Chapter One Inspired by true events I am at a lost as I sit at this computer. I wish to be a writer. I love writing.

I love creating. I enjoy the ability to bring to life places and people who did not exist. But, I have this infirmity that has been known to stricken the most creative minds through the centuries. I just can’t think of how to begin. Suddenly, she walks into the room to see what I have done. I see her reflection in the darkened window which is just to the side of the computer desk. I stare and drink deeply of the vision she creates as she moves. It brings a smile to my soul as she approaches. It is nice to have someone who truly believes in you, who loves you no matter what happens. She lights up the whole room as she approaches me. Her every movement is filled with such grace. Her curvaceous form seems to flow effortlessly through the air. I feel her warmth as she embraces me from behind and peers over my shoulder at a blank page. She smiles and says that she sees that I am still stuck, gives me a kiss, and tells me that it will come. She tightens her embrace and giggles a little. She releases me. She tells me that she’ll leave me alone. She heads out of the room. I watch her—this time, I am not satisfied with a reflection in a window and turn in my chair to see—every movement as she leaves. Again, I find myself, alone with no thoughts except of her, her smile, her voice, her shoulder length blonde hair that glistens in the sunlight, her eyes. Her eyes of green that warm my heart when I see how she lights up when I return home from work; that dance in perfect harmony with her smile. I sit staring at the door wanting to follow her, wanting to take her in my arms and just hold her. I have learned a lot about love and life with her. I wouldn’t change a thing in my life. It led me on a collision course with hers. She has taken me to distant and deep places. She has taught me more about love and life than any other person. It is hard to imagine that someone so full of life, warmth, hope, and love could have gone through so much pain. I thought of her story shortly after she had turned fourteen. Youth is powerful. Victoria embraced her youth, the power of her youth surging through her body. Unfortunately, only with age can one discover that the power of youth comes from being alive at a time when everything is novel. It is all waiting to be rediscovered by each generation. It is a power that can be taken away in an instant. Victoria relished this feeling and could not think of it ending. When it is in full bloom, Spring Time in the mountain country of western Pennsylvania is beautiful. Today was absolutely no exception. Victoria Blesser felt that it was perfect as she stepped down off the yellow school bus at the corner of her street and started towards her home. She always enjoyed her walk from the end of the street to her home after school. Whether it was in the middle of winter, pouring rain, or the beating sun of summer’s hottest day, she enjoyed it. Her street was a nice quiet street to walk down; to unwind after a vigorous day of learning and dealing with the pressures of middle school. It was a pleasant street; a welcoming street with its gentle curve to the left, the nicely spaced homes which sat back from the street creating large sweeping front lawns, and its tree lined path that disappeared over a gentle rise just beyond the curve. It was pleasantly easy stroll to help unwind, especially, after having to navigate the strong currents and politics of middle school. She walked at a nice steady pace. A warm fresh breeze flowed up through the mountain valleys from the southwest and it felt good in the shade of the large old trees along the road as it gently lifted her light brown, curly hair from her young shoulders. Her mind was filled with thoughts of summer vacation which was less than a week away; of her father promising to let her

cut school tomorrow to take her on his milk truck run. She loved those trips with her father. She loved that he was a trucker. She always thought that it would be wonderful to just travel around the country and see all of the sights. Even though he just ran a local route with his tanker, she felt as though she was on one of those adventures when she snuck off with him. She loved her father. He had always been very kind to her. She continued her walk thinking of going with her father, of the warm late spring day, and of the summer vacation just a week away. When her parents’ house came into view, she froze as a tingle shot up her spine. Greg’s car was in the drive and only Greg’s car was there. She just stood and thought for a few moments as she looked at her home and his car. She wondered where her mother was. She did not want to be alone with Greg—her sister’s fiancé. Victoria’s older sister, Kathy, was not home from her job yet. Her car was not in the drive or along the road either. She looked at her house carefully with her green eyes wondering if anyone was even home. It didn’t look like there was any sign of life. She thought that maybe Greg went somewhere with her mom and the house was empty. It sure did look as though it was empty. It wasn’t that Greg had been a bad person. It was his whole attitude and way of carrying himself that made Victoria think of him as an intruder on her family. He was loud and obnoxious. He had an opinion on everything and acted like he was the cock of the roost. Victoria thought that if Greg ever stopped talking, he would collapse. She didn’t like the way he talked to her mother. He bossed her around as if she was his personal maid. She just didn’t understand what her sister saw in him. Kathy was a kind and gentle person while he was so loud. He was constantly on her parents about letting Kathy and him put a trailer in the back part of their property. Her father didn’t believe in banks and kept his money in the house. Victoria wasn’t one hundred percent sure but she did believe that Greg was helping himself to her father’s money. For someone just out of the National Guard, he always seemed to have a lot of cash and she had caught him a couple of times coming out of her parents’ room when no one else was looking. What really bother her lately about Greg was that he just made her feel uncomfortable around him. It all seemed simple and innocent at first but it had been increasing. It all started several months ago when she started to really blossom into a young lady. A bump here, or a brush there, or just that he would always have to be near her or she would catch him staring at her, no matter what the situation, Greg just seemed to have to touch her. She tried to talk to her mother about it and was just too embarrassed to say anything to her father. Her mother would just make her feel bad about what was going on saying that Victoria shouldn’t say or think of things like that. She sometimes thought that was what made her dislike Greg the most was that her parents would not confront him. They would not stand up to him and put him in his place. This wasn’t his home. It was theirs. This was not his family, yet. It was hers. Victoria just stood a few more seconds looking at the house. A car drove by and its sound brought her back to this world. She sighed and reluctantly took the next step to her house. She started to walk slowly when she reached her long gravel drive. She took each step carefully to not make much noise as she walked. She tried to listen carefully to see if there was any sign of someone in the house. She continued to look at the windows to see if she could see anyone. She was satisfied that no one was there when she reached the back door. She decided that his car was just here and he must have gone somewhere with her mother. They were pretty busy planning the wedding and did have a lot of appointments. She smiled to herself and thought even if he was here; she wasn’t going to let him spoil this beautiful day for her. She just wanted to take a shower and wash her hair, do her reading assignment, and enjoy the rest of the evening in anticipation of her trip with her dad.

She got out her key when she reached the back door. She found that it was unlocked. Victoria hesitated a moment and thought but found that she had nothing. Then she saw him through the window coming from the hallway. She knew that he had been in her parents’ room again. She watched as Greg moved into the living room and heard him turn on the television. He always had it on so loud just like he was. She sighed and took a deep breath as she opened the door. She wasn’t going to allow him to ruin this day or her plans. “Is that you Vicky?” came his voice from the living room as she closed the sliding door a little too hard because it occasionally stuck in its track. “No,” answered Victoria. She did not like being called Vicky. “Hey, don’t be like that,” Greg called out to her. “Your mom said that you would be home around this time.” “Where is she?” “Kathy left work early and is meeting your mom in town for a doctor’s appointment.” Victoria heard him walking out of the living room. “Why didn’t you go with them?” “It was a woman’s doctor visit and I would just be in the way,” answered Greg as he entered the kitchen where Victoria was getting something to drink. “Hey, pour me one of those too.” “Pour your own juice,” said Victoria, “I’m not your maid.” She replaced the pitcher in the fridge and got a piece of toast she had made then went over to the dining room to enjoy her snack. Greg just stared at her as she sat down and then said, “Someone needs to teach you some respect.” “Someone needs to teach you respect. How much money did you take out of my dad’s room this time?” Greg just looked at her angrily and without saying anything he walked back into the living room to watch his show. Victoria just finished her piece of toast and juice. She felt proud of herself. She had caused Greg to shut up. After putting her glass and dish in the sink, she walked back to her room. She wanted to get her shower. The school had felt hot all day long and she just wanted to freshen up. She took off her clothes but left on her underwear. She put on her bathrobe and walked across the hall to the bathroom. She turned on the light, closed the door behind her and locked it. She started her shower to let the water warm up while she retrieved a towel and washcloth from the closet in the bathroom. She tested the water and found it to be perfect. She removed her robe, underwear— placing her robe on the hook on the door and her underwear in the hamper, and climbed into the shower. The water temperature and pressure felt heavenly. She had totally forgotten about Greg and was thinking about spending the day with her dad tomorrow as she dried off and put her robe back on. She brush her hair, made sure her bathrobe was closed, and then opened the door. She looked down the hall and saw no sign of Greg. She just heard the television. She turned off the bathroom light and started down the hall to her room. “I heard a story about you,” said Greg from behind her. He must have been standing at the end of the hall waiting for her, she thought. She called back over her shoulder, “I don’t have time for you right now, Greg.” “Just tell me if it is true.” “Leave me alone, Greg!” He started down the hall towards her room. She quickly went in and tried to close her door, but he had reached her and pushed the door open and just stood in the doorway. He looked

at her and said, “What is wrong with you? I just have a simple question. I just want to know if it was true what I heard.” “Get out of my room and leave me alone!” yelled Victoria. She was scared and pissed at the same time. She just couldn’t decide which the stronger feeling was. She tried to close the door again, but Greg pushed back and he was far too strong for her. She started to cry. “Hey, I just want to clarify something I heard and then I’ll leave you alone. I promise.” She just stood there shaking noticeably. She hated this. She hated being afraid. She just stood there looking at him and finally asked with a shaky voice, “You promise?” “I promise,” he answered in a calm voice with a smile. He just stood there in the doorway leaning against the jam. She stared back at him and finally asked, “Well?” He looked around the room and finally said, “I heard from Kathy that about four years ago you were rolling down a hill with a young boy.” She looked at him with a shocked look on her face and thought. How could Kathy have said anything about that? It didn’t occur to her that sometimes siblings will tell embarrassing stories about family members while dating. She thought for a few seconds more searching for an answer and finally said, “Yes, I did. Now, will you leave me alone?” Greg smiled and laughed a little which made her feel even more uncomfortable. He looked down at his feet and said, “Well, that’s not really the question, is it?” “I want you to leave me alone. I have a lot to do and my mom will be home soon. Leave me alone!” she yelled in an almost pleading tone. She had started to cry again. “Hey, I promised. Just let me finish asking the question.” He just stared at her again and when she couldn’t take it anymore she again asked, “Well?” He smiled again and without taking his eyes off of her, he asked, “Is it true that you took off your clothes to roll down the hill with him?” His stare unnerved her a bit. He was looking at her but not as if he was looking at a person but an object; an object of desire. She didn’t know what to say. She searched for an answer. She wanted an answer that would put an end to this but thought that if she just told him what he wanted to know, and then he would go away and leave her alone. She wiped the tears from her cheek and finally answered, “Yes, I didn’t want to get them dirty and he took off his clothes too.” Greg just looked at her with this smile. After several moments that seemed like an eternity to her, he finally said, “See, now that wasn’t so bad now was it?” He just continued to stand there, looking at her. She started to cry again as the scared feeling started to win. She finally said in a pleading voice, “Now, leave me alone, please?” He looked at her and shook his head. He took a deep breath as she stood there crying. She had never felt so small, so helpless in her entire thirteen years as she did now. Until now she had never had a reason. He continued to shake his head and watched her as she stood there with her arms crossed now standing sideways looking away from him. He asked in a low voice, “Would you like to go rolling down a hill sometime with me?” She didn’t answer. She hated this. She wanted it to end and end now. She felt revulsion. She felt scared; more scared than she had ever been. She wanted her mom and dad. She wanted to hear them walking in the house right now. She wanted more than anything to hear them walking in the door right now and to be able to run into their arms. She suddenly became very angry. She was angry at her mom and dad for not being there, she was angry at Kathy for

bringing this assehole into their home. She felt a surge of energy welling up from deep within her as the anger turned into rage. Every inch of her body came alive with adrenaline as she filled up with blind rage. He wasn’t going to keep his promise but she was going to get rid of him and put an end to this, now. Greg was watching her waiting for an answer. He saw her crying and shaking. He started to think maybe he should just let her go, but then he said, “I always thought that you were far prettier than your sister.” She snapped. She charged at him with every intention of pushing him out of the doorway, closing the door, and locking it until her mom came home. Unfortunately, physics was not on her side. Victoria’s five foot, two at ninety-five pound body hardly made an impact on his almost six foot, two hundred and ten pound body. She had taken him by surprise and he did take a step backwards but quickly regained his composure. She simply bounced off and fell back on the floor. “Alright, that’s it,” he said in a take command type of voice. He went into the room and picked her up. He grabbed the cinch of her bathrobe with his right hand while holding her around the waist with his left. She tried to fight back but was quickly overpowered by his brute strength. She did continue to struggle. After he undid the cinch, with both hands he yanked off her bathrobe with such force that she flew forward onto her bed. She quickly crouched to the floor sobbing in a sitting fetal position while trying to hide her face, her nudity as he turned around to close the door. He locked it. He turned and just stood there with his stupid grin staring at her crying helplessly. He liked it. He loved being the power. He stared at her crouching figure. Had he been rational at that moment, he might have thought that maybe he had crossed a line, he had gone way too far, her family had put up with enough of his pushy, boisterous personality, but he had lost all rationale. Seeing her young, shapely body had inflamed him from human to animal and the sense of power coursed through his veins. He thought if he had gone this far, might as well enjoy it all. She continued to cry and shake. She slowly looked up to see what he was doing. He was standing over her finishing unbuttoning his shirt with that grin. She tried to cry out, “No, please, no!” but found that she barely had a voice. He walked over to her and started to undo his pants while standing over her. He looked down at her and growled, “It’s about time someone taught you some respect.”

Chapter Two “I just don’t know what I am going to do with you.” Victoria watched the distant mountain tops drift by and wondered how the world looked from up there. Her mom had been lecturing her ever since they got into the car and Victoria found herself drifting into and out of the conversation as she looked at the Western Pennsylvanian landscape. “I just don’t know about you,” said her mother as they drove along. Victoria just continued to watch the scenery. At moments she could just barely hear her mom. It made her think of the mumbling of the adults in the “Charlie Brown” specials. She did try to listen but it was the same old lecture she had heard day in and day out since her private lesson in respect about a month ago. “I cannot believe how you have changed,” said her mom when her voice drifted into Victoria’s conscience. Victoria looked down at her unpolished finger nails. She had changed. Her father had noticed the marked difference in her first, the day after the lesson. In the morning when her father pulled up to her bus stop to get his daughter, she seemed reluctant at first to get in the cab. Her hair had been brushed but it was not thoroughly brushed as she normally had done just a day ago. Her outfit had just been sort of thrown together instead of carefully picked out. She wasn’t talking. Most of all she wasn’t smiling. He knew that something had happened to his pretty treasure. “Is everything okay at school,” he tried hoping to get her to open up. She sighed and said, “Yes.” The silence continued with just the roar of the semi’s engine as he shifted gear. He looked over and noticed that she was sitting all the way over by the passenger door. Normally, she would sit in the center and beam with excitement. She just sat over there looking out of her window. He felt his heart break a little to see her like this. “So, do you have any plans for the summer? It is only a few days away,” he asked hoping to resuscitate his daughter trapped in this mopey stranger. Victoria just sat there looking out of the window. Silence, except for the sound of the engine, just permeated the cab for a few more seconds. Finally, she sighed and said, “No, I didn’t give it a thought yet.” Barry decided that she didn’t want to talk about it. He thought that she would when she was ready. He would try again when they stopped at the little diner outside of Altoona for a late breakfast. He just drove on to his next stop. At the diner, it just continued. She didn’t even make eye contact with him. She did order her usual breakfast but she just seemed to take a bite here and there. For the most part she just pushed the eggs and hash browns around with the fork while just staring at her plate. She had barely touched her orange juice. After breakfast he thought that he would try again. Maybe the diner was too public to talk about whatever it was. He tried. She finally answered him after almost a mile after he asked her. “I’m okay. I just have a lot on my mind this morning and I just don’t want to talk about it right now.” “Okay, okay, we’ll just enjoy our ride then.” She felt bad. She felt as if she had hurt him a little. She knew how much he looked forward to these trips and of spending the time with her. She thought for several moments and

finally looked over at him and said, “I’m sorry, I’m not angry at you or anything. I just have a lot on my mind and I just don’t want to talk about it right now.” He looked over and met her green eyes. He gave her a smile and said, “It’s okay. You can tell me when you are ready. Let’s just enjoy this beautiful day that the Lord has given us. Did you want to listen to some music?” “Sure dad,” she answered anticipating the bluegrass station he loved, but was surprised when she heard the local pop station come through the speakers. She smiled. She knew that he was trying and she appreciated it. “I just can’t believe that you would do this to your sister. What has she ever done to you?” said her mother’s voice. Victoria didn’t answer. She just continued to enjoy the scenery. She had made the mistake of being born in a time when something like this happened, it was considered that the girl must have done something to deserve it. She did smile a little when she saw a little boy playing with a puppy. The puppy was so small and fluffy. “You always were a wild one. Lord have I tried to keep you on the straight and narrow. This is just unbelievable. How could you be so selfish? I did not raise you to be this way.” Victoria just looked out her window and sighed. She dreamt of a time when she was happy. She had started to phase out her mother’s voice altogether. She had heard it numerous times since her mother had found out. Mary had noticed the difference in her daughter the evening of Victoria’s trip with her father. Barry and Victoria had come home after the trip. She noticed her daughter’s hair and outfit. She noticed her demeanor as she walked into the house and went straight back to her room. She closed the door. Barry took his coffee mug from the cupboard and started to make a cup. Mary just looked at him, shaking her head. “So, you let her cut school again,” said Mary in a sigh. Barry looked at Mary and said, “Yes, she won’t be young forever. Besides, it is almost over for the year.” “You are the reason she has problems at school. You, you take her out on these trips and she doesn’t think that she has to listen to people she should be listening to. She needs to finish the school year.” “Okay, she only has a few more days. She can go.” “No matter what I say or try to do for her, you always come around and tell her she doesn’t have to listen by doing these things.” Barry finished making his coffee and sat at the kitchen counter. He stirred it a little and then took a sip. He said, “I don’t see the harm in letting her enjoy a little freedom before she has to work the rest of her life.” “She’ll have the whole summer and every summer after that until she graduates. She can go to school, learn her lessons, and do her work. She needs her education. She doesn’t need to be like you.” “What’s wrong with me? I earn good money and we have a decent home,” he said with a slightly raised voice. “Who has to fill out your trucker’s logbook? I do because you can’t do the math. She needs an education not all of this fooling around.” “Okay, she can go to school the rest of the year. Let’s just drop it.”

Victoria heard the fight and didn’t dwell on it for long. She had heard them fight numerous times over the same old things. She just lied on her bed and stared at the ceiling. She watched the shadows grow in her room as she started to cry again. She didn’t quite understand why but she knew that it was her fault. She knew that she was in the biggest trouble she had ever been. She just knew that she had done something horrible to her family. She didn’t listen to them fight—she heard them, but she didn’t listen to what was said. She just cried as she imagined the fights that were just over the horizon if anyone found out. She felt so helpless and without any hope. She knew that Greg would tell on her. She rolled onto her left side and curled up into a fetal position as she cried herself to sleep in the fading light. “I just can’t believe that you would do this to your sister. You have always been jealous of Kathy. You always tried to copy her,” said her mother. Mary was silent for a few seconds. Victoria realized from years of experience that her mother was just catching her breath. She knew that more was to follow but she did enjoy just hearing the sound of the car and the wind through the window. She did know that it was coming to an end and she tried to enjoy every minute of it. She didn’t have to wait long. “You can’t believe how horribly embarrassed I was when I confronted Greg and he told me what happened. How, how, you threw yourself at him so shamelessly. I know I taught you better than that. I still can’t believe you opened your robe and exposed yourself like that.” She sighed and shook her head. “I guess that I should have known better than to leave you alone with him. I should have just waited for you and took you along to Kathy’s appointment. I should have seen something like this happening after catching you with that boy rolling down the hill.” Victoria probably would have been crying but she just enjoyed the scenery. It had been a month of questions, accusations, lectures, and shouting which had left her a bit numb to what her mother said. She had tried to tell her side but she was convinced that her mother thought she was lying. Mary just kept up a constant defense of Greg, no matter what Victoria said. What Victoria didn’t understand was that her mom wanted to believe her and what Victoria didn’t understand was that there was so much more to just simple belief. What Victoria had not understood was the whole concept of seeking the path of least resistance. She just knew that no one believed her and she had done something wrong. “They are getting married at the end of this month. Your sister has been working for this all of her life. She meets the man of her dreams and you just can’t let her be happy. You just can’t be happy for her. As usual, you got to be jealous and want what she has. You always did that.” Her mom pulled into a parking lot and drove around to find a convenient space. They still had about ten minutes until their appointment. Victoria knew her mom had some more ripping into her to do. She just continued to sit back in her seat looking out of her window at the traffic whizzing by the parking lot. After thinking for a few minutes, Mary said, “This is the plan. Kathy is going to marry Greg. She is going to continue on with her life. She is going to have her baby. Greg and She will build their lives together. Kathy will never hear a word of this or there will be hell to pay. Do you understand?” She looked searchingly at her daughter in the passenger seat. Victoria just sat there watching the traffic continue by the parking lot. Normally, her blonde hair would seem to glow, set ablaze by bright sunlight. It was an effect that would frame the delicate features of her young face and especially set off the green of her eyes. Mary did not see this as she looked at Victoria.

Her hair was dull and in need of being washed. Victoria couldn’t even think of the time that she last washed it. Mary just sat there looking at her daughter as she looked out of her window. “Victoria!” she shouted. “What?” “Is the plan understood?” Victoria took in a breath and said, “Yes, I said yes.” “What is the plan?” “Greg and Kathy are getting married and Kathy is having her baby. You have told me several times already” “Do not give me any backtalk,” said Mary in an angry, stern voice. Her eyes burned into Victoria. With a slightly calmer voice, Mary asked, “And what are you not to do?” Victoria sighed, turned to face her mother and answered, “Kathy is to never to find out about this.” Mary looked at her daughter with a gentle expression without saying anything. Her lips quivered like she was about to say something, but the words never passed over them. Mary smiled a slight smile instead and reached over to pick a ladybug off Victoria’s hair that had landed there after flying in through the window. “What am I going to do with you? You have always been my personal challenge.” She looked at her watch and said, “Well, let’s get going. You are going to tell your case worker that you are not keeping this baby. I already made an appointment for you.” Victoria looked down towards her feet and after a couple of seconds answered, “Yes, mom, I’ll tell her.” They both got out of the car and walked to doors of the office building.

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