a thin line

i used to watch her for hours when she didn’t know i was there. quiet as a mouse, small as a whisper, i would hide around corners, behind chairs, anything i could do just to watch her. if i did it just right, she never even knew i was there.

she was so different when she was by herself.

from her doorway, i stood watching her sitting in her bed, propped up with pillows, tucked into blankets, carefully hemming some clothes. she had nimble fingers and a creative mind that allowed her to make the best halloween decorations from scraps of fabric, or angels from tea cloths.

today, it was mundane. mending clothes. but she did it with precision. a steady hand holding a thin needle, moving swiftly and smoothly along the lines.

i must have made a noise or a small movement, because her eyes flew up to mine.

she smiled. i felt warm.

“come here,” she said, and beckoned me beside her.

i flew to her side as she moved the covers to let me snuggle next to her.

“want to learn to sew?” she asked.

this is what heaven feels like.

the love of a mother.

—–

he said he didn’t trust me to drive myself, so he drove from fort worth to waco to take me to tennessee.

to her.

i packed a small bag with a blow dryer, makeup, a few text books, pens and a random assortment of clothes.

what else would i need?

but i knew what else.

i knew the if.

i walked to my closet and found my clothes in perfect color blocks from black to white.

i only needed the black.

we drive most of the way in silence. i’m wrapped up in my head, as usual.

i can’t stop thinking about her.

“you should try and get some sleep,” my dad says. i can tell he’s tired. i don’t know how he’s doing this.

“i can drive for a while if you want,” i say.

“nah, i’m ok,” he says. “i just need more coffee.”

—-

he was drunk. high maybe. i couldn’t tell exactly what had him so rattled this night. the only thing apparent was his disdain for my mother and his need to show her physically how terrible he found her.

i hated her boyfriend.

when he started hitting her while the three of us sat on the couch, it was quiet. at twelve, there’s not much you can do to stop a grown man from doing what he wants. not that kind of man. i tried to keep my eyes on the tv and block her cries, but there’s only so much you can do to keep it from getting in.

when he rose from the couch, her hair in his hands, she rose, too. he took her to the back bedroom, both of them unaware of my presence.
the sounds coming from inside the walls intensified as he moved from hitting her to throwing her. BOOM against the wall. BOOM against the other wall.

cries. screams.

grunts of triumph.

i moved cautiously like those idiots in horror movies toward the opened bedroom door. i could see him on top of her on the bed, his hands around her neck as she struggled.

i was frozen.

his face started to turn toward mine and i ran into the bathroom, cowering between the toilet and the bathtub and held my breath.

i watched a roach crawl across the floor and wished for its freedom.

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