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"Education as a Lifestyle"
“All you are is my paycheck at the end of the month!” screamed Joe.
I looked up to see Joe hovering over Mara and me. I scanned over myself to make sure I was alright. My side hurt from where Joe had been punching me; I lifted my shirt only to see a blue bruise already starting to form.
“Your parents didn’t even want you! The only reason you two brats are still here is because I get paid. I get paid to feed you, send you to school, make sure you have nice clothes, and in a way, I get paid to beat you.”
Enough is enough. I ran down the stairs and heard Mara following. We got to our room, locked the door, and put the dresser in front of the door. I looked over to see Mara huddled in a corner. “God, he is such a douche bag,” I said.
“I think we’ve established that about 486 times, Liv,” Mara whispered through her tears. “Are you okay? Do you have any bruises?”
Angrily I said, “I have a bruise on my side already…You?”
“I think I am good.” Mara turned her back away from the corner, and I saw a giant cut on her back.
“Holy shit Mara. How did this happen?!” I grabbed her shoulder and she flinched.
“I didn’t even realize it left a cut. It must’ve happened when he threw me into the coffee table..” Mara looked at her back in the mirror and started to cry.
My life has always been challenging. Since Mara and I have been foster kids our whole lives, we have never had a solid family foundation. We have been with Joe and Nicole Brooks since we were 12, and it’s the closest thing to a family we have ever had. Now, I don’t think I would consider us a family, but that is how everyone in Rock Port sees us. Joe is the head coach of the Rock Port football team, and they go to state every year. Joe really knows how to coach a football team and how to handle the pressure of always having to win. Honestly, being the head coach of a team that goes to state every year explains why everyone adores him, especially in a football crazy town. William, the quarterback, is my boyfriend. We have been together since ninth grade. It is almost as if we were made for each other. William is such a great guy and even better football player. Will and I have been through quite a bit considering I am a foster kid. I’ve had trust issues my whole life, but I trust William. Attending Rock Port high school is like any other high school. It is a smaller school, but we have a wide variety of groups. We have the jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, goths, stoners, hicks, brainiacs, hippies, drama queens, and the outsiders. Now, I don’t know where I fit in, I’m just Liv. William is a jock, and Mara is a braniac, and then there’s me. Liv.
I would say I have my life together. Considering I am the quarterback of Rock Port, and I have college scouts looking at me every game. Every college in Texas wants me. Being a part of the Rock Port football team is a huge honor, especially because of how good we are and how great our reputation is. Coach Brooks really knows how to handle us guys. He is my girlfriend’s foster dad. Ironic huh? The star football player dates the coach’s daughter. Now, Liv is the most amazing girl in the world. I get lost in her eyes every time I look at her. She is selfless, beautiful, talkative, outgoing, and most importantly, she is mine. We go to Rock Port high school, in Rock Port. It is a great place to be. There is nothing better than the support of a small town especially for the football team. School here is normal. Kids complaining 24/7, bad lunches, crazy science teachers, tons of homework, PDA everywhere, your basic high school.
If Will found out about how messy my life is, he would so leave me. Even if he does love me, he would definitely not want to be involved in this. Would he believe me? Would he choose Coach Brooks over me? Would he choose the man who beats me? That would hurt more than him knowing. We have been dating since ninth grade, and it would all end because of football. Is football more important than me? I don’t want to take the chance of being hurt more than I already am… and I can’t imagine my life without William Orson. He is always there for me and is very understanding. I don’t want to think that there will even be a choice for him, but there could be. I can’t imagine him choosing football over me. I know I should tell him because Mara and I need help out of this situation. If I were to tell him, and he chose football, I wouldn’t want to be with him anyways. Yeah it’ll hurt. It’ll hurt like hell. But why would I want to be with someone who chooses something temporary, like football, over his girlfriend of four years? I am going to tell him, whatever the outcome, it is for the best. I decided to text him.
Me: HEY CAN WE MEET UP AND TALK?
William: WHATS WRONG HUN?
Me: I JUST WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT SOMETHING..
William: YEAH SURE.. ILL PICK YOU UP IN 5.. EVERYTHING OK?
Me: YEAH.. JUST COME PICK ME UP..
Approximately 7 minutes later, William picked me up. I was nervous, and he could clearly tell. It was an awkward interaction; I went to get into his car but I slammed my head on the door when I opened it. I got in the car and closed the door. He looked at me with nervous eyes, and couldn’t come up with words to say. I don’t blame him though; he had no idea what to expect or what was coming. William then pulled away from the curb.
“What’s wrong beautiful?” William said concerned.
“I just want to talk about something, something I need help understanding. Can we go to Karen’s Café so that I can get a vanilla ice coffee?” I was really just trying to change the subject, and I was really craving an ice coffee.
William turned to look at me in the passenger seat, “I know you, Liv. You are trying to change the subject, but I want you to know that whatever it is, I am here for you. I’m not going anywhere.” Will had no idea what I wanted to tell him. Would he still say that if he knew?
We pulled up to Karen’s Café. We walked in, ordered two vanilla ice coffees, and sat down. I didn’t know what to say. My mind was spinning. He was talking about football when I finally started to listen to him.
“K Liv, what’s going on?” William whispered. I didn’t know what to do. I started to panic. Maybe this whole thing was a mistake. It might be better for him not to know. Oh God this is a nightmare. I looked up from my lap, and Will was making hardcore eye contact with me. I feel safe with Will, but I felt scared of what was going to come next.
“Hey, Liv. Look at me. I know something is really bugging you, and I am here for you. Whatever it is. Okay? I know sometimes I get caught up in football and the team, but you are my number one. Don’t forget that.”
He caught me by surprise. I looked up, and I knew he was serious. I know Will loves me; he just said I am more important than football. That was exactly what I needed to hear.
“Okay Will, I know this is gonna sound absolutely absurd. I know what I am about to tell you could ruin us, and I know you might not believe me.. But Will, I love you, and I trust you. Please know that.” I looked at him straight in the eye and started to tell him, “He beats us. Joe beats me and Mara,” I said shakily. “He takes his anger out on us. Mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s gotten worse over the past few months. And we, Mara and I, need help. He punched me right here..” I went to lift my shirt to show Will the bruise. He grabbed my arm.
“Liv, you swear to God you’re not lying?”
With sudden tears in my eyes I whispered, “No, Will. I didn’t want to tell you. I am really scared. This is from last night. And I know the section game is tomorrow night, but I am really scared Will. Really scared.”
“Damnit. That bastard.” Will examined the bruise for a while. “When did this happen, Liv?”
Will looked up at me, “Last night before we went to bed. Mara got a nasty cut on her back. I..”
“You’re staying at my house tonight. Mara can come too. Tell Coach Brooks you are at Samantha’s or something. I don’t care, but you won’t be at home,” Will interrupted.
“I don’t know if that’ll work. You have the last section game tomorrow, Will. I cannot distract you from the big game,” I stated.
Will looked at me frustrated, “You mean way more to me than that game ever will Liv. You’re my Liv, and nothing will ever be more important than that. Except maybe vanilla iced coffee,” Will said jokingly. We got up to leave. Will slipped his hand into mine and kissed the top of my head.
“I’m so sorry Liv, so so sorry,” he said softly.
It’s 9:21 and both the girls are already sleeping. I look over to my right to see my beautiful girlfriend. She is motionless in her sleep and just so innocent. Who knew this was happening? Coach Brooks, the most respectable man I know, doing this. I don’t know if I believe it? Why would Liv lie about it though? Coach Brooks has been my coach since I was a scrawny ninth grader who knew nothing about football. He shaped me into the player I am today. I have scouts every game, every Texas college wants me, all thanks to him. He is the reason I will probably get a free ride to college. Would he really abuse my girlfriend? Coach Joe Brooks, the town’s favorite? The man who brings Rock Port football to state every year? Just then Liv rolled over. I sat there and looked at her for a long time. Liv Denver Jackson. It hit me, she isn’t lying. She always gets nervous when around older men. Nervous when I raise my hand. How did I not see this? I should’ve protected her. Why didn’t she tell me sooner? I have so many questions, and my mind is racing. I have one of the biggest games of the season tomorrow, but my mind isn’t on the game. It’s on Liv. I know I need sleep for the game, so I attempt to go to bed. It took me awhile but I finally dozed off into a deep sleep.
The next morning I woke up next to Liv. She was still the most beautiful girl in the world. I decided I was going to let the girls sleep because who knows when their last good night of sleep was. I carefully got out of bed so that I wouldn’t wake Liv. I went into the bathroom, took a leak, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and went back to my bedroom. It was only 7:41, so I decided to get a few more hours of sleep. My mind was everywhere. Will I play my last high school football game today? Will Liv be okay? What does the future hold? Can I even help Liv? I rolled over and saw Liv was awake. Tears filled her eyes.
“Woah, hun, what’s wrong?” I put my arm around her and we laid there for a while.
“Will, I messed everything up. You have a huge game tonight. I should not have put this pressure on you now. It could’ve waited. I am so sorry, Will,” Liv said weeping.
“Liv, I am so happy you told me. Don’t you dare think you shouldn’t have. Whatever the future holds, we will get through it, together,” I alleged. Liv looked up at me, and I wiped her eyes.
“I love you William David Orson. I have no idea what I would do without you,” she said quietly.
I looked up at the scoreboard. It was 35-7, and we were winning. With only one minute to go in the fourth quarter, everyone knew Rock Port was going to state. I looked over to the field, William had the biggest smile on his face. He looked so happy, almost as if he had forgotten what was going on. The buzzer went off, and the players rushed onto the field. I looked around. Everyone was cheering for Rock Port and Coach Brooks. Everyone except William, Mara, and I.
Rock Port is going to state. This has been my dream since ninth grade. For a minute, I forgot about what was going on with Coach Brooks, Liv, and Mara. But I then remembered. The man of this town is abusing my girlfriend. All of the state happiness left me. I looked around and spotted him. “Hey Coach, can we go talk in the locker room quick?” I asked, trying to act as natural as I could.
“Sure, bud,” Coach Brooks said. We started making our way across the field. I think he was talking about how good I did, but I am not sure. We walked through the long hallway, down the four stairs, and into our locker room. He was still going off about how good I did, when I abruptly grabbed him and shoved him up against the lockers.
“I know what you do Joe. I know. You bastard. I swear to God..” Just then he interrupted me.
“Now, Will, I am not sure I know what you are talking about.”
“Shut the hell up. You lay a finger on either one of them again, and everyone will know your secret Joe.” I then started to make my way out of the locker room when Coach called my name.
“If anyone hears about this, don’t expect to be playing in the state championship,” Coach Brooks said shrewdly. And that’s the first time I had to question what to do next. He had just threatened not to play me in the state championship. It’s my senior year, this is my last shot.
I have really been thinking about what coach said. I haven’t told Liv because I don’t know how. The game is on Saturday at 3:00pm. It’s Tuesday, so that gives me four days to figure this out. I know I should tell Liv. I think that’s the first step on figuring this out. I text her asking to hangout tonight.
Me: HEY. CAN YOU COME OVER LATER????
Liv: YEAH. CAN I COME NOW??? MARA IS GOING TO SAMS HOUSE.
Me: OF COURSE. DO YOU NEED A RIDE??
Liv: NO MARA WILL DROP ME OFF ON THE WAY.. SEE YOU SOON.
She is going to be here any minute, and I have no idea how to tell her. Just then, I heard her knock, her usual knock. I went upstairs to let her in, and we went downstairs to my room. She looked nervous, and I knew I did too.
“Hey babe, you okay?” I asked with hesitation.
“Are you?” She looked at me worriedly. It’s almost as if Liv knew when something was wrong. She knows when I am worried about anything, no matter what the situation is.
“Okay listen. I have no idea how to tell you, so I am just gonna say it,” I looked up from my hands and it looked like she was about to cry. “I confronted him, Liv. I confronted Joe, after the game on Friday. I threw him against a set of lockers. I did it. He said something Liv, and it may define my future.. I don’t know what to do,” I said nervously.
“Will, what did he say?” Liv said with big tears in her eyes.
I looked around nervously. I was getting tears in my eyes, Liv has never seen me cry. I decided just to say it because there was no going back, “He said ‘if you tell anyone, don’t expect to play in the state championship.’ Liv, what if he is serious?”
“Oh my, Will. I messed up all of this; I messed your future up..” Liv started for the door. I grabbed her arm, turned her around, and just held her. This is the last thing I wanted. I never wanted to hurt her; I just wanted her help. She went and laid down, and I followed. We laid in my bed for a good forty five minutes before the silence was broken.
“What are we gonna do?” Liv asked hesitantly.
“I’m not sure hun, but we will get through it together. No matter what.” At that very moment it hit me; she can stay here all week. That way Joe can’t hurt her; I don’t have to tell anyone; I will get to play; and she will be safe. A win-win situation. Mara could stay here too, if she had too. My parents are never home anyways, so they wouldn’t care. I told her my plan.
“I would really love that Will, but I’m still worried. Joe may not let you play just to prove he has power, or to get to me. I am really scared, Will. If we keep it on the down low, hopefully, you will still play, and if you don’t, I will never be able to forgive myself,” Liv whispered.
We both decided to go with my plan. Both Liv and Mara will stay here for the next four nights, and we will just pray to God that it all works out, and that I’ll get to play.
I am at the game of the state championship. I am sitting by Mara and Sam. There is 4:56 left in warmups. Will looks nervous, and I can tell from the way he has been warming up. His passes aren’t on as usual, and he doesn’t look focused. Sadly, it’s my fault he isn’t doing so well. If Will doesn’t play in this game, I will have to live with that forever. I would never be able to forgive myself, ever. There is now 2:03. My leg starts to bounce because I am so nervous. Some of the team jogs to the bench, including Will. He looks up at the crowd, and we lock eyes. Both of us have no idea what the lineup will be. :56 seconds left. Joe calls the team in, and starts calling the lineup.
My heart is racing. I have never been more nervous in my entire life. Just before Coach called us into the huddle, I looked at Liv. I needed to see her; she’s the only person I feel at home with. The only person who could maybe help me calm down by a simple look. I went into the huddle, and Coach started calling the lineup.
“Alright boys, you’ve worked your butts off to get here. This is our seniors last time taking the field together. Let’s make it a memorable game. Alright. Our starters for us will be….”