A Season to Be Jolly

She crouched in a corner cowering like a frightened animal. Her chest heaved with sobs she dared not let loose, least he notice her, remember her, start hitting her. Listening to the soft thud of fist hitting flesh as the punches landed on her mother’s body. He never punched her face anymore. Didn’t want to leave obvious signs of a beating. Sometimes he used rolled newspapers, they left no external marks.

Silent tears poured down her face, her body quivered with raw emotion of fear. Her mind screamed in paralyzed protest “Stop it! Please stop” she begged silently. She put her hands over her ears but his punches and her mother’s fading sobs rang through her head like a broken record on high volume.

The week before she had called the police when the beating started, it wasn’t a fight. They came long after the beating ended. She had stood behind her father when he opened the door for them. Smiling urbanely. Still in his pink underwear. They said they had received a report of a domestic disturbance.  He laughed “Domestic disturbance? Not here” he said. They  had noticed her, the only child in the house.

“Were you the one that called the police?” they asked her over her fathers shoulder. Her eyes grew round with fear as her father looked towards her with surprise. His eyes quickly darkened with anger but he smiled as he turned back to the police. They didn’t come inside. She stood behind him pleading with her eyes. Begging them not to leave, to come inside and find her mother bloody and panting on the bed. But her father blocked the door, assured them everything was alright, not letting them in.

He turned to her “Tell them everything is fine” his eyes held hers commanding

“Everything is fine, it was just a mistake. I didn’t mean to call”

“How old are you?” one of the officers asked.

“Seven” she answered in a voice laden with fear. They were going away, they weren’t going to do anything and now she was in big trouble for calling the police.  As the police gave her father a warning and made to leave she shrank further into the wall. Terrified because she knew that her turn was next.

The next day the telephone was disconnected.

Now he was beating mother again and this time there was no one to help, there was no possibility of help.  This was her life. Her father grabbed her from the corner where she cowered and pulled her to her feet “Tell her how much you hate her!” her shouted as he shoved her towards her mother’s prostate body “Tell her!” he screamed when she hesitated. She quacked in fear and turned to her mother “ I hate you!”  she sobbed and for a minute she believed it too. She hated her mother because she let this happen to them, to her.  A blow landed on the back of her neck, she stumbled and the room spun round

“Tell her how much you hate her!”

“I hate you” she cried again and again and again her fear coalescing into hate for them both, for God, for the world and for the police that didn’t do anything.

Somewhere in the background church bells summoned the faithful  for Christmas mass.

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