Gwyns Journal October 27


(Ma, this means you do not have permission. AT. ALL. Put down my journal and back slowly out of my room. NOW!)


Saturday, October 27

Today is Samantha Ruiz’s birthday. Her sweet sixteen. I’m supposed to be eating one of Ma’s wickedly delish Seven Layer cakes with Sam right now. In fact, Ma just came up to my room and asked me if I didn’t want to go deliver said birthday cake to Sam’s house with her. I said no, and I couldn’t even tell her why.

I’m not sure who to talk to. Not my mom. Not Sam, my go-to person to talk about stuff with. I mean, that’s kind of the entire point, right? She’s who I would usually go to if I needed to bounce an idea, but THE IDEA IS ABOUT HER. And she’s already made it clear she doesn’t want to talk about it.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh!!!

I miss her. So. Much.

Like every time someone says something ridiculous in Las ABC, who do I want to whisper it to? Sam. When a customer leaves me a ten dollar tip? Sam. And when my mom makes me put the tip in the cat jar instead of in my pocket? Definitely Sam. She’s honestly the best friend I could ever ask for.

I know people are all, “Omg, you’re like my best friend ever,” all the time, but with Sam? It’s actually true. She doesn’t get annoyed with me when I’m being annoying, and I have, like, an actual PhD in annoying. She gets her stepmother to feed me actual, healthy dinners instead of the bakery leftovers that Ma claims make a perfectly good meal. Plus, Sam never judges me for changing my mind every couple days when it comes to what guy I’d like to get snowed in with inside one of those little cabins in Yosemite West. (Today? Jeremy. I mean, come on, those lips?)

Who else am I supposed to talk to about Jeremy’s luscious, gorgeous, intensely kissable mouth? I want to talk to Sam about Jeremy. And, okay, I even wouldn’t mind listening to her lecture me on how there are more important things than a pair of nice lips or a cute butt that looks straight-up poured inside those Levi’s. Sam’s just the best friend I could ask for.

Or she was. And now today it’s her birthday. And I’m not there, celebrating with her.

Ugh. A tear blob just smudged my last three words. Great. I’m snotting my journal. Super classy. Gimme a sec while I grab a tissue…

Oh lovely. My journal page has already conveniently absorbed my tear or drippy nose splatter or whatever that is. You know what, though? It doesn’t matter. Who cares if my journal looks like it was written by some sticky-fingered, snot-nosed toddler? NOT ME, MA. I DON’T CARE. But seriously, you are not allowed to read this. (THE UNIVERSE IS JUDGING YOU MA, IF YOU DON’T PUT THIS DOWN, LIKE, NOW!)

That should do it. If there is one thing Ma hates, it’s being judged. No idea if that’s a Chinese-thing or a Ma-thing.

But that’s not what I’m here writing in my journal for. What I’m here for is to figure out what to do about this god-awful, miserable secret of Sam’s that I’m carrying around. A week ago I would have raised an eyebrow at anyone for even suggesting it was true. Two weeks ago I might have punched them in the stomach a la Samantha Ruiz in second grade. See the irony? Some kinds of punching are okay. Like, when Sammy Ruiz punched what’s-his-name in second grade because he was being a racist jerk to me, that was okay. But pretty much any other kind of hitting? Not. Okay.

What am I going to do? Ugh. I have to tell someone. I have to do something. I am not standing by and letting some guy that everyone thinks is perfect go around smashing his fist into his girlfriend’s jaw. Not even if it was my worst enemy, and definitely not when it is my best friend. Or … someone who used to be my best friend.

Sam, Sam, Sam! What are you thinking, girl? You know better than this. Your step-mother raised you better than this. Oh gosh, would Sylvia ever go mama-bear on Will if she knew!

Sam’s step-mother. Oh, boy. I hadn’t thought about this before, but if Sam won’t say anything to Sylvia, it’s going to have to be me. Why do I feel like I want to throw up all the sudden? Hi Ms. Ruiz, I’m here to tell you that Sam’s dating an abuser.

Sylvia would be crushed. And mad. Mad as a mama bear protecting her cub.

So, is Sylvia who I should turn to about this?

I have to think this through. I have to figure out what’s the right thing to do. Going to Sylvia Ruiz feels like I’m sneaking around behind Sam’s back. But I am sneaking around behind her back. That’s the point. I already tried being direct: Sam. Stop seeing Will. It is not okay that someone hits you. I don’t care that he’s cute. I don’t care that he practically delivered Madame Evans’s baby in French class. Seemingly good people sometimes do bad shit.

Pardon my French. Seemingly good people sometimes do bad things.

The thing is, I know this better than most people. I’ve never told anyone about Ma’s dill-weed jerk of an excuse-for-a-human-being boyfriend from when I was in fourth grade. Wow. I haven’t thought about Dr. Neck for years. Not his real name. It was just what I called him because he had the thickest, ugliest neck you can imagine, even if you’ve got a really good imagination.

He worked out. Or took steroids. Oh my gosh. How did this never even occurred to ten-year-old me? He probably did take steroids. As in, take them from the hospital and self-medicate so he looked ripped in his white coat with his stupid stethoscope wrapped around his already-established-stupid neck. The day Ma broke up with him was the best day of my life.

I remember how wrote about it in my Pokémon journal with my favorite sparkly purple pen:

Best. Day. Ever.

I bet I could find that journal if I cleaned up my desk drawers. Which I am not doing, if for no other reason than because it would make Ma happy. She would be all, “Oh, look at you, Gwynneth. You’re finally growing up and cleaning up your messes instead of shoving them inside closed drawers.”

As if I don’t know the state of her kitchen junk drawer downstairs which I have literally offered to organize like a thousand times. She always says, “I’ll get to it this weekend, Gwyn. Now go take care of that customer!” (There’s never a customer when she says this, in case you were wondering.)

But now I’m curious … Hang on a sec while I go find my Pokémon journal.

There. Found it. Found the entry in purple sparkly ink. The day Dr. Neck stopped coming over was July 28th. He dated Ma for what, a year? It felt like it … Oh, wow. Nope. Not a year. According to my trusty Pokémon journal, he took Ma out to some fancy restaurant for the first time on July 5th. The day after Fourth of July. That was where they met. She was helping Auntie Carrie cater some hospital party. Wow. I can’t believe they only dated, what, less than a month? It felt like forever, in my memory.

My journal doesn’t say anything about him except for the first date (which is seared into my memory because it was the first time he slapped me, hard), and that last date when Ma (thank-all-the-gods) kicked his butt out for good.

Less than a month? Maybe that’s why Ma never figured out what he did when her back was turned? Huh. That’s always bugged me a little—my own mother never figuring it out.

I mean, Dr. Neck was always talking about me being so clumsy. I guess she just … what, believed him? Believed when he said that pre-teens are awkward and clumsy because their limbs keep growing faster than their spatial awareness can catch up.

And you know what’s weirder? I believed him. Because of that stupid jerk, I actually worried about being clumsy for the next three years of my life, until I stopped growing.

That first time he hit me, I actually didn’t believe it had happened. It was so fast I didn’t even have time to react. He did it and then he walked back out into the living room telling my mom a joke.

He just left me standing there in the kitchen, trying to figure out if what I thought had just happened actually happened. I remember grabbing ice because my face felt like it was on fire. He never did say anything about it. Not when he did it, and not after. No explanation. No, “That’s for looking at me weird, kid,” or anything.

That was the creepiest thing about him, if I’m honest. Well, that and the stupid Barbies he was always giving me. Which Ma totally ate up, obviously. “Oh, Gwynnie, say thank you. You shouldn’t have, Edward.”

Blech! I am never dating anyone named Edward. And I still don’t trust Barbies, with their bright, complicit eyes, looking at me like they knew what was coming and they were fine with it all.

The next time he hit me, he landed it on exactly the same place on my cheek. I remember just before, how he stared at me—at my still-bruised face—like he was going to say he was sorry or that I should go see a doctor or something, and then, wham! He hit me.

How did I not write this in my journal?

How did I not tell Ma?

Honestly, I don’t know. I guess I was … scared? Yeah. I was definitely scared of Dr. Neck. I started carrying a steak knife in my backpack. I never got the chance to defend myself with it, though, because he was demonically fast. That, and I never saw it coming. I mean, who would? Who is just minding their own business in their own home and whips out their steak knife just in the nick of time because they somehow see it coming? Not ten-year-old me, that’s for sure.

He hit my face two more times after that, always while Ma was doing noisy things like washing her hands or switching clothes from the washer to the dryer. Huh. I never thought of that before. He actually had to have been waiting for his chance. I would be, like, just sitting at the table doing homework or whatever, and then, wham!

Why did it not occur to me to tell Ma?

My stomach feels queasy. And suddenly it’s like a hundred and fifteen degrees in my room. And my lungs are, like, not working right—

Okay. I’m back. I think I just had a panic attack. I remembered what Mrs. Parks my fifth grade therapist taught me, though, and I grabbed my oldest, softest stuffed bear and held it tight and took slow breaths and let my body do what it needed to do.

(Note to self: Ah-ha. Now I know why the school thought I needed a visit to the school therapist in fifth grade.)

Yeesh. Okay, still feeling kinda shaky now, to be honest. But I need to write something down. I should have written it down years ago, but there’s no time like right-the-heck now. So here goes:

On July 5th, Ma’s date, Edward-the-Neck, struck me in the face with malicious intent. He also hit me four other times. He lied to Ma about my bruises—said I walked into the edge of a door and stuff. The last time he hit me, he slapped my butt. So hard that my butt cheek was numb for twenty minutes. That time, I had been planning to tell Ma after he left. But then they had an argument in the living room, and then she kicked his butt to the curb—not literally, which, that would have been awesome. Also, it would have been physically impossible because Ma was just tiny little Ma and he was this ox-necked … ox-man. If she’d had a TASER, though …

But I had finally been planning to tell her. But then they stopped dating, so I never told her. I should have told her. Or told somebody.

Oh my freaking gosh.

I was … exactly like Sam.

WHAT THE ACTUAL HECK?????????????????

I was afraid to tell anyone the truth. And now Sam’s afraid to tell the truth. Or is she embarrassed? I remember feeling embarrassed. Or maybe she’s hoping it will just go away, like I hoped about effing Dr. Ox Neck.

Oh, Sammy, girl. Oh, no, no, no.

That’s it. I’ve got to talk to her again. I came on too strong last time. I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t remembering what that feels like when the unthinkable happens, and when it is done by someone that everybody looks up to.

This must be how Sam’s feeling right now. Scared and embarrassed and sure no one would believe her even if she told the truth.

Well, I would believe her. I’ve got to let her know that she can get help. Because even though we aren’t talking, even if we’re never friends again, I care about her. I always will. Samantha Ruiz was my first best friend, and I owe it to her to help her get past this.

If anyone can understand how she’s feeling, it’s me. And that means I can’t keep silent.

~ ~ ~

Find out what happens next in CHAMELEON, Book Two in the Ripple series, available in audio, ebook, and print.