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Photo by Clara

The day he died, we started to live.

We were lucky that way - being alive. Many don't make it.

On his last day I was under the bed making myself as flat as possible; willing myself into the floorboards.

The door was locked, but that gave me little reassurance. If he wanted to, with a huff and a puff he could blow it all down.

My scalp was sore where he had ripped out a clump of my hair and my right eye was already swelling shut. I had made it there, under the bed though, so there was still a chance that that might be it for the night.

My thoughts immediately flew to the others as I listened to his departing footsteps. In this house when one of us was safe it meant the other two were in danger.

We each tried to take our fair share of the beatings so that no-one had to take the brunt of it all. We loved each other so much!

We had come up with a plan should things ever escalate to uncharted unmanageable territory. Our code word was HER name. If you heard HER name being screamed, the others would come running. And at that point either he would kill us or we would kill him. We knew what saying HER name would do to him.

The house was eerily quiet after his departure from my door. I thought I had heard him heading outside, but couldn't be sure. So, I just kept waiting.

Normally after a nightly session, we could all come out from our hiding places by early the following afternoon. At that point, we usually found him sitting in some random spot of the house, still as a statue. He would keep to himself the day(s) following an episode, never speaking a word to us. He would just sit there half gaping, staring at us like he didn't know who we were and what we were doing there.

I remember nodding off and then hearing it. The shriek from Sam's room.

He hadn't left after all.

Listening was worse than getting it.

When you were getting it, you were totally occupied with figuring out your next move, how to defend yourself and make it through to the end. No time for sentiment. But, we all lost pieces of ourselves, listening to a sibling being attacked; pieces we would never recover.

Sam's voice started trailing off, becoming fainter, as did the sounds of the struggle. Then, all was quiet.

This time I clearly heard him open the front door, walk across the porch to the side of the house and heard him drive off.

That was that then, I thought crawling out from beneath the bed springs. We had made it through another day, not knowing it would be his last.

Many years have come and gone since those surreal days.

We were so heartrendingly little back then. Our little legs and hands, our little backs and scrawny necks. We still hadn't gotten rid of all our milk teeth. Vulnerable like baby birds waiting in a nest, calling out and straining their necks upwards waiting for their food, we waited and hoped for a father that never came.

Yes, we were heartrendingly little back then, but the love we had for each other was that of a giant.

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