It was an unusually chilly spring day, the sun was just peeking over the horizon, the grass still fresh with morning dew. Arlanah was sitting on the edge of her bed peering at the world outside. Tomorrow was her 16th birthday but she was having mixed feelings about the whole ordeal.

                Sweet sixteen, yeah right.

                Arlanah got dressed and headed to the bus stop. Once the bus arrived she plugged her earphones in and leaned back in her seat as the sounds of the world around her disappeared. She closed her eyes and imagined a life far away from everything she knew, away from the disappointments.

                 Arlanah lost her father when she was 5 years old to an accident at work. Her father deconstructed and scrapped old gasoline storage tanks but one day one of the tanks was not properly evacuated and when her father cut into it with the blow torch – the results were catastrophic. Her mother tried to hang on but depression took hold and 4 years after the incident her mother was gone as well. Arlanah ended up living with an aunt she had met once or twice before the age of 9. Bertrine was not purposefully abusive, or at least that’s what Arlanah told herself, but every day for the past couple of years was a blur of tears and screaming she would rather forget. Her aunt would have given her up in the blink of an eye if it wasn’t for the small inheritance checks she received in order to take care of her.

                Arlanah was tired of waking up to random men using the one bathroom in the house. They always stared at her and smiled creepily, they always seemed to have a smart remark they couldn’t hold behind their grinning lips. They either always reeked of alcohol, the whiskey seeping through their pores, or that sweet sickly smell of metrazine, a homemade inhalant that fried whatever remaining brain cells these men had. Bertrine didn’t work, she didn’t cook, she didn’t clean. The only thing she seemed to know how to do was leech off everyone around her. She had no problem bringing someone home at night if that mean she got free alcohol or drugs. Arlanah was fed up with her situation but needed 2 more years of this before she would be free to leave.

                Arlanah looked at the clock slowly ticking away on the white plastered walls inside her Calculus I class. The seconds moving closer and closer to the release bell, a bittersweet feeling took over her as the bell finally rang. Arlanah walked towards the bus stop and took the long, quiet ride back home. She got off at the Kirklind Roadway stop and walked the 3 blocks to Aunt Bertrine’s house. Bertrine’s car wasn’t in the drive way and Arlanah let out a sigh of relief as she entered the house. She made it up to her room and opened the door when her stomach dropped.

                There were clothes all strewn about, all her books and journals and what little belongings she had were all scattered and tossed on the floor and bed. She ran over to the open dresser drawer and frantically searched in between what little clothes were left in there. The small blue velvet box containing her dead parents wedding rings was missing. She fell to the floor and started to sob uncontrollably. She knew her aunt didn’t have respect for anything but this was a new low, even for her. Arlanah was so upset she didn’t know what to do with herself.

                It was a little past 2 AM when Bertrine came stumbling inside with another man trailing closely behind her. Arlanah rushed out of her bedroom and stood at the top of the stairs looking angrily down at her aunt.

                “Where the hell are the rings Bertrine?!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.

                “What are you doing out of your room at this time? Get your ass back in there and stay in there!” screamed Bertrine.

                “Yeah, listen to your aunt you little shit,” said the drunken man.

                Arlanah had had enough of this. There was no coming back from this, Bertrine had crossed the line one too many time. Arlanah walked down the stairs, hate in her eyes, anger in heart, not knowing fully well what she would do when she reached her aunt. Her head started to ache and pulse in pain, she stopped and steadied herself on the stair railing.

                “Ha-ha, what are you drunk too Arlanah or are you just deaf, get your ass back in your room before I tell Ed here to throw you back in there,” said Bertrine.

                Ed smiled as he looked Arlanah up and down and licked his lips.

                Arlanah stepped away from the railing and placed her right hand on her head, the pain subsided. She looked back over at Bertrine and Ed.

                “Ooh I’d rather have her than her fat aunt but I’ll take whoever I can get right now,” Arlanah heard Ed’s voice whisper but did not see his lips move.

                “This little shit better not mess tonight up with Ed. I can’t wait to get my hands on some metrazine and some of him either,” Arlanah heard Bertrine’s voice whisper within her own thoughts.

                Arlanah stopped and shook her head.        She had a puzzled look on her face.

              What is happening to me?

              “Ed, I’m tired of her attitude, grab her and teach her a lesson. I’ll be in my room when you’re done with her,” said Bertrine.

              Ed nodded and headed up the stairs towards Arlanah.

              “Oh this is gonna be fun. Wait until I get her in that room,” she heard Ed think.

              “STOP!” she screamed as she held an outstretched arm in front of her.

              Ed froze in place.

              “What the hell is going on?!” screamed Ed.

              Hurry up and get her already Ed, stop playing!” said Bertrine.

              “Shit, I can’t move.” Arlanah heard Ed say in her thoughts.

              Arlanah stopped for a moment and using her thoughts told Ed to turn around. Ed stopped struggling to move and turned around and faced Bertrine from atop the third step.

              “Walk towards Bertrine and slap her,” whispered Arlanah into Ed’s thoughts.

              Ed slowly walked towards Bertrine, raised his hand and slapped her across the left cheek. Bertrine screamed out in pain.

              “What in the hell do you think you’re doing Ed!?” screamed Bertrine.

              “Ed, choke her,” whispered Arlanah into his thoughts.

              Ed raised both arms to Bertrine’s throat and began to choke her as tears ran down his face.

              Arlanah could hear him pleading and begging for her to stop controlling his thoughts. His mouth stayed rigid and unable to speak while his thoughts screamed for release. Arlanah walked over to a struggling Bertrine, breath slowly escaping her open mouth, her hands scratching and gripping at Ed’s arms.

              “I guess all those years finally caught up to you Bertrine,” said Arlanah through her thoughts.

              “Ed, finish her,” Arlanah mentally whispered.

              “Goodbye Bertrine,” she mentally whispered to her aunt.

              Ed lifted Bertrine by her throat and slammed her into the wall repeatedly until she stopped moving. He let go of her as Arlanah watched as her lifeless body slump down to the floor.

              Arlanah looked back up and made eye contact with Ed.

              “I saw all the nasty, horrible things you wanted to do to me Ed. You’re just as bad as she was. Your turn now. Go to the kitchen and grab the biggest knife you can find. Slowly slice yourself until you bleed out. Have fun,” Arlanah told Ed mentally.

               Ed’s mouth struggled to speak but no words came out. Arlanah could see the regret in his eyes past the tears. There was no turning back now.


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