A. E. Worth
Angel Book 1: The Blossoming Flower
Updated: Feb 29, 2020
By A.E. Worth
Based on True Events
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are used fictionally or are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to real places or people are purely coincidental or fictionalized.
Copyright © 2020 A.E. Worth
All Rights Reserved
Chapter 1: Burt
I woke from a deep sleep to the sound of a door closing downstairs. Reluctantly slipping out of my warm bed, I tiptoed from my room to the landing of the stairwell. My parents were fast asleep in their bedroom across the hall, so I slowly made my way down the stairs, hesitating at the bottom.
Something didn’t feel right. What if a burglar had broken into our house?
My stomach twisted from fear, and I gripped the railing to steady myself. Complete darkness enveloped the house. I could barely see in front of me.
A dog’s loud bark erupted, causing me to jump. It was Ozzy, my beloved furry friend. Ozzy happened to be the best dog in the world. He wasn’t the kind of dog that barked for no reason, only to alert us of danger.
My breathing sounded abnormally loud, the way it did when I ran fast. Taking a deep breath, I slipped down the hallway to my brother’s room, running my hands along the wall to guide myself through the darkness. There were a couple of sharp corners that had injured Devin before.
“Devin,” I whispered into his room, “something’s happening. Wake up.” He didn’t respond. I carefully walked to his bed, struggling to see. I didn’t want to step on one of his toy cars and fall. “Devin!” I patted his blanket, groping around blindly.
His bed was empty.
I made my way to the back door as fast as I could and quietly opened it. There was no one on the back porch, so I proceeded to peer out the storm door, scanning for any sign of movement in the backyard.
It might have helped if I had grabbed my glasses. I didn’t think they made me see any better, but my mom, Dad, Devin, and everyone else in my life insisted that something was wrong with my eyes. My mom let doctors operate on them when I was a baby. I nearly died from the surgery due to a reaction to the anesthesia.
Ozzy barked again, the sound coming from out by the barn. I opened the storm door, leapt off the outside porch, and took off running towards the sound.
The grass was cold and wet under my bare feet. The wind whipped through my thin nightgown, sending chills through my body. The fear of tripping and falling abandoned me as I ran carelessly towards the barn.
I raced past the garage, Dad’s big rig, and the woodpile. The barn loomed ahead of me, and as I got closer, I could make out a faint glow of light emanating from inside. The giant, main doors were closed, as they should be, but the side door stood wide open.
The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
Dad never left the light on or the door open. It had to be Devin. Fear and worry twisted my belly as images of Dad catching us out in the barn flooded my mind.
My heart pounded as I reached the side door and peeked inside. One of the lights was on in the shop area, where Dad liked to wrench on things. I spotted Ozzy right away. He stood near the tractor with his front legs bent, focused on something underneath it.
“Ozzy, what is it, boy?” I asked quietly.
He wagged his fluffy tail, then turned back towards the tractor and whimpered. I didn’t want to get too close, in case a wild animal was under there, so I bent down slightly to take a look from a safe distance away, near the door.
That’s where I found him.
Curled up beneath the tractor was a small bundle of pajamas and dark blonde hair. “Devin! What are you doing?” I asked him frantically, nearing the tractor. “Are you trying to get in trouble? Do you have any idea what time it is? Come here!”
He climbed out from under the tractor lazily, studying his surroundings with wide eyes.
I grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the door.
“No,” he said stubbornly, “I don’t want to go back in the house.” His big hazel eyes filled with tears, and his lip quivered. “There’s a bull with red eyes in my closet. It-it wants to hurt me.” He gripped my hand tighter.
“You had a bad dream,” I told him, trying to sound brave. “There is not a bull in the house. A bull couldn’t even fit in your closet. It’s okay, I promise. I just came from in there.” I flicked the light switch off with my free hand as I led Devin to the door. “Come on, let’s go back in before we get in trouble.”
I took a step forward and let out a shriek of pain.
“Angel, what’s wrong?” Devin asked, his voice shrill with panic.
“Something bit my foot,” I winced, trying not to cry. I sucked in my breath sharply. “It seriously hurts.”
“It’s the bull! Don’t let it get me!” His grip on my hand hurt nearly as much as my foot did.
Tears cascaded down his face.
“It is not!” I told him sternly. “There is no bull. I probably stepped on one of Dad’s tools or a nail. It’s okay, I’m telling you. Come on.” I limped out the door, pulling Devin along behind me. Ozzy’s furry body brushed past me as I pulled the door closed.
I found it hard not to stare at the stars now that I had slowed down. They were so bright, and there were so many of them, resembling a million nightlights in the sky. I limped towards the house with Devin on one side and Ozzy on the other.
“Angel!” a loud voice boomed out into the night.
I stopped dead in my tracks. The porch light came on, flooding the back of the house with light. Mom stood in the doorway with a worried expression on her face. Dad loomed behind her with his brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed.
“Uh, oh,” I whispered to Devin. “Now, we’re in for it.”
“What do you two think you’re doing?” Dad roared from the doorway. He pushed past Mom and stomped up to us menacingly. I let go of Devin’s hand, taking a step forward to stand between him and our father.
Dad grabbed my arm, his grip painfully tight. He yanked me up the stairs, across the porch, and through the back door. My arm burned, but I didn’t dare protest. Neither did Ozzy. He stared intently but stayed in the yard. Being such a good dog, he wouldn’t disobey Dad or attempt to follow us in the house.
Devin trailed behind us, and Mom closed the door once we were all inside. After locking the knob and the deadbolt, she turned to face us with her hands on her hips. Mom wasn’t the one that worried me, though.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” I said, my voice coming out higher pitched than I intended. “I heard a noise in the house, and I didn’t want to wake you up, so I went to check on Devin. He wasn’t in his bed, so I went outside to look for him.”
Dad glared at me with unfiltered hatred in his eyes. I must have done something to make him despise me. “You little liar! Tell me what you were really doing out there. Were you trying to steal my tools? Who put you up to it?”
“What? No. I was worried about Devin, so I— ”. The air whooshed out of my lungs before I could finish my statement. A strong, rough hand grabbed my neck and squeezed, lifting me off the floor. Fear gripped every inch of my body, and I shook uncontrollably.
I tried to speak, to tell him what had happened or whatever it took for him to stop, but only a sob escaped my lips. I couldn’t breathe, and every time I tried, another sob came out.
Dad loomed over me, red-faced and enraged because I wasn’t answering him, but I couldn’t. My chest and throat were on fire.
“Tell me the truth now!” His voice was so loud it made my heart skip a beat. I wanted to run away from him more than anything, but he held me bound to the wall by my neck. He was too strong for me to fight him.
I could only stutter and sob as he demanded answers that I had already given. I couldn’t help that he didn’t want to believe the truth. Dad needed someone to take his anger out on. He often lost control of his temper, and I usually paid the price for it.
“Leave her alone, Burt. She’s scared,” Mom growled from the other side of the room. My gaze went to her; my heart still pounding in my ears. Devin stood mostly behind her, watching with tear-filled eyes. I hoped he didn’t get punished next.
Dad gave her a hard stare before turning back at me. I was afraid to meet his eyes, but his gaze burned into me. Tears streamed down my face as I struggled to wiggle free of his grasp.
He didn’t seem to notice my hands grasping his, trying in vain to loosen his grip on my neck. Yanking and bending his fingers didn’t faze him.
“I’ll give her a reason to be scared,” he said maliciously. He let go of my throat, and I gasped loudly, erupting into a coughing fit.
Before I could recover or prepare myself, bright lights burst across my vision as something hit me in the head. I slumped to the ground. If I went to sleep, he couldn’t hurt me anymore and might go back to bed.
It didn’t work. He yanked me off the floor, his fingers digging into my flesh, and threw me against the wall. My breath flew out of me from the force of the impact, and I crumpled back to the floor.
Every inch of my body seared with pain, white-hot threads that burned and stabbed at me. I was afraid to move. Surely this was it, the end. He was going to kill me this time.
I lay there panting and sobbing, curled up in a ball. I had to get up and run before he could hit me or kick me, but my body didn’t cooperate. My limbs froze stiff and refused to bend.
A shadow moved towards me, and I managed to raise my arms to protect my head from the next blow. It didn’t come. Everything blurred as my head swam and my ears rang.
Blinking away tears, I realized that the shadow belonged to Mom. She stood in front of me, facing Dad. He yelled at her, but the ringing blared too loudly for me to make out what he said.
Something tugged at my arm. Devin frantically tried to pull me away to safety but only managed to move me a few inches. Mom turned around and said something that caused Devin to let go of my arm and run into his room. The door closed behind him.
Using only my arms, I crawled towards the stairs. I was desperate to get away from my dad and his explosive anger, but my legs were jelly, and I couldn’t stand up. A loud thud sounded behind me, and I turned around to see my mom lying on the floor.
Fear propelled me the rest of the way up the stairs like a demon was going to grab my foot at any moment and pull me back down. I wanted to help my mom, but I could barely help myself. I had to get to safety.
I crawled into my bed, pulling my blanket over my head. Dad still screamed downstairs, and Mom cried loudly. “Please, God,” I whispered. “If you can hear me, please make him stop.”
My prayer went unanswered. Dad kept yelling, and Mom kept crying. Sometimes she yelled too, and things got thrown around.
It seemed like forever went by before the house was quiet once more. Footsteps sounded on the stairs, and I reached for my stuffed animal. As the footsteps grew louder, I gripped it tighter, praying that it wasn’t Dad coming to hurt me. He could go into his room and go to sleep.
Instead, the floor creaked as the footsteps came into my room. Terror filled me, and I held very still. I pretended to be asleep, forcing myself to breathe steadily. Someone lifted the blanket off of me.
My whole body stiffened. A soft caress on my hair made me open my eyes. I winced as a sharp pain shot through my head.
“It’s okay. It’s just me,” my mom whispered.
I opened my eyes to see her standing there, bent over me. She clicked my lamp on, and the right side of her face was red and puffy. She had black streaks under her eyes, and she gazed at me with a strange, blank expression. I opened my mouth to say something, but she shushed me.
“I’ll be right back,” she said, disappearing through the doorway. The quiet house allowed me to hear her going down the stairs and coming back up a few moments later.
She held a washcloth and a handful of other items. First, she wiped my face, then my foot. I cringed away from it, but she said to hold still because I had a nasty cut. With everything that had happened after, I had mostly forgotten about my foot.
It only hurt when she touched it. Mom put some Neosporin and a bandage on it, scolding me about wearing shoes when I go outside.
When she finished, she sat on the edge of my bed and squeezed my hand. She looked at me for a long time, not saying anything, then stood up and moved toward the doorway. “I’m sorry he hurt you. It won’t be like this forever. I love you.” Then she left.
I pulled the blanket back over my head and closed my eyes, ignoring the pain in my body. It couldn’t hurt if I went to sleep, so I forced my thoughts to go away and lie still in the darkness, waiting for relief.
An ear-piercing disturbance woke me. At first, I had no idea what it was, but it hurt my head, and I needed to make it stop. I rubbed my eyes, blinking away some of the confusion. My alarm clock continued to shriek.
I reached over to turn it off, then laid back down, regretting my sudden movements. My brain throbbed, and my body ached from my head to my foot.
I slowly crept down the stairs, careful to only walk on the heel of my hurt foot, and saw my mom scrubbing the carpet on her hands and knees in the dining room. Devin sat at the table, eating a bowl of cereal. He jumped up as soon as he noticed me.
“Angel, are you alright?” Devin asked.
“Yeah,” I responded. “I think so.” I glanced at my mom, scrubbing at the floor vigorously. “What are you doing, Mom?”
“Cleaning up this blood. It must have come from your foot. I didn’t notice it last night, but if Burt sees this when he gets home, we’re all going to be in trouble.”
That sounded about right. Getting in trouble for being hurt was a legitimate thing with Dad. Multiple times, he had beat Devin senseless for getting hurt because he shouldn’t have been running in the house and should have known better than to get injured.
The walls didn’t move, he told us. They always stayed in the same place. When we got hurt, he injured us further to show us that he disapproved of our shenanigans.
“Why is Dad so angry all the time?” I asked, my eyes darting toward the doorway.
She looked up sharply and threw the cloth she was holding into the soapy bucket of water next to her, turning it pink. “He isn’t always mean, and he works hard to provide for us. What were you kids doing last night anyways? You know better than to go outside at night.”
I sighed and explained to her what happened.
She looked at Devin warily and shook her head, drawing in a deep breath. “Dev, again with this? It was just a nightmare. Sometimes people have bad dreams, but they aren’t real. You can’t go outside at night. What if you had gotten lost, hurt, or kidnapped? No one would know where you went or what happened to you. Next time you get scared, please come and wake me up.”
Devin nodded, then took his cereal bowl to the kitchen sink.
“Do you want me to help you clean the carpet?” I asked her, noting the blood trail leading from the back door to the stairs.
She shook her head. “No, you better go get ready for school.”
We did as she said. Once we were ready, Devin and I went outside to wait for the bus at the end of the driveway. It was spring and still chilly outside, but green plants were becoming visible, and buds were forming on the trees.
The lilac bushes lining the driveway were still bare, and I sat on one of the large, thick branches while we waited.
“I’m sorry,” Devin said, scuffing the dirt with the tip of his shoe. “I didn’t mean for you to get in trouble.”
“It’s not entirely your fault,” I told him. “But don’t pull any crap like that again, okay? It could have been a lot worse.”
“Okay,” he agreed, nodding.
In the distance, I could make out the bus coming down our road. It was nice and warm inside. There was only one other kid on the bus, a boy.
I took a seat in one of the middle rows, where I preferred to sit. I watched the farms and fields go by as we picked up more kids, smiling when we arrived at the school.
I loved being at school. It was a safe place where no one could hurt me, and it made me happy to be a good student. I loved to read and do projects, and I took pride in the fact that I usually knew the answers to the teacher’s questions. I frequently finished my work before anyone else, and I always made the honor roll.
I was in fifth grade, and Devin was in third. We more or less pretended like we were strangers once we got on the bus. He had his friends, and I had mine, and we only interacted together at home.
Mom and Dad didn't allow me to have friends over or let me go to my friend’s houses. I wasn’t permitted to call them on the phone either. During school was the only time I could see them, so I made the most of it.
At home, I had only Devin, Ozzy, our other dog Fred, and our cat, Crackers, but school was a whole different story. My teachers and most of my classmates liked me, and I enjoyed being there. Some of the kids teased me, calling me four-eyes and worthless, and others ignored me altogether, but most of them were pleasant and friendly.
It was easy to know what I had to do because everything had a scheduled time. I couldn’t accidentally do the wrong thing and get yelled at or hit by my teacher. Her expectations were very realistic, and the rules were easy to follow, unlike my father’s. If I did exceptionally well, the teacher praised me. When I grew up, I wanted to be a teacher, so I could be at school all day and help kids.
When Devin and I got home that afternoon, we found Mom folding clothes on the living room floor. Devin went to his room to play since he didn’t have any homework, and I started doing my chores. I wanted to be done so I could hide before Dad got home. After I fed Ozzy and Crackers, I went to care for Freddy.
He had to stay chained up near the barn and his doghouse unless Dad went outside to play with him. Otherwise, he ran off down the road chasing cars. I took a few minutes to pet him after I gave him food and water, adjusting his collar so I could rub the area where it had been rubbing against him.
Fred stood there in a trance until I stopped. It proved difficult to walk away with him whining, but I had to do other things.
Ozzy and Crackers were smarter and stayed in our yard, so they were allowed to roam freely. They followed me around while I did my chores. When I had finished, Dad still hadn’t arrived home, so I sat on the porch and looked out at the fields, wondering how long I would have to walk to get away from there forever.
Ozzy curled up next to me, and Crackers climbed into my lap. I stroked their warm, soft fur, wishing that they were allowed to come in the house.
“I’m sorry, guys, it isn’t fair,” I told them. They stared at me, almost like they understood what I said. “When I grow up, my pets can come inside the house. I wouldn’t make you stay outside in the cold.” The door creaked open behind me, and my mom told me to come inside the house and help her fold the laundry.
I gently scooped Crackers off my lap, setting him down on the porch so I could go inside. My pet’s sad, loving eyes watched me as I closed the door softly.
“How was school today?” Mom asked as we folded the clothes. “Did anyone ask you anything out of the ordinary?”
“No,” I told her, puzzled by her question, “but I got an A-plus on my spelling test!”
Mom smiled at me, then told me something I’ll never forget. She said, “I’m proud of you, honey. You’re so smart. Don’t tell your dad, but you’re way smarter than him already.”
I beamed at her. I had never received a compliment of such magnitude before. Being smarter than him meant I could survive him and be something worthwhile when I grew up. I could help people instead of hurt them the way he did.
Regardless, I could carry that compliment with me, and when Dad became angry, I could recall what Mom said and somehow outsmart him and get through it. I couldn’t help wondering why he always beat me at checkers if I was smarter than him.
We finished folding the laundry, and Mom said I could go upstairs and play. I put my clothes away, then played with my dolls, careful not to make much noise. Devin came upstairs with some of his toys and we played together, discussing an assembly we attended at school.
A door slammed downstairs. The noise reverberated through me, causing my muscles to stiffen. Loud voices came from downstairs. Dad had an edge in his voice that made me want to hide. He must have had a bad day.
“Dinner’s ready!” Mom called up to us a short time later. “Come and eat, kids.”
Devin and I went downstairs and took our places at the table. It was the usual kind of dinner, meat, mashed potatoes, and green beans. The meat was tough, rubbery, and hard to chew, and nobody said what kind of meat it was.
Dad squirted some ketchup on his plate, and so did Devin. I asked him to pass it to me and did the same before handing it to Mom. She didn’t put any on her plate.
“Don’t you want any ketchup, Mom?” I asked, wondering how she could stand the old sneaker taste of the meat without it.
“No, I don’t like ketchup,” she said, turning her nose up. “It’s gross.”
“Oh,” I said, surprised, “then I don’t either.” If she found it unappetizing, I didn’t want it. I wanted to be the same as her, grown-up, strong, and pretty.
Dad glared at me, pointing at my food with his fork. “If you don’t eat that ketchup on your plate, I’m going to beat you. We don’t waste food in this house. You asked for it, so you better eat it.”
I didn’t want it, but it helped make the meat not so dry. I nodded and looked down before we could make eye contact. I ate my food, ketchup, and all, not daring to say another word.
I didn’t want to push my luck. Dad made me sleep sitting in my chair at the table once for refusing to eat my peas even though I hated them. They had been even more disgusting when they were served to me for dinner the next day.
When dinner concluded, I cleared the plates and wiped off the dining room
table. When I finished washing the dishes, I trudged out of the kitchen, intending to go up to my room to be alone.
Everyone else inhabited the living room. They sat there calmly, watching TV, and as I spied on them, a sensation of not belonging washed over me. They didn’t seem to notice me observing them at all as if I were an invisible intruder. Shaking my head, I continued toward the stairs.
“Come watch the Simpsons with us, Angel,” Devin called out. He relaxed cross-legged on the floor.
I glanced at Mom and Dad, who lounged on the couch. Neither of them objected, so I plopped down next to Devin, fidgeting nervously with the hem on my pant leg.
It made me feel self-conscious and antsy to sit there with idle hands. On the first commercial break, I retrieved the nail clippers from the bathroom. There was a pointy tool on the clippers that I used to clear the sock lint out from underneath my toenails every few days. It baffled me how it got under there.
We watched the show as a family, occasionally laughing at a humorous scene. We didn’t make comments until commercial breaks because Dad would tell us to be quiet so he could hear the show. Nobody mentioned the hellish ordeal from the previous night. It was as if it hadn’t happened.
When it ended, I asked if I could call my friend from school. I told the girl multiple times that I couldn’t use the phone, but she didn’t seem to understand and said I should ask my parents anyways.
“No,” Mom said, “but you can bring us the tray and tin before you go upstairs and play.”
I fetched the tray and the tin she was referring to before heading upstairs. Devin had already gone to his room for the evening. Some of his toys were abandoned on my floor from us playing earlier, so I returned them to him.
I didn’t want to get blamed for taking them. Devin himself was bound to forget that he left them in there or outright deny it to get me in trouble. I was playing with my dolls, making sure to be quiet when Mom called for me to come downstairs.
My limbs instantaneously turned to lead. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but my parents didn’t call me in that manner for no reason.
I tried to mask my trembling as I stood in front of them sheepishly. Hopefully, this pertained to the dishes. I did my best, but it wouldn’t be the first time I overlooked something and had to wash them again.
“Do you want to explain to us why there’s a Barbie shoe in the middle of the floor?”
Expelling a sigh of relief, I scooped up the tiny shoe. I glanced at the vent directly above it, the same vent in the middle of my bedroom floor. I didn’t play near it because small toys fell through, and it bothered Mom and Dad. Somehow, that shoe had fallen through without me noticing.
Dad warned me to be more careful with my toys, or he was going to throw them all away. I nodded, and as I turned to go back upstairs, he called out, “Do you know how to make cookies?”
“Me? Yes, I can bake,” I answered, eager to be able to do something to make him happy.
I never made cookies before, but it couldn’t be that hard. I was smarter than Dad, so I should be able to figure it out. I went to the kitchen, turned on the oven, and found a cookie sheet in the cupboard.
After I read the instructions on the package, I placed balls of dough on the baking sheet. Then, I waited nearby, watching the clock and checking on them every couple of minutes until they turned golden brown.
I removed the tray of cookies from the oven using a folded-up dish towel, turned it off, and brought the cookies to my parents on a plate. The delicious smell of chocolate wafted through the house, and I was sure that I had done an excellent job.
Smiling, I handed the plate to Dad and scurried out from between him and the television. He ate one without commenting. He didn’t say thank you, good job, or even criticize me. The smile faded off of my face.
I stood there for a minute, uncertain of what I should do. The cookies must be okay because Dad reached for a second one. That would have to be good enough. I went upstairs and listened to music at a low volume on my small radio, writing in my notebook until it was time for bed.
As I lay there trying to fall asleep, someone entered my room. I figured it was Mom coming to tuck me in, but Dad appeared instead. He tucked me in and told me goodnight.
I drifted off to sleep, wondering why he frequently became hostile and what made him so angry. There were times that he acted like an ordinary, almost pleasant father, but the rest of the time, we lived in a state of fear, uncertain what he would do next.
That night, I awoke again unexpectedly. This time there was no noise, only a queasy tickling in my stomach and a strong urge to use the bathroom. The house was dark and quiet as I crept down the stairs, and before I reached the bottom, a terrible pain hit my stomach. I retched and vomited uncontrollably on the bottom stair.
When the pain let up, I ran into the bathroom and threw up again in the toilet. I curled up, spent, on the bathroom floor, praying for the pain to stop. My skin and insides were on fire, but the cold, tiled floor was soothing against the side of my face.
I pushed the door closed with my foot. I didn’t want to throw up in my room. I lie there in the darkness, listening to the sound of my breathing when the ceiling creaked. Panic surged through me.
Dad was going to hit me for being out of bed.
He or Mom could have to use the toilet, and I would get in trouble for being out of bed. Our house only had one bathroom. I stood up shakily, holding my belly with one hand, and opened the bathroom door.
My mom stood there with her arms crossed and a frown on her face.
“What did I step in on the stairs?” she asked me, holding one foot off the floor.
“My stomach hurts,” I groaned weakly. “I tried to make it to the toilet, but I couldn’t. I threw up. I’m sorry. I’ll clean it up.”
“You better,” she said, “or we’re both going to be in trouble.” I used toilet paper to get most of it to the toilet, then scrubbed the puke off the stairs with a towel and soapy water. When it was clean, I sluggishly climbed the stairs and climbed back into bed.
I couldn’t help suspecting that something was very wrong inside of me. It seemed like everyone was keeping a secret from me, but I couldn’t imagine what it could be. I told myself that I was overreacting and being silly, but there was no denying that something was awry. People didn’t repeatedly fall ill like that for no reason.
Maybe I was so skinny and pale because I had a disease, and no one wanted to tell me because they couldn’t fix it and didn’t want me to waste what time I had worried about dying. It explained certain things, like why I couldn’t go to friend’s houses or have guests over and why I couldn’t participate in extra-curricular activities at school.
Trying to ignore the pain in my body, I tossed and turned, struggling to find a comfortable position. Mom didn’t seem to be worried about it and had gone straight back to bed after using the bathroom. I tried to use that fact to comfort myself.
My mom loved me, and she wouldn’t leave me all alone to die, but just in case, I asked God to help me. It was so familiar now. More nights than not, I prayed for things to get better. Please, God, make it stop. Take the pain away. Please. Amen.