; clutching her books tightly against her chest. She is hoping it will block your judgement of her.
“Please don’t think bad of me like they do,” she thinks to herself as she sneaks another glance your way. “If you knew what I had to do last night what would you really think of me then?” Her mind keeps going with questions, “Would you let things happen to me like that if I were with you? I can never stop him or say anything to him. He is supposed to be my dad and take care of me, but he is so cruel to me. He always hurts me, but I can’t help it. He just keeps coming after me.”
While you wait at the bus stop with your daughter to watch her and make sure she stays safe, you turn your back to the girl and keep a watchful eye on the other kids around you. The girl never steps out of her safety boundaries; standing alone, close to the bushes every morning without saying a word to anyone. She just glances around and sometimes gives a shy little smile your way as she ponders on her life; deeply wishing that someone would take care of her. She wants her mom to notice her, but when the girl was woke up this morning she was just told to get ready.
“Get your ass out of that damn bed and get moving.” she recalls. “You are not staying home with me so you better not be late. You get moving,” her mom yells up the stairs.
As the little girl stands quietly by the bushes her mind is racing with memories and flashbacks of her night. She barely got any sleep and she feels utterly exhausted, more tired than any adult working a full day at two jobs. This child is standing there amazingly strong, but completely exhausted from her trauma. He had attacked her again after sending her brother and sister to bed last night. He made her put on that nightgown again and touched her all over.
She starts to question silently, “Do you see what he did to me? Do you see the stains he left on me? Can you please help me?”
Maybe for the past six months you have noticed she has gotten a little worse in appearance or actions. “Still; no one else in town has said anything about this family, so why bother?” You say to yourself, “I don’t want to step in against those people. Her dad is up at the bar where her mom works everyday, then he goes home with the kids. I’ll bet something’s happening there,” you think. “But it’s not my place to say anything. I just hope with those sores she stays away from my daughter.”
The girl’s mind is still spinning with all of her fears. “He touched me, pinched me, probed at me. He made me do things that were so nasty. He told me how ugly I was as he pushed me away. Then when I fell on the floor he got really angry and grabbed me by the hair.” She rubs the top of her head as she’s remembering the night of terror. “When I fell what caused him to get so angry? I never know what it is that makes him so mean with me, but it happens all the time.” She wishes she could tell someone what happened and holds back the tears as her mind drifts back. “His hand swung up out of nowhere and landed hard on the side of my face as he started beating me; yelling about how disgusting I am.” The bruise on her face was just starting to show a little on the side this morning. She saw it as she was getting dressed, but apparently you didn’t see it. “You can only see the filth on me,” she thinks as she glances over again.
You are still standing there quietly watching your daughter and secretly looking back at her. Your eyes burn on her though. She knows you can see the ugly sores on her and her greasy unkept hair. She knows you can see her wrinkled clothes that she dug out of the dirty laundry this morning. She didn’t have anything clean to wear, but it seemed her little sister had all kinds of cute things to put on. In truth, the girl had on her sister’s underpants because she didn’t have any of her own.
Now she starts to think about what might happen if she reached over to you. She knows she would break down crying. Then she remembers how he had threatened her. She was supposed to call him, “Dad”, but all he did was hurt her and he told her,
“If anyone finds out about this your mom will get angry and they will take you away from her, but I’ll come to find you and when I do,” he said to her, “I will gladly kill you. No one will ever find you again. You will be buried somewhere deep.”
Those words were branded into her soul just as his touch was burned into her skin. The girl is trapped in her nightmare. She can’t reach out to anyone. She’s afraid of someone noticing her,
“What if they say something to me,” she wonders. “What am I suppose to do if they ask me about the bruises or the filth growing on my skin? If they tell anyone he’ll kill me, but I need someone to help me. I am just a little girl who wants to have friends to play with and have quiet when I do my homework, but most of all I just wish I could take a bath again.” This little girl standing so brave is screaming inside, “Please help me, but be careful what you do or say, he will hunt me down; he will kill me!!”
As the bus pulls up and the other kids start rushing forward to get the best seats, the girl stands back. She waits patiently, making sure to stay out of everyone’s way. You notice she is aware of everything around her as she steps away from the bushes. While you guide your precious, beautiful daughter to the door you hope inside that the infected girl behind you doesn’t sit down next to her. The girl sneaks past you.
“I can’t bump into anyone,” she worries. “Please don’t pay any attention to me. If I can get through the bus ride and through my school day I’ll be alright, but then I have to go home. When he gets home from the bar tonight he might still be angry or he might want to do that nasty stuff.”
As she gets on the bus to face her day of fear, her deepest thought is knowing that nothing will change in her life. No one will challenge her parents, and even if they did, he would still be there; haunting her.
“Please help me I’m trapped!!!” she quietly screams inside.
(c) Patricia A. McKnight
Author: “My Justice”