I wrung my hands nervously, looking from Dad to Step-Dad. I could sense a tension in the room that was about to explode at the drop of a pin. Looking over at Melissa, I could see that she was equally concerned. I lowered my gaze to the floor, refusing to meet anyone's eyes. Not even Dakota's.
"Are you here to come rescue your - " and here, my mother's filthy husband inserted a word that both offended my religion and insulted Dakota. I could barely keep from lashing out with my words at this idiot, but I remained silent, training my eyes on anything but those who were about to argue. I could feel Melissa's hand slip around my back, holding me steady. Thank-You, Lord, for Melissa!
"I think that choice is Dakota's," Dad said, and that was when I lost it.
"No, Dad, it's not his choice! It's yours! You've got to make him come home. Don't you care enough about your son to take him away from this place?" I stopped there, breathing heavily. I swore under my breath, then mentally scolded myself for doing so. Keep control of your tongue, Nadia!
Dakota's face turned beet red, as the cliche went, and he raised his hand and slapped Dad. Hard. I couldn't believe his actions, and apparently, Dad couldn't, either. He stood there, shell-shocked, unable to believe that Dakota was choosing his abusive step-dad over his biological father.
"Dakota, don't!" I exclaimed, horrified by my brother's actions. While Dad wouldn't be so cruel as to abuse Dakota for slapping him, I knew he'd put in place other kinds of consequences.
"That's right. Dakota, don't," taunted my step-dad, his face twisted in a terrible sneer. "Don't hit the dad who makes you put scars on your arms."
Dad stepped so close to my step-dad that their noses were almost touching. I almost looked away, afraid, but I forced myself to watch. If I didn't, then who would be there to intercede if things got messy?
"You will not poison my son against me," Dad said, his voice low with rage. He had the audacity to spit in my step-dad's face, and as much as I knew I shouldn't be supporting the conflict, I silently cheered him on. Give him what he deserves!
Melissa's arm grew tighter around me, and I could tell she was afraid I was going to do something to stop the fight. I leaned into her ever so slightly, willing some of her strength to infuse me.
"Poison your son against you?" my step-dad yelled, and I jumped at the height of his voice. "He hates you, Thomas. Can't you tell he hates you? Why else would he come back here?"
"He does not hate me!" Dad yelled, and I could tell he was barely able to keep from hitting my step-dad right then and there. I secretly hoped he would.
"Yes, of course I hate you!" Dakota shouted, stepping up beside the two arguing men. "Why else would I come here? I hate being here. I hate being alive, period! The only person I hate more than Mom's stupid husband is you, Dad!"
My dad's face grew white. Deathly white. Yes, he'd known that Dakota hated him, but I didn't think any of us could predict Dakota's words about hating him more than our step-dad. I couldn't handle the fighting any longer.
"Stop it!" I shouted. "Stop it, all of you! If Dakota wants to stay here, fine! But I won't have any more hatred going on! I'm sick and tired of living in a world of nothing but arguments! I don't care whose fault it is that my life is so terrible! Just stop arguing, all of you!"
The last thing I remember before passing out was Dakota giving me an unpredictable blow to the head.