A/N: The DiTR series is finally getting a well-deserved tune up. I'm posting five new chapters for Part 1 tonight, and I hope to get some more out as soon I get the time to write. This story was written almost nine years ago when I was just a little freshman in high school (though it was actually posted a couple of years later), and seeing as I am now a university graduate with a degree in English, I feel it's time to make it a little more enjoyable for everyone.
There will be some minor changes to the plot, but nothing that would alter the overall story line. Thanks to all of you who've read and stuck by this piece for so long- I promise that this version will be much better!
As always, please let me know what you think of the revisions with a review once you've finished reading. As with all my stories, I will not post the original while the updates are being made, as I no longer feel that the original is reflective of my ability as a writer.
In case you're a new reader, or a returning one who's forgotten, there is a trigger warning in place for this story (especially the first half). We will deal with abuse of all kinds, but there will be no graphic sexual violence. This story is rated M for its dark themes and occasional use of foul language.
It started with the milk.
Standing on the tall, narrow staircase, the girl listened to the sounds of ruckus and and televised sports echoing from the living room. The house was dark—the orange light filtering through the overcast sky outside was too weak to penetrate the windows of her shadowy little house on the edge of the woods, and while it was still too early for her to fall asleep, her father had already commanded her to bed. That was daddy's strange rule—despite what the clock said, if the house was dark Bella was to don her pajamas and slip upstairs, silent and meek as a mouse.
Today, it was only 6:45.
Peering through the rungs of the banister, Bella could not crane her neck far enough to peek into the living room where she knew her daddy was watching the baseball game with a can of beer. She could not tell if he was looking her way, or if he would see her when she scampered into the kitchen to steal the glass of milk she had been craving since before he had sent her to brush her teeth. She was glad she was little—her body was not weighty enough to make the stairs creak like they did when he used them, and she bounced on tip-toe as she considered how she would make it into the kitchen. She took some careful steps down, pausing on each to listen for her father's angry voice, but when she heard none, she crouched on the landing at the bottom of the staircase.
When she was sure her father was not looking—she could see him fidgeting with the television volume—she snuck, as sleuthy as the desert fox she had learned about in science class, across the doorway to the living room and into the small, dark kitchen.
Mustn't spill, she thought, carefully grabbing the handle of the fridge door. Must be careful… When she pulled the door open it was with a cricking and cracking sound that made her flinch. The light from the door was harsh—she knew that if he looked over he would see it from the living room—but as quickly as she dared, she reached up as high as her little arms would go and grabbed the carton from the top shelf. It was heavy—she had to use two hands to coax it down—and when she sat it on the counter, the fridge door slammed shut behind her.
Her back stiff and her brow screwed up in concentration, Bella listened for the telltale sound of her father's ire. For several long breaths—she counted them in her head—she waited in complete silence, her hands still outstretched towards the carton that was already secure on top of the counter. Knowing she had to be quick—the longer she waited, the more likely it was that he would catch her—Bella slipped to the cupboard with the glasses in it and dragged one down. It clinked on the counter when she set it right-side-up, but she knew her father would not have heard—his angry, biting curse rang out at exactly the same time. Bella knew then that his team was losing.
Mustn't spill, mustn't spill… The mantra rang through her head so loudly and forcefully that she could not help but heed it. Though the carton was slick with condensation and heavy enough to make her arms shake, she did not dare let it slip as she poured into the glass, making sure not to fill it too high. If it was too high, she would spill on her way upstairs. If she spilled on her way upstairs…
Perfect. She tilted the carton upright, taking care to close it before she picked it back up with two hands. Smartly, with a satisfied smile on her little face, Bella marched back to the fridge, prying the noisy door open once more before she reached up towards the top shelf, tilting the carton to set it just right…
The sound hit her before the wetness did, making her jump back in surprise. Bella was not sure exactly how it had happened, but even more important was the fact that it had happened. Cold, slick dread rushed through her and she froze on the spot, the pool of milk around her feet growing large enough to slip under the edge of the refrigerator.
"What the hell…" Her daddy's voice made her start and as if shocked back into action, she scrambled to snatch up the leaking carton. It was almost empty now—there couldn't much more than a glass left—and before Bella could reach for the dish towel by the sink, the kitchen light flicked on.
"Oh, for fuck's sake…" His voice was angry. Bella was quick to scramble back, wheeling around in the puddle of milk to face him. She knew she was in trouble—the curl of his lip and crease of his brow told her that much. He took all of two seconds to assess the scene, eying the near-empty milk carton on the counter, the growing puddle of white on the clean tile, and his little daughter, wide-eyed and trembling, standing smack in the middle of it all.
"What have I told you," he growled, "about bed time?"
"I'm sorry," said Bella at once. "I was just getting a drink…"
"What did I tell you!?" he boomed. "I ask so little of you, and you can't even do that…"
"I'm sorry…" Her lip began to tremble.
"Get out," he snapped. "Get the hell out."
"Go!" The word was so loud that she jumped again, a little splash of milk hitting the refrigerator door from the bottom of her pants. Bella knew it had been a mistake—a big one by the sudden sneer on his face. When he reached for her he was quick, and she was too little to avoid a physical confrontation.
"Don't," she begged, pulling against him when his hand clamped on her arm. "I'm sorry…"
"Shut up!" He was shouting now. "Just shut up!"
"Don't!" he roared again. "I said shut up!"
She bit her lip when his hand swiped out, colliding with the side of her head hard enough to make her ears ring. She felt her teeth pierce her lip and she began to cry, struggling to free herself from his angry hands.
"What the hell are you doing out of bed?" he demanded, shoving her bodily towards the stairs. "Why aren't you asleep like I told you to be?"
"I was thirsty!" she wailed. Her face was sticky with tears and her nose was red and runny. "I just wanted…"
"I don't care what you wanted," he gritted. "When I tell you to do a thing, you do it."
"I'm sorry, daddy."
He smacked her again.
"What did I tell you about that?"
"But you are my…"
"Don't you dare say it," he warned, his finger in her face. His hand was on her wrist now. "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times. I'm not your daddy."
"But…" Bella sniffled. "I…"
He was her daddy. He had always told her so… The sudden movement of his arm as he shook her made her flinch, her heart in her throat as she tried to figure out just what he'd do next.
"I have never met a kid as stupid as you!" he growled, frustration making him rough.
"Who knows who your whore of a mother screwed when she was living under my roof?" he snarled. "Your daddy could be any man in the good old U.S of A. The only reason I've kept you this long is because she was smart enough to give you my name!"
"But you said…"
"Shut your mouth and go upstairs," he snapped. "I'm tired of looking at you. Don't let me see you again until morning, you understand?"
Bella, bringing her sore lip into her mouth, nodded quickly, gently twisting her wrist to get it out of his hand. He released her after a long moment—his eyes never left her face—and by the time she realized she was free, his finger was digging into her shoulder.
"Go," he said again. "Get out of my face."
She did not need telling twice.
Her flight up the stairs was a lot louder than her trip down had been, and she dabbed sloppily at her face as she scrambled away. It was slick with salty tears—she could feel them dripping onto the front of her pajama shirt—but she only stopped to wipe it properly when she was secure behind her bedroom door.
Her heart was pounding.
"I'd better not hear you!" came his angry voice, and Bella clamped her hand over her mouth to muffle the sound of her fear. She knew he did not like it when she cried—he called her stupid, and a baby, and needy, and hopeless…
She bit down on her hand, sitting on the floor next to the door while her father muted the television—no doubt listening to see if she would obey.
It was only after the sounds started back up from downstairs and she heard the familiar snap of an opened beer can that she dared rise from the floor. The rush made her head throb—he had smacked her hard this time—and it was only when she went to crawl back under her pink comforter that she noticed the wetness on her thighs. She did not know when the accident had occurred—had her daddy noticed it downstairs?—but carefully, her face hot with shame, she peeled off her fluffy pants and soiled underwear. It was only after she had slipped into a new pair—a used set from the laundry hamper—that she stashed the dirty ones in the old box under her bed.
There were three others in there that her daddy had yet to notice.
By the time her tired, scratchy eyes grew heavy enough for sleep, Bella had forgotten all about the milk.