"Kevin?" I heard a worried voice say, snapping me out of my slumber. "What are you doing here at this time of night?"
I looked up at the man who had been so good to me, and as tears ran down my face, my voice failed me and a million thoughts ran through my head.
How could I tell him? What was he going to think? Even worse, would he send me back? Just thinking about going back when I had made it this far, for this long, was too much. I’d rather be dead.
I can still remember the day I took off. I was scared, but my mind was made up. Honestly, I had no where else to turn. I had to leave. I had to make a selfish decision for once in my life, because if I didn’t, things would never change.
There was a time in my life when I was fairly happy. My parents had divorced shortly after I was born, and I lived with my mom, who struggled but always managed to make ends meet. But I knew she was always on the edge of falling apart. Simple things like doing laundry would make her break down and cry. I would come home from school and find the house almost completely dark, the only source of light coming from the television. She would usually be watching an old black and white show, and she was always in a bad mood.
Normally I would go straight to my room and start my homework, then I would come downstairs, do the dishes that were in the sink, then I would take off on my bike. I didn’t actually have any place to go in particular, so I would either look for some friends or I would take the familiar path I had grown accustomed to taking.
I had a peculiar habit of following the city bus stop signs around town, trying to figure out the exact route that it took. Then, I would escape in my own imagination for a few hours, pretending my bike was the bus and that I was the driver. I would stop at each sign and wait for a minute or so, the exact time that I had figured out that the bus would stop to unload and load passengers.
Eventually, the street lights would come on outside and I knew it was time to get home. So I would start the same journey home, stopping at each bus stop, as if I were making the final run of the day. When I parked my bike in the garage, I would pretend to fill it with gas and tell myself that I was ready for my route the next day. Then I’d make my way back into the house, where my mom might or might not have made dinner.
I knew something was wrong, but I could never figure it out. I didn’t have a word or a name to apply to what was wrong with my mom. I just knew that when she was happy, things were good. When she was sad, though, it was never okay. I often found myself on the receiving end of her anger. It wasn’t always physical abuse, though. More often than not, it was verbal and emotional abuse that she like to heap on me.
When I was ten, though, something changed completely. My dad had just dropped me off at home on a Sunday evening, and my mom was waiting for me with fire in her eyes.
"So when were you going to tell me that your dad knew about Billy?" she demanded. I looked up at her, confused.
"He doesn’t know," I stammered, nervous because I knew what was coming next.
"Don’t fucking lie to me!" she screamed as she took her high heal shoe off and advanced on me. I knew better than to try to fend her off, or to try to run. Instead, I just stood there while she attacked me, letting the heal land where ever it may. When she was done beating me, she forced me into the kitchen where she grabbed a bottle of dish soap that was sitting on the counter and forced it into my mouth, squeezing the bottle with all her might.
"You have no business telling him anything about me!" she screamed as I slumped to the floor and cried. She grabbed a handful of my hair and forced me to look at her blazing eyes as she continued her rant. I finally made it to my feet and moved ashamedly to my room, where I cried myself to sleep.
Billy was my moms boyfriend who happened to also be incarcerated for armed robbery. She met him through my uncle, who was in jail with him. They started talking and after my uncle was released, she still went to the prison to visit Billy. She had warned me from the start not to mention this fact to my dad because he would most likely take me away from her.
I knew my parents had a bitter custody battle over me. I was kidnaped several times by my dad when I was a baby, and my mom had to actually go to school with me everyday and work in my classroom with my teacher as an aide because she was too frightened of him kidnaping me again.
To tell the truth, my dad hadn’t done that since I was a baby, but my mom had learned not to trust him. I always heard over the years about how he was a terrible, abusive man, and how she had to leave him for our own protection. But my dad didn’t strike me that way. Sure, he spanked me every once in a while, but for the most part, he wasn’t what I would call abusive.
Right after my parents divorced, my dad remarried. To say that my stepmom was mean would be putting it mildly. She hated my gut’s, and when my dad was gone and she had to watch me, I was always either in my room or in the corner. I wasn’t allowed outside, I wasn’t allowed to play with my step brother, and I wasn’t allowed to speak. I never questioned it. I would just wait patiently for my dad to get back.
One day, after I turned eleven, my mom was in a pretty good mood. We worked together in the kitchen making banana bread because it was raining outside and I couldn’t take my route. We ended up on the couch together where she actually read to me. It had been a long time since we had done anything like that, so I soaked it up.
When the banana bread came out of the oven, my mom set it near the window seal to let it cool off when the phone rang. I watched her pick it up, then I watched her take a defensive stance and shake her head. When she said my stepmom’s name, I got worried. Why would she be talking to my step mom? Why would my step mom be calling here instead of my dad? What was she calling about, anyway?
I watched and listened as my mom loudly protested something my stepmom was saying, then she demanded to speak to my father. After what seemed like a long, intense argument, she slammed the receiver down and sat down at the table with her head down in her folded arms, where she cried.
"Mom, what’s wrong?" I asked as I slowly approached her.
"Nothing, come here," she said as she held her arms out for me. I moved into them and let her hug me. "No matter what, I love you, okay?"
"I love you too mom," I said, feeling frightened all of the sudden.
We eventually went back into the living room, where she cautiously explained to me that my dad and stepmom told her that someone had been sexually abusing my stepbrother, and that they told her that they thought it was me. She then told me that my dad thought it would be best if I didn’t come over for my every other weekend visits anymore.
I was devastated. I loved my dad so much, and I couldn’t imagine not seeing him anymore. Even if I had to put up with my stepmom, I wanted to see my dad. I simply sat still and let the tears fall down my cheeks while my mom comforted me and tried to assure me that everything would be okay.
Less than a month later, Billy got out of prison and came to live with us. I had met him at the prison before, and he was a pretty nice guy on the outside. He had a lot of tattoo’s and a really soft voice. He was able to find a job when he got out and he always seemed to be going to counciling. He also seemed to take over where my dad left off. He taught me how to mow and edge the grass, how to change a tire, and he took me to my first ever baseball game in Oakland. Most importantly, however, he made my mom happy.
One night, though, something changed. My mom had gone to the store and it was just the two of us. We were in my room putting together a model airplane when he spoke.
"I want you to know something Kevin," he said softly. "I really enjoy the time we’re spending together. Being here with you and your mom makes me feel so complete."
I beamed when he said that, because the truth was, I loved spending time with him too. He reached over and pulled me into a hug, which I happily accepted. As I hugged back, though, I felt his hand run down the back of my pajama’s and into my most private area, where he proceeded to violate me with his finger. Then, without a word, he turned me around and yanked my pajama’s down and violated me again, but this time with his penis.
I stayed quiet the whole time, mainly out of fear and confusion. I didn’t understand what was happening to me and I didn’t know why he was doing this. It hurt, but the physical pain I felt seemed to be outweighed by the emotional betrayal I was experiencing. When it was over, we said nothing. We went back to work on my model airplane as if nothing had happened. My mom came home, and nothing was said.
From that point on, until the end of the school year, Billy molested me over and over again. Sometimes he would do it two or three times a day. I always hated it. On the last day of school, I came home and my mom was there by herself. Billy hadn’t made it home from work yet, so I slowly decided in my mind to tell her what he was doing.
That was a terrible mistake. The beating I took from my mom was awful, but just like being molested for the first time by Billy, it was the emotional betrayal that was too much to bear.
"You little faggot!" she screamed at me. "Is that what you want him to do to you? Huh? Answer me!"
She was in a rage as she screamed obscenities in my ear and repeatedly slapped me over and over again. When Billy made it home from work, I knew for sure that I was going to be dead. He made his way up to my room and asked my mom to leave us to talk, then he shut the door.
He never hit me. Instead, he molested me again and again. At one point, my mom opened the door and saw what was happening, but she just closed it and let him continue while I cried. If I could’ve stopped it, I would have. But he was more than twice my size and he easily controlled me by holding onto my shoulders and keeping my still.
That night I snuck out and rode my bike to the nearest pay phone, where I tried to call my dad with the change I had in my pocket. My stepmom answered and at first she wasn’t going to let me speak to him, but I think the fact that I was hysterical made her change her mind.
"Dad, I need help," I sobbed when I heard his voice. I tried to tell him everything, but before I could, he simply said he was sorry that he couldn’t help me, then he hung up. I didn’t know what to do now. My dad was my last hope. Slowly, I got back on my bike and pedaled home. When I got there, I looked at the house I had lived in my whole life. I thought about all of my memories, all the things that had gone right and that had gone wrong. I thought about my mom and dad, and I wondered to myself why they ever split up. I knew my life as I knew it had ended a long time ago, and as I gave in to my crying, I knew what I had to do.
I quietly snuck back inside and stuffed some clothes in my backpack, then, taking one last look around my room, I snuck out again.
I’m really not too sure of exactly how I decided to head to Bodega Bay. I’d been there with my mom when I was little, and I had good memories of our trip. Perhaps that’s what drew me to it. Or maybe I was looking for a safe place to hide. I mean, the ocean’s right there, and if I had to, I figured I could hide out on the beach somewhere.
When I rode off into the night, I was scared. I was so scared, in fact, that I cried for a good hour as I rode my bike out of Modesto and headed west. I was hurting so badly from the events of the day that I could hardly process my thoughts in a coherent manner. Between my mom just letting Billy have his way with me to my dad hanging up on me, it was all just too much. I felt like I wanted to die when I rode away from that phone booth, and I had never felt that way before.
So, as I rode my bike toward the freeway, I knew I had to collect my thoughts and make a plan. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan. I only had my bike, my backpack and my will not to be molested by Billy anymore.
Riding a bike on a freeway is a bad idea. I found that out as soon as I tried to ride down the entrance ramp. About 6 people honked their horns at me as they passed, and I immediately felt panicked. I got a little unsteady on my bike, but as soon as I regained my balance, I started to pedal as fast as I could. As soon as I felt like I was picking up speed as I rode along the shoulder, though, a huge semi sped past me and the wind he was carrying with him blew me into the grass. When I landed on the ground I knew I had fallen, but I had no idea what it must have looked like to the people driving by, because even though it was dark, four cars stopped to see if I was alright. I saw one of the doors open and a lady got out just as I was about to climb back on my bike and take off again.
"Are you okay?" she asked in a somewhat frightened voice.
"Yes ma’am," I answered politely as she approached.
"Honey, you shouldn’t be on the freeway with your bike," she said. "Do you need a ride somewhere? Where do you live?"
I’m not sure what I was thinking, but the name Bodega Bay is what popped out of my mouth.
"Bodega Bay?" she said. "How in the world did you make it out here from there?"
I just knew she could tell I was lying. My worst fear was about to come true, I thought. She was going to call the police and I was going to be sent home.
I simply looked down and muttered, "I don’t know," as I shrugged my shoulders.
"What’s your name, sweetheart?" she asked in a soft voice as we moved toward her car. I looked up and noticed the three other cars pulling off as we got closer to her car. I wondered if anyone had used their cell phone to call 911, or if they saw that I was alright and decided to leave.
"It’s Kevin," I said quietly, feeling a sense of doom closing in on me. Knowing I had taken the chance to get myself out of that situation, only to blow it by getting myself caught and sent back was making me sick to my stomach.
"My name is Patricia," she said as she held out her hand, which I politely shook. "Let’s put your bike in the back, then we’ll go somewhere and talk about how you got to Modesto from Bodega Bay."
When we got in her car I noticed a kid sleeping in the back seat but I said nothing about it as she pulled out and started down the freeway again. We passed the first exit and I was a little surprised when we didn’t pull off, but I still said nothing. The silence in the car was awkward, at least to me, so when she finally spoke, I was a little relieved.
"Why don’t we start over, Kevin," she suggested. "I would like you to tell me how you ended up all the way in Modesto with your bike when you live in Bodega Bay."
I looked over at her as she drove and had trouble meeting her eyes when they momentarily darted my way. I hadn’t thought this far ahead, and I was honestly so frightened that all I could do was start to weep. I tried to control the tears as they fell but it was no use. Finally, though my tears, I was able to speak.
"Where are we going?" I asked, feeling rather unsure of my fate as we sped down the freeway and eventually ended up driving through Salida, then Ripon, two small towns outside of Modesto.
"I live in Concord," she said simply. "How old are you?"
I know at that point an answer would have been practical, but instead of responding, I looked around her car. It was actually an SUV, and it was a really nice one. For some reason, I knew I wasn’t being kidnaped, but even if I were, I think I would have preferred it to going back.
"I’m eleven," I finally answered tearfully. "How far is it to Concord from here?"
"We should be there in an hour," she said softly, almost in a reassuring tone. "You still haven’t answered my first question, though."
I just stayed quiet and looked out the window at the signs on the side of the road as I thought about the days events. I was still in a state of disbelief over everything that had happened to me. I had so many questions and I didn’t really understand why any of this was happening to me. I mean, why would my mom just let him do that to me? Why would my dad hang up on me? Was I really such a bad kid to them?
As I sat there and thought about it all, I started to cry again. I tried not to let Patricia see it, but my sniffling was pretty loud, I thought. I was sure she knew, but she stayed quiet as we drove. I fell asleep somewhere outside of Tracy, another town that we had driven through on the way to Concord.
The next time I opened my eyes, I was in a house, on a couch with a blanket over me. As soon as I sat up, I saw Patricia sitting across the room from me on a different couch with a man and a boy, who I assumed was the kid sleeping in the back seat of the car. The boy looked curious, but Patricia and the man who was sitting with her looked troubled. I knew I had a lot of explaining to do.