Looking at my reflection in the window I see me. I see Ardella Henderson. I see my hazel eyes, high cheek bones, my coffee with two creams skin tone, and my black hair flowing down past my shoulders. I hate to brag, but I sure look good. I also see a girl being shipped off to some all girls’ boarding school in the middle of nowhere. Alcove Gardens’ is what it’s called. My parents are sending me here so they can be free again, and live like the teenagers they never got to be. We’ve been riding in this car for five hours and I’m about ready to jump out. “Ardella, are you listening to us?” I turn to face my parents with an annoyed look on my face. I stare at my mother waiting for her to continue. She rolls her eyes and turns back around. “We want you to get a good education. We love you; we just think this place will be better than Central High.” I roll my eyes and I look back out the window.

“Just let her be Marcella,” my dad speaks up. “She’s not listening and it’s not like she cares. We don’t have to explain ourselves to her.”

“I know Arden, but Jesus she’s my little girl.” I hear a loud smack from the front and the car goes quiet, but I don’t turn to look.

“If you know, then just be quiet. She’s not a little girl. She’s 16 years old for Christ sakes, let the girl grow up. God only knows the grown things she’s been doing, or the grown people.” He laughs out loud at his own lame ass joke. “Never thought I would have a whore for a child.”

“Arden, please don’t call her that.” I kick the back of his seat hard enough to make him jerk. He swerves across three lanes of traffic and pulls over onto the shoulder. He stops the car and gets out. He swings my door open and stares at me. My mom hesitantly asks him to stop and get back in the car, but he ignores her.

“Look at your mother,” He yells pointing at my mother. I turn to see a busted lip and her nose beginning to bleed. “You see what your attitude makes me do to her? I don’t like hitting your mother.” I roll my eyes, knowing it’s a lie “You’re the one causing all our problems and this is why you have to get punished.” He grins and begins reaching out to grab me. I crawl to the other side of the seat and open the door, but he grabs my leg before I can get out. He flips me onto my back, straddling me. My mother sits in the front sobbing but makes no attempt to try and stop him. He stares down at me and his anger rises at my lack of struggle. He pulls his hand back and brings it down like he’s about to hit me. I don’t flinch like he probably expected me to. “So you’re not scared of me? I’ll teach you to run like your mother!” He brings his hand back up and balls it in a fist. “Apologize to me and your mother for all the trouble your scrawny ass has brought us!”

I stare him in his hazel eyes that match mine. “I’ll never be my mother and I’ll never be scared of you. You are nothing but a sorry ass excuse for a man!” His eyes grow big as my words hit him. He shakes his head side to side before he brings his fist down and into my face. He hits me three times before I pass out.

I wake up to find myself in a hotel room. I sit up to find my parents in the bathroom, on the counter, and doing what married couples do. I quietly get out of the bed and make my way to the closest mirror to see what the damage is this time. I have a black eye that I can barely open, and my bottom lip is swollen and bleeding. I look around the room for something to wipe my mouth. I find a towel across the room by the window. I tip toe across and I wipe up the blood with the towel. Sitting in a chair next to the window, I stare at the ridiculously small town. I look at the small buildings and the even smaller houses that make up this dingy town. I look around for the name of this patch of land, but my search is interrupted by a noise behind me. I feel a large hand roughly squeeze my shoulder, startling me. Heart racing, I turn to find my father standing behind me grinning. “Don’t touch me! You’re fuckin disgusting!” I scream, snatching my shoulder from his grasp.

He laughs and takes a swig from the Jack Daniels bottle in his hand. “You don’t know nothing about what grown folks do.” He takes another sip. “I can’t wait until you’re gone. You ain’t done nothing but cause us problems since you were born. That’s my biggest regret, not getting rid of you before you were even bor…” he stops mid sentence, reaching into the pocket of his robe, he pulls out his cell phone. It vibrates loudly against his hand. He looks at the caller ID. “Speaking of getting rid of you, this is your new school calling.” He turns the screen towards me. I read, “Alcove Garden” with an emoji of a stack of money and a toilet next to it. calling. He lets it vibrate two more times before clearing his throat and answering, “Hello?” He clicks the screen, putting it on speaker.

“Hello Mr. Henderson, this is Ms. Crill from Alcove Garden School for Girls,” says the overly proper woman on the other line.

“Mmhmm.” Arden takes another sip as he rolls his eyes.

“I am just calling to make sure everything is alright. We were expecting Ardella this morning and she has yet to arrive.”

“Yes, yes I know when you were expecting her.” He rolls his eyes again. I smirk at how feminine he can be sometimes. Almost flamboyant, if you ask me.

The woman pauses before responding. “Is there a reason why she has not arrived yet?”

“We just had a little incident on the way there, but we should be there in a day or so.”

“An incident? Mr. Henderson, is everyone alright.”

“Yeah, yeah everyone is alive.”

“Being alive, Mr. Henderson, is different than being alright.” Arden doesn’t respond. “Look, I am sorry to say that no matter what day you arrive, we still have to start pulling the tuition from the date we agree upon. It is legally binding and…”

He cuts her off. “Yes, I figured you would still charge me. God forbid you don’t get paid right?” He scoffs.

“Mr. Henderson, I do not want you to take this out context. We still care about our…”

“Now you look, I don’t give a fuck about how much you care. As long as you can still accept Ardella once we do finally arrive is all that matters to me. Understand?” Ms. Crill does not respond this time. “Glad you understand. One thing before I hang up. I need to explain Ardella’s condition.”

“Condition? You never disclosed a medical condition during the admission process Mr. Henderson.”

“Well if you’d listen. She doesn’t have no medical condition or nothing like that. She just…just got into a little scuffle with some girls before we left. She’s pretty beaten up. We were planning on letting her heal a little before sending her your way.”

Ms. Crill pauses again before responding. “I am sorry to hear that happened.”

“Yeah whatever, us too. So if we showed up in a week would that be ok?” He stops and thinks for second. “And I know you will be charging us.”

“Mr. Henderson, to be honest, we would rather you went ahead and brought her now. We have an infirmary that…”

“A what?”

“A place where she can receive medical attention from our certified nurse.”

“Oh a nurses office? Just say that shit then. I mean, if that’s what y’all want to do. Is this going to cost me more? Otherwise, fuck that.”

“No Mr. Henderson, medical care is included in the tuition cost. If you could get her here as soon as possible we can see to it that she is allowed to heal properly before allowing her to be put into class.”

“Yeah, don’t care. We will be there in a few hours.”

“OK, great! We look forward…”

He hangs up before she has a chance to finish. He finishes off the last of his bottle. “Fuckin great!” He says throwing his bottle on the floor and smiling like an excited little kid. “I guess we can get rid of you quicker than I had hoped for. “Go fix your face and shit and get dressed. Make yourself look presentable. None of them slutty clothes.”

I get up, making make my way to my suitcase just as my mother comes out of the bathroom.

“Who was that who called sweetheart?” My mother asks, wearing a robe to match Ardens’. She quickly glances my way as I stare at her, but she can never look at me for longer than a second after he’s beaten me. My guess, she can’t handle the quilt she must feel.

“It was Ms. Crill from Alcove.”

“What did they want? More money?”

They both chuckle a little. “Yeah, and they wanted to know when we were bringing…” he points at me with a look of disgust on his face. “Her.”

My mother doesn’t even look my way as he points. “What did you tell them?” I stand up and make my way to the bathroom.

“We’re leaving in fifteen minutes,” I hear my father say as I close the bathroom door and start the shower. I lean over the sink and run the cold water. I get one of the face towels, wet it, and let it sit on my face. I can’t start a new school looking like this. I walk over and test the shower water, it’s barely warm. I shrug my shoulders and strip. When Arden says fifteen minutes, he means fifteen minutes, whether I’m dressed or not.

I hop into the shower and quickly scrub the necessary parts. I rinse the soap off and I step out of the tub. I stare at myself in the mirror. I look at my C-cup perfectly perked breast, my hips that aren’t too big but aren’t skinny-girl small either. I don’t even have to look at my butt. I know that is always on point. I love my body and men love my body. My parents, they seem to hate everything about me. I can’t wait to get away from their petty bullshit. I’ll be able to do whatever I want. This ridiculous excuse of a school isn’t going to control me.

I continue to stare until I hear a light knock on the door. “Come on Ardella,” my mother pleads, “Your father is ready to go.”

He ain’t my father, I think to myself. He’s a fuckin sperm donor, that’s it. I chuckle a little before actually responding, “Can you get my black bag out there please so I can freshen up?”

She pauses as she considers wasting Arden’s time. “Yeah, sure honey I’ll get it. You need anything else?”

“Some ice would be great.”

Another pause. “We don’t have time for that. You know we can’t keep him waiting. Please, hurry up.”®

I don’t reply as I wash my face again. A few seconds later the door cracks open and then closes. Looking down, I find my black bag on the floor. I grab it and begin brushing my teeth, applying makeup, and quickly redoing my hair to make it cover up my eye and lip. Luckily they’re both on the same side. I make a long swoop of hair come down and cover the worse parts. My left side only has small marks that my makeup fixed. I hate wearing makeup, but with a father like I have, it’s necessary.

I just finish as another knock at the door starts, but it’s louder and harder. “Come on girl! The longer you stay in there the more money I lose for nothing damn it.”

“I’m coming, damn! Just give me a second to cover up what you did.”

He pauses. “Whatever, you’re driving. Me and your mother are too exhausted.”

“Whatever.” I hear him walk away from the door mumbling loudly. I put all my things back into the bag. I start to zip it up until I spot the small white tin box inside. This will help take the edge off. I pull the box out and I open it. I look at the joint of some dank ass kush. Smiling I pull it and a lighter from the box. I smoke it all in record time. I look back in the tin box to see that I only have three more left. I frown, but laugh at how easy it is to get more. Putting the lighter back in, I close the box. The throbbing at my eye stops as my high takes over.

I zip the black bag as I open the door to find my parents at it again. I ignore it as I make my way to my suitcase. I realize I’m completely naked as I search for something cute to put on. I quickly pick out some dark blue skinny jeans with a light purple top that says ‘I wanna be just like me’ on the front. I run back to the bathroom as fast as I can without falling, but some how I trip over a sock lying on the ground. I fall flat on my face. I can feel my parents’ eyes on my back. I stand up slowly, I turn to face them, and I sway side to side as I stare at them. I’m naked and their naked. A tear slides down my face before I burst out in laughter and run into the bathroom.

I get dressed as fast as I can in the state I’m in. I walk out the bathroom to find him dressed and standing by the door. Arden has my bag in his hand. “You ready Ardella?” I look at him confused as I walk up to grab my bag, but he moves it out of my reach. “I got it,” he says smiling. I stare at him and I notice the white-powdery stuff next to his nose. I smile, knowing we’re in the same state.

“Thanks Arden.” I walk out the door with him right behind me. I hear him chuckling which makes me laugh out loud again. He starts to laugh too, and by time we reach the car in the parking lot we’re both in tears. My mother is standing there confused. She looks at her husband and nods slightly recognizing his state. She turns to me, but I drop my head as I make my way to the driver’s side. I hear her sigh in disappointment.

“I’ll drive,” she says shoving me out of the way. “This is ridiculous.”

“Whatever ma, you’re ridiculous.” I say as I open up the back door. “Just shut up and drive the damn car woman.” She stands there and stares at me.

“You heard my daughter,” my father says on the other side of the car as he gets in the back too. “Get in! Now you’re the one costing me money.” We give each other high fives as my mother gets in the car furiously. She slams the door and my father slaps her hard on the arm. She winces and starts the car with extreme gentleness. “You didn’t buy this damn car Marcella, so don’t fuck it up.” She pulls out and we get back on the highway. I nod my head to my own music and my father plays with his hands as we get on the road.

I raise my head to the sound of crunching gravel. I find myself surrounded by trees and more trees. I look at my father who is knocked out. I look at the rearview mirror to find Marcella staring at me. I roll my eyes and look back out the window. “Why do you do that stuff Ardella?” I look back at the mirror and she’s staring straight ahead at the road. I look back out the window without answering. “Ardella I know you hear me.” She raises her voice.

My father jerks up and hits Marcella on the arm again and screams, “Shut the hell up woman and drive the damn car. This ain’t a damn talk show. Does this look like Oprah?” We both laugh as he leans his head on the window and falls fast asleep.

Marcella doesn’t say a word for a few minutes as she lets my father fall into a deeper sleep. “Do you want to end up like him,” she asks whispering.

“What do you want from me Marcella? Huh? I tried to be the daughter you wanted, but it wasn’t good enough. You have never tried to be the mother I wanted and needed.” I repeat the words I have said to her many times. I feel a slight tap as my father tells me to hush up. The car goes silent for a few more minutes. “Just hurry up so you guys can get back to having sex all over the house.” I chuckle a little at the thought of how many times I’ve caught them doing it all over the house. Me popping up never seemed to ruin the mood, so why does it matter whether I am in the same house or not?

“Please Ardella. You’re going to be gone a long time. I don’t want to end on such a bad note. Please, let’s just have a decent conver…”

“Decent conversation? There is no such thing as a decent conversation in this family unless two out of the three of us are high off something.”

“That’s not true. We have had good conversations. Haven’t we?”

“Yeah, we have. When I was too young to remember them probably, because ever since I can remember all we do is fight. We fight physically and verbally.” I look at her through the rearview mirror and she quickly looks away. “See, you know I’m right. You know what? Just leave me the hell alone. You’ll be rid of your whore of a daughter soon.” She sighs and speeds up. She turns up the volume on the radio and we drive the rest of the way listening to 80’s music.

We continue to drive about twenty miles per hour above the speed limit. Her rush to get to the school just proves my theory of why they’re really getting rid of me. I shake my head in shame. I dang near don’t even want them to come in there with me, but I know they have to. I’m pretty sure they don’t want to go in either. I look at my father who is starting to snore less and less, which means the beast is about to awake. I look in the mirror and I see my mother staring at her beloved husband sleeping. She only ever looks at him that way when he sleeps, because that’s the only time he doesn’t hurt either one of us. I look back out the window right before the car hops in the air and lands roughly. My mother swerves to the shoulder of the road and puts the car in park. Arden is looking around wildly like he just got hit. “What the hell just happened,” he yells looking straight at my mother, but I can tell he has his eye on me too. “A nigga can’t sleep without nearly dying in a car crash.” He opens up his door and steps out. He stretches and straightens his suit. He leans down and says, “Open the damn trunk woman.” He closes the door and walks to the back of the car just as my mother pushes the button to pop the trunk.

“You know he’s not going to stop hitting you just because I’m gone,” I say barely above a whisper.

“Why must you ruin such perfect moments Ardella. Damn I can’t stand you!” I can hear the true meaning behind that. Marcella opens the door and gets out. She pushes the door roughly, but catches it before it slams. It’s almost completely dark outside and they’re on the side of the road doing whatever in the middle of an empty highway. I sigh and get out of the car too. I walk around to the back. My parents are hunched over the trunk. I can hear the sound of air being inhaled through the nose. Marcella leans up and I can see the tiny mirror and the white powder in streaks on it. “Go back…get in car. Right now. Ugh…so disobedient.”

“Shut up woman. Ardella you want to come and join your parents for old time sakes?” I shrug and take the straw from my fathers’ hand. I lean over and I sniff up two lines. I wince at the stinging sensation and I squeeze my nose to try to get it to relax. “That’s my daughter. Go get back in the car sweetheart.”

“Alright dad.” I can feel my mothers’ eyes on my back the whole time. I look back at her as a tear slides down her face. We stare for a second until she breaks it by reaching for the straw that’s in my fathers’ hand. “They’re waiting. We’ve got to go.”

“Oh shit, you’re right,” my father says snatching the straw back from my mother. He puts it in his pocket and closes the trunk. My mother starts to move towards the driver’s side but my father roughly pulls her arm. “You ain’t driving again. Your ass nearly killed us.” He snickers in her face and pushes her towards the passenger side. I laugh too, because she did almost kill us. She falls hard on the ground, but quickly gets up before he sees her wasting time.

“Shut up Ardella,” my mother screams as she gets in the car. “Ain’t shit funny girl.” She rubs the scraps she got on her arm and legs.

“You shut the hell up woman,” I yell back at her with as much force. “You ain’t got no right to talk to me like that. You might be my mama but I’ll be damned before I let you talk to me like that!”

“Well you’re damned to hell baby, cause I’m going to keep talking to you like this. You’re my daughter and you’ll do what the hell I say. You understand?”

“Fuck you mama! With ya ratchet ass!” my mother turns around with a quickness and slaps me up side my head. “Bitch!” I lean forward and slap her the same way. We start to slap at each other until my father hits us both up side our heads with a stone-hard fist.

“Sit back and the shut the fuck up! I’m the only one who does the hitting around here.” Me and my mother both mumble under our breaths as he takes off on the road. He goes thirty miles per hour above the speed limit. We ride in complete silence, except for our random snickering at the crazy thoughts cocaine gives, for about thirty minutes until we reach a huge clearing in the trees. We come around the curve to see the oldest looking building I have ever seen. “Holy shit,” my father says sarcastically. “Well at least I know I’m not wasting my money.” We all laugh more than that joke deserved.

We pull right up front next to the front doors. A small white woman comes out and tries to signal us on where to park, but my father, being as high as he is, doesn’t understand her motions and turns the car off. The woman drops her arms and steps off the porch with a forced smile. We all get out and stare at her like she’s some monster. In the state we’re in, she kind of looks like one. We stare at her, then we look at each other, we stare at her again, and then we all burst out laughing like she said something hilarious. The woman’s smile quickly drops, as she doesn’t find anything funny. She clears her throat and starts to talk, “Hi, I am Sarah Bowler.” She extends her hand and nobody moves. She drops it after a minute and just stares at us. “Welcome to Alcove Garden School for Girls’.” She gives me a small frown as she notices my face.

“School for girls,” my father says. “Shit, we came to the wrong place. I was looking for the boot camp.” He cracks up at his own joke. Me and Marcella just smile.

“Excuse me, but we do not tolerate that language on campus Mr…”

“My name is Arden Henderson,” he extends his hand which she reluctantly shakes. “This is my lovely wife Marcella and my pride and joy Ardella.” He wraps his arms around both of us.

She nods at both of us in acknowledgement. “Ms. Crill is expecting you. If you would please follow me.” She turns and makes her way up the stairs and into the building. “This is the main hallway. From here you can get about anywhere in the school.” The hallway is completely made of wood with pictures and plaques lining every wall. “These are academic awards this school has won over the last 250 years. The pictures are of the old headmasters.” She talks as if she’s proud to be apart of all this stuff. “To the left is how you get to the dorm area. If you noticed, our school isn’t very large. That is because we only house about 75 girls. It is a great opportunity to be accepted to a school with this stature. We do not tolerate anything but the best.” She looks back at me quickly, as if that comment was directed towards me.

“Please, just stick to your job and let us criticize our daughter,” my mother says as she steps in front of the woman.

“I am sorry I didn’t mean anything by it. I was simply saying…”

“No woman,” my father says angrily. “You were taking a shot at my daughter right in front of us. I don’t appreciate that. All the money I’m paying this damn school and this is how we get treated. This is some bullshi…”

I put my hands on my parents’ shoulders. I step forward, look the woman in her eyes and say, “Just because I have a dysfunctional family doesn’t mean I am not capable of going to this school. Don’t think you’re any better than me because you’re the teacher and I’m the student. I’m letting you know right here and right now that I will not be talked down to. You understand me?” She stares at me without saying a word.

She opens her mouth to say something but is interrupted by another voice coming from behind us. “That will be all Mrs. Bowler. I will see that the Henderson’s get the rest of the tour.” Mrs. Bowler drops her head in defeat and turns and walks down towards the dorm. “I apologize for her attitude. She does have a tendency to think she’s better then everyone, even me.” She gives a small laugh and walks up to us with a beautiful smile on her face.

“And you are?” my father ask with anger still present in his voice.

“I am Ms. Crill, Mr. Henderson.” Ms. Crill is a woman who has got to be barely out of her twenties, she’s about 5’10 with a slim but built body. She has the tan skin of a Mexican but just a little darker and the eyes of a white woman. Her sky blue eyes inspect each one of us without really moving at all. She has her long black hair hanging down to her shoulders and is wearing black slacks and a black sweater over a white blouse. I take a quick look at her five inch open toed heels. She isn’t the Ms. Crill I expected. I don’t realize I’m staring until I see her looking at me out of the corner of her eyes.

I step up again and extend my hand. “I’m Ardella Henderson.” She stares at me but doesn’t show any emotion towards the state of my face. Then she looks at my hand and shakes it.

“It is nice to meet you Ms. Henderson. Glad you could finally make it here. I heard about your incident on your way here. I hope you will recover fast. The staff and I have talked it over and have agreed to allow you to stay in the infirmary until you are completely healed. Is that alright with you?”

My father steps forward and pushes me back with more force than a father should use on his daughter. She watches the altercation in silence, but her eyes say everything. She can already tell what kind of household this is. “Why does she have to hide?” my father asks towering over her at 6’5. He is a typical large black man. He could’ve been in the NBA, but he got into drugs and just couldn’t stop.

“They’re not hiding her Arden. Please just let her talk.” My father slowly turns and stares at my mother in silence. She quickly drops her head and steps back in retreat.

“Like I said, why does she have to hide?”

“Your wife is right Mr. Henderson.” Arden snickers as if it’s impossible for my mother to be right. Ms. Crill ignores it and continues, “We simply thought that she would not want to start her brand new school with a huge shiner and a busted lip. Am I right Ms. Henderson?” I nod. “Well then it’s settled. We will move your bags to the infirmary until further notice.”

“Can’t believe this shit. Already acting like they own her.”

“I beg your pardon Mr. Henderson”

“Nothing Ms. Crill,” he snaps back. “Where are those papers we have to sign?”

“This way.” She motions with her hand to the door just up the stairs in front of us. We all begin to walk, but she stops me. “You can get your bags while your parents finish everything. I’ll be sure to make sure they don’t leave without saying goodbye.” I stare into her eyes and sense that she isn’t planning on doing any such thing. I smile and nod. I hear keys jingle. I look past her to see Arden throwing the keys toward me. I side step Ms. Crill, I reach and catch them right before they hit her in the head. I look at her for a second, but I avert my eyes as soon as we make contact.

I make my way back the way we came, but I stop as soon as I hear footsteps running up behind me. I turn to find my mother running towards me balling. She wraps me in a big hug and cries into my neck since I’m taller than her. I wrap my arms around her and a small tear slides down my face. “I love you.” She grabs my shoulders and holds me away from her so she can see me. One final tear overflows and out of her eye. “I really do love you my sweet Ardella. Please don’t ever think any differently.” She releases me and quickly turns back towards Ms. Crills’ office. I look up at the top of the stairs. I find Ms. Crill standing there watching the whole thing. I open my mouth to say something, but she turns and closes the door as soon as my mother enters the room. I love you too mom.

I walk with my bags down the hall, not sure where the infirmary is. I stop when I hear footsteps behind me again. I turn to find a white girl walking up behind me. She stares me down with a look of disgust on her face. I drop my bags and turn towards her as she walks by. “What you looking at bitch?” The girls’ eyes widen and she quickens her speed and disappears around the corner. I pick my bags back up and make my way down another hallway. I see Ms. Bowler coming straight toward me. I curse under my breath and continue to walk like I know where I’m going. I don’t fool her though.

“Are you lost Ardella?”

“Oh how’d you know?” I say sarcastically.

“I can always pick out a lost puppy.” She gives me a genuine smile. I take it as an apology from earlier. I give her my best smile and her smile grows. “Where are you headed?”

“To the infirmary.”

“Oh. So someone can look at that eye?”

I reach up to touch my eye as I say, “My eye? What’s wrong with my eye?” Her eyes widen and then drop in embarrassment. “I’m just kidding. Yeah, I’m going for my eye.”

She laughs more in relief than from the joke I played on her. “You’re on the right track. I’ll lead you there.” We start to walk down the hallway she just came from, which looks exactly the same as the main hallway. It’s wooden with pictures and plaques.

“Do all the hallways look the same?”

She laughs again. “Yes, I’m sorry to say they do. You will struggle finding your classes for a while, but I’m sure the girls will be happy to help you.”

I chuckle, “I don’t think so.”

She looks at me puzzled. “Why do you say that?”

“Well the first girl I saw gave me the dirtiest look. I had to tell her off to get her to scurry away.”

“What exactly did you tell her?”

“I just asked her what she was looking at.”

“That’s all?”

“And I called her a bitch, but that’s nothing.”

She sighs, drops her head and shakes it side to side. “Ardella, we do not talk that way here. Please control your profanity.”

Shiiit…I mean shoooot.” I laugh and she stares at me for a second before she joins in.

“This is it,” she says stopping in front of a wooden door with an old brass door knob. “Just go on in. I’m sure she’s waiting for you.”

“Thanks,” I say as I open the door. Ms. Bowler walks away quietly. I walk into the nurse’s office (I refuse to call it the infirmary anymore).

“Close that damn door girl.” I turn to close the door. “You come all late and got the nerve to leave my door open. Come on in here.” I look around for the source of the voice, but I don’t find it. “I’m back here child.” I walk around the corner and find an old black woman in a wheelchair. I give her the once over and she does the same. “You Abigail right?’

“No I’m Ardella.”

“Child, that’s what the hell I said. Sit down.” She points toward a pleather cot in the corner. “My name is Sofia, but call me Nurse. Got it?”

“Yes…Nurse, I got it,” I say as I sit down.

“Lay down child. You heard me, I said lay down.” I move my bags to the head of the cot and I lay down. I look around the room and find that it is all wooden with pictures and plaques on it too. I sigh at the lack of creativity. “Don’t be sighing over there. I’m crippled for Christ sakes, give me a chance.” She rolls over with ice and pills in her hand. “Take this, and put this on ya eye.”

“Do I get some water to go with this?”

“So damn needy ain’t ya.” She rolls over to a sink on the other side of the room and fills a paper cup with tap water. “Here.” She holds the cup out for me to take.

“Tap water?” I ask in disgust.

“You’re right. What was I thinking?” I smile and she smiles back. She rolls over towards the door that says bathroom on it. “I guess you like toilet water better damn it.”

“No, no tap is ok,” I say taking the cup from her hand. I take the pills and drink as little of the water as possible.

“Yeah, I know it is. All you rich bitch girls come in here thinking I’m some maid. Got me messed up sweetheart. Got me messed all the way up.” She starts chuckling as she rolls away and around the corner where I can’t see her. I lay there and stare at the wooden ceiling. This whole place would be a fires heaven. I laugh at my own joke. “Hush up in there. Take ya ass to sleep.”

“I’m sick of you talking to me like that old woman,” I say back sitting up.

“What the hell did you just say to me?”

“You heard me straight you old hag. Stop talking down to me before I get pissed.”

“Before you get pissed? I don’t give a rat’s ass if you get pissed child!” She starts yelling and so do I.

“You will when I slap you out that wheelchair!”

“You think just because you’re drugged up on weed and coke that I can’t beat your little ass?” I stare at her in surprise. How the hell did she know? “I can smell the weed all over everything you own. And next time wipe ya nose off.” She wheels away without another word. I lay back down in defeat. Damn, I guess I’ve been slacking. “They drug test randomly and for no reason at all so be careful.”

“Thanks.” I close my eyes for the first time in my new home.

I find myself standing in an old, torn up apartment that fits only one person. I turn my head and look around to find my ex-boyfriend, X-Ray, sitting on the ashtray couch with bur holes in it. He turns his head to look at me and an evil grin spreads across his face. I smile back sheepishly. He pats the spot next to him. I drop my smile and shake my head. I look around for an exit, but there isn’t one. I turn back towards him to see his smile replaced with a deep frown. I smile again, but he just stares at me with anger bubbling beneath his dark skin. He gives the couch one more light tap. I just stand there with a blank look.

He shakes his head as he stands. “Ungrateful little bitch!” he yells as he walks towards me.

I stand my ground with my hands on my hips as I yell back, “Whatever X-Ray I want to go home.” His eyes widen, and then he shuts them, and drops his head. “What?” I ask confused at his reaction.

“Who the fuck is X-Ray?” He lifts his head and he has the face of my other ex-boyfriend Montell. A light-skinned brother with anger like a true nigga.

“Montell?”

“Yes, I’m Montell girl. Who is X-Ray?” he asks with a calm voice and all hints of anger gone. I decided long ago that he must be bipolar by the way his mood changes.

“Oh, nobody.”

He takes one step towards me, which covers half the distance between us. Montell is two inches taller than my dad. “I see you drank all that juice I gave you.” I just stare at him as he points towards a cup on the table.

“I didn’t drink that,” I say as my head starts to spin and sweat starts to slide down my face.

“Yes you did baby. I watched you.” He says grinning. He takes a small step forward. His face into all my ex-boyfriends that I messed with over the last few months. I take a step back only to hit a small coffee table. I fall over it backwards and I and hard on my back. I wince from the pain. I lay there until I see, whoever or whatever it is, standing over me. “You alright?” The voices fluctuate to sound like all the different men.

“What did you put in that drink?” I ask scooting away from him. The same evil grin that my father has spreads across all the different faces.

“Don’t worry about it babe. I’m gonna take care of you.” I shake my head unable to speak as it kneels down and gets on all fours directly above me. “You’ll like it, I swear.” It grins again as it starts to rip off my clothes. I slap and scratch, but to no avail. I ball my hand into a fist as I punch him square in the face. It stops moving and stares at me. “What you do that for? You know you want this.” I shake my head. “Well you shouldn’t be such a tease!” it yells as it balls its hand into a fist. It grins again right before it brings its fist down to my face.

I close my eyes just before the fist hits, but after a second no pain comes. I slowly open my eyes to find myself staring as a bright white ceiling. I lean up and find myself I a doctor’s office. I hear a snap and I look to my right to find a doctor taking off her gloves. She’s a black woman who knows she made it out of the ghetto and her judgmental eyes say it all. “We’re all finished here,” she says with disgust in her voice. She throws away her gloves as she walks towards the door. “A nurse will be in here so you can pay your fees.”

At first I think she’s talking to me until I hear a man’s voice right behind me saying, “Alright just hurry up. I don’t want to be here all damn day.” I turn to my left and see Arden and Marcela sitting in overstuffed chairs. Marcella is in tears and refuses to look my way.

“What am I doing here?”

Arden furrows his eyebrows. “Look around! You know why your little fast ass is here.” He stares at me and mumbles. “Fucking whore,” under his breath. My mother starts sobbing loudly until he slaps her on the arms and tells her to shut up. I look around the room and find a bunch of posters about safe sex and Planned Parenthood. On the counter is a larger bowl of multi colored and flavored condoms.

“I don’t get it,” I say still lost.

My mother sighs before she says, “Your at an abortion clinic Ardella. What is the matter with you?” I look at her an all the tears are gone. Can’t show weakness in front of Arden.

“An abortion clinic?” Arden stands up, walks over, and slaps me across the face before can ever think about moving.

“Yes a fucking abortion clinic. Your stupid ass done ran off and got knocked up by some young ass nigga. You don’t even know who the father is do you?” I don’t answer I just stare. “I didn’t think so.” I put my hand over my stomach. “It’s gone now. Get dressed, I’m going to fine a nurse.” He storms out the room slamming the door, which causes the posters on the door to fall off. I don’t notice my mother getting up until she’s already at the door. She picks up and puts he posters on the counter and walks out slowly shutting the door with care.

I sit on the exam bed until I hear my name being called over and over again…

“Ardella! Ardella!” I open my eyes to see the nurse standing over me with her hand raised like she was about to strike me. “Wake up child, it’s time to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.” I lie rolling over to face the wall. I feel a punch to my back and I yell, “Ouch! What the hell!” I turn back over.

“Child, I’m gonna do the same to ya face if you don’t get the hell up!”

“Alright, alright,” I say as I throw my legs over the side of the cot. She starts to roll away. “Wait.” I stand up and she turns around and stares. I don’t say a word.

“What?”

“How you become crippled?”

She laughs like that was the dumbest question in the world. “Child I ain’t crippled,” she says as she stands up out of her wheelchair. “I’m just fat and old. Plus, it’s easier to get around the school.” She laughs and I join in.

“You a fool for that. How you get away with it?”

“Nobody questions a nigga in a wheelchair, well except for rude girls like you.” She smiles and starts to roll away. “Foods over there. Roast beef soup straight from the kitchen.”

“Mmm, my favorite,” I say sarcastically. I go over to the small tale pushed up against the wall. I look at the soup which looks good enough to eat. I lean down to smell it. Smells good enough to eat.

“You a dog? Just eat it child.” I roll my eyes as I pick up the plastic spoon. I get a spoonful; put it in my mouth, chew, and then swallow. I gulp all of the soup down in minutes. “Well shit, maybe you are a dog the way you just ate that soup.” She chuckles.

“It was alright.” I sit at the table and think about the dream I had. Dreams like those seem to happen more often. I grab my stomach as I think about all the mistakes I’ve made. Messing with the guys I did was one of them. Letting myself get pregnant was another one. I shut down my thoughts as I stand from the table. “Nurse?”

“Yeah girl?”

“When you think I’m going to get out of here?”

She pauses for a second. “Sick of me already huh?” I open my mouth to say something but she waves me off. “Probably the day after tomorrow. If you keep ice on it.”

“Ok.”

“If you look like this, I wonder what the other person looks like.”

I pause this time. “He doesn’t have a scratch,” I mumble under my breath.

“What?”

“She looks even worse I said.”

“Oh.” I stare at the pictures on the walls, but I can feel her eyes staring at me suspiciously. We sit in silence for a few minutes until she breaks it. “Go lay down. I’ll give you some more pills and ice.” I shrug and walk over to my cot. I look at my bags and notice they’re out of place. I quietly open my duffel bag and I pull out my black bag. I open it and find my little tin box. I open it to find my joints and lighter gone. I quickly close it and put it in my pants pocket at the sound of wheels. “Ms. Crill does a mandatory bag check o everyone. You’re lucky I did one first before she came. Your stuff is I my office. I’ll go get it.”

She starts to roll off, but I stop her. “No keep it. I’ll use it when I really need it.” She nods, smiles, and rolls away.

“That’s if I don’t use I m damn self,” she yells back over her shoulder. I laugh and she does too.

I wake to the sound of ringing phone. I open eyes moaning in annoyance. I look for a clock to figure out the time, although I know it’s late. The room is almost pitch black except for the random light emitting from my duffel bag. The ringing must be my phone. I reach and open up my bag. I dig around until I find my beat up silver Razor at the bottom. I look at the I.D. but it’s unknown. I groan again in frustration. “Hello,” I mumble into the phone.

“Hey babe. What’s up girl? Where you been?” a man says on the other end.

“Who is this?”

“Who is this,” he repeats shocked. “It’s me babe, X-Ray.” I don’t respond right away so he continues to talk. “I hope you’re not still trippin’ over what happened. We were both fucked up. I just…”

“No, you’re fucked up!” I scream into the phone crying. “You raped me X-Ray! And you got me pregnant! I ha…”

“Wait, pregnant?” he interrupts with excitement in his voice. “You having my child? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Anger rises in this voice.

“Because there is no more child.”

He pauses again. “You got rid of it?” He almost sounded sad as he said that.

“Yeah, I did. I’m not raising a baby that was the result of a rape. Hell no!”

“What the hell? Why the fuck you ain’t tell me? I could’ve…we could’ve taken care of it.” He stops, but I can still hear him breathing. “Why you kill my child,” he asks barely above a whisper. If I didn’t know better I would think he is cry.

“X-Ray, please leave me the fuck alone! I did you a favor and didn’t report you like I should have. You took a part of me when you raped me, so I took a part of you. Hope that sits on your conscience for the rest of your life you stupid son of a bitch, cock-sucking mother fucker!” I slam my phone closed and I toss it across the room. I hear it crack, but I don’t check to see if it’s broken. I clench my hands as tears pour out of my eyes. I set my hand on my stomach and I cry even harder.

“Child you alright in there?”

I know she heard the conversation and my sobbing, but I reply, “Yeah,” anyway.

“Alright. If you need anything I’m here. OK?”

I nod, forgetting that she can’t see me. “OK,” I whisper back after a second. Her wheels roll off to her small room/cot in the back. I curl up in a ball on my cot and I rock back and forth. I stay that way, in a daze, until I hear an alarm go off.

“Aaahhh, six o’clock.” I don’t move or say a word. I hear her wheels rolling toward me. She rolls around the small corner and her eyes grow at the site of me. She shakes her head. “Child, what has happened to you?” She slow stands and moves me into her chair. She walks to the bathroom and runs the water. She comes back and rolls me into the bathroom. She undresses me out of my tank top and pajama bottoms. The tub is only half full, but she somehow lifts me and puts me in it. I lay motionless, frozen from anxiety. I stare at the wooden ceiling. “You gonna make me wash you too?” She groans, grabs a towel and soap, and starts to wash me in the steaming hot tub. “Child you need help.”

I slightly nod and whisper, “I know.”

“Well since you’ve come to, wash your own ass. I ain’t ya mama.”

“Thank goodness for that,” I whisper.

She gives me a weird look, but chooses to ignore my comment. She throws the towel into the water, slowly stands, and rolls her wheel chair out of the bathroom in front of her shaking her head. I lay still for a minute more. I snap out of my trance and I finish washing myself. I get out and drain the tub. I brush my teeth, but avoid looking at the mirror at all cost. I walk out the room to find a dark blue and green plaid skirt and a white short-sleeve blouse on the bed. “That’s yours,” the nurse calls out to me. I groan in discuss. I can rock this outfit just like all the others. I put it on. I look down to see the skirt an inch below my knee. I sigh and I reach into my bag for my sewing kit. I’ve become accustomed to fixing over sized clothes. I can’t ask Arden to take back something he so “thoughtfully” bought for me. I laugh at his ridiculous antics.

I take the skirt off and I trim off five inches. I sew up the edges to make a new hem and then I put it back on. The skirt reaches mid-thigh. Still longer than I like, but it’ll work for now. I fix my hair without looking at the mirror. Hopefully my gelled-back pony tail looks alright. I go around the little corner and into the nurses’ area. She is sitting in her wheel chair in front of a mirror. “Yo Nurse, how do I look?”

She turns around and looks me up and down. She shakes her head with a grin before she says, “I knew you would do something creative with that skirt. You look fine.”

“What about my hair?”

“I don’t know, go look in a mirror and you can see.”

“Naw, I want your opinion.”

“My opinion?” She gives a devilish grin.

I stare at her with a small smirk on my face. “No, just tell me if I look presentable.”

“In that case, you look fine. And your face has heeled completely, so you will be leaving today.”

“Really?” I ask trying to keep the excitement out of my voice. As much fun as I’ve had with this old woman the last couple days, I can’t stay cooped up in here for forever. Time to see what this school is about.

“Yes, really. Now, don’t forget about that stuff I have of yours. If you wait to long, it’ll go bad.”

“Trust me, I’ll be back to get it before then. I might even share it with you.” She laughs and turns back towards her mirror. I watch her as she fixes her small graying afro puff. She takes small glances towards me. I ignore it until I remember what happened last night and this morning. “I’m sorry about last night. And this morning. It’s just…I have…I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.”

“It’s ok child. No need to explain.” She turns and stares at me with a sorrowful look on her face. She gives me a weak smile which I give her in return. “Go and get your stuff together so you’ll be ready when Ms. Crill comes to take you to your dorm.” She turns around and starts to fix her hair again. I turn and walk out of her cot area towards my bags. I slowly put all my clothes into the bags. I sit on the cot after I zip my last bag. I notice the back to my phone lying on the ground across the room. I forgot I threw that last night. I stand up and I pick up the back. I look around for the phone and I find it under a counter, but it doesn’t have the battery in it. I look under the cot next to mine and under the table where I ate, but I can’t find it. I groan angrily and I throw the pieces of my phone onto my cot.

“We do not allow phones during the weekday Miss Henderson.” I jump and I turn to find Ms. Crill standing behind me with my battery in her hand. She’s wearing black dress pants again but with a lavender long-sleeve shirt. She’s rocking five inch heels with the toe out that match her top and her toenails. I look her up and down still shocked that the Headmaster dresses like a modern day woman. I was expecting a nun’s outfit.

“Uh, ok then, well can I have my battery back? I won’t use my phone until the weekends.”

“I know you won’t. We keep all the girl’s batteries until the weekend.” She turns and walks towards the door. I stand and watch her walk away. I notice how her body is perfectly shaped. She doesn’t have one of those big ghetto booties. Her breast is at least a small D cup. I wonder if she has a lot of men fawning over her. She turns around and looks at me staring at her. “Is there a problem Miss Henderson?”

I blink and snap out of the trance she caused me to fall in. “Umm…yeah. I mean, no there’s no problem.”

She raises one eyebrow and gives me this curious look that only last for a second, and then she straightens it out and turns back around as she yells over her shoulder, “Well if there is not problem, then please get your things we are going to your dorm.” She opens the nurses’ door, steps out, and then closes it softly behind her.

I turn to see the nurse watching me from her cot. She shakes her head and smiles. “She’s some kind of woman,” I say walking towards my cot.

“Yeah she is. She can be a bitch when she wants to though. I’ve been bitched out by her a couple of times for sending girls to their dorms so much. If I was younger I would’ve bitched back, but I ain’t got the energy no more.”

“Either that or she punked you.” I chuckle under my breath.

“I heard that girl. You’ll get bitched out sooner or later with the attitude you’ve got.” I hear her chuckle this time. “You better get your stuff child, or she’ll come back in a bitch.” She laughs out loud this time.

“Yeah, whatever. I ain’t scared of that woman.” She only chuckles in response. I finish packing all my stuff together and I walk towards the door. I hear wheels behind me so I turn. I see the nurse sitting there with a weird look in her eyes. It almost looked as if she is sad that I’m going. I drop my bags and say, “What is it old woman?”

Her face scrunches up and she crosses her arms. “Get out you rude little girl before I roll over your feet.” I laugh out loud and so does she. I step and give her a quick hug, which she doesn’t return. I step back and pick my bags up.

“I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah, alright. Don’t strain yourself to do so. I’m fine here by myself.”

“Mmm, alright.” I turn and I open the door. Ms. Crill had her hand out as if she was reaching for the door knob.

“It is about time you came out.”

“My bad, damn. Can I say bye to the old woman?” I turn and start to walk down the hallway. I don’t hear her following, so I drop my bags roughly and I turn around to see her staring at me. “What is it? Aren’t you taking me to my dorm?”

“First of all, Miss Henderson, we do not curse in this school. I know the nurse uses foul language occasionally, but that does not give you the right to do so too.” She takes a step forward and continues, “Second, don’t ever get sassy with me again. We do not tolerate stank attitudes here either.” She takes another step. “And third, do not walk away from me unless I tell you that you can.” She takes another step which brings her face to face to me. “Is this understood?” She stares me dead in the eye. She lifts her hand and I slightly flinch. She stops for a brief second, looks at me, and then brushes back a lose hair.

“Yeah, I understand. I guess.” She sighs, takes a step around me, and then begins to walk down the hall. I pick up my bags and start after her and then I hear a loud laugh coming from the nurses’ room and I know it’s the old woman. I chuckle a little, because I know exactly what she’s laughing at. Ms. Crill slightly looks over her shoulder as I laugh, but then turns and looks forward. I roll my eyes, but I keep my comments to myself.

We continue through the school. The bell rings just as we enter the main hallway and all the girls begin to pile out and into the hall. They all stare at me. Some of them smile, but others give me dirty looks which I return with a middle finger. A couple girls stare, but then quickly look away when I notice them looking at me. “Ugh, what is up with these girls?”

Ms. Crill slows her pace enough to walk right beside me. “What do you mean?”

“Well they keep staring at me like I’m some freak.”

“Well, Miss Henderson, you do give off this aura of being a bad a-…girl. And some of these girls come from families like yours, so they do not trust newcomers.”

“Like mine?”

“Yes, a dysfunctional family.”

“My family ain’t dysfunctional. It’s just we’re all short tempered.”

“Your family is not dysfunctional Miss Henderson. Sorry I did not mean to offend you.”

“You didn’t offend me with that. You’re offending my by the way you keep calling me Miss Henderson. My name is Ardella and I would love if you called me that.”

She turns and looks at me. I smile and she does too. “Ok then Ardella it is.”

“Thanks,” I say still smiling.

She turns and replies with a, “Mmmhmm.” We continue to walk in silence after that. We turn down a wide hallway and then up metal stairs.

“This is the first non-wooden thing I’ve seen since I’ve gotten here.” She chuckles but doesn’t respond. We go up another flight of stairs and then we turn down a small hallway with doors on each side. We go down until we reach the middle of the hall. She turns to the door on the left. She reaches in her pocket and pulls out a key. Just as she is about to put it in I grab her hand and say, “Can I do it? It is my room.” She looks down at my hand and then back up at me. I release her hand and step back. She holds the key out and I take. I put it in and open the door. I look around, and what do I know, it’s all wooden. Except for one wall which is covered in posters of some famous white people I’ve never heard of or seen before. “Mmm cozy.”

“This is your dorm. You share it with a girl named Michelle Stovall. She will be here after lunch is over. This is your bed on the right. We do allow decorating to a certain extent. Posters and pictures are acceptable, but no nude ones.”

“What do I look like with some nude pictures?”

She looks me up and down and then stares me in the eyes. “Like I said no nude pictures.” I grunt at her insult, but I again, keep my comments to myself. She’s really trying my patience. “First period class starts at eight o’clock. Set your alarm to a time that will allow you time to get ready and eat breakfast. Breakfast opens at seven-thirty.”

“What if I’m late to class?”

She frowns. “Are you already planning to be late?”

“No, just in case I get lost.”

“In that case, you will be excused your first week of school. After that you are to report to either Mrs. Bowlers’ office or mine. You do know where those are located?” I nod my head. “Good, is there any more questions?”

“Do I have a class schedule?”

“Oh yes, thank you for reminding me.” She digs in her pocket and pulls out a folded piece of paper.

“Damn, you’ve got everything in your pockets.”

“Language Ardella.” She hands me the piece of paper. “There is your schedule. You will have Lunch 3. Your teacher will let you out at the right time for that. Oh, and lights out is at ten o’clock, but you are to be in your room at nine-thirty. No exceptions.”

“Wow, that is kind of early don’t you think?”

“No I do not. Is there any more questions?”

“Nope, not right now. But if I have some I will be sure to make a trip to your office.” I smile, but she doesn’t return it.

“Since that is all, I will leave you to unpack your things. Your lunch will start in thirty-five minutes. I hope that will be enough time to unpack.” I shrug my shoulders. “OK then. I will be checking in on you for the next couple of days to make sure everything is going alright.”

“Ok. See ya later then.” She turns, walks out the door, and closes it softly. I turn and flop down on my brand new bed. I land on it and I don’t even bounce a little. This has to be the hardest bed in the world. I look at the piece of paper to see my schedule. First period I have Gym. I won’t be attending that very often. Second period is Pre-Calculus. That teacher won’t even get a chance to know my name. Third period is Art. Art? Wow, why would I even skip that? Fourth period is History. I better bring my pillow to that one. Fifth period is counseling? What the hell kind of class is that? At least I have lunch that period. Sixth period is Front Office Helper. I guess I can’t complain about that. I’ve only got six periods which is great. So classes only go from eight to twelve-thirty.

I look at my bags and I groan at the thought of unpacking. Instead I get up and I slide them under my bed. Who knows how long I’ll be here anyways. I lay back down on my bed and I stare at the ceiling. “Goodness that Ms. Crill.” I say out loud to myself. I laugh a little just as the door opens. I sit up to see the same girl from my first day here who I cursed out. “So you’re my roommate. How ironic?”

“Yes, how ironic.” She walks in and sits on her bed. “I heard I was getting a new roommate, but I did not know it was going to be you.”

“Am I a problem?” I turn and place my legs on the floor. “Because we can settle this shit right here and now.” She stares at me and drags her eyes up and down my body slowly, but doesn’t say a word. I ignore it and say, “I didn’t think so,” as I lay back down.

“Do you always have to be a bitch?” I sit up really quick and she flinches. “I’m sorry. We started off on the wrong foot. My names is Michelle. What is yours?”

I consider ignoring the question, but she gives me this weird smile so I decide to anyway. “Ardella.”

“Nice to meet you Ardella.” She extends her hand, but I ignore it. She drops it after a few seconds. “I love your name. Is it French?”

“No.”

“Oh. Ok.”

I sigh loudly as I realize how bitchy I’m being. “It’s a combination of my mom and dad’s names. Arden and Marcella.”

“Oh those are pretty names too,” she says in a husky seductive type voice.

“Mmm, thanks.” I lay back down on my bed and I turn towards the wall.

“Umm, I think you have lunch now.”

I look over my shoulder at her and mumble, “Huh?”

“I said I think you have lunch right now.”

“I heard what you said girl, but how you know?”

“Because it says it on your schedule. If you have…counseling fifth period, then you have Lunch 3. And Lunch 3 started ten minutes ago.”

“Ugh, why didn’t you tell me this ten minutes ago then?” I sit up, throw my legs over the side of the bed, and I stand up stretching. I can feel her eyes scaling my body but, again, I choose to ignore it. “What class you got right now?”

She looks around for a second and then looks at me. “I don’t have a class right now. I have this period off.”

“What the hell! How you…never mind. You want to walk me down to the cafeteria?”

A huge smile spreads across her face, but it shrinks to a sly/sexy grin. “Uh, sure.” She stands and straightens out her plaid skirt. She looks at mine and at the length of it and shakes her head. “Got a problem?”

“No, not at all. Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, you lead the way.” She opens the door and walks out and I’m right behind her. She’s built like any other white girl. She’s got a little more butt than a normal one though. Her breast can’t be more than a C cup and not quite as perky as mine. She’s not an ugly white girl either. She’s got thick curly blonde hair that goes well pass her shoulders, light blue eyes, and a decent pair of lips. Not like the small ones other white folks have. I laugh a little to myself. She turns a little, but quickly turns back around when she notices I’m staring at her. “You know, if you straightened your hair, and cut it a little, you would be a cute white girl. And maybe throw some make-up on ya.” I quicken my pace to walk right beside her. “Other than that, you’re a decent looking white girl.” I give her a small smile. She smiles back.

“Thanks, I guess. A compliment and insult at one time. I guess it cancels out then.” She laughs.

I give her a fake laugh. “Yeah, I guess so too.” She sighs softly to her self and we continue our walk in silence. We enter the cafeteria and everybody’s head turns to stare at us. I roll my eyes in annoyance. “I’m getting sick of all this staring.” I say it loud enough for some girls to hear, because they turn and stare at their food. Other girls continue to stare with disgusted looks on there faces. I groan. Michelle puts her hand on my shoulder.

“Calm down. You cannot curse out the whole school like you did me.” She laughs and I join her.

“Yeah, I guess you right.” We continue walking to the lunch line and one girl bumps into me roughly. I turn around and she keeps walking but with her eyes cut back at me. “Bitch, I bet you won’t bump me again.”

The girl turns around, puts her tray on a nearby table and walks back towards me. “Bitch? Who the you calling a bitch.” It’s a black girl, who’s got at least two inches on me and is more built. She’s got messed up teeth. She looks like she’s been hit in the face a couple times.

“I’m calling you a bitch! Don’t ever bump into me like that again. Imma beat ya ass if you do it again.” I ball up my fist at my side. Michelle puts her hand on my shoulder, but I shrug it off. “No, I ain’t restraining myself for her. She disrespected me.” I step forward and get in her face. “So we gonna have it out or what?”

She holds her hands out and taps her chest. “Let’s go then.” I punch her in the face with all my strength and she falls hard on the floor. She writhes in pain as blood gushes from her mouth and nose. I turn and continue towards the lunch line as teachers turn and run towards the commotion. All the girls in the lunch room are pointing and gasping. All while staring at me.

I keep walking until I hear, “Ardella Henderson!” I turn to see Ms. Crill walking swiftly towards me. “What in the world is wrong with you?”

“Ain’t nothing wrong with me! That bitch bumped into me on purpose. I asked her if she wanted to fight and she said let’s go. So I punched that weak bitch in her fucking face. Better send her ass to the nurse like you did me.”

“Your first day out of the infirmary, and you have already started trouble. Come with me to my office right now.” She turns and heads towards the main hallway.”

I groan as I begin to walk slowly behind her. “Oh I’m so sick of this shit already, I swear!” I walk by the girl on the floor as the teachers tend to her wounds. I look down at her and laugh. “Bet you won’t try that ‘I’m hard’ shit again will ya? Dumb ass bitch!” I turn and pick up my pace. I follow behind Ms. Crill until we reach her office, where she holds the door open for me. I slow my pace as I walk through and I stare at her the whole time. She sighs but doesn’t say a word. I walk into her wooden office with leather chairs and pictures of more headmasters everywhere. There’s no computer or a single piece of paper on her desk. “Damn, do you do any work?” She doesn’t reply she just points towards one of the leather chairs in front of her desk. “We ain’t gonna get anywhere if you ain’t gonna talk.”

“Please Ardella, have a seat.” I look at her as I sit down. “Thank you.” She walks over and takes a seat in her leather swivel chair. “I want to start with a quick question.”

“Alright.”

She fiddles with her hands before she asks, “How can you beat a girl like that after you were beat by girls only a few days ago? Don’t you have any remorse?”

I sigh as I shift in my seat. I feel my legs starting to sweat, because the leather makes noise every time I move. “Well…about that.”

“Yes?”

“I wasn’t beaten by a bunch of girls, to be honest.”

“Then what happened Ardella?” I just stare at her, pleading with my eyes to not make me say it. “You can trust me. Anything you say in here is confidential, I swear.”

I shift again as I look around her room trying to think of a plausible lie. None come to my mind so I sigh before I tell her the truth saying, “Well Ms. Crill…”

“How about you call me Lisa to make things more personal.”

“Alright then, Lisa, what happened was…I pissed my father off and he beat the shit out of me. Pardon my language, but that’s the only way to describe what he did. Well, what he does.”

“No, what he did was right. You’re in our care now, we will not let things like that happen again.” I nod. “With that out of the way I would like to get down to business. No matter what background you come from, we do not tolerate fighting here. So I’m going to have to…”

“Man this is some bullshit. That bitch provoked me. She hit me first. She could’ve walked away. It’s just because I beat her ass and she didn’t beat mine that I get in all the trouble. You just like all my other teachers.”

She stares at me as she waits for me to finish. “It would be better if you did not interrupt. This would go a lot faster.”

“Whatever. All I want to know is if you’re kicking me out?”

She pauses for a second and stares at me. “I am not going to kick you out. I feel like that would be putting your life in danger. I am going to keep you here, but you will be forced to keep away from the other girls until I know you are safe enough to socialize with them. How do I know you won’t do the same to Michelle if she happens to piss you off?” She fiddles her hands a little. “With that being said, you will move your things into my room where you will sleep in a cot. I will teach you your courses until I feel that you are ready to be social again. You will eat lunch in my office with me. Do you understand so far?”

“Yeah I got you.”

“I hope you do not have any kind of problem with me, because we will be spending a lot of time together for the next couple of weeks or so.”

“Nope, I ain’t got no problem with you…yet.”

“Well let’s hope you will not develop one. I have sent Mrs. Bowler up to get your things and put them in my room.”

“She bet not go through my shit.”

She sighs loudly. “If this arrangement is going to work out, I am going to need you to control your mouth and the words that come out of it. I will not say this again. Do not curse in this school.”

“Alright, alright. Fine! She bet not go through my stuff. You happy?”

“I am ecstatic. Are you hungry Ardella?”

“I’m starving actually. And if that bi…girl hadn’t pissed me off I would be done eating right now.”

“Things happen that we cannot control sometimes.” She stares at me and looks me over slowly. I watch her until she brings her eyes to mine, and then I turn away. She clears her throat as she stands there awkwardly. “I will bring you some food then.”

“I can’t go with you?”

“No, I told you. No socializing until I know you are emotionally stable.” She turns to open the door and I watch her as she steps out. She turns around faster than I thought she would and she catches me staring at her. “Is there something wrong?”

“No, nothing wrong at all,” I say in a prissy little girl kind of way.

She laughs as she begins to close the door. “I will be back in a minute.” I smile as she closes the door grinning too.

“Whoa what a woman.” I say out loud after the door is shut. I look towards the door to see a shadow still in front. I cover my mouth. Like that can take back the comment. I hear a slight chuckle before she walks away. Damn, I’m a dumb ass. I laugh a little as a funny thought crosses my head. I shake my head to get rid of the thought. Nope can’t be, I love me some dick. Well…I used to until X-Ray. Since then I haven’t been able to even think about sex or boys for that matter. Even if though, it can’t be what’s happening. I’m just a girl with a nice body who notices another nice body when she sees one. That’s all. Well, I hope that’s all.

I sit in the leather chair for what seems like an hour or two by myself but the clock says it’s only been 15 minutes. I look towards the door at every sound waiting for Ms. Crill to come back, but it’s never her. I stand and walk to the door. I put my ear to it, but I don’t hear anything. I open it a crack, and the main hall is empty. I open it more and I step out. I look both ways, but I still don’t see anyone. I start walking towards the cafeteria hoping to find Ms. Crill. I reach the entrance to the cafeteria, but there’s nobody in there either. Then I hear a loud banging noise coming from down the main hallway, so I turn and walk towards the noise. It sounds like it’s coming from the main doors. I pick up my pace, but I slow it back down when I see a dark figure standing outside. I see streams of water sliding down the glass which tells me it’s raining. The person has their back towards me. I walk up and knock on the glass. The person quickly turns, but I can’t tell who it is because of there hood. I step back and ask, “Who are you?”

“It’s me girl. Open up.” I take more steps back as I recognize the voice. I grip my stomach as I stare at X-Rays’ large figure which is only kept back by a thin sheet of glass. “Hey, don’t be like that. Come open this door so we can talk.”

“How…how did you find me,” I stutter out.

“Wasn’t that hard for me to find my babe. I always know where you are. Now open this damn door it’s pouring out here.” His voice rises a little in anger. I slightly shake my head no. “Ardella. Baby, I really just want to talk. That’s it I swear.” His voice changes to his sweetest begging voice. “Please,” he says one last time. I sigh in surrender as I step forwards to open the door. I open it a crack and he pulls the door open quicker than I can react. He grabs me around my neck and pushes me hard against a wall. He tightens his grip around my neck and starts to choke me. “What the fuck were you thinking? You were just gonna leave me out there after I came all the way up here to see you?”

“N-n-no,” I struggle to say as I gasp for air.

“Damn right you weren’t” He loosens his grip but doesn’t let me go. “You see what you do to me girl. I just…I just love you so much. I don’t want to lose you.”

“Bullshit,” I mumble.

He tightens his grip again and bangs my head against the wall. “And after you told me about my baby…and…and what you did, I just…”

“Y-y-you just w-w-what?”

“I just…had to come and talk to you about it.” He releases his grip and steps back. “I want you to have my baby Ardella, so we can be a family.”

I laugh out loud in his face and he frowns. “You’re fucking crazy X-Ray.”

“What you mean? You don’t love me anymore?”

“I never loved you nigga. I just thought you were cute and had swag. That’s all.”

His frown grows into a scowl. He growls a little under his breath. “Why do you say things like that?” His face lightens and he smiles with his pearly white teeth. “Never mind, don’t answer that.”

“So what are you going to do X-Ray? Huh? Beat me? Rape me again? Huh?”

His smile grows. “No, I was hoping you’d cooperate more this time. How about it?”

“Fuck you!” I scream as I take off down the main hall. I make it about five feet before he reaches me and grabs me roughly by the arm. Where is everybody when you need them in this damn school?

He grips me roughly and forces me toward the front door. I look back to see a figure standing in the hall. I squint to get a better look, but all I see is a black girl with a towel up to her face. The person waves, turns and walks slowly down the dorm hallway. “Come on. It’ll be quick.”

“I don’t doubt that,” I say forcing a laugh. He grips me even harder. “What is this hold I have on you?”

“Hold…you have on…me,” he slowly says laughing. “Don’t you mean the hold I have on you?”

“God, you’re fucking insane boy. Just let me go and I won’t tell anybody you were here. I promise. It’ll be just like the last time you did stupid shit like this.”

“Shut up!” He stops, turns towards me still holding my arm tight, and slaps me across the face. I fall to the ground and get covered in mud. “The only promise I need from you is that you won’t kill this baby I’m about to give you.” He yanks me up by my hair and throws me into the back seat of his raggedy Ford Cavalier. He climbs in on top of me and shuts the door behind him. “So you gonna make this easier than the last time?”

“Fuck you!” I spit in his face before I punch him in it too. I squirm to the other side of the seat and I kick at his face as I try to open the door with my hands. He manages to grab both my legs and hold them down as he pulls me closer to him.

“Child locks are great aren’t they,” he says with a smile. “I’m just practicing for when the baby comes.” He climbs back on top, grabs my hands and holds them above my head with one hand. I try to kick, but his weight on my legs prevents me from doing so. He uses his other hand to rip open my mud covered blouse.

I scream as loud as I can for the first time in years. After years of screaming not helping I almost completely forgot how to do it. “Please, X-Ray don’t do this,” I plead. “Please, please, please,” I repeat over and over again as he rips of my bra.

“Please what baby? You want me to hurry up?” He chuckles and starts to rip off my skirt. I scream again. “Shut the fuck up with that screaming shit!” He stops fumbling with my skirt as he brings his fist above my head and brings it hard into my face. My head whiplashes against the seat. I feel warm liquid sliding down my face and I know its blood. I lay there motionless. “That’s better.” He starts on my skirt again. He manages to pull it down to my knees. He starts to fumble with his own pants and gets them down with a quickness. He grins that evil grin that I know all too well. “Here we go baby. If you get pregnant this time we won’t have to go through this again.” He laughs and reaches for my underwear. Just as he gets a grip on it the door behind him swings open and he’s dragged out by his legs. He falls and hits his face on the side of the car. I quickly pull up my skirt and try to close what’s left of my top. I curl up in a ball against the door opposite of him and whoever else is out there. I wipe my face to find that is was just tears that were sliding down my face.

I watch as X-Ray stands with mud all over him. He turns and I see him raise both his hands in surrender. “Hey, cool it. No need to use that.” He side steps to the back of the car and then turns and runs to my side of the car. He opens the door I’m leaning against and I fall out backwards. He pulls me the rest of the way out leaving me lying in the mud. I don’t even try to move as he gets in the driver seat and speeds away barely missing my legs. I lay staring at the falling rain until a person stands over me.

“Come on Ardella, it’s alright.”

I squint my eyes. “Ms. Crill?”

“I thought we agreed to call me Lisa?” She smiles as she kneels down and hooks her arms under mines. She lifts me up, but my body is still frozen from shock. She holds my upper body as my legs are flailed beneath me. She stops lifting as she huffs out, “I cannot help you if you do not help yourself.” She leans over my head to look me in the eyes. I slightly nod as I lift my legs to plant my feet on the ground. I lean off of her and stand on my own. She wraps her arm around my waist and we walk slowly back towards the building. I wrap my arm around her waist, but I pull back as I feel something hard. I look over my shoulder a little. “Don’t worry, it is just a precautionary device for cases like these.” She uses her other hand to reach behind her and pulls out a small gun. “I have never had to use it on a student…yet. But you are sure testing that record.” She laughs a little and I smile.

To be continued…

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