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tell me no lies
Bella hides my face in her shell-pink duvet cover. I can hear the shouting; muffled, through the door.
“Don’t make a sound, Leo,” she tells me over Mama’s abrupt string of profanities.
Daddy and Mama are fighting again; I only hope they aren’t throwing punches. Mama is also known for bringing weapons into the battle. She is resourceful enough to regard plant pots or ceramic plates as artillery.
Bella’s heart thumps against my ear, her arms crush me against her. I can hear her choked sobs, her frequent heaves of breath.
“Bella,” I whisper, “why are you breathing like that?” The moon shining through the window shades illuminate her delicate features, contorted in alarm.
I brace myself for her sharp reply, but instead, she is quiet, and she sucks in a sudden breath.
“I don’t know, it upsets me- I can’t- I don’t like it.”
She is trembling; the sound of Mama’s vicious snarls seem to rattle the walls. Daddy’s lower, harsh retorts are barely audible.
There is a sudden silence. A sound of a quiet scuffle. Then there is nothing.
Bella and I know better than to survey the damage. Where there is damage, there is Mama; brutal and ferocious; ready to pounce.
“Bella don’t fall asleep,” I sigh. She wipes away a tear that had been trailing down my cheek.
She kisses the top of my head, her dark ringlets tickling my forehead.
“I can’t, Leo. You fall asleep though. Right here in my arms,”
I want her to sing softly like Mama did. Before. Yes, before. But Bella’s breath is short. I am afraid for her.
The silence is filled, cries. A wail of pain. Loud. Screams. Loud. Fight, fight, fight!
I long for my Mama, the woman who once told me I was her special little boy, who once had beautiful, shiny green eyes before they darkened like poison. My dead heart aches for her.
I want my Daddy, the man who once taught me to play baseball, laughed at all my silly knock-knock jokes, and who once had eyes that weren’t blood shot with stress…what color are they again? My dead heart aches, how it aches.
Someone is crying, sobbing. I think I hear a dial tone. Maybe some sirens far off. I don’t know. My heart is dead leaf, skittering across a naked landscape. Somewhere where winter has been ruthless, and life, love has died. I am ten years old…
Don’t I have more to live for? Shouldn’t I save a beating heart to present to a true love, gift- wrapped and sealed with a kiss? Those words that tumble from their mouths, those fists that fly, remind me that there is no compassion. Only hate. Hate for…me? Daddy says it’s not my fault.
There’s a sickly gash in his arm…it’s not your fault
Mama’s crying again…the rain falls down….drowns out her sobs…it’s not your fault.
Whose fault is it? Bella asks.
Daddy doesn’t have an answer…
Mama calls me to her room…wants me to lay down with her.
Whose fault is it? I ask as I stroke her bruised wrist.
Mama doesn’t have an answer…
And I can’t understand why the clouds give me headaches. Bella and I miss the sun…tired of the rain, tired of their sad faces.
Bella turns the shower on so I can’t hear. I think I know, but I can’t say anything. It’s a secret. Bella’s wrists are scratched. Thimble sized cuts, threadlike lush tears in her soft skin.
Who can help us…?
Who can understand?
The doors are opening and closing. Blue and red lights flash through the window. Bella is heaving air.
“It’s not your fault,” the police man says. He smiles half-heartedly. “Your Mama and Daddy-just couldn’t learn to get along…”
I know that. I can see that. I see her fingers curled over the edge of a bed, wrists linked together by metal cuffs. Daddy ‘s on the floor; three cuts in his chest.
I can imagine what Bella would say; I’m not cleaning that floor. Ha, ha.
Daddy would say; come now, my Bella, it’s only a little
Mama’s fingers curled over the edge of the hospital bed. Her eye is black and blue. Venomous words trickle from her lips:
“Leo, baby,” she says. Her voice is a high soprano. “You forgive mommy, right?” Her face is turned pointedly to the steak knife lying at the scene of the crime.
I look at Bella. Bella doesn’t forgive her. No, Bella will never forgive her…
“It’s not your fault,” the police man says again. His eyes are sad.
Bella suddenly cries, “Did you mean to do that Mama!” Her voice is pleading. “Tell me you didn’t mean it! Tell me it was an accident!”
Daddy’s blood shot eyes stare into the ceiling; his eyes ask, “You forgive Daddy, right?”
I don’t forgive him…do I?
Mama answers Bella’s question, “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.”
They take her away…to hell?
They take him away…to hell? Where do parents go, when they can’t fight anymore?
And my heart is a dead leaf skittering over a naked landscape. Winter was ruthless, and winter was my Mama and Daddy.