I told a story once on my blog about how I got revenge on a kid for giving another girl a ring on Valentines day. I was in the 5th grade at the time. At the end of that story, I stated that I never sought revenge again. I would have to admit here and now that I blocked out this moment in time from my memory when I made that statement and would like to retract it now. I did seek revenge once more, and it's something I've regretted every day I take a breath.
After the Miller Miles, after I spent my time in Phoenix with Jodie and her family (story not yet written but will be next), after I went home, life returned to normal. I had nothing in my room. I had one change of clothes, I was forced to take medications I knew I didn't need. I went back to school as usual and was told every day that if I didn't come home after school, I would end up being put into Juvenile Detention. It was about the only threat they could make that still scared me. They had found my weakness.
I was so angry at Byron for having abandoned us on the side of the road. I had trusted him with my life and he just left us there. He made sure he was ok by going to his father, but in the end, the rest of us had nowhere to go. It was pure luck that I happened to know someone in the area and had a place I could go to. Without the kind people I knew in my childhood, I would have ended up on the streets, or worse. He never even pretended to care. When he got back to school and I ran into him in the hallway one day, he didn't even say he was sorry. Nothing. He didn't even smile at me. He ignored me like he didn't even know who I was.
I was outraged.
Byron got another girlfriend soon after the school year started. She had at one time been a close friend to me, but thanks to Byron sharing false stories with her, she never spoke to me again. I grew more and more angry. He spread rumors about me in every class I had through people he barely knew. Pretty soon, my head was about to burst. One day I was running across the street to catch the bus before it took off and Byron happened to be driving by. Instead of ignoring me or staying at the speed limit and in his own lane, Byron swerved directly at me and sped up. I ran harder as I watched him through the windshield shifting gears in his car. He lowered his chin and looked at me with a stare of pure evil. I stopped dead in my tracks and spun on my heels. I got out of the way of his car barely in time, and the drivers side rear view mirror clipped the back of my arm. The force spun me around completely.
The bus went on, oblivious to what had just happened in their blind spot. The driver of a truck pulled over to check on me.
"Are you OK?" The voice sounded familiar. "You need to call the cops." I looked up to discover Steve, my childhood crush, sitting behind the wheel of the truck.
"No, I'm fine." He smiled that old familiar smile.
"Hop in, I'll give you a ride." It was a well kept secret on my part that my parents wouldn't let me get a ride home with anyone, especially anyone my age. It had something to do with my mother having a wild ride in the back of a pick up as a teenager and thinking she was going to die. While all of my friends were carpooling to school or driving themselves, I was still stuck riding the bus since I wasn't allowed to do either. Still, I had missed the bus because of Byron and I didn't want to end up in Juvenile Detention because of it, so I climbed into Steve's truck.
It was a big, broad old 1963 Chevy pick up truck in a rust and off-white color. The rust wasn't actually paint though, but Steve couldn't have been more proud of that thing. He had even changed the transmission himself the month before, he said. I hadn't seen him in a while and there was a lot of catching up to do. We talked the whole way to my house. Before I knew what we were doing, he pulled up into my driveway.
I jumped out, still chattering away like a chipmunk. I told him all about my adventure over the summer and why it was Byron had tried to run me over. Steve was going 90 to nothing right along with me when my mother walked out of the house.
"Young lady, get in the house right now." Whenever she called me Young Lady, I knew I was in trouble. I trudged towards the door with her holding it open. She shewed Steve off like a fly, something I'd never seen her do to Steve before. He had always been a welcome addition to the family. "What have I told you about taking rides from people," she said, loud enough for Steve to hear.
Steve found me a couple of days later. There were a few things he still wanted to get straight about Byron. He wanted as many details as I was willing to give him, and I didn't spare anything. He agreed that Jason was disgusting and Bryon "wasn't a man" for not taking better care of his sister. He was so disgusted in the end that he told me under no uncertain terms that he and his 'friends' would take care of Byron. He said I wouldn't have to worry about Byron trying to hit me with his car ever again.
My parents went out for dinner one night and Steve came by to pick me up. Before I knew it, we had pulled into the driveway of one of his friends. We jumped out of the truck and Steve told me to get into the back of a small 4 door car. I did as instructed.
A big guy by the name of Martin Davis got into the drivers seat, and his brother Hub, even bigger, got into the back with me. Both of them looked as big as linebackers on a pro football team. Both wore snakeskin boots and ball caps. Both looked like guys I wouldn't want to run into wandering down a dark alley.
We made another stop on our way out to Clearfield. One more guy climbed into the back seat, nearly as big as Hub Davis. I was squashed up against the door and felt like a mafia squealer being taken for a ride. Something in the world wasn't right. I wasn't scared, but yet I was. Tension was heavy in the air. Nobody said a word.
When we pulled up in front of Stephanie's old house, I knew life was about to get really complicated. The last time I had seen the place was early in the morning the day we started the long drive to Arizona. The guy next to Hub got out and went to knock on the door. I watched out of the tinted window as much to my amazement, Byron emerged from the house. The guy put his arm around Byron and started walking him towards the car, both laughing and smiling the whole way. They acted like old buddies. Astounded, embarrassed and finally worried, I tried to slide down into the floorboards of the car. Hub pulled me back up.
"No you don't," he said. "You have no reason to hide. You're here to see this."
I sat back up, and Hub told me to squeeze over a bit. There was nowhere for me to go, but I tried. I ended up sitting on my hip, my butt up against the door. Hub scooted over next to me. The door opened and the strange guy with Byron grabbed him by the back of the neck. He pushed his head down towards the car door, and at first Byron had a pleasant smile on his face.
Byron's face went from a smile to an astonished look of fear. He looked at Hub and then at me. His face melted, his eyes popped and he started muttering 'no, no, no' to nobody in particular. He tried to back out, but the force behind him was too great. Hub reached forward and grabbed Byron's shirt. As he pulled Byron into the car, the guy behind him pushed. Byron ended up sprawled over Hub's lap, looking me in the eyes. The fear behind them was unmistakable. I was more than certain that it was the same look I had in my eyes when he nearly hit me with his car.
The stranger got back into the car, lifting Byron's legs enough to fit under them. He slammed the door shut behind him and Martin drove calmly away from the run down little house. Nobody came outside to see what was going on. Nobody stopped us. Nobody questioned us. I prayed they would.
"Is this him," Hub asked Steve.
"Yeah, that's him."
"You sure?" His deep voice was masterful and deadly. It sent shivers to my soul.
"Yeah." Steve turned around in his seat to get a good look. "That's him."
"I don't even know you," Byron wailed.
"Shut up," Martin said from the drivers seat.
"Yeah, you ain't here to talk," Hub finished.
The stranger spoke then. "Byron, we believe you owe this young lady an apology," he said sternly, but with a slight smile.
"Sorry," Byron said out of obvious fear.
"That's not good enough," he said. Suddenly things went from bad to ugly. The stranger, the person Byron seemed to know when they met at the door, suddenly swung wildly at Byron's face. His fist landed squarely on Byron's jaw and he instantly pulled back and swung again. I screamed and turned my face towards the window, closing my eyes. Hub grabbed my head and turned it back towards Byron's face.
"You're going to watch this," he said to me.
"I'm sorry!" Byron screamed out, his voice reaching octaves I didn't know were possible. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm SORRY!" He began to cry deep, sobbing tears. His sobs began to get in the way of his words. The swings came again and again, more brutal with every swing.
Martin kept driving and turned calmly into a back alleyway. Steve turned in his seat and began swinging then too. I used to beat Steve up in a fun way at school when we were just 12 years old. I couldn't picture him ever hurting anyone. He was always so sweet. Suddenly he was a monster.
Steve and the stranger continued punching Byron until he couldn't do anything but curl up and cry. I felt bad for Byron. I wanted to help him, but there was nothing I could do. I cried right along side him. Finally Hub spoke up.
"That's enough," he said. For a moment I was relieved, but Hub wasn't done. "It's my turn."
Steve and the stranger stopped. Hub looked down at Byron and smiled and evil, wicked smile. I turned my head and covered my ears with my hands.
From there I've blocked out the memory. I only remember Martin pulling over and the door of the car swinging open. The stranger stood up and grabbed Byron by the feet. With one mighty tug, there was one less person in the car. Byron landed on his face and hands, but that wasn't the end of it. The stranger drug him across the ground by his feet. Finally, in the middle of a mud puddle, he released Byron's feet and they fell with a splash into the water. The stranger knelt down and spoke to Byron as calmly as a teacher giving a homework assignment.
"You'll never talk to her again. You'll never look at her again. If you go anywhere near her ever again, they will never find your body." He smiled. "Clear?"
"Yeah," Byron said.
"Same goes if you ever say a word about any of this to anyone."
The stranger got back into the car and I watched as Byron got to his feet and ran as hard as he could as Martin put the car in drive and we pulled slowly away.
The guys laughed the entire way back to my street. As I got out of the car and headed toward the house, I heard them laughing and talking about the entire incident. I had a serious night of rethinking the direction my life was taking that night. It wasn't my parents I needed to get away from, but rather the corruption, danger and insanity of everyone around me. I needed to get out of that life, and there was no way out but to get away from it all. That was when I decided I would be going back to Arizona and making a life for myself anywhere but Utah.
The cops came by the house a few days later. Fear gripped my guts.
"Manda," my mom said as I walked up to the house, "the police have some questions for you."
"Yes Sir?" I asked in my most polite manner. My heart was racing and I knew exactly what it was about.
"We had a strange complaint the other day. Do you know someone named Byron Miller?"
"Yes I do. Or, rather, I did."
"Do you know about what happened to him?" My mind raced. I knew a lot about Byron. I knew more about what happened to him than I wanted to, and I really wished it never happened in the first place. At that second, more than anything I wished I could turn back time and never tell Steve about anything.
"I know his Dad sent him home again from Arizona. Is that what you mean?"
"No, I'm talking about Friday night."
"Byron and I don't talk anymore. He even has a new girlfriend now. What happened to him?"
"He was beaten up pretty badly. He's got a few broken bones and needed some stitches. He's still in the hospital."
"Oh my gosh! Is he ok?!"
"He'll be fine." He looked closely at my eyes. "Do you know anything about it?"
"No! Oh no, I hope he's ok. Which hospital?"
"He's at Ogden Memorial. You're sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. We don't get along anymore, but I wouldn't want to ever hurt him." That part was the truth.
"Someone said he tried to hit you with his car the other day. Is that true?"
"Well, yeah, but I think he just didn't see me."
"Ok." He looked at me another moment. "Byron told us that you were there when it happened."
"He said that?!"
"Yeah. You're sure you don't know anything about it?"
"Positive, Sir. I hope you find the guys that did it to him though."
The officer then turned back to my mother, who stood just out of hearing range on the porch. He tipped his hat to her, bid her a good afternoon, and left.
"He tried to hit you with his car?" Mom looked concerned.
"Yeah, but it's no big deal."
"When was that?"
"It was the day Steve gave me a ride home. I missed the bus because of Byron and I didn't want to get in trouble so he gave me a ride."
"You didn't hurt Byron, did you?"
"NO!" I lied.
"Ok." She paused a moment. "Why didn't you tell me that was why Steve gave you a ride home?"
"Because you wouldn't have believed me."
I've lived with the regret of that day every day of my life, each time it's brought back to my conscious thoughts. I wished I could have changed things. Byron had more than broken bones and stitches. He had internal bleeding and some major trauma to his core. He was in the hospital for two weeks. When he got out, he changed schools and I never saw him again.
I also never talked to Steve or any of his 'friends' ever again.
The story you just read was true, the names of people were changed in order to protect myself more than them. It's a chapter of my life I'm not proud of, and a story that only the people in the car that night ever knew until now. I swore to never tell anyone, and this story didn't exist even in my original book. I have managed to contact Steve again, and he's a completely different person. He left Utah and moved to Wyoming where he finally found the father figure he desperately needed. He finished off his teen years working on a horse ranch earning his keep and learning respect for all living things. He now drives a truck cross country.