Orlando Childhood experiences stay with us, even the bad ones. I really should have listened to my friends, my parents, that summer in 1995. I was 13 and he seemed so sweet, so different than other boys I knew. Boy was I right; he was nothing like other boys that I knew. Since then my life has drastically changed and I have learned some pretty Important lessons and what happened during those years as a teenager helped me to become the strong, woman I am today. If I could go back. I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

It was a warm sunny day, sometime around the end of May 1995, I was walking with my two best friends, Josh and Andrea. Andrea and I were two, boy crazy 13 year olds always giggling and flirting with boys. I close my eyes and remember that day, the sun was starting to go down and we were walking from a local park which was near the town’s kiddies football field. We had to get back to Josh’s house before my dad got there to pick me and Andrea up. So we decided to cut through this small neighborhood of houses along a short street, and there he was with his best friend ho happened to live in the white house on the corner.

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Eric was a big guy, not fat Just stocky and so cute. By this time I stopped and so did Andrea (we wanted to get some numbers) Josh got mad and walked on to his house, “l will I see you two later” “k Josh tell my dad I will be there In 5 If he shows up” so here I am walking up In my shorts and tank top asking this guy for a cigarette. He of course was acting like an immature boy and threw it at me: I should have realized then what an idiot he was. I talked to him while Andrea talked to the other guy, then I had to go. As I walked off Eric came running and said “hey can I get your number? So of course I gave it to him and walked away with the biggest smile as the day turned slowly into a darker hue of blue. He called me the very next day from a payphone In McDonnell where he lived. See I lived In the next town maybe 15 minutes by car but too far to walk. After that conversation I started meeting him at that park near where we had met, lying to my dad that I was going to Josh’s. My friendships with others slowly faded into the background, it was all about Eric and he was all about me. Everyone started getting worried that we spent too much time together.

Josh and a few others who had grown up and went to school with Eric warned me that he was bad. I Just couldn’t believe It. I thought they were Just Jealous of our relationship. Mean yeah he smoked pot, and didn’t go to school, he was kind of a bully to others, but I just didn’t’ care he treated me like a queen. We had a lot of good times and he never pressured me to have sex with him. I was head over heels in love at 13 years old! As time went along I finally did it, I lost my virginity to him 7 months after we met, hat’s when the violence started, and I was actually pregnant Just 3 months later and had started the 8th grade.

Of course I didn’t know yet but It was also the first time he his number to give to her, but she was out that day and I forgot to hide it, Eric was picking me up that day and he had already started showing signs of Jealousy and anger. Well he picked me up with his friend who was driving and the first thing he noticed was the number. That was it he freaked out told his friend to let us out near his house so we could walk the rest of the way, he took me in the woods and slapped e around pulled my hair, and shook me.

All of the sudden he Just snapped out of it, I was crying so hard and was so scared, I didn’t know what to do. He Just dropped to his knees and cried and apologized and started telling me about his home life I felt so sorry for him and I still loved him. He promised me he would never do it again and I believed him. That was the first lesson I had to learn the hard way. Well once we found out I was pregnant Eric made me quit school. I was his now and there was no reason to be around someone else that may take me away from IM, or talk some sense in me.

I figured at least while I am pregnant he want hit me. I was very wrong, he continually abused me in so many ways and so many times I can’t even begin to explain. The hitting lasted longer, the apologizing stopped, the name calling became worse. It was a living nightmare every day of my life until I turned 19 years old. I left him finally, after 5 years I hid the bruises and never told anyone what was going on. I was so ashamed and embarrassed but for some reason I still loved him and felt sorry for him and didn’t want to leave him.

I am so glad I did though. Life is full of lessons and some are very hard, but you learn from mistakes to prevent any future experiences. I also took that experience and turned it into a positive thing. I am 31 years old and have never had another man hurt me again. My daughter who is 17 years old now has never even came close to having that kind of experience and I am sure she never will, Just from seeing me. I also thank god that I turned out to be as tough as I am now and I didn’t let it mess me up. My experience was definitely a lesson learned.