Note: This features topics of sexual child abuse and rape that may be triggering.

It was the small things that set off the memories; the tick, tick, ticking of the clock in the living room as the wooden pendulum swung back and forth, back and forth; the smell of peppermint gum on my friend’s breath, or of the candy cane I ate at Christmas; even the taste of the air in my house had vomit burning the back of my throat.

I remember it all; all the sick nights. Every time I begged my parents not to leave for their weekly date night dinners because they “needed their alone time”. These got more frequent when I tried to tell them, tell anyone, just to have them laugh me off or sneer,

“You’re a child. Do you even know what you’re saying?”

“You’re 12, what are you doing talking about such things?”

“Do your parents know what you’re saying?”

I’d slink away, shoulders hunched. I’d grit my teeth and just count to ten. I turned it into a game; how many tens can I count to? Sometimes I got all the way to 130. It wasn’t that simple, though. Numbers couldn’t erase the images burned into my mind.

Whenever he’d come over, his hugs would last a fraction too long. Never enough to warrant question from my parents, but enough that it made my skin crawl, itch, burn like a blazing fire had been lit and the flames were consuming me whole.

He never failed to wear a wristwatch I’d broken in retaliation. One night, one terror, one moment of bravery that ended in pain and tears. I knew it was there just to mock me. A silent reminder that no matter what I did, I was powerless.

Peppermint always followed him. Half the time I thought he bathed in the scent. It would fill my room, wrap around me like a needle infested blanket, prickling every inch of my skin. My head would spin in circles to the point I’d have to close my eyes.

That may have been for the best, though, because I always hated his smile. I liked to think it was that smile that set me off. It’s almost comical, the way I could recount every detail of everything he did to me; but that one night was lost.

One minute his smile was there, the next I’m being escorted out of the house and shoved into an ambulance, a fresh color adorning my naked body; a color darker than the flush of blood under my skin that would rise from embarrassment or anger. This color was already shifting, turning to a murky brown as it dried on my pasty flesh. It smelled metallic, a welcome change from the godforsaken peppermint.

I tried; you know. I tried to remember when the officers asked me, when my parents asked me, when anyone asked me “What happened?” I wish I remembered it. It would be the only pleasurable thing to come of the interactions between us.

My fingers brush against the broken watch encircling my narrow wrist. My stomach tightens and butterflies take flight. A smile curls my lips because I’m not so powerless now.

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