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       Chastised, p.1

           Robert L. Shelby

  M.A. Bridgeman

  Copyright 2011 by M.A. Bridgeman


  Amanda Louise Brown stared at her reflection in the dingy bathroom mirror of her room. Her haggard face revealed sleepless nights and the sunken cheekbones displayed her lack of proper nutrition. She wore her last set of the clean clothes, a screened T-shirt with a fading Florida beaching scene and tattered blue jeans.

  She looked down at the black hair scattered on the rust-stained porcelain sink. She put up her left hand to grasp more hair on the top of her head, and she placed it in front of her sight. Her right hand instinctively moved the scissors to make the cut. She heard the slow snipping sound and felt it reverberate down to her scalp as the hair fell from the sharp tool. She opened the hand that held the dark hair and let the filaments fall into the sink, covering the drain hole, some hair still stuck to her sweaty palms.

  Amanda despised her long hair. She was forbidden from getting it cut. Only Mother was allowed to touch it.

  “Unkempt hair makes you look ugly Amanda,” she whispered to herself.

  Her mother uttered those exact words when she violently combed Amanda’s hair in the mornings before school, getting it ready for braids. Mother wanted her looking neat and polished like a lady should be. But Amanda disliked braids, the dresses and shoes her mother insisted she wore. Amanda preferred the jeans and sneakers worn by her brother Jeffrey. She didn’t want to be like her mother, the woman with the perfect hair and nails, who kept the house immaculate, who worshiped her husband and was the small town society girl.

  She wanted to be like her brother Jeffrey. She adored him and followed him everywhere. Jeffrey was two years older than her and he knew a lot about science. He was a skinny boy, not very athletic, wore glasses, and read too much Weird Tales magazines and science fiction books. Although he found Amanda extremely annoying, he enjoyed caring for her. Besides, she needed him to get her out of trouble.

  Amanda knew she was different from the other girls and thought their interests in dolls, boys and clothes absurd. She found leisure in reptiles and math, and she had a knack for defeating the neighborhood boys at stickball.

  Amanda didn’t care much for what her mother thought and it didn’t stop her from climbing trees, riding her bike and just spending time with Jeffrey. She was ridiculed for wearing dresses to school and it got her into numerous fights. Even if she was only nine years old, small and petite, she wasn’t afraid to take on the older kids. Good thing Jeffrey was always there to save her neck.

  Amanda recalled that warm June afternoon when she and Jeffrey decided to take a detour on their way home from school. School was almost out and they thought they could try having some fun. Their mother was visiting a friend and wouldn’t be home until six o’clock that day, so they had time to visit Canyon Lake, located just two blocks from their house.

  They took the graveled path to the lake and reached the gate with the corroded KEEP OUT sign. The park was closed to the public as park rangers were getting it ready for summer visitors. They crawled under an opening between the fence and ground.

  “I don’t think we should be doing this again,” Amanda announced as she was brushing off the dust from her gingham dress. “It’s a school day and if mother finds out--!”

  “She won’t,” said Jeffrey squirming out of the hole from under the fence.

  “Besides, we won’t stay long. I just wanted to see how many times I can beat you skipping rocks on the lake,” he said while he dusted himself off and fixed his glasses.

  Amanda thought it was a hilarious joke and she laughed until her ribs hurt. She stopped only to see her brother staring at her, with rage in his eyes. He may be older than her but she knew how sensitive he can get when it comes to her prowess. He was often called a geek at school and bullied. Amanda didn’t quite understand why he couldn’t stand up for himself. Instead he simply tells her to ignore all the kids and their nasty remarks about him.

  “Your nose is flaring you know,” she said to him giving rise to his anger. She heard his angry growl and she said, “Geez! I’m sorry I laughed, but we both know I can always skip the rocks more times than you do.”

  The lake was deserted and peaceful. It was surrounded by redwood trees and there were areas that were good for an afternoon nap. The sun was shining on the water making it sparkle. The warmth seemed pleasant for wading in the lake, but Amanda knew better. Her mother would have a fit if she ruined any of her dresses. Daddy would be on her side but it wasn’t enough to save her from her mother’s temper and her harsh spanking.

  Amanda never understood the point in wearing dresses to school. Because of her clumsiness she often spilled food and juice on herself during lunch. She was punished for that and she remembers getting welts from her mother using Daddy’s belt. What Amanda found damaging was that she had to stay indoors so many times due Sloppy Joes and grape juice stains, while Jeffrey with mud and grass on his pants still got to play outside. She thought the dresses were cumbersome because it really made it difficult for her to hang upside down on the tree branches.

  Jeffrey and Amanda placed their backpacks on a dry place and went to pick up some good rocks for throwing. They played a couple of games of who could throw the farthest. Amanda won four times in a row and Jeffrey only once. She let him win that game.

  They continued with rock skipping and once again Amanda won several times over her brother. As usual she allowed him to win a few games. She smiled and watched him bask in the glory that he beat her at it.

  “We need to go home Jeffrey,” she said after twenty minutes of playing. “Mother would get really mad if we were late. You know I’m the one who always gets in trouble.”

  “Alright, you’ve had enough spanking this week,” suddenly regretting what he said. She didn’t deserve any of it, but what could he do. Their father believed that their mother was right in disciplining Amanda. Mostly their father was too busy with work and he didn’t want to get into an argument with their mother.

  The two of them decided to end their game and head home. They were gathering their bags when they became aware of voices coming down from the path they came in. Three boys emerged.

  “Bad news,” Jeffrey said under his breath.

  “Well lookee here, we’ve got some mangy squirrels hiding in the forest,” said Billy Eagleton a tall, brown-haired, freckled-face chubby kid.

  “Ha ha, losers,” said the other tall boy with buck teeth. He was leering at Amanda.

  “It’s the little girly boy and his lesbian sister,” a short skinny blonde boy chimed in. All three boys burst into laughter.

  Amanda dropped her backpack on the ground and stomped her feet towards the boys. Jeffrey grabbed her right arm to stop her.

  “Listen up fatso, I’m not afraid of you. Why don’t you boys go home to your mothers before I pound on you?” Amanda shouted.

  The boys guffawed even more and pushed each other towards her.

  “Quit it Amanda! Forget them!” Jeffrey stepped in front of her and grabbed her by the shoulders. Seeing the concern in her brother’s eyes she sighed and turned around to get her backpack from the ground.

  The two of them began walking towards the shortcut out of the park to go home. They could still hear the boys laughing behind them.

  Amanda felt something punch her left shoulder. She spun around to see what had hit her. She saw muddy water dripping on her back. On her dress! She looked up to see Billy Eagleton grinning at her, his meaty hands dripping with mud.

  Amanda and Jeffrey saw the other two boys grab a handful of wet mud from the water bank. The boys began to throw the mud balls at them. Amanda and Jeffrey ducked and shielded themselves with their arms. They missed her, but they got Jeffrey on the right side of his body. The boys continued thr
owing mud balls at them. Their head, arms and clothing were covered in mud.

  The three boys exploded with laughter. Amanda was about to chase after them when she stopped short after hearing some noise from a distance. It was the sound of an engine coming down the graveled path where they came in. All three boys heard it and they turned their heads in that direction.

  They all knew it was the Park Ranger and his truck was headed towards them. The boys who were closer to the path became pale and their eyes were filled with fear.

  “Jeffrey get your stuff and let’s go,” Amanda shouted over the noise while she clutched her backpack.

  He did what he was told and the two of them ran up a hill out of sight, not looking back at the other boys. They kept running until they were behind one of the houses surrounding the lake. They stopped behind Mr. Griffin’s house.

  “That was close,” catching her breath.

  “You’re crazy talking to that scumbag like that,” Jeffrey said, hands on his knees, feeling exhausted.

  “Well I can’t let anyone talk to my big brother like that,” she declared while scraping mud off her arms.

  “We better get you cleaned up before Mother sees you like that,” Jeffrey looked at his sister’s muddy condition. He knew their mother would give Amanda even more lashings if she saw her like this. Guilt stricken, Jeffrey started to walk up along the side yard of Mr. Griffin’s house. This path led to the main road to their house.

  They got home just in time before their mother got back from her visit. They washed themselves in the backyard, hosed the mud off their clothes and hanged them to dry on the clothesline. They were lucky it was warm enough that her dress was dry by the time their mother arrived. She never found out.

  Amanda is now seventeen. Two months ago she confessed to her mother and father that she was gay. Her mother blew up in an outrage with that announcement and slapped Amanda hard across the face. She didn’t cry. She just placed a hand on her cheek where the impact left the heat of her mother’s fury.

  Her father held her mother back while she cursed and shouted at Amanda. Amanda only heard noise, and she couldn’t make out what her mother was saying. Then she finally recognized her mother mouthing the words, “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”

  Amanda took all her possessions and left without saying goodbye to Jeffrey. She wanted to, but he had a class at the university that evening.

  The journey led her to Los Angeles, California. Amanda thought that she could start a new life and pursue her dreams of becoming a famous actress. She had enough money and got a place to stay for a month, but her funds were getting low. She needed to find some means to support herself.

  She missed Jeffrey and thought of going back home. Poverty put her in a state of fear. Her pride however, kept her from succumbing to her hopelessness. Determined to prove her independence and forever escape being shackled to her mother’s rules and beatings, she took on a waitress job at Chow King Restaurant. It was there she met Keith. He came to get food to go orders on Wednesday nights.

  Today was Saturday and it was her day off. She needed to look the part. She grasped another mass of hair, this time form the back. She looked into the mirror and made the cut. She dropped the clipped hair in the sink and proceeded to cut around the head, trying her best to get it even. Punk was in and she was glad short and uneven haircuts were the craze this year.

  There were two bags on the floor next to her. One of them was filled with the make up she bought at the pharmacy. She put on the make up as good as she can get them. Then she picked up the other bag and pulled out a black dress, black fishnet stockings and three inch black high-heeled shoes she got from the thrift store.

  Amanda came out of the bathroom in her new attire and picked up a crumpled paper lying on the lumpy old bed. It had the name Keith written on it, his phone number and the address where they were supposed to meet for the video shoot. Trembling, she stuffed the paper, her jeans, socks, sneakers, and T-shirt in her shabby canvas backpack. She got her wallet and pulled out some bills and change. There was fifteen dollars and eighty six cents left from the money she saved from birthday presents and the part time jobs from last summer. She spent most of her recent paycheck on food and to pay for next month’s rent. The rest of it she used to purchase the clothes and makeup.

  She put the money back in her wallet and placed it in the front compartment of her backpack. Amanda took one last look at herself in the mirror through the open bathroom door. Mother would be so delighted to see that she was wearing a dress, Amanda thought. She pulled the backpack over her shoulder, grabbed her room key from the lusterless bedside table and walked out of the rundown motel room.

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