“Mama,” she called in a whiny voice, “can I please please please go to Maya’s house tomorrow?”
“Again, Nina? You were just there last weekend. I don’t like you spending too much time with that girl. She has a bit of a wild side and I don’t like that her parents are never home. Plus you have a soccer game tomorrow.”
“I meant after soccer, and it’s not like we’re home ALONE, Mama. Justin is home and he watches us.”
“Justin is in high school. He isn’t an adult.”
“Mama,” she whined again.
“Fine,” her mother conceded with a sigh, “finish all of your weekend homework today and you can go to Maya’s tomorrow.”
Her heart was racing as her mama pulled up to Maya’s house. She had never lied to her parents before. In truth,she had no intention of going to Maya’s house, and hadn’t even called to ask Maya if she could.
“Maya’s in the pool,” she squeaked as the green mini van pulled to a stop outside of the house. She quickly unbuckled her seat belt and ran to the gate at the side of the house that lead to the pool. Once she reached it, she squatted down and listened for the van’s retreat. It seemed to take forever. She waited in agony: half scared to death that she’d get caught by her mother, and half worried that someone would come out of Maya’s house and find her there. Finally, though, the car pulled away and drove off.
She burst into an outright sprint toward the path to Lexi’s house, but when she got there she froze in front of the door. She didn’t remember the code to knock. So she stood there, shaking from the adrenaline of her run and trying to remember the code. All of a sudden the front door flew open and a gun was pointed at her head. She closed her eyes and began to cry.
“Please don’t shoot” she begged in between sobs, “I’m here to see Alexi.”
“God damnit Nina, what the fuck are you doing here?”
That voice. She opened her eyes to find Lexi. The gun was still in his right hand, but he had lowered it. Before she could speak, he yanked her into the house and locked all four of the deadbolts. She stood there, staring at his beautiful face. Everything that she’d rehearsed in front of the mirror left her head. Lexi pushed a latch on the gun and then set it onto the kitchen table. He stared at her with a mix of worry and something else that she couldn’t name. Then he ran a shaky hand through his wavy hair and sighed.
“I told you to stay away from me, and no one ever calls me Alexi..”
“I-I-I’m s-s-s-sorry” she stuttered, dropping her eyes to the floor. He grabbed her chin and forced her to look him in the eyes. The look of worry was gone, and he had a smirk on his face.
“Why are you here, Nina?”
“I’m so sorry. I don’t know. You’re beautiful. I’ll go,” the words just spilled out as she tried to jerk her face out of his grip, but he used his other hand to grab her by the arm. He pulled her close and kissed her. Her stomach dropped and her heart raced. With the exception of Santino, she’d never been kissed before. She puckered her lips, trying to kiss him back like they did in the movies. He softly pushed her away and stared into her eyes.
“You’re beautiful. I’m not. I am an ugly person, Nina. I have an ugly life.”
He continued to stare at her. She didn’t understand what he was trying to say. No one had ever called her beautiful before.
“I don’t care,” she finally answered.
“Why the fuck do you always do that, Nina?” Lexi asked in frustration. They were at his house. She tried to go to “Maya’s house” as often as she could. Her mama hated it and tried to tell her no, but she’d figured out that if she did all of her homework and did some chores her mother was less inclined to say that she couldn’t go. Lexi’s mom worked at a hospital and was almost never home. The one time she asked him about his father he broke into a stream of spanish cuss words and then shrugged it off.
“That pinche cabron was never around. He left when mama was pregnant with me.”
“Do what?” She asked him.
“Wear blue shit. You know I fuckin hate that.”
“I like blue”
“Do you also like scrapps?” He shot back at her. She sighed and reached for his hand. He pulled it away from her.
“Lexi, you know I don’t. I’m sorry babe. I’ll stop wearing it. I promise.”
“You better babe. You know I hate that shit. I swear. You do it on purpose to fuck with me.”
She reached for his hand again, and this time he let her grab it. She crawled into his lap and kissed him. She hated it when he got mad at her. Which happened often. She loved him. He pulled her closer and deepened the kiss, grabbing her hair to keep her from pulling away. She stiffened as she felt his other hand creep up toward her breast.
“Alexi stop” she scolded after she managed to push herself away from him. Crack. The sound radiated through the whole house. Tears sprung into her eyes and she grabbed her cheek in shock.
“I told you. No one calls me that,” he stated, placing the gun back onto the table calmly. As she struggled to hold back her tears she wondered how she was gonna explain this bruise to her parents.
“Madre de dios, stop crying, Nina,” he said, pushing her off his lap and onto the floor before grabbing a pack of frozen vegetables from the freezer and tossing it to her. She pressed the package to her face and took deep breaths to stop herself from crying. With a sigh he lowered himself next to her on the floor and began to stroke her hair.
“Lo siento mi amor,” he crooned as she shut her eyes and lay back against his chest, “I didn’t mean to hurt you, baby, it’s just that you do these things that you know piss me off and it drives me crazy.”
“Lo siento Lexi” she whispered back.
“Are you gonna be ok?” He asked quietly, “If you’re not I can go run errands instead.”
“No!” she almost screamed, bolting upright and dropping the bag of vegetables, “I’m ok, I’ll do it. If you go and you get caught I’ll never see you again.”
He sighed and kissed her unbruised cheek before picking up the bag and standing. Without a word, he offered her his hand and helped her to her feet.
“Ok mi vida, then you should prolly get going.”
She nodded and then followed him to the garage where he kept the baggies. She stood in silence as he counted them out and then handed them to her.
“Don’t let anyone short you ok? I need you to come back with at least a rack,” He instructed as she shoved the bags into her training bra and panties. She nodded and then headed for the front door. The familiar feeling of terror rolled through her body like it did every time she did this.
“You’ll be ok, Nina. No cop is gonna strip search an eleven year old girl. See you in an hour.”
“I know, you told me. I love you.” she responded as he shut the front door behind her.
A note from the author: Abuse of any kind is not okay and should never be tolerated. If you or someone you love is suffering from abuse, report it.