“Be very quiet and still.” She said, covering me up. “Stay hidden until I tell you it is safe to come out.”
“But I don’t want to hide. I want to play like the other kids.” I pouted.
“It’s not safe!” She scolded. Then softening her tone, “I promise I will come back for you.”
It was scary under the covers. I felt alone and afraid she would forget to come for me. I reached down and rubbed my bruises, it still smarted to the touch. I tightened my lips to keep from making a sound and cried silently while my tears cascaded down my face.
There, under the covers of my hiding place, I clinched my fist and vowed to never cry again. I swore to myself I would be brave and strong. He would never see me flinch again!
Through the covers I could hear the yelling, the insults and threats. I heard my name being called, only it wasn’t my given name, it was the name associated with “unwanted, unloved, regret, ugly, shame, inconvenience, trouble maker.” I felt the vibration of every punch, slap, kick and pinch.
Sometimes, when it was just us, she would lift the covers and let me come out. We would run and play together. We would sit under the big tree and play our secret game of “one day.”
One day we will be free.
One day he won’t be able to reach us.
One day we will be grown up and move somewhere far away.
One day we may even find someone to love us.
Then we would giggle as we imagined our life as a rock star singing on stage and all of our fans would love us. Or how about when we become a lawyer and we defend all the abused children and put the bad people in prison on an island somewhere. Or maybe we will live by the sea and write thousands of books and people would actually read them. We soared with our imagination.
Somehow, I think our imagination kept hope alive in us. It offered a window to a world beyond the hell we were living in.
“There has got to be more than this.” She said, kissing me on the forehead as she pulled the covers back over me. She was so much stronger than me. She kept me safe. She kept me hidden like a precious treasure.
But, something began to change. She didn’t visit me as often and when she did, she was… well, she was different. She didn’t laugh as much as she used to. Her eyes looked distant, even when she looked right at me. It was if she struggled to recognize me.
“Where have you been?” I asked her during one of her visits. “I was afraid you forgot me.”
“Stop that stupid talk!” She snapped. “I told you it wasn’t safe out here.”
After she wouldn’t answer me when I asked her how much longer until it was safe for me to come out, I asked her to play with me.
“Play is for stupid babies!” Her words stung. “Play is for people who are too stupid to realize there is nothing else!”
Sensing she had hurt me, she reached out and pulled me into her hug and wept into my hair. I wanted to comfort her, but I didn’t know how. All I could do was melt into her embrace, knowing this time it was me protecting her.
“I will never leave you.” I whispered through her sobs. “It’s not fair, but I promise, one day you will come for me and I will still be here waiting for you and our dreams of one day will become real.”
Her visits began to be less and less. Sometimes she would visit me for a short while and sometimes she would just lift the cover to be sure I was still there.
I am still here, hidden, quiet and waiting.