Chapter 4~ Escape
Mei grudgingly gathered her stuff as she exited the school bus. She often dreamed of living somewhere else, not that her house didn’t look inviting; however, what goes on behind closed doors, no white picket fence can hide forever. “If people only knew the hell I am living in; well… it makes no sense to dream. This world is cold,” Mei grumbled as she entered her townhouse, or as her stepfather so proudly put it, “his” home. She was only an uninvited guest.
Mei opened the front door and placed her purse on the hallway table close to the door. She slowly pulled her backpack off of her shoulders and dropped it down in the corner next to the front door.
“Honeybee, I have lunch waiting for you at the kitchen table,” her mother, Song Paulard, announced as Mei entered the kitchen.
Mei’s father, Jacob Gordon, had nicknamed her Honeybee when she was born due to her mixed heritage. Her mother loved calling her Honeybee; the gesture helped her to feel close to her deceased husband.
Jacob had been murdered ten years ago in Atlanta, Georgia where they once lived. After his untimely death, Mei had never been the same. She experienced frightening encounters, visions, and dreams of her father who warned her of people who come into their lives.
Often, late at night, she could feel someone gently smoothing her hair, a kind gentle hand gliding over her face. Mei privately told her mother, hoping that she would not think she was going crazy, but it backfired. Song remarried two years after Jacob’s death, to his longtime friend, Thomas Paulard.
Mei did not get along with her stepfather. Thomas may have been able to get things past her mother, but not her. Eventually, his true colors were revealed to Mei. Not only was he verbally and emotionally abusive towards her, but also, as of late, he had become more sexually abusive. Although he had yet not forced himself on her, he had touched her in ways no fatherly figure should be touching a child. It didn’t matter how many times she confessed to her mother. It would always backfire on Mei, which made her look like an emotionally unstable liar. The school counselors accused her of making dreadful claims to get attention from her mother, due to the death of her father, and hasty marriage to her father’s friend.
Thomas had taken so much away from Mei. Her mother distrusted her, at times making her feel like the other woman in her mother’s marriage. He did not allow Mei visitors or friends. He had scared off all of Mei’s playmates as a child. Cora was the only who seemed to intimidate him, which was why Mei finally received the chance to develop a friendship with her.
The past few nights Thomas had tried to break into her room, late at night while the rest of the family slept. Thomas' recent actions were new, and Mei feared he was attempting to steal the one grace that kept her pure. Mei had bought new locks for her door and was all too happy when her mother installed an emergency exit system in each upstairs room in case of a fire or break-in.
Mei eased down into a chair at the kitchen table and began to eat her lunch. Her mind reflected on the haunting experience she had had earlier that day. It was strange; she was sure it was Max Martinez's voice. Mei started to feel as if she was growing into an even more significant of a freak, now that she was overhearing other people's thoughts.
Mei replayed the words in her mind. Come back to me? He was arguing with his girlfriend. Maybe she is trying to break up with him, and he truly wants to be with her, Mei speculated to herself. "This doesn't explain why he looked at me," she mumbled out loud.
“How was your day? Did you have a good time?” her mother asked in broken English.
“It’s fine, mother,” Mei replied in Chinese.
Song looked into her daughter’s beautiful green eyes. She loved her dearly and wished she knew how to make her happy. Since her husband had died, Mei’s eyes had lost their sparkle. Marrying Thomas did not seem to make life better for Mei. Thomas and Mei bitterly argued for years, and it was only getting worse. Mei had so much hatred towards her stepfather.
If only I could make her see how much her stepfather loves her, Song thought to herself.
“What, Mom?” Mei snapped, becoming agitated by her mother’s silent stare.
“Nothing,” Song replied, becoming further lost in thought. She so desperately wanted a perfect home, but with Mei and Thomas regularly at each other’s necks, it was an impossible dream.
Mei returned to eating her lunch, continuing her thoughts about Max. As much as she hated to admit it, she lusted after him, just like every other girl at their high school.
Maybe if only I were prettier, maybe just maybe, I could see myself with him, she thought.
Her nine-year-old sister, Araiha Paulard, suddenly rushed through the front door with her two, snobby friends, Brittany and Jessica, in tow.
“Food is on the table for you, Araiha!” Song yelled in Chinese, as Ariaha flew past the kitchen.
“Not hungry Mom!” Araiha shouted back, heading up the stairs.
“Girls,” Song sighed as she walks into the living room to finish her chores.
Mei jolted as she felt the sudden vibrations of her cell phone. Scrambling, she pulled it from her front pocket.
“Hello?” she answered.
“Mei, it’s Cora.”
“Hey, Cora…what’s up?”
“What are you doing tonight?”
“Ah, nothing; sitting home I guess.”
“No, no, no! There is a big party tonight at Zack Gilman’s house. His parents are out of town for the weekend.”
“I don’t know about that…what if they come back or something? I got enough problems,” Mei lightly joked.
“Mei, come on! We’re teenagers! We’re supposed to get in trouble.”
“I don’t know, Cora, but I guess I can think about it,” Mei sighed.
“Okay, I will call you back in two hours to get your answer, and it better be ‘yes,’” Cora demanded.
“Okay bye,” Mei ended as she pressed the end button on her cell phone.
She finished her lunch and headed upstairs to her bedroom, making sure to lock the door behind her. Kicking off her shoes, she flopped down on her full-size bed and dosed off.
It felt as if only a few minutes had passed when Mei suddenly was awakened by the sound of someone trying to pick the lock of her bedroom door. Fear gripped her as she glanced over at the alarm clock on her nightstand.
“No!” Mei whispered. It is after nine. Her stepfather had been home for an hour, and her mother and sister were at Ariaha's gymnastics practice. Mei jumped to her feet and grabbed her purse and cell phone.
The she paused. “Wait…I thought…how did this get up here?” she whispered. She knew she did not bring her purse upstairs with her.
The sound of the doorknob being jingled brought her back to reality. She didn’t have much time to think. She could hear something being shoved between the door and frame, trying to pry it open. She quickly grabbed the emergency ladder, thanking her mother once more for insisting on one in every upstairs bedroom.
Mei lifted her bedroom window and threw the ladder over the windowsill. She didn’t care if it was secure enough to climb down. Mei looked back at the door. He was still trying to get into her room. She realized he was now having success and quickly made her way down the ladder and onto the front lawn. She overheard her mother and sister enter the front door. They had just missed her. Mei pulled out her cell phone as she scurried away from her home, relieved to have yet again escaped his unwanted touches.
An inappropriate, dark image of Thomas touching her flooded her mind. Mei could not stand another grope from him. It would only be a matter of time before he followed through on his destructive desires.
She quickly called her best friend, Cora Pennington. “Cora, come get me, please!” Mei pleaded.
“Sure girl! So, you’re coming to the party with me?” Cora excitedly asked. She was more focused on getting out that she didn’t immediately pick up on Mei’s distress.
“Yeah, whatever would keep me away from him,” Mei replied, fighting back the tears.
“Oh…okay! I'm coming! No! Meet me at the gas station,” Cora sternly responded, realizing her best friend was in trouble.
Mei ended the call and started walking towards the corner gas station at the end of her block.
She began to reflect on all the pain she had endured at home and throughout her life. Tears flooded her eyes as she watched a father and daughter, happily holding hands while they passed her. She still remembered the walks she took with her father when they lived in Atlanta. Mei desperately wished he could be there. She missed him, and she felt terribly alone without him.
Making it to the corner store, she headed straight to the restroom to wash her face. After pulling herself together, she decided to buy a bottle of water while waiting for Cora. Standing in line to pay, she couldn't help but glance over at the beers and alcohol in the fridge. It enticed her, beckoning for her to have a sip. For the first time, Mei looked forward to going to the house party, knowing she could get drunk and forget about her problems, if only for a few hours. It seemed like a gift.
She paid for her water and decided to stand outside, hoping the fresh air would do her some good. It shouldn't be much longer, she thought. But, how long were these thoughts going to plague her? The tears began to fall again, and she couldn’t stop them.
Mei felt like time was running out on her. She needed to get away before her stepfather succeeded. But, how could she win, how could she ruin his success? she pondered.
She let her long wavy hair out to try and hide her face from everyone. People were beginning to notice. Then, Max’s brand new SUV pulled up to the gas station. Mei rolled her eyes. The football team guys are obnoxious, she thought. She was in no mood to be played with, "Thank God," Mei whispered, turning her head to see Cora pulling up into the parking lot.