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My face hurt.

I was tired and upset and just about ready to collapse. My homework was sitting open on my desk, my uneaten dinner beside it.

“I made you’re favorite,” my mother had said. “Come and eat with me.”

I refused. I couldn’t face her. I blamed it on homework.

“Baby, you’ve got to eat,” she said after she had walked into my room. I wouldn’t turn to face her. I kept myself hunched over my desk.

“Come on, Justin.” She grabbed my shoulder. “You’ve got to—“

“I’m not hungry!” I snapped. “I don’t want that stuff! It’s disgusting!”

I felt my mom’s hand leave my shoulder. “It… It’s your favorite.”

My head burned and my stomach felt like crap under my lie. “Just leave me alone,” I muttered.

Mom was silent for a moment. I watched out of the corner of my eye as she placed my dinner next to me on the desk. Then, without another word, she left the room.

I should have felt relieved; she was gone. But instead all I could feel was the upset churning of my stomach.

I stared at the dinner angrily. It was hours cold by now. Mom would find it sometime tomorrow, raw and uneaten. It would crush her.

I let out a growl and swung my fist at the wall. Like I had anticipated, my hand passed easily through the drywall and left an empty, gaping hole. It was only one of many lined up like chess pieces across the inside of my closet. I wondered if anyone would ever find them there. What they would say.

“He was fine!” Mom would insist. “He was a perfect son. Always!”

She would lie for me.

She would do anything for me.

I swung my arm forward again and let out a scream. Instead of passing through the drywall this time, I’d rammed my hand into a piece of the frame. I pulled it out and at once knew it was broken. Bones don’t stick out this way unless they are.

“Justin?” My mom called from the hallway. “What was that? Are you okay?”

I clenched my jaw shut to keep from screaming out in pain. My whole arm was shaking. It felt like I had stuck it through a meat grinder.

“Justin!” My mom pounded on the door. I had locked it to keep her out.

I couldn’t answer her. If I opened my mouth I would scream.

“Justin!” My mom continued to scream. “Justin please!” She pushed and yanked and clawed at the door, but the deadbolt I had attached kept her out.

I couldn’t let her in. She might see what Dad had done.

“One more time,” she had promised. “One more time and I’m sending that man to jail. I won’t ever let him see you again.”

I couldn’t let her do that.

I needed my dad.

And I’m sure he hadn’t meant it.

But if I were to let mom in, she would see the bruises. Not only on my hand, but up and across my arms. Over my back and down my legs. The finger marks on my neck. The fist marks on my cheek. The two black eyes, the cracked lip, the broken nose.

Mom was crying. She was pounding hysterically like a mad dog against my door. I could hardly stand to cause her so much pain.

She would get over it, though. Maybe. Eventually.

I would never be able to get over the loss of my father.

So I sat pressed up against my bed and watched my hand and the door shake furiously. One of them had to give out, eventually. I would need her, or she would find a way to get to me.

“Baby,” she whimpered. She howled. She cried.

My face hurt.

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