The Most Extreme Punishment Chapter 11

A month ago, Genesis would've scoffed at the idea of being on good terms with Ramona. But after Genesis covered for Ramona, Ramona started acting a lot more civil with Genesis. She helped her out with a homework assignment, she sat down to watch TV with Genesis one night, and she went for five straight days without insulting Genesis at all. It almost seemed unthinkable. It was as if they were putting their longtime rivalry behind them.

The following week at school, Genesis was walking down the hall thinking about all this when she ran into Charlotte. "Hey Genesis," said Charlotte.

"Hi Charlotte," said Genesis.

"Did your parents find out about the party?" Charlotte asked.

"Thank heaven, no," said Genesis. "We had a close call when my stepmom found a love note in my underwear drawer, but I threw her off the scent."

Charlotte crinkled her nose. "A love note in your underwear drawer?"

"I know, it's weird."

"And my dad wonders why I haven't got a boyfriend," said Charlotte. Changing the subject, she said "I heard you and Ramona are getting along better now."

"Yeah, we are," said Genesis. "I think it's because we've ended up covering for each other about the whole party thing, and that's made it easier to put aside our differences."

Charlotte nodded. "It's kind of funny, how people like Ramona still have a nicer side buried underneath everything," she said. "But then again, Ramona used to be nice all the time when she and I were younger."

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah. Ramona and her mom were always nice with me. But Ramona's dad...not so much."

"Oh." Genesis had never cared to find out more about Ramona's past. She'd been so fixated on what a bitch Ramona was, she'd refused to accept the idea that there might be a reason why she'd turned out the way she did. But now she was feeling genuinely curious. "What did her dad do?"

Charlotte looked at Genesis quizzically. "I thought you knew?" she asked.

"Not all the details," said Genesis.

"Well, he was very strict and controlling with her and her mom," Charlotte explained. "He'd threaten to beat Ramona if she didn't act like what he thought a 'proper young lady' would look like. At first it was just that-threats-but then he started to actually get physical with them. Ramona was there to see it one day when her mom was arguing with her dad about whether they should transfer her to a different school, and he hit her so hard he gave her a black eye."

"Ooh," said Genesis. "Why didn't her mom call the police?"

"Because Ramona's dad was involved with the mafia," Charlotte answered. "If Ramona or her mother reported him to the authorities, he'd have his friends in the mafia come after them. But it went too far one day when Ramona came home from school and saw her mother passed out on the floor from a fight with her dad. Ramona just couldn't take it anymore, so she picked up the phone and called 911. Then the police came and took her dad to prison."

"And the mafia came after Ramona and her mom," Genesis guessed.

"No, they didn't," said Charlotte. "The police started treading a wider circle around them for protection. But that whole ordeal really scarred Ramona. I remember after it happened, she was a totally different person. She was really distant with everyone at school-even me. That was why we grew apart. But sometime between then and now, she developed a bitchy personality."

"Because her dad was always breathing down her neck," Genesis assumed. "The way she turned the cheer squad into a dictatorship-that must've been borne from her trauma."

Charlotte nodded. "It's like my mom always told me," she said. "Bullies always come from hard backgrounds."

After hearing Charlotte's story, Genesis didn't know what to say. She was now seeing Ramona in a whole new light. And she felt like she owed her an apology when she next saw her.

***

Since Ramona had cheer practice after school, she didn't get home until 6:00 that evening. Genesis was in her bedroom looking at her phone when she heard Ramona come in. This is it, she thought. This is my chance. She got up and opened her bedroom door, finding herself face-to-face with Ramona. "Oh-hi Genesis," said Ramona.

"Hey Ramona," said Genesis. "How's it going?"

"Pretty good," said Ramona. Reading the look on her stepsister's face, she frowned. "Are you okay?"

"How about you come inside?" Genesis suggested. "Then we'll talk."

Ramona reluctantly followed Genesis inside her bedroom. "What's wrong?"

"I ran into Charlotte at school today," said Genesis. "And she told me some things about you and your dad."

"She did?"

"Yes. About him and...you know."

Ramona's brow furrowed. "I thought your dad told you everything," she said.

"Not everything," said Genesis. "I kind of didn't let him. But Charlotte told me about what happened when you were little, and you came home and found that your dad knocked out your mom."

Ramona broke eye contact with Genesis. Genesis had the impression she was reliving the worst moment of her life. "Yes, that did happen," she said. "Up till then, I was too frightened by my dad to try calling 911. But at that point, I just couldn't stop myself. I knew something had to be done."

"Yet it still scarred you."

"Yes, it did. Sometimes I still have nightmares about it."

Genesis exhaled deeply. "I just wanted to talk to you about it because...I never realized how scary your childhood really was until now. And I kind of feel bad for not realizing it sooner."

"It's okay," said Ramona. "I guess I haven't given you a lot of reasons to like me."

"Oh, you think?"

Ramona cracked a smile. "Well, part of why I've been so mean to you is because I thought you were a total guy-slut."

"Which I kind of was."

"True."

"But now that I know what led to you turning out the way you did..."

Ramona nodded. "You don't have anything like that, do you?"

"Like what?"

"Any kind of...trauma?"

"Well...I did have some issues with my mom growing up," said Genesis. "Did your mom, or my dad, ever tell you?"

"Not entirely," Ramona admitted.

"Well, when I was little, my parents divorced, and my mom ended up getting custody of me," Genesis explained. "At first I was happy, but then my mom started being really neglectful towards me. It felt like she didn't really care about me-she was just having a kid to have a kid. Then she was killed in a school shooting, and I was sent back to my dad. He told me that my mom had been a golddigger, and she only kept me around so she'd have to pay less money on her tax forms."

"What a horrible mom."

Genesis nodded. "That wasn't something I truly grasped until I got older," she said. "Come to think of it, that was around the time I started acting like a hornball."

"Because of what happened with your mom," Ramona guessed. "It led you to see women as...not worthy of your respect."

Genesis stared at Ramona. Even though she'd correctly guessed what had happened, Genesis hadn't realized it until she heard it put into words. "Yeah," she said. "That and because I had biological urges that almost all guys have."

"But you're learning now, aren't you?" said Ramona. "That women aren't so bad?"

"Of course," said Genesis. "Now that I am one."

"Then maybe Mirna will change you back soon."

"I sure hope so," said Genesis.

Ramona felt her phone buzz. "Modesty's texting me," she said. "I've got to go."

"Okay," said Genesis. "But hey...good talk."

"Good talk," said Ramona.

To be continued...



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