Abbie and The Attic
Abbie and The Attic
The sound of the lock sliding shut should have made Abbie feel dread, but the truth was, that sound always made her feel the first twinges of freedom.
Today she had not weeded the garden properly – so it was going to be another long dark night in the attic with no dinner.
Or so she let her mother believe…
Since she was two years old, Abbie could remember the abuse.
Some people would argue that a child that young could not possibly remember such things, but she would never forget.
Her memories started with fingernails being dug into her skin, the times when her hair was pulled out by the roots, and when her legs were switched with tree branches.
She could have probably flown to the moon and back with the hours she logged standing in the corner, sometimes over night.
By the time she was in second grade she had learned to hide the marks, and the emotional scars.
There were days when she was tied to a chair, gagged and left for hours while her parents went away. Obviously – an eight year old child was not to be trusted to stay by herself, so restraining that child was a much better choice.
Even when her brothers were home, she really didn't get a reprieve. Her older brother would let her play or do the things he was supposed to be keeping her from doing, but that came with a price. A price she sometimes hated worse than the beatings.
Today Abbie was a tiny, lithe young preteen, and just as stubborn as she had ever been.
She had learned to play the game.
She could turn on the tears and sound very contrite, even if it was something she did not do.
She had learned to make everyone around her happy, and she had learned to ignore the pain and paste a smile on her face, every day, all the time.
Her youth pastor actually called her “Smiley”, if he only knew the horrors that smile hid.
She was strong, and athletic. There was hardly a gymnastic move that she had not mastered. And she had done it all on her own, with no formal training. Gymnastics was a reprieve, a way to control her body.
Some people accused her of being anorexic, and while there were many nights she went without dinner, eating mom’s dinner was not really something that she “missed”. School lunches were a better choice.
She had learned to steal. As sad as that sounds, it was a way for her to survive.
The small man that owned the grocery store across the street...
Abbie was pretty sure he knew, and still let her get by with it.
Perhaps he knew more than most adults, because he never made her feel like a bad child.
Most adults treated her the way her mom portrayed her to them.
Abbie was a lying, thieving and unruly child that needed a VERY heavy hand.
One of her Christian school teachers had even taken her to the file room and threatened her with a spanking…for chewing the top of her eraser while he yelled at the boys in the room. Yes, it was true; she was a terrible terrible child.
The light went out in the attic, and all was quiet.
Abbie waited for a very long time, barely moving, or making a sound, waiting for the house to fall asleep.
As soon as she was certain that it was safe to move around, she quietly opened the roof hatch and climbed out into the night.
Within minutes she had jumped over the 18 inches between her house and the neighbors, and climbed down the big tree that hung over their lower roof.
At this time of the morning, it was dark and it was peaceful.
She loved exploring her neighborhood in the dark.
There were the times she stood watching the normal families that got up super early or stayed up super late, whichever the case might be.
There was the family that never closed their blinds, and the stack of people sleeping in their living room. She always wondered what all that meant, and what was going on in that house.
There was the time she stumbled upon a young couple in the church parking lot. It took years for her to figure out what was going on that night.
And then, there was the cemetery at the edge of town, and the tree house that she had found there. It was here that she usually would spend the few hours of freedom that she had learned to cherish so much. She climbed into the tree house and fell asleep on the little mattress that was placed there. It never ceased to amaze her that this tiny tree house felt like the safest place in her world, and eons away from the mess at her house.
As the sun started rising, Abbie quickened her pace.
She knew that her mom would be getting up soon, and would expect to find her unruly child still locked safely in the attic when she pulled the lock open.
She scurried up the tree, across the small expansion between the houses and back through the hatch in the attic roof. She pulled the hatch shut and the darkness surrounded her. Her refuge would soon be no more, but at least her secret was still safe…
At least for another day.