She tried to make herself as small as possible. Though she knew it was impossible to shrink oneself into non-existence, she tried to nevertheless. Her back was aching. Her limbs trembled from fear and confinement. Her breath was shallow and hitched. Her heart raced. He would find her; he always did, in the end. There was no use disillusioning herself to believe otherwise. He would come. And there was nothing to be done about it.
All her life she had fought him. She had kicked, and pulled, and screamed, and pleaded, but that had never changed anything. Now, something was different. She no longer fought. Her feet did not kick, they ran and hid her. Her arms did not push away, they raised her hands to cover her eyes. Her voice did not scream in terror or beg for mercy, it was reduced to whimpers and hushed cries.
She had given up. No one heard her protests or her cries. So she tried to avoid him at all costs. And when avoidance failed her, as it nearly always did, she endured.
If possible, her heart quickened, her breath came faster. She pressed her eyes together and held her hand over her mouth to silence any whimpers that threatened to escape.
“Where have you gone, my love? My pet?”
Footsteps. Loud and clear and coming closer. She tried to wiggle further into the corner but to no avail. She was hidden as well as she could have been. But it wouldn’t be enough.
“I know you’re here somewhere, my dove. My little angel, why do you hide? Do you like hiding? You’re so very good at it. Do you want to play that game? Come to me and we’ll play.”
The footsteps stumble. There’s a pause as he rights himself. His speech is slurred. He’s drunk, she thinks and she is unsure whether to feel elated or even more frightened. He might pass out in a drunken stupor before he can find her. Or he might not. When he’s drunk he’s stronger. Somehow that same drink that can disarm him can also provide unhindered strength.
“My child, my darling. Come out, come out wherever you are.” The footsteps fade away. “Come, come out. COME OUT.” Something shatters. He’s thrown the lamp in the living room. And now he’s crying. Did he cut his hand when the lamp shattered? Does he even know why he’s crying?
She breathes a quiet sigh of relief. Almost always his tears lead to him passed out on the couch. She’s been cramped here so long, hiding, she wonders if her body might be physically affected by it. Even though she is uncomfortable, even though her legs shake and her right arm has gone numb, she refuses to move. Instead, she listens. With all her might, she wills her ears to expand. To hear. Moments pass. Nothing is heard except his slow measured breathing. Closer than what she expected, but maybe he didn’t make it to the couch this time.
Her body couldn’t take it any longer. She had to get up. Move. Regain the feeling in her extremities. Slowly, quietly, she cast off the blanket that had been her cover. On her hands and knees she crawled to the closet door. Even this small movement send hot needles into her flesh. With shaking fingers she stretched towards the door handle. At the last moment, she hesitated.
But her body’s protest outweighed her indecision. She grasped the handle and turned it gently, unwilling to wake him if she could help it. Slowly, gently, quietly.
Turning, turning, turning, turning…
And suddenly the door was flung open. He stood above her, a clouded malicious glint in his eye.
“Found you,” he whispered.
Both let out a cry as his hand reached out and snaked around her wrist, pulling her from her sanctuary.
It was the worst game of hide and seek. And she had lost.