After lunch, Bruce left Jane and the rest of the friend group to make a pit stop. Before leaving the boys’ room, he stopped in front of the mirror, then took out his comb and ran it through his dark hair.
As Bruce continued to primp in the mirror, Chandler, Kevin, and two newcomers to the clique Ron Peterson and Bryson Edman quietly entered. Looking in the mirror and seeing them approach him from behind, Bruce paused, giving the approaching boys a suspicious look.
The boys surrounded Bruce, with Chandler leaning on the vanity on his left side and Kevin, his right. Ron and Bryson stood behind him, feet apart, arms folded across their puffed-out chests, and one side of their upper lips raised in contempt. Their eyes bore into Bruce.
A Nasty Encounter
“Howdy, lover boy. So, we hear that you and the little karate queen are quite the item around here now,” Chandler taunted.
Bruce turned around and bravely faced the threatening boys.
“Yeah? And?” Bruce countered.
“Man! You really know how to pick ‘em, don’t you?” Kevin sneered.
“And this is your business, how?” Bruce fired back.
“I wouldn’t get cute if I were you,” Bryson warned.
“Yeah, well, you’re not me. So, why don’t you turds get fucked!” Bruce bit before walking toward the door.
As Chandler started to charge Bruce from behind, the other three boys restrained him.
“Easy, Chandler. Let the pussy go. There’ll be another time,” Ron told him.
Chandler stood there and drilled the back of Bruce’s head with his eyes.
“You little worm! I’d watch my back if I were you!”
Chandler was a senior, eighteen, and six feet four. He was blonde, blue-eyed, large built, and a quarterback on the varsity football team. Ron was a junior. He was dark-haired, dark-eyed, and muscular but puny and short for a guy at about five feet eight. Bryson Edman was also blonde haired and blue eyed, but an inch shorter than Ron and had a dumpy, squatty build. Kevin had medium brown hair, dark eyes, a square jawline, but, like Ron and Bryson, was a peon compared to Chandler.
Taking a Stand
Just as Bruce walked out of the bathroom, two more boys, huge like Chandler, walked into the boys’ room, looking down at Bruce with eyes of derision as they passed, then looked up at Chandler and his three buddies.
“’That slug giving y’all a problem?” Daniel Underwood, one of the pair asked.
Chandler, eyes blazing, shrugged his friends grip off him.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” he growled.
“Let me have a go at him, ya’ll! I know I can take him!” Ethan Byrd boasted.
And all six boys began giving each other fives and slapping each other on the back before glaring at the door.
“We’ll get his ass! I guarantee you! We’ll catch his ass somewhere off school grounds! Then, it’s on!” Chandler vowed.
Sixteen-year-old Brielle Bennett sat in front of Thomasville High School reading the new and recently published Shannon Crooke McGregor novel when she was approached by seventeen-year-old Bobby Crabtree, his girlfriend Rita Winchester, and friends Ashton Childers, Kevin Kearns, Aaron Hughes, Jada Ames, Austin Eves, Philip Adams Jr, and Sarah Dickerson. They immediately noticed the book Brielle was reading. The title of the book, in big bold letters, across the top of the cover, read “Scars Never Healed.” Across the bottom was the name, Shannon Crooke McGregor.”
Brielle, a shy and bullied girl at Thomasville High School, needed to confirmation that she wasn’t alone, which was one of the many reasons she idolized Shannon Crooke McGregor, the famous author who had lived in Thomasville as a teenager and who had attended the same school. Shannon escaped the chains the held her in place, which were the same chains that were now holding Brielle in place, and if Shannon could go on to become famous, then perhaps, she could too.
A Forbidden Book
Brielle was startled out of her reverie when someone suddenly snatched her book out of her hands.
“Well, well, well! What do we have here?” Bobby jeered as he looked at the book, surrounded by his friends, who were laughing and jeering behind him, “Shannon Crooke McGregor!” He read aloud before glaring at Brielle.
Bobby angrily shook the book at Brielle.
“Really, Brielle? Shannon Crooke McGregor!”
Bobby then threw the book back at Brielle, hitting her in the face with it. He then took her by the collar of her blouse and jerked her up from the bench she was sitting on.
“You support the bitch who slandered this town and this school? You know? We’ve always hated your guts! That’s right! We hated your guts before! But now! We fucking loathe you! You’re enemy number one now! You’d better watch your back from now on!” He growled before shoving her back down on the concrete school patio.
Brielle reached to grab her book but, in a rage, Bobby kicked it out of her reach and the book went sliding across the patio and hit one of the garbage disposals. He then walked away with his friends laughing behind him. Rita looked back at Brielle.
“Stupid bitch!” She called back…
…Over a year later, during graduation, Brielle received her diploma and walked back to where she had sat amid jeers and boos. Only her family clapped and cheered for her.
“Don’t pay any attention to them, Brielle. We’re proud of you, sweetie.” Brielle’s mother called out to her from the audience.
Just after the commencement ceremony was over, Brielle hugged each of her family members in festive and celebratory happiness. Her mother and father were so proud of her, and Brielle was excited for the future.
“I can’t believe it’s over! It’s really over!” Brielle gushed with tears of joy in her eyes. She hugged each of her brothers.
An Evil Pact
Not far away, Bobby and his friends, also in their graduation caps and gowns, stood together, all glaring at Brielle, watching her smile and pose for pictures with her family and few friends. They turned and looked at one another.
“She only thinks it’s over! But it’s far from it!” Rita sneered. Each bully stood in unity and put their hands-on top of one another’s.
“We need to make a pact. She still has to live here.” Bobby said, “So, we start a little campaign.” He suggested.
“Ha! When we’re done with her, she’ll have no job prospects, no prospects for college, no marriage prospects- we’re going to isolate her and drive her to poverty! She’ll live in squalor when we’re through!” Rita growled.
“And if that don’t work, we kill her!” Bobby pledged, with his friends cheering in agreement.
A New Life
Unbeknownst to the bullies, however, Brielle had other plans. She hopped a Greyhound bus and left Thomasville the following week, heading to sunny California.
Brielle tried getting into acting. Apart from a few guest appearances and bit parts in a few movies, she couldn’t seem to get her big break. While she tried her hand at acting, she worked in a gentleman’s club as an exotic dancer and made good money. She soon gave up on acting and decided to make a career in dancing. Although four-hundred thousand dollars a year was nothing to sneeze at, it was still peanuts in southern California.
At twenty, Brielle met and married a businessman, then had three children…
…Brielle was taking a huge step, perhaps, the biggest step she had ever taken. After fourteen years of being verbally and physically abused, Brielle had taken her three children, left her husband, and was moving back east to Tennessee- no easy task by any stretch of the imagination, and neither was it an easy decision.
It was downright scary. Brielle still cared for Bill, even loved him a little bit. But she had to love herself and her girls more than she did him. She had to do what was best for the three of them. If she did not fart around, she would already be in Tennessee by the time Bill returned home on Saturday.
Brielle could only imagine the look on his face when he pulled into the driveway and realized that Brielle’s escalade was gone. She could also imagine the shock as soon as he entered the house to find them all gone, along with Brielle’s and the girl’s belongings. Bill would shit a gold brick! That much she knew, and it was best to get as far away as she could from that.
Brielle then thought back. Bill had been a complete psychopath. He had started out verbally abusing Brielle. Then it escalated to physical abuse and Brielle had reach her breaking point. She thought back to her high school days and how horribly her classmates had bullied her during her middle school and high school years.
She wondered. Why was it that women who were bullied in school always seemed to attract, fall in love with, and marry bullies? She couldn’t understand it. It seemed that no matter what she did, she always attracted more bullies and more abusers. But she finally realized that there were things she had to change within herself before she could stop allowing these types of people into her life.
After years of wondering if there was something wrong with her, Brielle finally concluded that there was never anything wrong with her. Bill had the issue. Bobby, Rita, and the rest of the creeps who had bullied her in school- they had had the issue! Thanks to Shannon Crooke McGregor and her books, Brielle had come to the realization that each of her abusers were the ones who had the problems.
She then became angry- angry at her abusers for brainwashing her into thinking that she “made” them hurt her. And most of all, angry at herself for allowing it! Brielle was angry at herself for taking the blame for their disgusting behavior! For taking the blame for the battering of her own spirit! And this time, she was done!
She was done with Bill, she was done with every person who’d tried to destroy her spirit in the past, and she was done with being treated like a piece of garbage. Brielle was bound and determined that she was going to take control of her own destiny- that she was going be happy for once in her life and that her girls were going to see an example of a strong woman instead of one who was powerless.
Brielle was not only leaving for herself; she was leaving for her girls. She wanted to set an example for her young daughters and to send them a message – that they didn’t have to take abuse from a man. Ever! That it was okay to leave when you didn’t feel safe. And that is exactly what she planned to teach her daughters from here on out.
After spending the night in a five-star, pet-friendly hotel in Arizona, Brielle, the kids, and the dog set out once again. It was Thursday and the sun shone high in the sky.
After another two-days of driving and spending the night in hotels, Brielle and her brood finally arrived at her grandmother’s house in Tennessee. It was Saturday morning and Bill would not be getting back to California until later in the evening. Several kids were playing in the yard when the family pulled up. And there were lots of chickens in the yard pecking and scratching.
Brielle and the kids got out of the car. Bandit barked as he jumped from the vehicle and ran around the yard, sniffing the grass for a good spot. The kids ran up to Bandit and began petting him. Bandit sniffed the kids then stood there and let them pet his fur.
Brielle’s grandmother came outside and placed her arm around her. Brielle’s brothers and cousins also came piling out of the house with their wives.
“You’ve just had a long drive, so you and the girls go on in and rest. We’ll unload your truck and bring your stuff in for you. Now, the movers got here a few hours ago and unloaded your recliner and other stuff. I had them put it all in the shop behind the house.” Grandma Bennet told her.
“Thank you, grandma. How’s Mom?” Brielle asked.
“She and your daddy went on their second honeymoon. They won’t be back until next week.”
“Right. I knew their anniversary was coming up and they would be out of town. I didn’t call them and let them know I was coming because I didn’t want to put a damper on their plans.” Brielle said.
“Nonsense! You should’ve called them, Brielle! They would’ve helped you.” Grandma Bennett scolded her.
“I know but I didn’t want to bother them right now.”
“Honey, you’re not a bother, I promise. Now get inside and go lie down a while if you’re tired.” Grandma Bennett said before she squeezed Brielle tight and gave her a kiss on her cheek. Brielle then gave hugs to each of her three brothers and three cousins.
“Oh, it’s so good to see you, baby sister!” Jesse, Brielle’s oldest brother gushed as they hugged each other tight, “I was hoping you’d come back home someday. But I understand why you left.”
“Thank you, Jesse. You’ve always been my protective big brother and I love you for it!” Brielle said sweetly.
“I love you too, Little Sis!”
Brielle came to Joey, her second oldest brother and Joey spread his arms out to hug her.
“I’m so glad to see you, Sugar! It’s been too long!” He said lovingly as he embraced his sister, “So, are you here to visit or…”
“I’m here for good, Joey. I’m not going back to California. I left Bill and I’m going to divorce him.” Brielle told him.
Brielle’s cousin Tim spoke up.
Open door on long empty asphalt road, highway towards sun. Hope, success, new way concepts etc.
“Good! ‘Cause I never liked that fool anyway.” Tim remarked.
Brielle then hugged her youngest older brother Paul, then each of her cousins.
“I didn’t like Bill either.” Grandma Bennett added, “There’s always been something off about him. He just gave me a suspicious vibe, Brielle.”
“I understand, Grandma. And I don’t blame you. I’m home for good this time. I’m not going back.” Brielle assured her, “I just want to spend time with my family.”
“Well, we’re so glad you’re home, honey! And we’ll help you anyway we can.” Grandma Bennett said in her loving, grandmotherly tone.
She turned to Brielle’s three brothers Joey, Jesse, and Paul and cousins, Tim, James, and Jerome.
“Boys, let’s get Bri’s and the girls’ things in the house.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Jesse said excitedly as they all opened the hatchback of the Escalade and went to work unloaded the suitcases and bags.
That night, Grandma Bennett cooked a large supper of two rotisserie whole large chickens, mashed potatoes, blackeye peas, greens, and cornbread.
“Wash your hands for supper, everyone!” she called as Brielle led the girls into the bathroom. After everyone had washed their hands, Brielle’s three brothers, three cousins, and two oldest daughters all sat down at the long table in the dining room as Brielle helped Grandma Bennett set the table. Next, Brielle lifted the baby out of her play pin, then prepared her baby food. She then sat down with the baby in her lap and spoon fed the child while everyone else ate.
“So, how was your trip, Brielle?” Grandma Bennett asked.
“Exhausting. I think me and the girls are going to sleep good tonight.” Brielle replied.
“Well, I’ve got your bed ready in the quest room. The girls can sleep in the second guest room upstairs. The boys will be leaving to go home after supper.”
“Thank you so much, Grandma. You don’t know how much I appreciate this.” Brielle told her.
Back in California, Bill pulled into the driveway in his BMW. Noticing that Brielle’s vehicle was gone, he got out slowly then paused and stared at the empty space in the driveway with an annoyed look on his face. He then looked around.
Bill took his briefcase out of the trunk. After closing the trunk, he went to the front door, unlocked it, and went inside the house. He dropped his briefcase when he took one look around the house and realized that not even the dog was there. He also noticed that Brielle’s recliner was missing as were the baby’s play pin, toys, and Brielle’s pictures of her family and a few pictures of the girls.
Bill then raced upstairs, into the master bedroom and jerked open the door to the walk-in closet. Brielle’s clothes were missing. He then darted into the bathroom. Sure enough, Brielle’s makeup and toiletries were also missing.
Next, he ran into the girl’s rooms and noticed that they were completely empty, no beds, no vanities, no computers, no desks, no pictures, no toys or nick-nacks. Nothing. He burst into the baby’s room. Again, nothing. Jane’s, Olivia’s, and the baby’s rooms were all empty and bare.
After making a mad dash down the stairs, Bill went into the kitchen and found three cellphones lying on the counter- Brielle’s, Jane’s, and Olivia’s. In a rage, Bill picked up one of the phones and, with a scream of fury, hurled it through the window in the patio door.
He then found a note on the far counter by the stove and picked it up. It read:
I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last few months. Things haven’t been good between us for a long time now and I think that it’s time to end our marriage and go our separate ways. The girls and I deserve to be happy, and we haven’t been because all you do is hurt us. Well, I won’t let you hurt us anymore. I’m determined for us to be happy and I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ll be much happier without you.
Don’t worry. You can still come see the girls. I won’t keep them from you. But we just can’t live with you anymore. I wish you all the best in life. Know that I’ll always care about you. You’re the father of my children. But I’m not in love with you anymore. Little by little, you killed that love with each slap, each punch in my face, each time you called me a bitch, and each time you verbally assaulted me. And now it stops.
You go on with your life and let me and the girls go on with ours. That’s all I ask of you.
Ps. Here’s my new number if you need to talk to the girls.
Bill took the letter, crumpled it up, and threw it across the kitchen.
“Goddammit!” He screamed, “That bitch!”
He then walked over to where the crumpled letter had landed, picked it back up, and straightened it out. Next, he read it again. He then took out his cellphone and dialed the number written in the letter….