Originally posted December 2018 as part of my #52Weeks52Stories Challenge
#52weeks52stories: Week 47
Word prompt: smack
Word count – 724
Reading time – 2 mins, 14 secs
Frozen in Time, Part III
Luci Gwynn yammered on about sanity napkins and belts as Petra huddled in the sofa’s corner clutching a hot water bottle against her stomach.
Neither of them heard Vance enter.
“What’s wrong with her?”
Startled, Luci looked up at her husband then smiled toward her daughter.
“My little girl’s growing up and entering womanhood.”
“Damn. Now I’ve got to keep an eye on her little hot ass, so she doesn’t go whoring around like the rest of the women in your family.”
Luci’s mouth gaped open in surprise and outrage, but she never got to respond.
Propelled forward by hate, disgust, and a new influx of hormones, Petra pounced on her father, hitting, biting, and scratching in a frenzy of rage.
Caught off-guard and stunned at first, Vance swept his arms down his body, knocking Petra to the floor.
She rose to her knees, panting like an animal ready to attack again, but Vance backed away looking at his hands and arms and feeling his face.
Undeterred, Petra tried to advance on him, but Luci wrapped her arms around her from behind, holding her back.
Vance left the room without a word, the only sound being the opening and closing of the front door.
Loosening her grip, Luci spun her daughter around. “What is wrong with you?”
Still shaking while hostility and loathing coursed through her, Petra was defiant.
“I hate him.”
“But what if he doesn’t come back?”
Luci’s anger grew to match her daughter’s.
“Good? What’s good about it? What about me, Petra?”
The teen sneered. “No more beatings and bruises.”
She knew the slap was coming and didn’t flinch.
Horrified by her own actions, Luci yanked her arm back, clutching her hands to her chest.
“Petra, baby, I’m so sorry.”
Petra back away, her sneer replaced by a smile, then giggles.
Luci reached out for her daughter, but Petra stepped back farther. Her giggles grew to roaring laughter.
Wrapping her arms around her stomach, Petra doubled over and tried to speak through gasps for air.
“This… is great. Daddy gives you a black eye for… something as dumb as wearing the wrong dress… and you take it. But you have no problem slapping me for standing up to the big bully.”
“Petra, baby… you don’t understand -”
“Shut up! Don’t say that! Don’t tell me I don’t understand.”
Her laughter abated, Petra rose to her full height.
“Me, Arnold and Leonard have tried to understand our entire lives. We sneak into each other’s rooms and cry together. We’ve been to the library, digging through books on domestic violence because we can’t tell anybody. We can’t ask for help, because we’ll be separated, and Arnie and Len are all I have. So, we decided you put up with daddy to protect us.” She scoffed. “But now I know we were wrong, mama. We’ve always been wrong. It’s about you, only you.”
“No, you’re wrong, baby. I do it for you and your brothers.”
“None of us should have ever been born. This isn‘t a family, it‘s a prison camp.”
“Don’t say that! You kids are everything to me.”
She hung her head in shame.
“Yes, your father hits me, but he’s never hit you. He’s never hurt any of you.”
“Hurt me? Did you see him, mama? I’m his daughter… a thirteen-year-old girl. He didn’t hit me—he didn’t fight back, and not because he’s some noble father. That was fear in his eyes. He’s not used to being challenged. Not used to anyone fighting back. You should try it sometime.”
Luci’s face crumpled at the truth of her daughter’s words.
“But you know what, mama? You don‘t have to use fists to hurt someone.”
Her words were heavy and toneless, and her body sagged, the emotional burden taking its toll.
Repeating her father’s movements, Petra backed toward the doorway.
“But he can’t hurt me anymore, mama. And he’ll never hurt me again.”
Reaching the doorway, Petra glared at the woman who’d given her life.
“And neither will you.”
Ignoring Luci, she turned and left the room, not stopping until she reached the sanctuary of her bedroom.
Petra Gwynn remembered that day, not for the onset of her periods and the first step toward adulthood, but as the day both her parents no longer mattered to her.
To be continued…