I felt Gabe’s fist collide with my face, and I struggled to get away, though I could do nothing about it. Gabe glugged down the last of his beer and smiled at my bloody nose and bruised…well, everything. “Please stop.” I begged, but Gabe only hit me again in response to my plea. I shuddered backward; I wanted to do something, anything, but if you were eight years old too and were trying to get away from a jerk that was three times your size, you had no choice.
My mother would have stopped this if she could, but this always took place when she was at work and couldn’t stop it. Gabe always said that if I ever told Mom anything, he would kill me, and since he’d already abused me numerous times, I didn’t test him. Mom thought that all these marks were from fights with bullies, and I always begged her not to do anything. She tried to protest, but agreed.
Now that these marks were seen almost every day, it was either Mom was used to it or she pretended not to notice. Mom loved me, but when I begged her not to talk about it anymore, she did as I asked, but I knew it killed her to do so. I went to bed that first night crying so softly, that even I couldn’t hear it.
After living with that abuse got three years, now being eleven, almost twelve, I was becoming quieter with every passing day. Mom tried to get me to answer her, but I’d forgotten what my voice even sounded like. Every day, when my mother went to work, Gabe abused me and only stopped seconds before Mom got home. My voice was so weak, as was my body and mind, that I had no idea how to make any of the horrible thoughts in my head go away. I was so paranoid that I skipped school constantly out of fear that something would happen at school that I was never able to escape.
You’re probably wondering where my real father is, and I’m telling you now that I have no idea. I’ve never met my father, but I had a feeling that if he were here, nothing like this would ever happen. Mom told me he loved me, but I began to wonder that if he did, why didn’t he stay? Mom never explained.
One day, Gabe didn’t only beat me, but was only seconds away from killing me, but he stopped, and went back to his important poker games and beer. I huddled in the corner, thinking that I needed to leave. I was thirteen now, and a complete mute. No one could get me to talk, and I highly doubted that I’d ever talk again. I’d even forgotten what my own voice sounded like.
While Gabe played poker, I packed a bag with everything I would need. I had no idea where I was going, but I only knew that I had to go. If I stayed, he would kill me in a second, and I knew how upset Mom would be. I didn’t want to leave her behind, but she was an adult and she could defend herself better than I could.
I shouldered my backpack after shrugging into my jacket, and went toward the window. I looked back at the note I had left for my mother, and hoped she knew that when I signed “Percy” at the bottom, I left all the pain, tears, and love that I had carried for years. Without thinking for another second, I jumped out the window.
I’d been living in the open for a year. I didn’t go to school, I didn’t take a shower, and I avoided everyone I could. I ate whatever I could get and I slept in a tree using my backpack as a pillow and my jacket as a blanket. My birthday was approaching, but we never did anything special for it even when I was at home. The best gift I could get on the night of my birthday would be to not get abused for one night, but at least this birthday, I hoped, I wouldn’t get abused.
I was sitting in a coffee shop reading a newspaper like I always did when a girl walked in. It was about five in the morning, and I was usually the only one here, but not today apparently. The girl’s long blonde hair was scraped back into a messy ponytail and her grey eyes looked exhausted, yet she was awake anyway.
She ordered her coffee and smiled at me, which caused me to look away. “You mind if I sit?” She asked. I nodded and she slid into the seat across from me. “I’m Annabeth.” She smiled and shook my hand. I said nothing; I was so used to not speaking. I only smiled back.
“Did I say something?” She asked, her face ridden with worry and guilt. I shook my head frantically and motioned toward my throat and making a slicing sort of indication. “You don’t speak?” She asked. I shook my head. Her eyes now looked sad, but I would have done anything to see them happy again, so I patted her hand and gave her a warm smile.
“What’s this?” Annabeth asked as she rolled up my sleeve to reveal all the cuts, marks, and bruises that had been there for years. “When did you get these?” She asked, nearly screaming, but thankfully, she brought her voice back down. I shrugged and pulled my sleeve back down as she gaped at me.
“Are they new?” She asked, grabbing my other arm. I shook my head. “You’ve had them for a while?” She asked. I nodded. “Who did this to you?” She asked, her eyes spelling out revenge as though she thought these were from some jerks that hid in the alley.
I shook my head again and flipped the page of my newspaper once she let my arm go. “Where are your parents?” She asked. I shook my head. “You don’t live with them?” Annabeth guessed. I shook my head again. “Where are you staying?” I shrugged at this question. I’d live anywhere I could, but I most likely slept in a tree like I always did.
“Do you go to school?” I shook my head no. She sighed and sipped her coffee and bit her tongue when it burned. “So, no parents, no house, and no education? This is bad.” She mumbled the last part to herself. I nodded; of course I agreed. I never thought anything could be this bad, but then I thought of home, and decided it was much worse.
“We have to find you somewhere to stay. Why don’t you stay with me and my family?” Annabeth offered. I shook my head violently. “Why not?” Annabeth asked, resting her hand on my arm. I didn’t trust anyone now; I didn’t even like Annabeth being this close. I just met her for God’s sake! Would you want someone you just met touching you? I didn’t think so.
“I’m not taking no for an answer. Come on.” She grabbed my arm and her coffee before running out the door with me in tow behind her. I wanted to scream or fight, anything to escape, but there was nothing I could do. I had been beaten into silence, and nothing could get me out.
Annabeth pulled me up her driveway and pushed open the door. “Dad!” She yelled, and ran toward the base of the steps. “DAD!!” She screamed at the top of her lungs. I had to cover my ears. She groaned. “Wait here.” She stomped up the stairs and yelled some more. I took my hands from my ears and looked around, seeing that this was a very big house.
The floors were partially carpet, but mostly tile. Toys covered practically every inch of the floor, and they were things that I used to play with when I was about five, so I wondered that maybe Annabeth had brothers. The walls were painted grey, and the staircase was very elegant and white.
“I found him!” Annabeth yelled from the top of the stairs. She clomped down the stairs, towing a man behind her. He was a man who looked about thirty five with a goatee and salt and pepper hair. He took one look at me, and as though waiting for me to speak, but I still remained silent.
The man stared. “Dad, don’t be so mean! He refuses to tell me his name, but when I looked at his arm, there were a lot of marks that looked like they’ve been there for a long time. He’s been abused, but he won’t tell me who did it.” Annabeth explained as though the stare meant something.
“Do you know how old he is?” the man asked. Annabeth shook her head. The man walked closer to me. He looked at me as if he were judging me. He looked at my black eye and cuts and scars that covered every inch of my skin. “He can stay, but make sure he takes a shower first.” The man laughed and walked out.
“I’m sorry. He’s not a mean person, but sometimes he makes fun without realizing it.” Annabeth touched my arm and smiled as she led me up the stairs. Terror flashed through my body and visions of Gabe sprang into my memory. I tried to get away, but Annabeth’s grip was too strong.
She led me to the bathroom and let my arm go to turn the water on in the shower. “Go ahead and take a shower, but wait for a second because I’ll be right back with some clothes for you.” She walked out, but came back a second later with underwear, a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt with a green trident on the front. I took it, and watched her walk out. As soon as I got in the shower, I thought that she was probably going through my backpack, but then again, what was there to look at? The only things in there were old clothes.
I changed into the fresh clothes Annabeth had given me, feeling so much cleaner than before. I ran a towel and brush through my hair until I heard a knock at the bathroom door. “You almost done?” Annabeth called. I opened the door and nodded. “Come on.” She grabbed my hand and smiled at me as she led me down the hall until I stood in front of a woman with brown hair and piercing brown eyes. The man I had seen before was there with her.
“Hello. My name is Fredrick, and this is my wife, Stephanie.” The woman smiled at me, but by Annabeth’s grimace, I could tell that she probably wasn’t the most liked person in the house. I would say that Annabeth was, but I had only been here for twenty minutes.
I shook hands with them, although, even the slightest touch scared me. I hid my shudder and smiled, though I still didn’t speak. “Annabeth, where did you find this boy?” Mrs. Chase asked. She looked over my clothes as though she were rating me on a scale of one to ten. At least I’d taken a shower before I met her.
“At the coffee shop.” Annabeth sneered through clenched teeth. Obviously, Annabeth and her mother didn’t get along too well. They stared at each other for what seemed like forever until Mrs. Chase finally turned on her heel and stalked off. She obviously wasn’t happy about me being here. Maybe I should leave.
“Ugh!” Annabeth pounded up the stairs and I followed, although I wished I hadn’t. She kicked open the door of a room, which I was guessing was hers, and grabbed something from inside only to stomp back out and into the kitchen. She went right past the kitchen table and out to the backyard.
I followed quickly behind her, sitting on a step watching her even though I had no idea what she was doing. She took what seemed like a sword out of its sheath and walked toward the wall that surrounded the backyard. She seemed to have hit a button or something, because at the next second, huge dummies exploded out of the grass.
I wanted to help, but apparently, she knew what she was doing. She did a triple back flip, and at the same time, chopped off a dummy’s head and landed in a crouch only a few feet away from me. She kept going like this, chopping the heads off dummies until there were no more left. She took a deep breath, stuck the sword in its sheath, and sat next to me on the step, burying her head in her hands. I patted her shoulder and smiled. She smiled and lightly slugged me in the shoulder. Oddly, I didn’t flinch.
I’d spent at least a year here, and it felt like a real home, or how I thought a real home should feel, anyway. I’d even started speaking, but it was only one syllable words, and they were strung together in incomplete sentences. Mrs. Chase, who insisted that I call her Mom, which I politely declined to, had tried to get me to start using pronouns, but only one syllable words came out of my mouth. The only other thing that left my mouth was grunts. I’d been silent for so long, I wasn’t even used to that.
Normally, when they asked me to join for family activities, I would politely decline and sit at the window in my new room and watch them drive away. I didn’t mind being alone. I was actually used to it.
I sat next to the window as I watched Mr. Chase play in the backyard with Annabeth’s brothers, Matt and Bobby. They ran around until they were out of breath and fell to the ground laughing. I smiled at them; how could I not? I heard a knock on the other side of my door. Annabeth’s parents had given me their guest room. I was grateful for it, and I didn’t know how to thank them.
I opened the door to find Annabeth in tears. I went closer and gave her a questioning look. She was crying too hard to answer my look. She threw her arms around my neck and kept sobbing. I tried to calm her, but she was past that. She choked back a sob after a minute and backed up to look at me. I was about to ask what happened when something slammed into my head. I slumped down, and the last thing I heard was Annabeth’s faint scream and Gabe’s evil laugh.
Everything on my body hurt worse than it normally did, and I heard faint sobbing from above me. I saw Annabeth’s sad face above me and tears streamed down her face. I wanted to comfort her, but her fingers seemed to slip through mine. She called out to me, but I couldn’t answer. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my voice wouldn’t work no matter how hard I tried. It wasn’t only because of me being mute, because I was trying to get past it.
“Percy, please wake up.” Annabeth cried. I sat up, and she threw her arms around my neck and sobbed into my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around her protectively and tried to calm her, but anything I could have said would have been drowned out anyway.
I pulled back to look at her, and she sobbed, pushing the hair out of her face. “Where are we?” I asked. Annabeth stared. “What?” I asked. She only kept staring as I helped her to her feet.
“This is the first time I’ve heard you speak in full sentences.” She smiled and laughed. I realized that she was right. I nodded and smiled.
“Where are we?” I repeated. She shrugged. A dim light flew over the walls and floor. A memory must have worked its way into my brain because I seemed to have some sort of flashback.
In the flashback, Gabe was pushing me down a flight of stairs, and I landed on my head. My vision blurred and I was trying to maintain the ability to make the spotless walls stay where they were. “Don’t you dare move, you little waste of space!” Gabe yelled as he ran toward me. However, my instinct was to move, so that’s what I did. That did not make Gabe happy.
He grabbed me by the back of my shirt and threw me to the floor, but this time, I managed to avoid hitting my head. “You move again, you’re going to get much worse.” Gabe threatened and punched me again. I flinched, but if I moved, he would kill me.
I made myself back out of the flashback, and I tried to walk forward, but one of my legs was chained to the wall. Now I was sure my theory was correct; we were in the basement of my apartment. I looked back at Annabeth to see that she was chained up too.
“I know where we are. We have to get out of here.” I knelt next to Annabeth’s foot and tried to undo the chains, but they wouldn’t budge. I tried to unlock them for about twenty minutes before I heard a door slam shut. I knew what was coming. I’ll admit, I was afraid, but for Annabeth’s sake, not my own. Gabe was trying to hurt her, so Gabe didn’t scare me anymore. I needed to protect her, even if I had to die for it.
Suddenly, Gabe trampled down the stairs, drunk once again, and trying to see right without looking like an idiot. “So, I finally found you, punching bag. I knew I would eventually.” Gabe smiled evilly and stopped a few inches from Annabeth. He was so drunk, I’m sure he thought that Annabeth was me for a second.
Annabeth grabbed my arm. “Is this who abused you?” She asked. I nodded yes because I was too afraid to speak. “You think you can just go and abuse someone? You deserve to die and be cast into the darkest part of Tartarus.” Annabeth snarled. I looked at her, wondering what she was talking about, but I only had enough time to move her before Gabe punched the wall where she would have been.
He cursed and threw his beer bottle to the ground, shattering glass as the gold liquid ran all over the floor. He stomped towards Annabeth and slapped her across the face, but her reaction was not what he expected. She stayed where she was, not moving an inch. Gabe stared at her, as though he expected her to say something, but nothing left Annabeth’s mouth.
She stared at Gave for about thirty seconds before she did what I had never been brave enough to do; she punched Gabe back. Gabe stood, stunned for what seemed like five minutes before he grabbed Annabeth’s throat. She gagged and thrashed, but there was nothing she could do to escape. I beat Gabe as much as I could, but he brushed off these hits as though they were nothing. I grabbed the broken beer bottle and bashed him over the head. He slumped and fell to the ground. His hands fell slack around Annabeth’s throat, and she fell forward, breathing deeply as she did so.
I caught her, waiting for her to breathe, but she didn’t. Gabe had sucked the life right out of her. I listened to her heart; it was still beating, but only faintly. I would not let it end this way. After mouth to mouth, I waited for about a minute until her eyelids fluttered.
“Oh, thank God!” I threw my arms around her and she laughed into my shoulder.
“Don’t worry. You’re not getting rid of me so easily.” She laughed.
“I don’t want to get rid of you.” I whispered. She nodded, laughed again and looked at Gabe, who was still unconscious. “We have to get out of here before he wakes up.” I nodded at her suggestion, but there was no way out. The locks on our ankles were so tight we were bleeding.
Pounding began on the stairs, and my blood ran cold. I figured it was another one of Gabe’s drunk poker buddies coming down to see if he was passed out from drinking, but what I saw was much better. My mom was trampling down the stairs, and when she saw us, her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, or so I pictured. I’d only seen Christmas trees on TV.
“Percy!” She screamed, running down the stairs and throwing her arms around me. I hugged her as best I could. “I’ve been looking for you forever.” She told me as she ruffled my hair. “Are you all right? Who’s this?” Mom asked when she noticed Annabeth and I were chained. She knelt next to our ankles and picked the lock with one of her hair pins. Once we were free, I inspected our ankles to see that they were bleeding.
“Where have you been? Who’s this? I’m so sorry about Gabe. I wanted to try and find you, but he wouldn’t let me. He said he wanted to find you himself. I won’t let him hurt you again.” Mom wrapped me into a hug and kissed my cheek.
“This is Annabeth. She let me stay with her.” I explained, smiling.
“Thank you.” Mom hugged Annabeth before she could stop herself, but pulled back just as quickly, looking embarrassed. Annabeth laughed and looked down at Gabe, seeing that he was starting to wake up. Good.
I pushed Annabeth and Mom behind me as Gabe staggered to his feet. “You little…” He trailed off as he swung a punch but it didn’t connect with my face like he’d hoped.
“You’ve hurt me ever since I could crawl. I’m not letting that happen anymore. You’re a sick jerk who deserves to die.” I had never said anything like that before, but I wasn’t afraid anymore. I was sick and tired of running.
Gabe stared at Mom. “You’re going to let him talk to me like that?” He gaped at Mom, as if not believing her behavior. Mom nodded at Gabe. He stared as though he thought that she would never say anything like that. “You’re dead now, boy.” Gabe hissed, and stepped toward me.
I parried his punch and kicked him in the stomach. He doubled over, and ran toward me with a chunk of his beer bottle, as if to stab me through. Annabeth tossed something toward me, which I caught, and noticed it was the same sword Annabeth had been using. Gabe stared, and I took the opportunity to kick him away.
Gabe sprawled backward and grabbed my leg to drag me down with him. I fell backward, the sword skidding out of reach as Gabe kicked me in the ribs. I bit my tongue to make sure not to give him the satisfaction of screaming and kicked Gabe away. Annabeth scooped up the sword and stood in front of me.
“Move, girl.” Gabe grabbed Annabeth and threw her against the wall. Her head cracked against the hard wall, and her head fell back with her eyes closed. I grabbed the sword from her hand and hesitantly stepped toward Gabe.
“If you get any closer to any of us again, I’ll kill you.” I hissed as I advanced slowly with the sword. Gabe laughed. “You can’t bully me anymore.” I threw the sword down; I was better than this. I scooped Annabeth in my arms and nodded toward my mom. She picked up the sword and ran up the stairs but we didn’t get too far before Gabe shot me.