Everything By Design

Voices scream outside her door and Leia struggles to ignore them. Dishes fall to the floor as screams reverberate. And then a loud thump , a whimper and silence. Leia covers her ears and hugs her teddy bear to her chest as she rocks back and forth repeating the same words over and over again.

“It’s all going to be okay.”

After a while, the voices and noise outside quiet down and she can hear the scuffling of the dust pan and the broom. The 15 minutes are over and her fairy tale is back where it left off.  The door knob twists and jiggles before the knock comes.  Hesitant, she climbs out of bed clutching Mr. Pennyworth and unlocks the door.

Light streams into her room and she is enveloped in a tight hug and she carried back into bed. Leia stares up at the figure in front of her – bruised arm, cracked lip and an eye too swollen to keep open.  Leia’s hands reach out to touch the face, the cheek, the lip – tracing where the blood has dried and where it is still flowing.

“You can have Mr. Pennyworth tonight” she offers, holding out her beloved teddy bear. “I don’t mind.”

A forced smile, and a slow shake of the head.  “No honey, it’s all right. Mr. Pennyworth should keep you company when you sleep.”

“You can sleep with us then!” Leia exclaims – proud of the idea that entered her head. “You can sleep with us and we can share my bed. It’s not as big as your bed but I won’t be fidgety. I promise. I won’t!”

For a couple of seconds, the thought is considered, valued and weighed in the mind until the consequences of doing so settles in. If I don’t go back, she might be the one getting hurt instead of me.

“Baby,” the figure stands smoothing Leia’s ruffled hair and settling her into bed. “You know that I can’t do that right? Mommies and Daddies sleep in one room and kids sleep in another. Those are the rules.”

Leia nods, and reluctantly allows herself to be read a bedtime story. When it is over and she could feel her eyes closing by itself – the book is closed and placed back in its place. One final kiss goodnight is exchanged and the lights are turned off.

Just as the door was about to be closed, Leia opens her eyes briefly and in the faintest whisper she says, “Daddy, when will Mommy stop being angry?”

Her father stops and turns to look at his daughter and shakes his head. “I don’t know baby. Maybe soon. We just have to be a bit more patient with her.”

Leia nods and for all that she is barely eight years old, in that one moment he could see her aging before his eyes. “Don’t worry Daddy, I promise. When I’m older, I’ll make Mommy stop being angry so she won’t throw stuff anymore.”

The shoulder shakes, a hand covers the mouth as he stifled a sob before finally closing the door to his daughter’s room.

Domestic abuse occurs in 4 out of 10 households. More often than not, we are only educated about wives being abused by their husbands. Male domestic abuse is rare, but is not unlikely. And because this is still an unequal world, often goes unnoticed and unattended. 

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