My mom was killed because I didn’t wake her up. As I stood in the entryway of her bedroom, Charlie was sitting on the bed putting on some socks. He mouthed the words, -Let her sleep, I’ll take you. The smoke lifted the words that he didn’t say, and carried them across the room to me. I didn’t respond, just went back to getting ready for school.

The only Christmas present I ever received from Charlie was a Penthouse. He felt I could use it. I remember the look of disgust on my mom’s face when he had me unwrap it in front of her. One night looking at it, I felt myself get hard, as I could hear soft moaning while looking at pictures. As the moaning got louder, I closed the magazine and put my hand down by my crotch. I closed my eyes and imagined myself inside the cover girl. The moaning slowly shifted to crying as I rubbed myself faster. I opened my eyes as I heard my mom pleading for Charlie to stop. I couldn’t stop; I turned up my radio and drowned out the hurt.

It was Christmas morning when Charlie first hit me. His punches hit across my jaw and lips. The pine on his knuckles tasted fresh and comforting. My body had no choice but to collapse. I knew that I would have a hard time sleeping that night — each fist, each blow into my body eliminated a position to possibly sleep in.

With the smallest move of a solitary finger, you can completely define someone’s life.

My mom always loved baths. She would take baths every night. Part of it was because of her arthritis, and part of it was an escape. I could never understand what she was escaping, but now I think it was Charlie. When she took a bath, she would just sink into the tub, letting the water wash over and protect her.

I never told anyone that I saw her body. The apartment had an unnatural stillness when I came home from school. The winter air crawled through the apartment, fighting against the oppressive heat of the hallway. It was obvious Charlie didn’t want me to smell the results of his morning.

Closing their bedroom window, streaks of red caught the corner of my eye. I had never seen a red so pure and vibrant before. I had both no reason and every reason to think something happened to my mom.

Nudging open the bathroom door, I could see hair splayed across the lip of the bathtub. The smears of violent red that initially caught my eye pooled at the base of the tub.

–Mom? I heard the apartment door open. -Anyone home?, Charlie said. The words he said pushed me out of the bathroom — shutting the door, out of her bedroom — shutting.

Todd Hannula

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