Teenage TK is a smart girl with big dreams of world travel and novel-writing. She was also lonely and had sever doubts she was worthy of anyone’s love. Those feelings are probably what lead her to accept the label of Zachery’s Girlfriend over MSN and put up with his obsessive clingiyness no matter how hard it was walking through the hallways like I was in slow motion three-legged race.
To no one’s surprise but her own, the relationship plummeted fast. There was no conversation. Being with Zachery wasn’t much different from being alone, the only difference being that I saw swords as more than sharpened sticks. Even though Teenage TK was ready to end things, a friend’s message that Zachery had already bought her a birthday present (which turned out to be the aforementioned sharpened stick) and prom’s fast approach convinced her the merciful thing to do would be to wait it out until after prom.
Soon after she made that decision, it was fear that kept her complacent more than her flawed ideas of mercy. That fear was heightened by his selective deftness, especially when it came my wishes he stop groping intimate areas.
The way his body shook and his eyes hardened when he was angry became a normal occurrence to me the more I tried to avoid spending too much time with him. It wasn’t until a friend became so afraid on my behalf that she confronted me about the emotional abuse that I saw how dangerous my situation had become. Unfortunately, that epiphany came in the middle of prom night. TK was in public, but she was in no position to end a relationship and make it home safe. She’d survive, riding out the night, bloody hands and all.
My junior prom came to an end with the rising of the Sunday sun. I made my way home and probably slept for most of the morning. The events of prom haunted me. I could still feel the way Zachery gripped my arm and the dread that hit my stomach when I realized the situation was dire enough for a friend to pull me aside in her worry. I thanked God I made it home alive after the zig zagging way Zachery drove on the road, apparently mad with anger.
More than anything else, I remembered the ferocious sound that came from Zachery’s room after prom and the blood on his hand he tried to explain away. The idea of spending two more weeks with the label ‘Zachery’s Girlfriend’ was more than just unpleasant, it was horrifying.
Despite my friend’s warning, I still harbored the same old worries about ending a relationship with someone who was obsessively in love with me (or so he said). What would he do to me when I broke it off? If he left me alone, would he take out his anger on someone else? Would he take it out on himself.
It was then that I made one of the best decisions of my life: I told my parents. Even during that conversation, I still tried to justify stringing out the relationship for another two weeks. I thought it was the right thing to do, but my father set me straight.
“You need to break up with him now. Don’t let him think this could ever pass as acceptable behavior,” he said.
That night, as I visualized different scenarios, wondering which one I should carry out. None of my teenage notions of mercy could overcome my father’s solid logic. When I made my way to school the next morning, it was with the realization that any action Zachery took against himself or others would be his fault alone. His actions were not my responsibility.
I don’t remember if I saw Zachery before classes started that day, but I do remember having friends close by at the end of the day. They knew what I was about to do and I asked them to wait for me when Zachery approached. I needed their support more than ever.
“We need to talk,” I told Zachery taking him aside.
I like to think I said something about his actions during prom being reprehensible, but I was struggling to keep my composure. Inside, I was panicking. Breaking up with someone was not on my list of essential life experiences. All I really remember saying is, “we’re over.”
“Okay,” said Zachery in his typical, monotone voice. I could tell he wasn’t getting it, which kind of blew my mind. I’d have to spell this out for him.
“No, you don’t understand, ” I countered. “I’m breaking up with you.”
“Oh…,” he said, with as much inflection as I had ever heard from him.
I’m not sure which one of us walked away from that conversation first. All I remember is falling into the arms of my friends, feeling physically exhausted from maintaining my best poker face through my talk with Zachery.
After school, I drove to the library for work and did a little dance among the books. I had never felt so free.
Do you think Zachery understood how bad his behavior was? A question for the parents: what would you do if you thought your teenager was in a potentially dangerous relationship? Given that teenagers don’t usually tell their parents everything, what warning signs would alert you your child was in a dangerous relationship? What would you do if you thought your child might be the perpetrator in a dangerous relationship?
…or is it?