She tells her friend to have her parent call to ask if she can come over. If she asks them herself they will say no. It’s more difficult to say no to another adult. They might ask why. Appearances must be kept. They would rather she be at home so they can control her and their secrets, but appearances are more important.
The boy smells her period on her. Her father wouldn’t let her shower that morning, she has to shower before he leaves for work, even though there is a full half hour after he leaves before the bus comes, and she was too tired to get up in time. If her father discovers she did shower there will be consequences. The boy offers to let her shower at his house before he gives her a ride home from school. She is embarrassed and shamed, but thankful.
She falls asleep in every class that day. They kept her up yelling; she wasn’t allowed to go to bed until they were finished with her. Maybe she loaded the dishwasher wrong, maybe she said the wrong thing, maybe the counters weren’t clean enough, maybe they were just in a fighting mood. Her friends share their notes with her.
He drags her down the hall by her hair. He wants her in the livingroom so that he can have the luxury of looking at her. Family time.
Her anger overflows and she slams her bedroom door. They remove it and do not replace it with a curtain. She has to change in the bathroom. She can’t remember how long it lasts.
She forgets to feed her parakeets. The cage isn’t clean as often as it should be. Her mother is tired of doing it for her. Opens the window in the winter and sets the cage in the snowy flower box and closes it, saying if she won’t take care of them, we might as well kill them.
Belts. Wooden spoons. Slaps across the face. Grabbed arms and hair. Old time discipline.
The scavenging, the hiding, the tip-toeing, the smells, the poverty, the hunger, the fear, the exhaustion – and then the sense of failure and helplessness when you get away but have to leave others behind.
Something I need you to understand about this book is the importance of recognizing the signs of a strained or abusive home-life. This is not a love story, this is a suspenseful thriller and as you read you wonder if Eleanor will escape before she is raped or killed. Will someone notice in time? Will people help? And probably most important of all – remember that sometimes these situations wear you down so that there isn’t anything left to free, that it’s easier just to stay. Safer even.
This book hit me right in the heart. The things you have to keep hidden, the appearances that have to be maintained so that the people around you don’t shame you, ostracize you, or possibly try to help you. Sometimes the help is more dangerous than the shame and ridicule. If you are going to help, you had better be ready to go all the way. Half-measures may be more harmful than doing nothing at all.
Kindness is important. Acceptance is important. Help and protection are important. Look around you, you can recognize the signs even if that person or child is working so hard to hide them. Give them a comic book. Give them batteries so they can listen to music all night long. Give them access to a shower. To food. To safety. To love.
This book is about surviving, and about how kindness is the light that can guide someone to safety. Please go read this book, it is essential.
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