It’s raining today, so I’m walking quite fast. It’s coming down in sheets and I imagine I’ve walked behind a waterfall. My face feels twisted and sore from having to spend the whole day hiding my emotions. My cat, Persephone, had died just before I left for school. She was my grandmother’s cat before she was mine, and she’d lived her nine lives to the full. It was the hardest thing, to let her go. Well, it was the hardest thing. That was until the hooded shapes, blurry in the rainfall, began to surround me.

Yes, my body remembers the blows that fell, the blows you took, for me. It’s like the bruises are still there, even now a language in my skin. You have no idea how proud of you I am, for surviving that day. Your heart got cut right open, so that today I can feel. I remember the absence of feeling back then, the reeling, shell-shocked numbness of it all. You were only fifteen. My God, if I could hold you, and tell you all the wonderful things I’ve been able to do because of you. Because you held on.

There is nobody to notice the blood on my face when I stumble through the door. Nor is there anything cooking, as the deep ache grows in my stomach. Dad’s eyes are rolled back; only his body is here. I am alone. All alone. I cook some instant noodles, and channel-surf aimlessly. Tears feel a lot different falling down beaten cheeks. I curl up on my mattress and pray for sleep, or death.

My love, the exclusion, the alienation, the isolation you went through – they are the only reason I know what inclusion means today. I saw someone at work today, someone like you. Do you know that I only had the words to reach her because you gave them to me? And you should see the smile of the guy I served dinner to tonight. You’re the one who made him smile, if only I could tell you. You taught me what great love it is, to prepare a meal for someone.

The grey skies are pale reflections in the puddles on the roadside. I’m walking back to school jittery, shaky, nervous, terrified. I feel like my organs got switched out; my lungs are tighter, and my heart rate scares me. Deep in my body, it feels like everything is about to go into catastrophic failure. The bus I can’t afford throws yesterdays rain all over me again.

My heart is forever broken over this time. You had no idea that this was going to go on for an entire year. Every day a struggle, a flurry of cowardly punches and dagger words. I wish I could tell you what healing feels like. But you will find out for yourself – because you survive to become me. I hope that you, too, would be proud of me. I’m writing the book you started to dream about back then. I smile at people and play peek-a-boo with the kids on the bus, because you told me what life without kindness feels like.

The days blur. There’s a kind of dark frame around even the brightest of days; psychological sunglasses. I’m as tortured trying to work out what makes me different as I am by the physical violence. The darkness seems to hide me from all who would help, but burn as a black beacon flame to anyone and everyone who would desire to hurt me. Sometimes, the blood I shed is not inflicted by another person.

Thank you for being stronger than you ever imagined you would have to be. You gave your strength to me. I wish I could tell you who you become. Who I am. I know how much the hope would have meant to you. And, because I know that, I try to pass on that hope now. A hope of immeasurable value, crystallised out of the awful, shadowy things that you went through.

Hold on, my love. It won’t stay like this.

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