The bell rang at Salem Elementary, signaling the end of another day. Abby Deveraux went to her locker and quickly shoved her books into her backpack.
She couldn't wait to get home to show her dad the story she had written. Her teacher, Mrs. Henderson said it was the best she'd ever read.
"Abby! Wait up!"
Abby turned to find her best friend Celia running toward her.
Breathless, Celia asked, "What's the rush?"
"I need to get home." Abby said. "My dad's waiting for me."
"Well, can I at least walk home with you?" Celia asked.
Abby smiled. "Sure! Let's go!"
They were almost outside when suddenly Celia stopped.
"What now?" Abby asked.
"I forgot my homework!" Celia said.
Abby sighed with exasperation. Celia was forever forgetting her homework.
"Okay, but hurry up!" Abby said, watching Celia run down the hallway.
Now alone, Abby stood watching the kids scurry this way and that. She bent over to tie her shoe but suddenly the contents of her backpack spilled onto the floor, narrowly missing her head. It was then that she realized that she hadn't bothered zipping it.
"Darn it!" she said angrily. "Why am I such a klutz? I wish I were more like my mom!"
Frustrated, she slid the backpack off of her shoulders and began gathering her books from the floor.
A group of sixth graders congregated in the hallway, apparently discussing something important. Abby stared at them in amazement. What could be so interesting that they were staying after school to talk about it?
"Can you believe it?" one of the girls was asking. "How could someone do something like that?"
"He sure is a monster!" Another boy said. "What was his name again?"
"Jack Deveraux, the owner of the Spectator."
At the sound of her father's name, Abby jerked her head to attention.
"Come on, Justine. Tell us what happened." A girl with red hair prompted.
Justine cleared her throat. "Okay, Amy. But only people in this group can know about it. And you didn't hear it from me!"
The group nodded in agreement.
Curious, Abby moved closer, trying hard to stay hidden.
"Jack Deveraux raped someone." Justine said.
Abby could hear gasps coming from the kids.
"Oh my God!" Amy exclaimed. "Who did he rape?"
When Justine looked around to make sure no one was listening, Abby ducked behind a row of lockers.
"Okay... here goes nothing." Justine said.
The group was listening intently.
Abby was stunned. She had no idea what they were talking about, but it must be pretty bad, judging from their secrecy.
What did her dad and Aunt Kayla have to do with it?
She had to find out, even if it meant making the kids angry.
Timidly, she walked toward the group and tapped Justine on the shoulder.
Justine whirled around, giving Abby a look of disgust.
"What do you want, Brat?" She asked, causing the kids to laugh.
Hurt by the teasing, but determined to understand, Abby swallowed hard.
"Um, I just heard you talking and I was just wondering... what does rape mean?"
The kids exchanged glances and then exploded with laughter.
"Oh my God, you can't be serious!" Justine laughed. "What grade are you in? Kindergarten?"
Abby immediately felt like a fool. She hated being made fun of.
"No." She said, looking down at her feet. "I'm a second-grader."
Justine scoffed. "Oh, well... that explains it then. Second graders are so stupid!"
Even though the curiosity was killing her, Abby decided it was best to walk away.
"Hey kid!" Justine yelled, causing Abby to turn around. "Do you want to know or not?"
Justine looked over at the group. "Should we tell her?"
A boy pushed his way toward Abby. "I'll explain it to her."
Justine laughed. "Don't use big words, Tommy. The little baby may not understand!"
Again the kids erupted in hurtful laughter.
Suddenly, Abby was terrified of what she was about to hear.
Tommy walked toward Abby, standing so close it made her uncomfortable. He looked at the others for guidance, and then smiled when they nodded in agreement.
"Well, you see, Kid... Rape is... well, it's when a man wants to... um... hug or kiss a woman, but she doesn't want him to."
Again he looked to the group, smiling at their approving nods.
But was he really telling the truth?
Abby was confused.
"What's the big deal?" she asked. "All the woman has to say is no. Sometimes my mommy says she has a headache when-."
"That doesn't matter." Tommy said, abruptly cutting her off.
"If the man doesn't like her answer or he gets mad enough, then he forces her to do what he wants. And sometimes he will even beat the woman up! When Jack raped Kayla, she had bruises all over her! Boy was her husband mad!"
Uncle Steve was involved, too?
Abby's eyes widened. Never in a million years did she dream that this was possible. Her father was perfect in every way. He'd never hurt anyone.
"How do you know about this?" She asked Tommy.
"Oh come on, Stupid!" Justin scoffed. "Everyone knows about Jack Deveraux raping Kayla Johnson! Are you from outer space or something?"
The insult brought even more laughter.
Sadly, Abby turned and walked away.
"No..." She said to no one in particular.
"Come on guys, let's go." Justine said.
Abby watched as Justine and the others walked out of the school.
She had to know more.
"Wait!" She called to the group, knowing they wouldn't bother answering.
She slumped against the wall of lockers, and lowered herself to the floor. There was just no way this was true. Her dad would never hurt anyone, especially her Aunt Kayla.
Suddenly, she had a horrible thought:
Daddy gets mad sometimes... What if one day he gets really mad and beats me up, too? Or my mom?
She buried her face in her hands, numb with fear.
She jerked her head up to see Celia standing in front of her. "I've been trying to talk to you for five minutes! Are you ready? I thought you had to get home to your dad!"
"Oh..." Abby said, remembering the excitement she felt just a few minutes earlier. "I do... It's just..."
"Well, come on!" Celia said, pulling Abby by the arm. "Let's go home."
As she walked home from school, Abby's fears grew. She finally reached her front door, but couldn't stop her hand from shaking as she inserted her key into the lock.
Please, don't let him be home... Please, don't let him be home...
Slowly she pushed the door open, and almost immediately her father stepped into the doorway. The mere sight of him terrified her. On any other day, she would have run into his outstretched arms as he enveloped her into one of his huge hugs.
Instead, she was frozen with fear.
Jack seemed not to notice, but instead smiled at his daughter.
"How's my beautiful Princess this afternoon?" he asked.
He reached for her but she pulled away.
"I'm not your Princess!" Abby yelled, as she rushed past him and ran up the stairs.
Seconds later, her bedroom door slammed shut.