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Grace stared at the two-story house in fear for only a second before cautiously making her way to the door. Anyone who gazed at the home would never guess the horrors that hid behind its beautiful shutter-framed windows embellished with gaudy gold curtains inside. She was aware of the messenger bag that hung lightly from her shoulder. There was still a bruise there from yesterday that ached dully underneath the wide strap. She tightened her grip on the canvas strap, took a deep breath, and pulled her keys out of her back pocket. Her hands barely shook anymore. She opened the door to an almost silent house. The faint talk of a newscaster floated from the TV to her right.
“Mom?” she called into the house.
Something shattered in the kitchen. Swallowing audibly, she put her bag down on the floor by the stairs and continued through to the kitchen. Her mother stood at the other end by the sink. A whiskey bottle hung delicately from her fingers in one hand and a fork in the other.
“What happened?” Grace asked, careful not to put too much inflection in her voice.
Before answering, her mother bent to pick up a shard from the floor. “You scared me.” Her voice was slurred.
The shard came flying at Grace and she flinched as it shattered into smaller pieces against the wall behind her. Grace’s green eyes were wide as she glanced back to meet her mother’s. Her mother pushed back her brown hair, using her whole palm to do so. It was awkward, but it wasn’t a movement that Grace hadn’t already seen before.
“Why do you look so afraid today?” her mother asked. Grace thought that she always looked afraid. “Come here.” Grace hesitated. Clenching her hands to prevent them from shaking, Grace circled the island. Grace’s mother took a strand of her black hair in her hand and twirled it between her fingers. “You look so much like your father today.”
Grace felt the pain in her cheek before she’d realized what happened. She was on the laminate floor of the kitchen, blinking away stars and touching her stinging cheek. She’d barely even heard the slap. Next thing she knew, her mother’s foot connected with her stomach. Grace coughed, but she barely had time to recover before her mother kicked her again. She curled up, blocking her head and her face with her hands.
“A ******* coward just like your father!” her mother shouted as she kicked Grace’s forearms to get her to drop them. “You piece of ******
Grace bit her lip, trying to prevent any sound from escaping her lips. Her mother’s fits had gotten worse. She wasn’t sure if it was the excessive drinking or just more pent up anger that was causing the change. Regardless, Grace was sure that the next step was broken bones. Another blow to the stomach rolled Grace onto her forearms. She heaved, ready to throw up from the sheer force of the last kick. Grace braced for another when her mother moved, and when she didn’t receive it she looked up. Another swig from the half-empty whiskey bottle. She looked down at Grace and a flash of realization passed her gaze. She didn’t even have a chance to react before her mother’s foot met her face.
“You ruined my ******* life,” her mother growled and stepped over her to walk out of the kitchen.
After waiting until she was sure her mother was in the next room, Grace pushed herself into a sitting position. Her body ached, but she couldn’t let that stop her. Using the island to help her, she stood. The kitchen floor was a mess of plate shards. She was careful, picking them up so that they wouldn’t chime against each other. If her mother heard her it could ignite another fit. Once the larger shards were gone, Grace grabbed the brush and dustpan under the sink to sweep up the smaller bits of porcelain that coated the floor. As she swept, her mind drifted to her father, as it always did. Was it really her fault that he left? Grace wasn’t entirely sure of the fact. She was still too young to really remember him. Of all things she remembered his laugh, and the faint smell of cigars. She thought she heard her mother mention something about a mistress once, during one of her fits. Grace wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol talking or the truth. Satisfied with her clean up job, she exited the kitchen.
Her mother sat on the couch, eyes focused intently on the TV. Her right hand still held the neck of the bottle, though much tighter this time. Grace was careful not to make a sound as she picked up her bag by the stairs and tip-toed up to her bedroom. For whatever reason, the four lilac walls of Grace’s bedroom were her only escape. Her mother never walked past the threshold, and Grace was grateful for that. It was the only place Grace could truly hide from her mother’s rage. When she closed her door, that’s when she saw her reflection in the full-length mirror that hung behind it. Her cheek and the corner of her eye were already developing bruises. It had been a while since she needed to cover anything on her face. She hoped she would do a decent job in the morning. While looking at her wounds, she pulled up her sleeves. Alongside yellowing bruises were fresh ones. Long sleeves again for at least another week.
Grace wondered why she didn’t call the cops, finally put an end to the pain she felt every day. Then she remembered how much her mother would cry and beg for forgiveness the few times she was sober. Tears stung Grace’s eyes. No, she couldn’t do that to her. Her mother loved her. Pulling herself away from the reflection in the mirror, she walked around her bed to the desk on the other side. Before taking a seat, she glanced down at the street below. Nothing looked out of place in the fading light. She pulled out her laptop and a few of her books. It was getting late, and she still had a research paper to finish for class in the morning along with the remainder of a project she needed to present in another class. She sighed, signed into her computer, and got to work.
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