The Shadow That Wouldn't Go Away

Megan was screaming. There was no way the neighbors couldn't hear this. The harder he yanked her hair, the louder she screamed. Tears were soaking her face.

She was the most tender-headed person I'd ever met. She never let me brush her hair for fear that I'd find a snare.

And here my step-father was pulling her hair out.

She'd back-talked someone. I can't remember now if it was my mom or my aunt. But her sixteen year old attitude had caught her in a snare more painful than a Dollar General paddle brush.

My mom and aunt were still confined to their wheelchairs and crutches, and my step-father who was suppose to be in some ungodly amount of pain from his broken back, and barely walking at the speed of a snail and with the help of a cane, had moved faster than I thought possible because before Megan was even done making whatever smart-ass comment she was making he'd chased her around the couch and snatched up a fistful of her hair and dragged her to her knees.

Her neck at a strange angle, hanging by her hair, Megan started screaming. With her clawing at his fist balled in her hair, he made a show of struggling with her and groped her breasts right in front of God and everyone. I wasn't sure if from their positions on the other side of the couch, that my aunt and mom could see what was happening.

But then decided no one gave a damn what went on in this house. Maybe the pain pills didn't help.

I wanted to throw up.

He was screaming at her, his mouth right next to her ear. "Tell her you're sorry!"

She'd be deaf for sure if he ever let her go.

Deaf and bald.

She was screaming that she was sorry, but in so much pain her words were hard to understand. He yanked her hair again. Her screams got louder.

Kim looked at me from the kitchen chair she was sitting in. She was pale and her knuckles white, wrapped around the edge of her seat.

"I'm sorry!" Megan screamed. This time it was obvious what she had screamed. But he didn't let her go. He just yanked his fist up, pulling her hair even harder.

Her screams became even louder still. My ears were starting to ring.

"I'm sorry!!" She screamed again.

And that's when I saw it in his eyes, and the evil way his lips turned up, not quite a smile but obvious he was enjoying the way she screamed and thrashed against him every time he yanked her hair. And bent over her, he could see right down her shirt.

With one last yank, he released her hair and she collapsed to the floor sobbing. Like the invalid he was suppose to be, he limped off, untangling clumps of blond hair from his fingers and letting them fall.

He looked me right in the eye as he walked past. I'd never been afraid to stare him down, hoping maybe one day my superpowers would surface and he'd burst into flames. If he was hoping to intimidate me by that display, he'd just failed miserably.

It was in that moment that I realized that there was a line in the sand that had been drawn on some plane that I couldn't see from here. My stepfather wasn't afraid of my aunt Carol or my uncle John. Who was going to stop him from yanking every last hair out of Megan's head? Because he sure as hell wasn't afraid of my mom.

But his abuse of me and my sister was more of a mental game. The words that he used to try and break us and the violating touches that were always staged to look like accidents. He'd never actually pulled clumps of my hair out and any mark he left on me faded within 24 hours, careful that nothing was ever permanent.

That left one option. That he really was afraid of my dad.

The dad that was invisible to every one else. Because my mom and stepfather pretended we were the perfectly happy little American family of four. They reduced our dad to a distant shadow. A shadow that called every other day. A shadow that wouldn't go away.

A shadow that incited fear in the devil.

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