My cat Buttons is struggling to get out of the water. She is being held under, in the sink, by my stepfather Alex. "Count to ten, Laura," Alex says. "Then she can come up.
And maybe next time you'll remember to clean up the sink after you brush your teeth...."
I clumsily try to dry Buttons with a towel when Alex finally lets her up, but I am crying too much to be much help to her.
"You know I don't believe in hitting children, Laura," Alex is saying. "You never teach a child by hitting them," he says.
"You have to make them mindful of their mistakes, so they don't repeat them. Right?"
I hate Alex. I wish Mommy hadn't married him after Daddy died. Nobody is ever happy here now.
I forget to shut the front door, and Alex shoves Pixie, my parakeet, into the freezer. "Maybe next time you'll remember to close the door, if you think about your bird being cold," Alex says.
"I think one minute should be enough...." Poor Pixie seems stunned when the minute is up. He soon is OK again, but I feel awful.
Mommy just stays in her room, taking her pills and drinking. She is afraid of Alex, too.
Alex says if I tell anybody, my pets will be taken away and probably put to sleep.
"They'd probably be better off dead anyway, than owned by such an irresponsible kid as you," Alex tells me, after making me watch my goldfish Sunny gasp and twist on the carpet for one minute.
This is because I got a bad report card.
Last night, Alex burned Buttons' front paw with his lighter.
Only a little bit, but she is limping this morning, and I begin to think that Alex is right, my pets would be better off dead than owned by me. I am too irresponsible.
I hate myself.
I wait till Alex leaves for work, then put Buttons in my backpack, with it just open enough so she can breathe. I take Pixie's cage down, and put Sunny in a jar with a lid.
I start walking, the eight blocks to the police station.
I am so scared. Will they put me in jail? They do that to people who don't take care of their pets, sometimes....
A police car pulls up behind me, before I even get to the station. "Need some help, Miss?" the policeman asks, and I see he has a police dog in back. "That's Indy," he smiles.
"He won't hurt anybody unless I tell him too. Want some help?"
I am so ashamed of letting my pets get hurt--all my fault!--but I decide to tell him everything.
It can't make things any worse.
And soon, after telling him, I think maybe, just maybe, things will get better.