She covers her ears, trying to block out the yelling. Her eyes squeeze shut as a flashback hits her.
The voices cut through the walls like knives. She’s hidden in the closet, her eyes squeezed shut to hold in the tears. She clings to a picture frame. The hanging coats conceal her thin frame. She isn’t even visible from the outside. But still she shakes with the fear that she will be discovered. She opens her eyes briefly, allowing one tear to fall as she absorbs the picture once again.
“Smile,” she whispers to herself, her voice as shaky as her body, “It’s for your own good.” The words leaking through the walls reach her once again.
“Maybe if you weren’t so stupid!” the man shouts. His voice is followed by the sickening thud of flesh hitting bone.
“It’s your own fault!” the woman cries out. The girl hiding in the closet squeezes her eyes shut again, holding in the tears.
“Tears show weakness,” she whispers. The voices she hears were once called ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, but now she doesn’t know what to call them. Those words don’t seem fitting. ‘Mom’ seems like a word for someone who dries your tears, not someone who tells you to hold them in. ‘Dad’ seems like a word for someone who holds you when you’re upset, not someone who hits you.
“My fault!” the man shouts, “As I recall, you were the one who got me into all this!” He puts emphasis on the last words, the girl can hear his hand hitting the woman with every word.
“Well maybe it would’ve been better if you hadn’t of picked me up from the bar that night!” the woman shouts, getting a punch of her own in. “Then we wouldn’t be in this situation at all!”
In the beginning, words like these would stop the arguments cold. The apartment would fall silent, the man and woman considering these words. But now, it hardly ever mattered. The argument continues, the voices louder than ever.
The girl allows a small whimper to escape. She knows what situation they are referring to. They are arguing about whether or not they should keep this baby. She knows that she was a mistake. That the man and woman hadn’t known until after she was born. But this time they know. And the odds are against keeping this child. The girl tries not to think about her little sister growing up in this house.
“She would hide in the closet with me,” the girl whispers, “I would tuck her under my arm, cradled close to my body. I would care for her like my own daughter.” The tears start to fall, she can’t hold them back any longer. “If only she had a chance.” A loud sob escapes her and she covers her mouth, her eyes widening. The voices stop. Pounding footsteps start towards the door. The man yanks it open.
“Elly? Are you hidden in there? Why are you hiding from Daddy? I thought I told you to go to bed,” the man peers into the closet, straining his eyes to find her. He sticks a hand in the closet, brushing aside coats, searching for the girl.
“No,” she whispers, her lips just barely moving. The man finds her arm. He grabs on tight, her arm aching. She knows she will find a bruise or two there tomorrow. He yanks on her arm, pulling her hard from the floor. The picture frame falls behind the coats. She stumbles forward and the man drags her out of the small space.
“No,” she says again, slightly louder. She begins to scream, panic overwhelming her. She doesn’t know how this will end. “No!” she screams, over and over again. “Daddy, please!” she says, her tears causing her voice to catch. The man stops, and the girl slumps into a pile on the ground. He raises a hand and smacks her hard across her cheek. The skin instantly reddens.
“Dry up those tears,” he spits.
“No!” she screams in his face.
“No!” she screams, her flashback ending with a violent aching in her head and a sharp ringing in her ears. She curls into the fetal position, her eyes still squeezed shut, her hands clamped over her ears. “No,” this time it comes out as a whimper. A single tear escapes from the corner of her eye. But there is no one to wipe it away before it falls. No one to hold her close as she shakes with sobs. But she’s used to it. There has been no one since the beginning.