Last of the Past

by Tris (Click for Author's Home Page)<>

I sat and sipped my latte as I listened to Joel tell our neighbor Russ about the time he ran away from home. I'd never heard this story before and it was cute, but I felt sad all the same. I sipped my coffee and tried to think about something else.

"Did you ever run away from home, Julian?" I looked up at Russ's smiling face and shrugged. "Not that I can remember," I answered quietly.

Russ turned back to Joel and started telling him about when he was five and ran away because he couldn't get a puppy.

I stayed with it as long as I could, but finally stood up, stretched, and excused myself. As I passed by him, Joel gave me a gentle swat on the bottom.

"Are you feeling okay baby?" he asked.

"Just a little tired," I lied. I smiled at Russ and wished him a good night. Then I wearily made way upstairs and got into bed.

The next morning I was getting a bowl of cereal when Joel came into the kitchen. His hair was mussed and he looked half-asleep.

"What time did Russ leave last night?" I asked as I smacked the seat of his boxers. "You look like you didn't get much sleep."

"Ouch," Joel replied rubbing his rear. "Probably about 2 o'clock. That guy never knows when to leave," he said with a sleepy grin.

I sat down and and started eating. Joel sat next to me with an energy bar and started munching on it. "Why'd you go to bed so early last night?" he asked as I was reaching for the newspaper.

"I was just tired," I answered, avoiding his eyes.

He put his hand on mine. "Are you sure that's all?" he asked, sounding concerned.

"Baby, why do you have to worry so much about me?" I asked, feeling a little exasperated.

"You know why, Julian," he answered, steel grey eyes searching mine. His tone serious and low.

Yes, I knew why. I dipped my head, and reaching for the newspaper buried myself in it.

That evening we went to the grocery store. We were planning a dinner party for the next night and we had a big list to fill. We were both tired and irritable.

"Orange pears?" Joel asked in obvious confusion. "Jul, what're orange pears?"

I snatched the list from him. "They're in the canned fruit section," I answered shortly. "I'll go get them. Maybe I'll come back or maybe not!"

He grabbed me by the upper arm just as I was starting to stalk away. "Julian, what's the matter?" he asked, with a mixture of anger and concern evident in his voice.

Looking around, I firmly but slowly removed my arm from his hand. "Nothing's the matter!" I hissed. "I'm just saying that maybe I'll just leave sometime. You know, take off and live on the street or something." I looked into his eyes trying to gauge his reaction. He looked stunned.

"Go get in the car," he said evenly. I could see his jaw was trembling though, belying his calm voice.

"No," I said flatly. "I have to get the pears."

He stepped close to me. "_f_u_c_k_ the pears," he whispered. "Go get in the car."

Suddenly I felt bad about how I was behaving. "You can't get everything alone. I'll help," I said, forcing a smile.

Joel looked at me for a long minute and then nodded tightly. "Okay, but don't wander off," he told me.

We shopped in virtual silence. I knew I had upset Joel and I felt bad about it but something was bothering me. Something big.

On the way home I cleared my throat and looked over at him. "Joel," I asked hesitently, "what would you do if I left?"

To my utter dismay he pulled the car over to the side of the road. He unbuckled his seatbelt and turned to face me. "All right! What's going on?" he demanded.

I felt tears starting to sting my eyes. I hadn't meant to upset him again, but I needed to know something. "Nothing's going on. I swear. I just want to know what would happen if I ran away or something?"

"Ran away?" he echoed, sounding baffled. "Why the _f_u_c_k_ would you run away?"

The only time that Joel cursed was when he was ultra upset. I knew I shouldn't keep on but I couldn't help it. "I wouldn't run away," I assured him. "I just want to know what you would do if I came back...from running away?"

I could see him shaking and clenching his hands. "I don't know what I would do, Julian," he responded in a quiet voice. "But you're scaring me, and I want you to tell me why you're talking like that."

"I don't know why," I answered in a small voice.

He looked at me closely, his face very serious. "I think you do know why," he told me. "And I also think that you are in big trouble for not telling me."

With those words he rebuckled his seat belt and pulled back onto the street. He drove us home without uttering a single word, but I could feel the waves of tension emenating off of him. I felt horrible.

"Am I going to get a spanking?" I ventured as we pulled up in the drive.

He didn't answer me as he got out and opened the trunk to get the groceries. I sighed and got out of the car. Standing awkwardly beside it, I waited for him to say something.

"C'mon Jul, help me with these bags," he finally said.

I walked over and took the sacks that he held out to me. As I did I glanced up at his face, wishing he wasn't upset with me. He looked back and gave me a small smile. I smiled back. At least he didn't completely despise me for being such a jerk.

"I'm sorry, Joel," I said as we put the groceries away. "Please, just forget what I said."

He walked up behind me and gently put his arms around my waist. "What's wrong, my baby?" he rumbled in my ear. "Just tell Daddy what's the matter."

I leaned my head back against his shoulder. "Nothing, I swear," I answered lightly, trying to reassure him.

I heard him sigh. "Julian, did you take your meds today?" he asked sternly.

I nodded then disentangled myself from him. Feeling resentful of his question, I tried to avoid him as I put the rest of the groceries away.

"I'm going to cancel the party," he said suddenly.

I whirled around and gaped at him. "No! Don't do that!" I shouted.

"I will unless you tell me what's bothering you," he replied quickly. "I'm too worried about you to be hosting a party, anyway."

I stared at him, too furious to talk. I had been really looking forward to the dinner party. All our close friends were coming. We had been planning this for a while. I couldn't believe he would do that to punish me!

After staring at Joel for a minute, I simmered down enough to speak. "Don't you cancel, Joel!" I spat out. "Because if you do, you might just find out what I meant earlier, when I talked about running away."

I watched as his mouth fell open. I never saw anyone's jaw literally drop, but his did. Immediately I regretted what I had said. I hadn't meant it. It had just come out.

"Im really sorr..."

"Now you've done it," he interrupted. "You're going to get a blistering for saying that!"

I backed up against the counter, banging against it in the process. "I'm sorry, Joel! I didn't mean it!" I said loudly.

I watched as he opened the back door. "Where are you going?" I asked wildly. "Don't leave Joel! I didn't mean it!"

He turned back toward me. "I'm not leaving," he answered tersely. "I'm just going to get a switch off the plum tree."

My stomach dropped at his words. I lunged over to him and threw my arms around him. "Please, Please don't switch me, Joel!" I begged.

Joel held me for a minute and then gently pushed me away from him and walked determinedly out of the back door.

I stood, twisting my shirt in my hands as I watched through the screen door as he cut a switch. It was dark out, but the moon cast enough light that I could see what he was doing. I felt like running out there to stop him. My legs moved nervously, urging me to bolt as I felt a wave of panic wash over me. The switch hurt worse than anything else. I hated the hot, thin, sharp pain. Anything, anything would have been easier to take! The belt, the hairbrush, Anything! I stood and watched him as I imagined the switch cutting into my butt and thighs. Imagined myself twisting and sobbing as I tried to avoid it's agonizing, searing pain.

Time seemed to stop as I waited.

Finally I saw him coming back with it. He opened the screen door and came in. The room seemed to grow brighter as I watched him close and then lock the back door.

He turned to me and swished it through the air. "Go into the living room," he ordered in a crisp, no-nonsense tone.

I stared at it and then looked back up at his stern face. "Joel," I rasped out, "I'm really sorry that I said that. I didn't mean it. You don't NEED to use that!"

"I think I do," he said in a chilly voice. He stared at me for a couple of seconds. "Are you going to go into the living room, Julian? Or do you need me to help you in there?"

I shivered. "No, I don't need any help," I said sullenly, as I left the kitchen and headed slowly into the living room. Joel followed closely behind.


"Owoh!" I yelped as the switch came down onto my bare bottom. I moved my head up and down and dug my fingers into a cushion of the sofa. My legs felt wobbly and I wished that I had been allowed to at least lay across the sofa for this whipping, instead of having to stand up.

I heard the switch whistling through the air again, and I tensed my butt.


"Oh god," I moaned as a fine line of fire leapt across both of my cheeks. I clawed at the cushion as I tried to keep from standing up.

Again the awful whistling sound as the switch descended on my poor bottom. It landed right at the base of my buttocks. Very close to my thighs. My eyes began to tear up, as I tried to find my way back through the pain.

I tensed myself for the fourth blow but it didn't come.

"Okay baby, stand up," Joel said.

I stood and pulled my jeans back up over my tender ass. then I turned around to face Joel. I brushed my hand angrily over my eyes, trying to get rid of the tears before he saw them.

Joel reached toward me for an embrace, but I took a step back. I looked up at his face and saw a hurt look there. "Well, what do you expect?" I blurted out angrily. "You want me to thank you for hurting me, or what?" With those words I walked past him and to our bedroom. Silently I got ready for bed and then laying down, fell into a troubled sleep.

The next morning I awoke before Joel. I stretched for a minute and then reached down to feel my backside. It was a tiny bit tender, but not too much. I looked over at Joel who was still in a deep sleep. I reached out a finger and brushed a strand of blonde hair off his forehead, then quietly got out of bed. I crept around the bedroom, gathering up my discarded clothes, and then went into the bathroom to get dressed.

A few minutes later I walked out the front door, closing it quietly behind me. I walked, in the crisp and chilly morning air, to the bus stop. When I arrived, I stood shivering and stamping. I wished I had remembered to bring a jacket.

I rode the bus remembering things from my past. I didn't know what was driving me to go where I was going. What good would come of it? And Joel would be so worried when he woke up and found me gone. What was I doing? I shivered and slumped down in the seat, feeling tired and discouraged.

I got off the bus and as I looked at the brick buildings in front of me, an involuntary shudder went through me. I tentatively took a step toward the entrance and read the gold-emblazoned letters on the red brick. BEVERLY HILLS HOSPITAL. I stared at the words, as multitudes of memories as fresh as the day they had happened, washed over me.

I sat on the stone steps and ran a hand over my forehead as I remembered the conversation that Russ and Joel had the other evening. "Did you ever run away from home, Julian?" The memory of the innocent words of our neighbor caused me immense pain, as I sat in front of hospital that was my home for nearly five months.

Five months in a mental hospital. I could hardly bear the thought of me at thirteen being brought here... left here. Left to fend for myself in a strange place with crazy people. But I had been.

I got up and began to walk towards the adjoining buildings. I saw the five adjoining "cottages", which were really just boxy brick buildings. I thought of the string hanging from the wall in each bedroom. It was the emergency cord and you pulled it if something was wrong. I had pulled it twice. Each time after waking from a nightmare...

As I continued to look at the different parts of the hospital, the pain of realization was almost too much for me. The air around this place fairly reeked of greed, and suffering, and thrown away human garbage. I was a piece of that garbage. I had been thrown away.

Putting my hands in the back pockets of my jeans, I forced myself to take a deep breath. As I inhaled, tears began to sting my eyes. I couldn't stay here anymore. The answers were all here, but I hadn't done anything egregious enough to deserve to have to stand here one more minute!

I walked to where the pay phone used to be and hoped it was still there. It was. I shakily dialed home. The phone was picked up on the first ring.

"Joel? Will you come pick me up, baby?" I asked, trying to sound non-chalant.

"Julian! Where are you?" his voice sounded frantic as he spoke and I felt bad for him.

I told him where I was and he told me to wait right there, that he'd be there to pick me up in about an hour.

I felt a tremendous rush of relief as I hung up the phone. I sat on the steps in front of the entrance and forced all of the bad memories out of my mind. My Joel was going to come get me and take me away from this place. That was all that mattered.

"Why did you go there?!" Joel demanded as he paced around the kitchen, clearly distraught.

"I wanted..."

"Why'd you leave without telling me where you were going?" he interrupted.

I sighed and tried to begin again. "I wanted to..."

"Were you running away?" he said before I could finish a sentence.

"Joel, please!" I said loudly. "You won't let me say anything." I ran my hand through my hair in frustration and looked at him.

He pulled a chair from the table and sat down. He took a deep breath and I watched as his broad chest rose and fell. "Ok," he said more calmly, "go ahead, sweetie, I'll try not to interrupt."

I gave him a smile, then shifted in my chair. "I guess I WAS running away Joel," I said quietly as I looked into his eyes.

He sat quietly and gazed back into my eyes for a minute, apparently waiting for me to continue. When I didn't elaborate he sighed loudly and then spoke. "SO that's it?" he asked gruffly. "That's all the explanation you're going to give me?"

He shook his head and I could see the sparkle of anger in his eyes. "You left without telling me, and ended up at some mental hospital sixty miles away, and that's all you're going to say?!"

I looked down at my hands. "What is there to say, Joel? I took off. I ran way." I knew that My attitude was only going to infuriate him, but I couldn't help myself. I felt driven to behave this way.

He exhaled loudly and stood up again. "Baby," he said in a low and serious tone, "you're not being reasonable at all. I want you to tell me why you left and why you went where you did."

I stood up and began to make my way toward the door. "I told you, I was running away and that's all you really need to know," I threw over my shoulder.

I didn't make it to the door. Joel came after me and stopped me with a heavy hand on my shoulder.

"Nuh uh!" he said as he turned me by the shoulder and gave me a small shove toward the chair. "You are going to talk to me, young man, because if you don't..."

"If I don't...what?" I challenged him.

He walked to the back door and opened it. Then he looked over at me with eyebrows raised.

I forced a laugh as I shook my head, "No, you aren't going to do that again," I stated, more calmly than I felt. Memories of last night made reach my hand around and give a quick little rub to my backside.

He opened the screen door.

I bit down on my lip to keep myself from saying anything, but it felt like butterflies were doing a fandango in my stomach.

He continued to look at me as he stepped out onto the porch.

"Okay, Joel!" I shouted. "You don't have to get a switch. I'll talk to you!"

He came back inside and sat down at the table. Then looked at me calmly. "Go ahead," he said just above a whisper.

"Joel, am I in trouble for running away?" I asked slowly.

"Sweetie, I can't say until I know what's going on. That's why you have to talk to me," he said in a patient and gentle voice.

"Okay," I agreed, "but Joel, I need to know one thing. It's very important so please just listen."

He nodded and smiled softly at me. "Go ahead."

I trembled involuntarily as I tried to find the words to ask what I needed to know. "If I never told you why...or if I...kept on acting the way you don't like...or like what if we weren't getting along and I split and someone told you to put me...I mean..." I could feel a sense of panic building and I knew I wasn't making a lot of sense.

I felt my mind floating far up to the top of my head and I sat down on the cold tile of the floor. "Joel!!! don't ever put me away to get rid of me! Don't ever make me feel crazy just because you don't want me around anymore! If you think I'm bad and you don't love me, just tell me, and I'll go. Don't ever throw me away!!! i'm not a piece of garbage... Just talk to me! I'm worth that much!"

The next thing I knew I was laying face down on the floor, and great wracking sobs were hurting my chest and filling my ears. It was the last thing I knew for a while.

To Be Continued...

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