I watched helplessly as tears began streaming down Madelyn’s face again. I felt really bad for her, I wanted to wrap her up in my arms and assure her that she wasn’t alone…but I wasn’t sure how she would react to that. But on the other hand…at least she had a dad who she could hang out with and respect…most of the time…I shook the thought from head, now wasn’t the time to feel sorry for myself.
Hesitantly, I put my hand on hers. When she didn’t react I took her hand in mine, wishing I could somehow let her know that she wasn’t alone without using words…words just didn’t seem to fit at the moment. Madelyn sniffed heavily then leaned lightly against my shoulder…she was obviously unsure I was willing to go that far, but I put my arm around her shoulder’s and she relaxed somewhat as she continued to cry for a little bit. Eventually, she quieted down until she was just sniffling a bit. “You’re not alone here,” I finally said quietly, feeling that words might not be as much of a faux pas now that Madelyn had quieted. She sniffed and buried her head into my shoulder. A new, almost tingly feeling ran through my shoulder and ended up in my stomach. That was weird…I’d never felt anything like that before. But it felt really good to have Madelyn so close. I could feel her chest rising and falling unevenly, matching the small bursts of warmth as she exhaled against my shirt. With the tingling in my stomach still going on, I wrapped my other arm around Madelyn and held her as close as I could manage without squeezing her uncomfortably. My world was beginning to revolve around this new girl that had suddenly, surprisingly thrust into my life. Unable to protect my sisters, I had gone and found someone else to look out for. Now I think it was evolving into something more…and I really didn’t mind the change one bit.
Suddenly, Madelyn perked up. “Now it’s your turn to tell your story,” she said, almost jovially.
I smiled, “Oh no you don’t, I didn’t promise anything!”
Madelyn started with the puppy eyes treatment and I laughed. “Uh-uh, no way.”
“Aww come on! I told you my story!” Madelyn complained.
“Yeah! She did, now it’s your turn,” Zoey cut in. I had completely forgotten she was there! I felt slightly embarrassed, what had she thought about the whole Madelyn in my arms thing? I hope she hadn’t been hurt…
“Pretty please?” Madelyn said, scooting up closer to me.
I rolled my eyes and sighed dramatically. “Oh alright! So long as you stop harassing me about it!” I replied playfully. Both Madelyn and Zoey leaned in attentively as I drew in a breath to begin.
“I was mom’s first kid, though I’m sure my dad had had a few before me, I was technically his first as well. I was born on a bench in a park in downtown Los Angeles. Back then my parents didn’t have a house at all it wasn’t until three years later when we finally got a little three-room shack. Dad had a part time job in a factory, and came home drunk every day. I quickly learned to just stay out of his way. Six years later, my mom had another baby. My first sister, her name was Audrey. I watched her grow up, and as the years went by dad started to notice her when he came home from work. The first time he hit her she ran to our room, she shared a room with me and Shana, and just cried for the longest time. I was only ten at the time but I took Shana and went in with her, when she kept on asking what she had done to “make daddy mad.”
It took me forever to calm her down and get her to realize she hadn’t done anything. After that, every time dad came home I took my sisters into our room and found some way to keep them there until the next morning. It wasn’t until three years later, when I was admiring a picture that Audrey had drawn, that Shana went out of the room. When I looked up and realized she wasn’t in the room, I charged outside and found dad about hit her. I quickly interposed myself between her and dad and waited for the blow to fall. It never did, Dad was a bully…and typicall of most bullies, when he was actualy challenged, he rarely stood up to it. After that, I had an idea, instead of keeping my sisters away from drunken dad, I would keep dad away from the alcohol. That way there would actually be money for food and we would have to rummage through the trash for cans and stuff. Every once in a while dad would still get drunk, and I would get more bruises and scars…I have a bunch of them…”
“Oh! Can I see?” Madelyn asked curiously.
I rolled my eyes, but pointed out several small ones on my face, I though about showing her the big area on my palm where Dad had hit me with a red-hot iron poker, but decided not to. That was a story of my stupidity almost hurting my sisters, and I didn’t particularly care to tell it. “Anyways,” I continued my story, “That is pretty much it, I was just going home from school one day, hurrying home in order to beat dad so that he couldn’t use up the family money for booze and beat up my sisters again, when I noticed a guy was following me. When I stopped and confronted him, he knocked me out with some kind of dart, you guys know the rest I’m sure,” I finished quickly. “I just hope dad doesn’t hurt my sisters too badly before I can get back,” I sighed heavily, and a tear rolled slowly down my cheek.