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Twenty years ago…

I can hear them again.

My neighbors are fighting. The little boy screams for him to stop.

I kneel down by my window. Closing my eyes tight, I cover my ears and sing to myself.

I don’t like it.

Then, nothing.

I listen hard, then uncover my ears.

Turning around, I stand a little, peek over the edge of the window, and see him walking fast by the side of my house. He stumbles, falls, and crawls out of my sight.

He’s hurt.

My heart races.

I could get in a lot of trouble. Daddy would be real mad.

Kneeling down out of sight for a moment, I stand quickly and creep to the doorframe.

I listen. Hard.

The TV plays and I hear him snore.

Hope ignites.

Tiptoeing down the stairs, I sneak into the kitchen. Getting a chair from the small dining table, I stand on it and reach for the top shelf.

I get what I need, slide the chair back in, and make my way to the back door.

My hand reaches for the knob, grips it tight, then…I still.

I could get in a lot of trouble for this.

My heart beats out of my chest.

Turning the knob, it squeaks a little, and fear washes over me. Stopping, I turn it so slowly that it takes forever to make the rotation.

Finally, I feel the latch click over, and I pull the door open. Taking off my slippers, I put them in between the door and frame so the door can’t close.

Barefoot and dressed only in my white nightie, I tread softly through the backyard, the soft grass cold under my feet, following the sound of the heavy breathing and soft crying.

Finding him at the back of the property line under a tree, I see him cover his face with his hands. His body shakes.

Even hidden away in the dark, he doesn’t want anyone to see his tears....