I knew that there would be a price to pay to live at Bills; I just had no idea how steep it would be. I knew the way my world worked, and I accepted it. I lived two lives at Bills; one I spent acting like a 12 year old little girl, and the other I spent with a chair wedged under the door handle to my room, in case Bill tried to visit me in the night.
My life was a balancing act. I had to make sure Bill loved me, but not too much... I walked a fine line between childhood and adulthood. If I crossed over too far into one or the other things got dangerous for me. If I was too childish I was afraid I would annoy him and he would turn me out. If I was too adult like, I was afraid he might rape me...
That year passed by quickly. Crystal spent almost everyday at my house and we made memories to last a lifetime. We went toilet papering around the neighborhood, we had seances, went out with boys, had food fights, and fought like sisters. It was a happy time. We made promises to each other about the future. Crystal had lived a hard life also and she didn't come from a place much better than mine. We knew we didn't to want grow up to be like our mothers. We knew one day we would have houses and husbands and careers and we vowed to be apart of each other's lives forever. I shared almost everything with Crystal, everything but my ugly secret about Bill.
Bill use to like to dress me up and we'd have photo shoots. He would have me do a catwalk down the living room and would snap the camera away. He'd tell me I was sexy and call me "baby". "Ohh Baby! Ohh Baby!" I liked feeling beautiful. Bill would laugh and tell me I was a natural. I liked being good at something. If he tried to touch me, even just one little caress on my arm, I'd shy away. I kept him always at an arms distance. I knew what he wanted, and I wanted to keep him wanting it. His "want" was the only thing keeping a roof over my head and I knew it.
Life had made me incredibly bright and resourceful for a 12 year old and like my mother, I was a skilled manipulator. Not quite as skilled as Bill though. I got so lost in the way my world worked, that it became normal for me. I felt a sort of closeness to Bill. We both shared this dysfunctional life together... and so far he hadn't touched me.
One night Bill and I had gotten drunk on gin together. It was my first time drinking liquor. He kept refilling every glass I finished. Once I had my first sip, I couldn't get enough! The more alcohol I filled in myself, the emptier I felt. All the things I held inside of me felt weightless and they drifted away... That first drink clicked on a switch inside of me. It was the same switch that made my mother a drug addict and the same switch that would one day lead me to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
When I woke up the next morning, I was lying on the sofa and my pants were undone and down near my thighs. The area between my legs was sore. I felt sicker than I had ever felt in my entire life and I was sure I was dying. When I sat up the entire room started spinning. With the spinning room, memories started coming to me from the night before. Little still frames of images of what happened popped into my minds eye. "No no no no", I whimpered.
I made my way to my room and lay down on the cold wood floor near the door. I fell apart. I cried like a baby. I cried for what had happened to me, and because I didn't know what to do next. I cried because I was alone and had no one to go to. But mostly I cried because I was ashamed. I got out my mother's old phone book and started dialing feverishly. Fred's number was out of order; all the numbers were out of order! I found one number that worked and I let it ring and ring. I called it back 20, 50, 100 times and let it ring on and on. I cried and hugged the phone and begged for someone to answer the phone! No one answered.
I heard Bill's car pull up the driveway and I froze. I ran and grabbed my desk chair to shove under the door handle. Then I sat silent...waiting for him. I felt pure terror! He came to my door, knocking gently. "Are you OK baby? I know you must be feeling bad. We both got a little out of hand last night and drank too much! I can't remember a damn thing! Can you?" He was giving me a choice. I could pretend not to remember. I thought about it for a couple seconds and realized it was my only option. What else can I do?... I have nowhere to go. I spoke in the voice of a young child, hoping to remind him that I was only 12 years old. "I have no idea what happened! And I'm never drinking again!" Bill laughed, deep and throaty. He told me to come out when I was feeling better and we'd go get some food.
I dried my tears and shoved my newest ugly secret deep deep inside of me. I didn't tell Crystal or anyone else. I couldn't. I felt partly responsible. I was bad. I would pretend that I wasn't bad, I would pretend that Bill wasn't bad.... and if I did this, I could stay. I could stay and still have Crystal and my room and my school and my sleepovers.