4 Years Later

October is always a tricky month for me. While the world around me transforms into a world of monsters, ghosts, and ghouls, I am reminded of the real monsters this world has–monsters who walk among us.

4 years ago, I finally rid myself of a monster who had me in his grasp for a year prior to that. It is a period of my life that I don’t like to talk about; I don’t let it define me. It has morphed me into who I am today, and as much as I view it as a bump in my road, around this time of year it becomes more of a haunting reminder of where I could be if I hadn’t gotten help.

I wrote a tell-all memoir about what happened to me, a memoir that’s been picked up for a new Chicken Soup for the Soup book: Teens on Tough Times.

I am so thankful for the people in my life who got me through that incredibly tough time. My parents, my family, my friends. I have so much love for all of you, so much appreciation for getting me back to, well, ME.

Mom and Dad, I know I don’t always seem to appreciate your tough love, but I do. Thank you. Not only did you give me the strength to move on, but you gave me the strength to Survive and Strive for change. You helped me reach out to others, and to reach in to myself and remember who I have always been.

If you would like to read a rough copy of the story being considered for Chicken Soup, click the link below!

Thanks for looking!

Green Eyes

My freshman year of high school started with an “I love you”, and ended with an “I hate you”; stretched between the two I was in an abusive relationship and I survived. While it was a long time ago when I felt the daily pain of being abused, my skin is thicker. I now live my life with a thick coat of armor ready to defend myself with the knowledge I’ve learned since surviving. But, talking about what happened to me never gets any easier.

I moved to Indiana the winter of my eighth grade year and hid in the shadows of my new school until summer, leaving for high school without a friend by my side. The summer before high school I joined marching band in an attempt to find my niche for the next four years of my life. It was there that I met Mike.

I played saxophone, he played clarinet. We shared the same hobbies, we liked the same things:  it was a woodwind match made in band heaven. We spent the summer getting close and when I started high school I started it with my first “real” boyfriend.

Our relationship was in every way a normal teenage relationship: we went to the movies, held hands at the football games, danced at homecoming. I spent the first few months of our relationship happy, I was so in love with him, I did not think things would ever change between us.

Around Christmas time, though, they did.

On Christmas Eve, Mike invited me to church with his family. I wore a light pink sweater. I sat in the pews while he played with the worship band, smiling at him the whole time. When service was over Mike’s family drove me home and Mike walked me to the door. I turned to him smiling. He had a frown on his face.

I asked him what was wrong. Nothing, he said, I’m just dating a whore is all.
I looked at him hurt and confused and asked what he meant.

That sweater! You just had to wear something to get all the attention, didn’t you?
I just stared blankly at him.

I’ve read somewhere that girls with green eyes are always looking to hook up.

I looked away from him. Suddenly I was so ashamed of my bright, green eyes. I asked him what he was asking of me.

I wish you would just blend in. No one notices girls with dark eyes or clothing… Why can’t you be like that?
From that day on, I only wore black clothing. And my eyes were brown.

My parents were the first people during our relationship to pull me aside and tell me something was up with Mike. Their calls for help fell on deaf ears, I was too far gone.  I was feeling rebellious; dating a guy my parents thought was dangerous. I let my hormones and my boyfriend take me over.

I confided in Mike about how my parents didn’t approve of our relationship. To fight back, he twisted every little thing my parents said until I was ready to run away and live with him because I was sure they were the ones abusing me. Mike had me believing that I was only loved by him; my parents didn’t care, my friends didn’t care, only he cared, and only he mattered.

In January, I agreed to usher at a Music Festival at school just to get out of my house. I spent all my time without Mike at home alone as it was the only way to ensure he wouldn’t accuse me of cheating on him. I was looking forward to ushering but I didn’t talk to Mike about it because for once I didn’t want him there. That evening he told me he’d call me at 5:30, I didn’t forget.

            I had returned from dropping some friends off at their seats in the balcony and was walking back to the doorway to pick up more programs. As I turned the corner I was pushed hard against the wall. I looked up and I saw his face, he looked like he was about to hit me. A feeling of utmost terror filled every little muscle in my body as I watched his arm tighten, his left hand coiling into a fist. I searched inside my mind for something to say, he opened his mouth first.
            Why didn’t you call me? I stared at him. I was frantically looking to my side hoping someone would come down the hallway.

            I lied, I said I forgot. I was afraid to look him in the eye. He had me pressed to the wall with his hands tense on my shoulders. He was hurting me. He didn’t hear a word I said.

            I called you at 5:30 and your sister told me you were here. I checked my watch as he faced the stage, it was 5:45. And I started freaking out because I knew you’d be here with another guy. I was staring at him, at a complete loss for words.

I opened my mouth to say some sort of excuse but I never got a word out. His hand hit hard against my face. My skin started to burn, my eyes water. A man came out of the aisles and down the hallway. The lights in the theatre dimmed and I started walking away from him. He yanked me to him by the waist. I started struggling against him and his grip tightened. I sat down in my seat in the CPA as a bruise on my side formed underneath his hand.  
            Over those next few months, he kept beating me lower and lower into the ground until I didn’t even know who I was anymore. After he saw how my face swelled when he hit me the first time, he learned to hit me where it would be hidden. I walked around with a bruised pelvis for two weeks for spending the night at a girlfriend’s house and not telling him. I had knuckle-shaped bruises on my ribs for not texting him back right away. After every hit, I hated myself, I wanted to die, to perish forever in the grave he was digging for me. It would take weeks for me to gain the courage to dump him, to finally be rid of him but then, he would apologize, kiss my battle scars, tell me he loved me, that he’d never do it again.

And I always believed him.

It wasn’t even spring when he first brought up sex. I always put my foot down, said I wanted to at least be out of my parents’ house before I ever tried that. Mike always wanted to fool around, try stuff out and I always said no—most of the time I was too hurt physically to do anything. The Friday before the Superbowl, Mike presented me with a silver ring on a silver chain. The silver band was inscribed with “True Love Waits”—a sign, I thought, that Mike was getting my message. In the hallway before school started he asked me to marry him something I said yes to out of both fear and longing. It was a sick attempt to get what he wanted, and it wasn’t long before “True Love Waits” turned into a million reasons why we shouldn’t.

That Sunday, Mike and I went to a Superbowl party at a friend’s house. On the ride over, two days after our engagement, Mike had beaten me in the back for not “putting out” for the man I was going to marry. I got down to my friend’s basement and stretched out on the couch—I was in so much pain.

The couch I was laying on was towards the back of the basement with the TV and the other party guests far away from me. At about second quarter, Mike came over and told me he wanted to lay with me. Rather than lay beside me, however, he positioned himself right on top of me—pinning me to the couch.

I started to feel his hand crawling under me, undoing the fly on my jeans. I pressed my pelvis into the couch as hard as I could to keep him from what he was doing. He was persistent.

Eventually I was rolling around trying to stop him. He grabbed me by the hair and pulled my face closer to his whispering “You’re going to like it.”

I was so afraid, so humiliated, I sat there crying silently while he sexually assaulted me. I looked at the backs of all of my friends, their faces glued to the football game, and did not cry out. When he was finished, he held my face in his hand, wiped my tears and told me I had the most beautiful brown eyes he’d ever seen.

That was the way my life was for eight months: beatings, sexual assaults, verbal abuse. I figured Mike was so busy with me I never paid attention to the sort of things he was doing when I was at home waiting for him.

I got a call one evening in the summer from a concerned mother, warning me she was pressing charges against Mike for raping her daughter. More calls came after that, formal charges followed. He was taken out of school, and placed under house arrest;  I was, as it seemed, one of the lucky ones.
It was then that I, finally, took a look at myself. Really saw myself. I stared at my face in a mirror and watched my eyes, thinking they were merely a mirage: two glassy green things, bright and hopeful. They smiled back at me from a reflection I didn’t recognize.

They were the only things he couldn’t change, no matter how hard he tried.

My green eyes gave me the courage I needed to go to my parents. They were my reminder that I was not who he made me to be; who I let myself become. My parents knew I wanted help, and they gave it. There were court hearing, orders of protection, police cars parked out front of my house, and finally restraining orders. I haven’t had to been around Mike for a long time now.

I forgot how much I love who I am, I forgot that it’s my own imperfections that make me who I love. I had always known who I was but it having brown eyes before I ever knew it. If I ever forget how to love myself, I’ll end up in that place he made for me. And I’ll never go back there again.

It was not easy, and it still isn’t, getting over what happened. I am marked with physical and emotional scars that I deal with every day. I found ways to channel my anger, my hatred.. I talked with counselors. I learned to accept that things would not always go according to plan. Mike never saw a day in prison; he went to college, just like me, and is living his life elsewhere.

I learned to do the one thing Mike never wanted me to do, move on. I fell in love, and learned that only I could let people hurt me— and I don’t.

Every now and then, when I have a particularly hard day, I stand in found of the bathroom mirror and remind myself being abused was not my fault, that I never did anything to deserve it—something that gets easier every time.

But, there are still times when all I want is to see myself in the image Mike made me, and compare it to who I know I am. I am strong and I love myself, I am exactly who Mike feared most in me.  I am Ally, a writer, a musician, and a survivor of abuse; my eyes are green, they are beautiful, and they will never change.