“Look who we have here boys,” said a husky voice. “Looks like we get ourselves a two-fer tonight.”
Pulling pappy’s head into my lap, I pushed back the hairs from his face. His eyes were closed, and his face was a pale grey.
“Pappy,” I said to the cold body in my arms. “I’m here now.” I pushed my lips to his forehead and rocked back and forth as the tears flowed from my eyes. “I’m here now. It’s going to be all right. I’m here.” A hand reached out and grabbed at my shoulder, but I shrugged it away. “Don’t touch me,” I yelled. “You bastards. Don’t touch me.”
“Looks like we have a fighter on our hands, Bruce.” A man with copper hair and more freckles than face smiled at his friend.
“I know how to break that fighting spirit,” Bruce said. His buddies laughed, but I couldn’t care less. Blood from pappy’s wounds surrounded me. My clothes were drenched, and my skin was as cold as ice due to the rain, but that didn’t matter. My pappy was gone. Taken from me. If I had gotten home on time, he wouldn’t have died. He must have come outside to look for me. It was my fault. He died because of me.
The tallest of the group (Bruce—their ring leader) stepped out of the circle and grabbed me up by my hair. I am forced onto my feet and pappy falls to the ground. Grabbing at my assailant’s hands, I clawed and dug my nails as deep as I could into his skin.
“That’s enough of that, girl.” Bruce yanked my hair hard. It felt like he was going to pull all my hair out of my scalp.
“Let me go,” I yelled as I kicked at him. My knee hit him hard in his man parts and he released my hair leaving me to crumble to the ground. Bruce grabbed between his legs and swore using some words that I had only read in books.
“You bitch,” he said as he straightened himself. Grabbing my shirt at the shoulder, he pulled me closer to him and punched my gut.
The air rushed from my lungs leaving me gasping. He dropped me back to the ground—my head hitting the concrete with a thud. The world started to spin as stars danced in my eyes.
This is it. This is how I am going to die.
Pappy lied on the ground next to me. I reached out to him and tried to grab his hand, but instead received another blow to my gut. This time it was someone’s foot.
Rolling onto my back, I grabbed at my stomach. I don’t know if I was bleeding or if it was from the blows I had received, but the world around me turned red. Blood red.
Pappy always told me God favored the weak. I was weaker than I had ever been—unable to catch my breath or fight against the men surrounding me.
I guess God sent me a guardian angel. All the men in the circle turned their attention away from me and focused on an approaching figure. I strained to see who it was, but my eyes wouldn’t focus. Everything was a blur.
“I think you best be on your way,” said a man with a resonant tone. It was the same man from earlier.
“Mind your own Goddamn business,” Bruce retorted. “This doesn’t concern you.” I don’t remember much after that. I faintly recall hearing Bruce scream out in pain and his men yelling before they ran away.
I remember two arms picked me up from the street and I was enveloped by the smell of lavender and pine. That’s all I recall about the night pappy died. That was the night my life changed forever.
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