Invisible Bruises

A boy, trapped in a world full of hatred, finds he has a hidden power that allows him to escape from it all.

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1. One

The jumper was itchy. The plastic blue cotton rubbed against his skin, creating angry red patches. The red tie was constricting around his neck, like a snake trying to squeeze the life out of its prey. He pulled desperately at the suffocating chain, trying to loosen its grasp on his suffering throat.

The hideous grey uniform blended perfectly with the concrete walls of the school, camouflaging him. His face had been dirtied by weeks since the last wash, and his brown hair was matted into a fuzzy mess. His eyes were wide, the pupils large and staring. Waiting.

They would not be long now.

He watched them avidly as they laughed and chatted across the other side of the field, their minds free from the evils of the world. The large gang looked so innocent from far away, a cleverly planned disguise. He knew better though, he knew what it was really like on the inside.

A manipulative circle of chanting and taunting boys, able to control a whole class' opinion to suit their mood, and able to turn everyone away from the people they did not like. They were in control. Some were unaware of it, but they were all influenced by the group's hateful actions.

Friends. He had once had the unwitting certainty that they were his friends. If only he had known back then how easily they could turn on him, he would have used that word so freely.

Few knew it, but he had been best friends with Gareth, the gang leader, since infant school, a the way up to a few years ago. Their parents had known each other from baby groups, and had become very close in the time when their newborn children had been growing up.  Ever since then, the two women had become inseparable, constantly going gossiping with each other over cups of tea, or homemade lemonade in the summer.

The first day of school, the two untainted boys had walked together, with their mothers, through the big scary gates, with the idea in their minds that, no matter what, they would always face everything, together.

Letting go of their mother's hands, they set off, free, into the outside world. No troubles.

***

It had all changed when his father had come back. For years Mark had been locked away, unable to touch the boy when he was in prison. He had not started school when his father had gone behind bars, for a reason his mother had never told him. Whenever he asked, she just said, "It was all in the past now, there is no reason to talk about it now." She had never said anything different than that, it was a well rehearsed speech that never faltered.

The mood in the house had been deadly silent and awkward for several weeks. Nobody spoke very much. His mother tried to make small talk at the dinner table, but that time was usually spent with his father staring menacingly into his eyes, as if daring him to speak.

Company stopped coming around to their house; their previous friends being to scarred by his father's unnerving aura to even knock on the front door. They must have known the secret of his father's past that he was not allowed to know about.

It started slowly. He noticed small things, tiny details that led him to believe something bad was going to happen; if only he knew. His father had a short temper, little, insignificant things would set him off on a rant, and he would shout for hours with nobody able to get a word in edgeways.

Mark tried to constrain himself until the boy had gone to bed, wanting as few witnesses as possible, but the child had found it hard to sleep as he pressed the pillow over his head, trying to block out the horrifying screams and whimpering from his mother, who was at his father's cruel mercy.

She did not fight back. She let him do it. He was able to take complete control, changing her from the mother he knew, into an unrecognisable woman.

She did not go outside, ashamed to see any familiar faces, not wanting to talk to anybody. Her pale, frail body looked as though it was going to snap at any moment and she spent the whole day ambling around the house, doing chores and fulfilling her husband's demands.  She stopped trying to make conversation at dinner, and the house was always filled with tension, the people inside waiting nervously for the next outburst.

He stopped caring about his own needs, instead, he tried to spend as much time with his mother as possible, wanting to protect her from Mark's evil grasp. He believed that his father would not touch her if he was around.

But that was not always the case.

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