Every morning, Julie prayed for the Saints. When she could hear her parents stir in their upstairs bedroom, she silently pleaded to any god listening that those avenging angels would burst through the door one day and save her. She was twenty and still living at home with her family because she'd used all her money attending a community college. Working two jobs most days left her tired and sore and without money since her mother took "rent" out of every paycheck, which seemed to increase a little every time. Plus, she still had to buy her own food and clothes and bus fare.
The bedside clock said seven in the morning on her first full day off in a month. Julie figured it was safe to roll back over and catch an extra hour of sleep. She was wrong. A few minutes later, her father threw open her door, brandishing a half crushed milk jug.
"What the fuck is this," he railed, stalking over to her as she sat up in bed. He hit her hard across the face with the jug, and although it was plastic the bent corner made contact with her eye. "I fucking told you a hundred times, if you're gonna crush the milk jugs they gotta be smaller to fit in the trash can. What part of that don't you understand, you worthless little bitch?"
Julie held the side of her face and tried not to cry when her father grabbed a handful of her hair and dragged her out of bed onto the floor. "Now get your lazy ass up and dressed. We got shit to do today."
She stayed on the floor, cowering until he left the room to let her change. As she pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, she looked at a spot on her wall where a poster used to hang. It had been a mock-up wanted poster for the Saints of South Boston she had bought for five dollars at a corner stand. Her father had beaten her for a full ten minutes for wasting the money on it before ripping it down and saying tat no daughter of his was going to idolize a bunch of no-good, drunken micks who get of on shooting people.
The poster was probably resting in pieces in some dump now, but Julie still looked at its previous spot and remembered every detail, especially the sketches of their three faces. She had burned the images into her brain before throwing away the ripped pieces. She smiled at the thought of that poster as she finished dressing and left to meet her father.
Julie was walking down the sidewalk behind her father, carrying a carton of cigarettes, a pack of light bulbs, rat poison, and a bag of wood screws. She had cataloged everything in her mind because they were the only things she was really looking at. She had to keep her face down because a bruise was growing on her forehead from where her father had hit her with the handle of a screwdriver for dropping a few of the screws on the ground.
She almost ran into her father when he stopped abruptly. He was looking around a bit confused. "Which was did we park the car?"
"Two blocks down, Dad," she informed calmly.
Her father still looked around the street as if he hadn't heard. Julie repeated herself a little louder. "It's two blocks down, Dad."
Again, he seemed not to notice and again, Julie said even louder. "Dad, the car is two more blocks down the street."
He turned to her then, face red and contorted in anger. With his chest puffed out a bit, he rushed her, knocking her back a few steps. Through clenched teeth, he practically spat "Are you raising your voice to me?"
He grabbed a fistful of her hair and dragged her into the nearest alley. Julie had to grip the bags hard to keep from dropping them. Deep between the two brick buildings, she was thrown back against the wall.
"What did I tell you about raising your fucking voice to me," he roared, smacking her hard. "I'll teach you not to raise your voice to me ever again."
He picked up a half-crumbling brick and hit her in the face with it. The side of her face went numb, but she could feel blood oozing out between her lips as she slid down the wall. It wasn't the hardest thing she'd ever been hit with, and at least it didn't have any spring to it, like the time he had beaten her with a rebar rod because she had forgotten to water the flowers one day. She stayed on the ground, too stunned to go into full-fledged crying as he began to kick her in the side. Julie prayed silently for the millionth time in her life. She pleaded with any gods within earshot to make her father's legs cramp so he'd stop kicking or to make her pass out so she couldn't feel it. Something, anything to make the pain stop.
And for the first time in her 20 years of life, her prayers were answered.
"The fuck're ye doin'," a thick Irish voice said harshly.
Her father paused in beating her, and she tried to look up to see what was happening, but her eyes had hazed over and swollen a little from bruising. The most she could see was sunlight and the silhouette of three people above her.
"It's none of your business," her father said. "I'm just teaching my daughter some respect."
"Did ye hear that, Conner," another male, Irish voice remarked. "Apparently, respect comes from a brick to the face."
"Aye, Murph, seems it does," the first voice replied. "What d'ye say we teach 'im to respect us?"
"What a good idea, brother," the other voice agreed.
Julie could hear the sounds of a scuffle ensuing, then the sound of quickly retreating footsteps. Pain was starting to seep into her skin, causing her to whimper a little as she heard one of the Irish voices calling out "That's right, ye run, ye fuckin' pussy!"
"Look at her, Murph," the other voice said, close to her. "Her own father beatin' 'er like a mangy dog."
"What're we gonna do with her," the lighter voice asked. "Shouldn't we get 'er to a hospital?"
"We can't go there," came the answer. "The place is always crawlin' with cops."
"And we ain't got no fuckin' money to call an ambulance."
Julie felt herself start fading in and out of consciousness, the pain was horrible in every inch of her body. It didn't even have the strength to flinch when there was a metal crash near her head.
"Christ, Conner! Why don't we have a fuckin' cell phone like everyone else," one of the voices shouted.
"Because they call for a lot of paper work and personal information," the other answered. "Maybe we should take 'er home. Da'll know what ta do with 'er."
Julie felt strange hands lifting her off the ground. She tried to protest, but she only succeeded in squirming a little and whimpering in pain as one hand pressed into a bruise accidentally.
"Hush, sweetheart," the man soothed. "We're not gonna hurt ye."
A third hand smoothed hair off of her face. "Jesus, she's bruised up pretty bad."
The cool skin on her heated face made her become instantly tired. She didn't protest when the arms holding her shifted her a little for more comfort. "C'mon, Murph, let's go."
Julie felt herself being carried, faintly hearing steady footsteps on pavement, two sets in almost perfect unison. The sound lulled her into darkness.
When she came to, Julie found herself laying on a bare mattress that smelled faintly of beer and cigarettes. Her body was stiff and terribly sore, but she forced herself to move, flipping onto her stomach and pushing herself up with her elbows. She was startled when a hand touched her back, gently pushing her back down. Her body obeyed, only because the hand, though obviously not meant to hurt, was touching a tender part of her back, sending a jolt of pain through her. She let out a deep hiss.
"It's alright, darlin'," came yet another Irish voice, different from the ones in the alley.
Julie turned her aching head so that she could see who had been speaking to her. The face that looked down at her made her skin turn cold. He knealed on the floor beside the mattress, his face nearly covered in a mass of curling grey hair and a matching full beard. She recognized the face instantly from the pieces of her poster. But when she tried to talk, only a strangled groan came out.
The man smiled just a bit and dabbed a cool rag on her throbbing cheek. "I'm sure ye feel like shite right now, so just try ta relax. No harm will come ta ye here."
She let out a little sigh and licked her lips. This time her voice came out hoarsely. "You're one of them, aren't you?"
To her relief, he seemed to understand. With a slight not he answered "Aye."
"And the men, in the alley," she asked between deep breaths.
His smile grew. "Those'd be me boys."
Julie tried to smile back, but her face was too tight and painful to move. Instead, she settled on trying to show her appreciation with her eyes. She wasn't sure it was working until he rubbed her shoulder gently. When she hissed again in pain, his smile faded away. "It's ta me understandin' it was was your father what did this to ye. Is that true?"
"Yes," she whispered, diverting her eyes from is face.
He gave an angry grunt, brushing some hair back that had fallen in her face. Then, in a gentle voice he said "Back ta sleep with ye, then, lass."
The idea sounded appealing to her, so she closed her eyes again and fell back to sleep.