Suddenly, my feet were swept out from under me. My back collided with the hardwood floor, strong enough to knock my breath out. The force from my body slamming against the ground dazed me. My head started to pound, and my chest felt like a lead balloon.
“I can’t breathe,” I squeezed out.
She didn’t care, and she didn’t stop there. Any breath left in my lungs was pummeled out by stomps on my stomach with her high-heeled shoe. Over and over, she trampled like a wild horse on my middle. It was as if she wanted to make me disappear into the floorboards.
“You make me sick!” my stepmother wailed. It was almost as if she were the one in pain.
That’s when I knew she truly hated me and wished me out of her life. Her heels left their crushing imprints upon my soft flesh.
You can’t kill me. Please stop. I know you hate me. I hate you!
I didn’t have enough breath left to cry or scream. Looking back, I may have passed out. I don’t remember anything that happened right after that.
Her fury seemed boundless, and I never understood it. No one came to my rescue even though the window was open.
The next thing I remember is waking up in the morning. I opened my eyes to the sunlight filtering through the thin white sheet over my head. During my sleep, I had scratched the scabs on my backside from old wounds inflicted there. I could smell the metallic odor of blood and examined the scabs crusted under my fingernails. Moist, fresh blood had seeped into my underwear. I threw off the top sheet and half-rolled, half-leaped out of bed to keep the blood from contacting the bottom sheet.
“Oh, my head,” I moaned, and reached to hold my pounding skull. I held my head with one hand while I made sure no bloodstains were on the bed.
Mom will kill me if I get blood on her white sheets.
I reached behind under my nightgown and pulled back my underwear to inspect the cotton cloth for blood. Various-sized splotches of color gave my scratching away.
I better clean my pants before she gets up.
Jumping up so quickly caused me to also feel pain in my stomach. I looked down and saw black and blue marks and scratches where her shoe had impacted my belly. It hurt to move.
I painfully tugged a clean pair of underwear out of my dresser drawer and started for the door. Brandy stirred in her bed. “What ya doin’?” she murmured, rubbing her eyes.
“Nothing. Go back to sleep.” I snatched my bride doll from atop the closet. “I’m just gonna wash my dolly.”
I listened for any activity from Nan’s room. The rhythmic click of the kitchen clock was the only sound in the house in the early morning. I hurried to the bathroom.
My scalp also pulsed with pain. I touched the top of my head and felt an empty patch of scalp. I looked in the mirror hung over the sink.
She ripped my hair out! I hate her.
I glanced down at my doll’s short burnt-red hair. “Good thing you have all your hair,” I said under my breath. I laid her down in her dingy white gown on the toilet seat. She was missing her veil, both pearl earrings, and one white high-heeled sandal. I took off my bloodstained underwear and yanked on the clean ones. As I gripped a cake of soap to scrub out my underpants, I thought about never growing up. Never having children. I didn’t care. I thought about my grandma. Thoughts of her made me feel better.
I wish Grandma could make my head feel better.
I trickled warm water into the sink. The soothing caress of the water on my hands reminded me of Grandma and how she loved to wash my hair.