It was late in October and the leaves had already changed their color and were beginning to let go of the branches they had clung to for their life. They fell silently to the Earth without regret. The brilliant colors they had displayed as a group just days before were beginning to fade and upon closer exam, of individual leaves that had fallen, one could see the blemishes and scars that made each leaf a unique entity and told the story of its life.
Several, of a group of children, stopped to play in a pile of leaves that had been raked up by old man Sweeny. He didn’t seem to mind the intrusion however, and sat down on his porch steps to watch the fun. Julie picked up one of the leaves and carefully examined it. She ran her hand over the blemishes and scars and tried to imagine the pain and suffering this leaf had felt in its lifetime. She was a sensitive child and already, at twelve years of age, knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. She would be a Doctor, just like her father.
Julie was an only child and was fortunate to have two loving and caring parents. She felt sorry for many of her classmates who were not as fortunate and vowed that no matter what happened to her, she would always be mindful of the disadvantaged. She placed the leaf carefully in one of her notebooks and continued the walk home by herself.
There was no one in the house when she got home, which was a bit unusual, but she didn’t think much of it at the time because her mother had told her she would be going shopping in the afternoon and it was not unusual for her to be a little late on those days that she did. Her father never got home until six-o-clock and sometimes later when there were emergencies and so Julie went to her room and began playing with her collection of dolls and stuffed toys. So absorbed was she in her play that she didn’t realize the room getting dark. The sound of a car in the driveway brought her back to reality and she ran down the stairs to help her mother unload the groceries from the car. As she opened the kitchen door however, she realized it was not her mother’s car but it was her father instead who had driven in. He sat in the car without moving… his head was resting on his arms over the steering wheel.
“Are you okay Daddy?” she asked, as she opened the door of his car.
He didn’t answer her right away and when he finally lifted his head she could see that he was crying. “No honey, I am not. Let’s go inside, because I have something to tell you.”
She helped him out of the car and they walked into the house together. Julie’s heart was pounding as she sat down in the chair next to her father. “Please tell me what happened.” she asked, tears now falling from her own eyes.
“Your mother was in an accident. When they brought her in to the Emergency Room, she was still breathing. I did everything I could to try and save her, honey, everything… but there was just to much damage, and I had to let her go. I am so sorry, honey.”
Julie climbed in to the chair with her father and sat next to him, both were crying softly as the reality of their loss started sinking in. He gently stroked her hair as he realized that the love of his life was now gone and he would be responsible for raising their only daughter.
A year passed by, and then another, and another… but life did not get back to anything resembling normal for Julie. Over time, her father lost interest in life and started drinking. At first it was only when he got home from the hospital but than he started drinking in the mornings as well and had missed several days of work because of it. Julie was now in the tenth grade. She still had some of her old friends but it was difficult for her to make new ones. She was losing interest in study as well and no longer thought about being a Doctor.
She never knew what to expect from her father when she walked into the house after school. If he was home he would be in front of the television, and if he were not home it could be late in the evening before he would stagger in. The house had not been cleaned for some time and dinner was up to her. Even when her father was sober he was distant. She knew things couldn’t continue as they were and so one day decided to try to engage her father in a conversation about their future. She cooked him a spaghetti dinner from a recipe she had learned from her mother, knowing it was one of his favorite meals.
They never ate at the dinning room table anymore and so she brought the meal to him on a tray, then went back to get her own tray. She was pleased to fine him enjoying his meal when she returned and he even complimented her on being just as good of a cook as her mother.
“What’s going to happen to us, daddy?” she asked as he finished the last of his meal.
“What do you mean?” he responded, somewhat unexpectedly. “Is there a problem with the way we are living?”
“Dad… it’s your drinking. You never use to drink when Mom was here.”
“I may have a few drinks occasionally,” he responded defensively, “but you make it sound like I’m drunk all of the time.”
“Well you are, at least you are when you are home, and that’s the only time I see you.”
“Well this hasn’t been all that easy on me you know,” he answered indignantly. “I’m doing the best I can.”
“I know you are, daddy, but I don’t like seeing you sad.” She walked over to him and put her arm on his shoulder like she had done in the past but he turned away from her as if uncomfortable with her touching him.
She picked up the trays and after doing the dishes returned to her room to do her homework. She found it hard to concentrate however and decided to just go to sleep.
At some point in the middle of the night she heard her door open and when she turned to look, she saw her father’s figure standing in the doorway. She could smell that he had been drinking and for the first time in her life she felt threatened by his presence.
“Did I wake you?” he asked, his words a bit slurred.
“Yes dad, you did. Is there something you want?”
“I had a hard time going to sleep… kept thinking about your mother and was wondering um…”
“Wondering what dad?” she asked, almost afraid of his response.
“Well… I was wondering if maybe… if maybe I could lay in your bed for just a while. I don’t want to be alone tonight.”
She was hesitant to answer but thought maybe it would help to heal their relationship if she allowed it… just this once. “I guess it would be okay for just a while.” she answered, as she moved over to the inside of her bed.
He climbed in and lay there silently for several minutes; his breathe reeked of alcohol. She dared not move and hoped he would just pass out so that she could climb out over him without him knowing it. She felt his hand moving closer to hers and then he was touching her on the arm. At first it was just gentle rubbing but eventually he was touching her in places she knew were not appropriate. She tried to move away from him but he held her tightly and before she could do anything to stop him, he had entered her. She screamed from the pain and horror but he did not stop until he had ejaculated. Then he rolled off of her and fell asleep.
She was trembling as she finally managed to crawl out of the bed. She could feel the insides of her stomach coming up and ran into the bathroom to vomit. She locked the door behind her and sobbed for several minutes before taking a long hot bath, then curled up in a corner and cried herself to sleep.
She awoke to the first rays of the early morning Sun and cautiously opened the bathroom door. Her father was no longer in her room and she thought, just for a moment, that maybe she had dreamed the whole thing… but the pain in her lower abdomen told her it wasn’t a dream. She dressed for school as usual, not knowing what else to do. She wanted to talk to someone, but knew the seriousness of her father’s actions and didn’t want anyone to know what he had done. After all… it was just as much her fault for allowing it to happen.