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When she was little, she was scared of the monsters under the bed and the cluster of insects that hid in a mysterious clump in the corners of her ceiling.
She was scared that they may gobble her up in the middle of the night whilst she was sleeping.
She was scared of normal, girly 5-year-old things, like money spiders and growing up. She didn't want to be like Mummy or Daddy - they were always shouting and sad. She wanted to be happy and perfect.
She was also scared of boys.
But maybe that was because when she was 4, her 5-year-old boy neighbor dared her to shove a worm down her top. She accepted, because she was also scared of
being called a coward. She can still remember the pit in her stomach, her childish gut instinct telling her not to do it.
But she didn't listen.
She remembered gulping and taking a long, sweet summer breath and standing tall above her slightly older neighbor who had a smug smile on his face. He was
called Donald; a name she always teased. Maybe this was his payback.
She remembered him choosing the longest, pinkest, fattest worm in sight and being scared. But she was scared of losing her pride more.
She remembered grabbing the worm hastily from Donald and giving a nervous smile. He gave her a cheeky grin in return. She hastily shoved the startled worm down
her top; the worm was squidgy and slid down her bare skin, seeming painfully slow.
When the worm was removed, she gave a triumphant grin and she was no longer afraid. She jumped around the garden, stmaping on the greenery as she danced.
She heard a yell then, an angry yell.
She was afraid then.
Donald ran away; he was afraid as well.
"Daddy?" she whispered.
Indistinguishable words screamed from his throat, swear words and abusive language. They were shouting at her to "not jump on the cabbages", or at least
that's all she could work out. She was scared so she didn't understand the swear words.
She jumped onto the carrots instead, but that was greeted with a few more frustrated paces towards her. She decided that she'd leap over the lettuce and onto the long grass.
She was scared her legs weren't long enough, and she was right.
Later that night, she was scared.
She was scared the bruises wouldn't disappear by tomorrow for her school's PE, and she was scared that people would make fun of her.
The monster under the bed didn't seem so scary now, unless it was Daddy.
She was scared of Daddy.
As she grew older, she was scared of being humiliated in front of her schoolmates and she was scared that she would fail exams. She was scared of normal, teenage things.
But she was scared of people noticing the bruises that never seemed to end as well. First they were raw purple, then blue and green, then finally fading
away. But they were always replaced soon after.
She was scared of Daddy, but she was more scared that Mummy was no longer here.
She was scared for her future: how would she live without a female figure?
She was scared when she remembered the first time Daddy hit her; all because of a dare, a worm and vegetables. That's why she never eats salad anymore.
She was scared she wouldn't be able to grow up now, that her Daddy would rob her of life soon. She was scared to tell anyone.
She was scared that night when Daddy came home, red-faced and drunk, anger seeping through his skin. He packed his bags and shouted that she ruined his
life. She was scared that he would murder her. But he turned his back and drove off, his rusty van tumbling off into the distance.
She was scared that she would die alone and forgotten, abandoned by both parents. But she was found and taken away from the only home she had ever known.
She was scared with her foster parents, scared of being hit or yelled at. But they never laid a finger on her, and slowly she became less scared.
She was scared at her new school, memories of mockery from the bruises and cuts flashing back, but they were nicer here. She became less scared.
Slowly, she rebuilt her life.
She found a stable job, a stable boyfriend, a stable marriage, a stable pregnancy, a stable baby boy, a stable family and a stable smile.
She had a stable life that was much better than before.
She was happy.
But she was still scared.
Hackettstown, New Jersey
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