FlashFic: Revelations

“You’re such a dork, Tommy! Stop asking me out,” I snapped.

“So that’s a no?” Tommy grinned.

I waited on the steps to the church. Daddy gladhanded the Elders, trying to squeeze more onto the collection plate. Mama appeared and squeezed my arm. Even through the jacket, her grip hurt. I winced away, the nasty bruise on my arm throbbing all over again. “Why, Tommy Doyle. Of course my Ruby means to say yes. She’d be pleased to go out with you.”

I stared at her. She tightened her grip, her fake smile getting bigger. “Uh, yeah,” I said, daring to pull my arm away. That was a mistake. It hurt so bad, tears popped into my eyes. I blinked them away, nodding.

“Great,” Tommy responded, oblivious to it all. “Friday at 7:00? We can grab a movie.” I kept nodding like a bobblehead doll. “See you in school tomorrow.” Terrific. By lunchtime everyone would know. As though it weren’t hard enough being the preacher’s daughter. My arm ached loudly.

I looked with longing at the jeans and running shoes my classmates wore. Mama insisted on skirts and long sleeved blouses. “We’re examples to the town, Ruby,” she insisted. “The Lord expects you to dress appropriately.” Sure He did. Mr. Miller wrote some dates on the board. As I dutifully copied them in my notebook, Sarah and Lori giggled in the back corner. I refused to turn. My face heated, to my dismay. I pretended to read my notes carefully.

The giggles became outright laughter and pointing in the lunchroom. A commotion at one table turned out to be some guys. I couldn’t see Tommy well, but I seethed. He was probably enjoying his celebrity. Would he talk the preacher’s daughter afterward? Ha! I’d sit through the movie and then insist on going home.  Poor Tommy would leave with hopes dashed. My shoulders dropped, realizing he’d likely lie about getting a feel off me. I heard that’s what boys did.

Ruby's Revelation

Photo by Chris Lim

Anger fueled me the whole walk home. I tromped into the house. “Ruby, you stop that right now,” Mama scolded. “What’s made you forget your upbringing?” Her eyes had that glint in them. Danger ahead, but I didn’t care.

“I don’t want to go out with Tommy Doyle, Mama,” I told her. “He’s annoying and will probably tell them I did nasty things.”

“He’s the son of a church elder, girl,” Mama snapped, as though that meant something. “How dare you defy me? It’s not smart to come into my house stomping your feet and whining.” Her voice edged like a razor. “Get the belt.”

My stomach dropped as I hurried up the stairs. Dawdling would only make it worse. I grabbed the hated belt, tensing at the memory of past beatings. Mama was already in the back bedroom. Without waiting to be told, I lay on my belly and pulled up my skirt. Crack! I bit my hand to keep my whimper inside. My thighs stung to high heaven, but making a sound would just bring on more. As the pain echoed through me, I counted. Seven strikes this time.

“Learned your lesson yet, girl?” Mama asked, patting her hair back into place.

“Yes, Mama,” I responded in a strong voice as required.

“Why you make me do this, I have no idea. I just do as the Lord requires.” She held out the belt.  Taking it from her, I walked as quietly as I could. Every step was a jolt of familiar heat. The Lord required this? Hypocrite.

I hid in the bathroom. It was the only excuse that kept Mama away. My hands balled into fists on my lap, pressing my nails hard into my palms. Breathe, Ruby. Just breathe. I refused to let the tears out. I felt I was drowning in pain and loneliness.  Another deep breath bolstered me. I hurried downstairs to do my homework.

I got out of the shower Friday evening to discover Mama laid out my clothes. “Let me see after you dress,” she called up to me in a happy voice. The pink blouse had a high lace collar; a pink floral ruffle ringed the hemline of the linen skirt. I sighed. New clothes.

Mama fluttered about when I presented myself, fussing at my hair. She sprayed it into place and even spritzed my wrist with her perfume. Perfume! Tommy would think I actually wanted to do this. I thanked her like a good girl.

As the clock struck 7:00, the doorbell rang. “Well, Tommy Doyle, don’t you clean up nicely,” Mama gushed, as though she’d never seen him dressed up for church.

“You look real pretty,” Tommy said to me.

“Thank you,” I answered politely as Mama hovered.

“Have her home at 10:30, Tommy,” Mama simpered.

In the theater, we crab-walked to seats in the center of the row. “No, wait. You sit on the other side. I don’t want to accidently bump your sore arm,” Tommy told me, stepping past me. I sat, numb with surprise. I noticed little of the movie. How did he know? I struggled to find the right words.

Outside, Tommy stopped suddenly. “Look, I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable in there. C’mere, I want to show you something.” He took a couple steps into an alley and tugged at his shirt. My eyes widened at the bruises on his back. “You don’t have to say anything. Just so’s you know I understand.” Dumbstruck, I nodded.

“We have time. Want to get a soda?” he asked, tucking in his shirt.

“That would be nice,” I responded, surprising myself. His smile made my belly warm. I reached out to touch his arm. “Thank you.”

He coaxed me into conversation over a Coke. I even laughed. “Want to do this next Friday?” he asked as we left.

Something bubbled inside. I grabbed hold of the lifeline. I shared this secret with Tommy Doyle? The Lord worked in mysterious ways after all.

 

 

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18 thoughts on “FlashFic: Revelations

  1. John Wiswell March 23, 2012 at 2:00 am Reply

    Did not expect you to make Tommy sympathetic in the end. What a wretched existence the two are coming up through.

    Like

    • JC Rosen March 24, 2012 at 4:01 am Reply

      It is a horror and no doubt about it. I wanted to show how different people respond to this sort of pressure in different ways. In such an existence, another who understands can be an oasis of sanity. Thanks, John.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  2. gailaldwin March 23, 2012 at 5:22 am Reply

    I like the story – very clever ending.

    Like

    • JC Rosen March 24, 2012 at 4:02 am Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment about the story, Gail. I’m glad to hear it worked for you. Hope to see you again soon.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  3. johannaharness March 23, 2012 at 8:15 am Reply

    Another powerful story, Jess. Such a hopeful ending. I think those kids are going to be okay.

    Like

    • JC Rosen March 24, 2012 at 4:04 am Reply

      Thanks so much, Johanna. That the two of them find one another – or more correctly, Tommy recognizes Ruby’s difficulty – is hopeful, I agree. If they end up okay, it will likely be because of the attachment they share.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  4. Deanna Schrayer March 23, 2012 at 9:43 am Reply

    Jess, this is fantastic! You have the characters nailed and how wonderful that there was a happy ending to what could be a tragic story. I hope they make it “out” to be together for the rest of their lives.

    Like

    • JC Rosen March 24, 2012 at 4:09 am Reply

      Thanks, Deanna! The characters were a little quiet for a while and the writing was labored. Suddenly they opened up and I ended up several hundred over the limit. Editing wasn’t a sweet chore, but it ended up more streamlined. Together, Ruby and Tommy share a strength they didn’t have alone. It offers them much better survival odds.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  5. Steve Green March 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm Reply

    A difficult subject to cover, I liked the upbeat ending, which gave both of them hope for the future.

    I once heard it said, that if an abused child had just one person in their life who they could talk to about their situation, who would believe in them, that it could make an immense difference to their life.

    Like

    • JC Rosen March 24, 2012 at 4:16 am Reply

      Thank you, Steve. It is a difficult subject and can ping buried feelings in both the writer and reader. I’m glad the ending worked for you. I agree it gives them hope by raising their odds of survival with sanity intact.

      Your comment about an abused child having just one person in their life with whom he or she could be open makes perfect sense. That’s pretty much what I wanted to show here. As much as Ruby may need encouragement to open up, she senses she’s in a safe space where she’s treated with respect. It’s the sort of thing which can help anyone, of course, especially the abused child.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  6. Tim VanSant (@TimVanSant) March 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm Reply

    I’m glad they have each other, but sharing the secret isn’t going to stop the beatings. So in that respect I don’t think it has a happy ending at all.

    Like

    • JC Rosen March 24, 2012 at 4:22 am Reply

      You’re completely right. Sharing the secret may help them maintain some sanity, but it won’t stop the beatings. Perhaps they do something in future very dynamic, supporting one another through the fallout. Regardless, this is a bittersweet ending. They can at this point only be safe spaces of caring and respect for one another, not saviors. Thanks a bunch for your comment, Tim.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  7. penguinoftroy March 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm Reply

    Did not see that coming, but that made it all the more meaningful. That’s really tough stuff to write and you handled it well.
    I really liked how there was a sort of casual feel to the whole thing. The subject matter may be heavy, but to the characters it’s (unfortunately) normal. It’s what they live with and that came through in a chilling way.
    Nice job.

    Like

    • JC Rosen March 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm Reply

      I’m really glad you liked it, Troy. You’re right in that they treat it casually, even if it’s just a private secret as it is with Ruby through most of it. It’s just a fact of life. That Tommy recognized it in her and was willing to share the secret was a leap of faith on his part. Funny thing is it took the characters some time to speak to me. It was as though they wouldn’t let me in to see their secret hells. Once they opened up, the story came in a rush.

      Thanks a bunch!

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  8. Icy Sedgwick March 26, 2012 at 6:44 am Reply

    I’m glad she’s found someone in whom she can confide – her mother clearly had no idea what she was doing when she set them up!

    Like

    • JC Rosen March 27, 2012 at 5:27 am Reply

      Poor Mama, thinking she set her Ruby up with a church elder’s son. Nothing upsetting there. Who knows what might snowball? Thanks, Icy.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  9. John Ross Barnes April 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm Reply

    This is a great little story. The mom really creeps me out. I’m sure I’ve met her somewhere, and probably went to school with her kids.

    A good, hopeful twist at the end.

    Thanks for this Jesse.

    Like

    • JC Rosen April 7, 2012 at 3:24 am Reply

      Thank you, John. I’m glad you liked it – and glad the mom creeped you out. She creeped me out and I knew what was going to happen! No doubt we’ve met her many times and been with her kids in a variety of venues. If we knew then what we know now, eh?

      I thought it was nice to have a hopeful twist at the end of a story for a change of pace. What’s come over me? heh

      Really appreciate your reading, John.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

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