The iron burns into my flesh, agonising jolts of pain as Chester thrusts it against my leg. “Stop! Stop! I’m sorry.”
He smacks it down on the ironing board. “So you should be, you miserable child! Look at the hole in my shirt!”
He holds it up, examining the curled brown edges, the charred shape where I rested the iron too long.
That same shape is branded into my leg.
I want to run and hide, but the pain is intense, sucking strength from my core; hot, burning, sizzling.
I look at the bubbled skin below my skirt, red and blistered, already weeping. “I need to put water on it, Chester.”
He’s still engrossed in his shirt as I hobble to the kitchen and run cold water onto a clean tea towel. The coolness takes effect, reducing the pain to an agonising throb.
He’s done this before, but with cigarettes, holding them against my skin until I scream for mercy. And of course he knows just where to hit me so it won’t show. Mom doesn’t believe it and waves me off when I tell her stories as she calls them.
“Chester’s a good man.” she says. “Leave him alone.”
A new anger rises in my heart. I’m almost a teenager and I know what he’s doing is wrong. I’ve seen similar cases of abuse in TV programs and learned about it at school.
A sob heaves out as the coolness wears off, and my skin erupts into fresh pain. “You won’t get away with this, Chester.” I soak the towel again and wrap its coolness around seared skin.
He spits a curse as he swaggers past. “Make sure dinner’s ready on time tonight. I’m going out for a few beers.”
I sink onto the couch, dizzy, frightened by the intensity of pain. Maybe I should call Mom...or a friend...or the school...or a help line. I’ve had this discussion with myself many times, but nothing ever comes of it. Today feels different, however. The heat of the iron seems to have burned away my last restraints, my last fears.
Sucking in a deep breath, I pick up the phone and dial the emergency services. “My mother’s boyfriend just burnt me by holding an iron against my leg.”
The ambulance arrives in five minutes and the medic’s hands are gentle, peeling away the wet cloth and replacing it with cool gel and a sterile dressing. “Does that feel better?” he asks.
“Much.” I huddle against the cushions. “The coldness is taking away the burn.”
He sits back on his haunches as his partner shows the police into the living room. “My mother’s boyfriend used to smack me around too. You did the right thing by calling us today.”
I look into his eyes and see depths of understanding.
“I mean it. I only wish I’d had courage to do the same thing.”
I’m scared and in shock, but as the policewoman sits down next to me, I sense that a line has been crossed, that a victory lies ahead.
“His name is Chester Wilcox.” I tell her. “Tall and heavy-built, blonde hair in a pony tail and tattoos on his forearms. You’ll find him in The Sparkling Mermaid Pub down the street.”
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