by Nicole Hall
The Fifth Year
She knew he would hurt her again. Hiding in the corner of her small bed, she knew he’d find her. Soft steps. Soft knocks. Soft hands. Cousin picks up Little Girl and carries her to the dark closet. She retreats to her mind. Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it hurts, but always it’s a secret. Mother and Father can’t know. Little Girl would be punished. Cousin retreats to his own room, leaving Little Girl weeping in the dark.
The Seventh Year
He will leave eventually. Little Girl, no longer little, hopes he will leave soon. Dark still means secrecy. Her bed no longer offers protection. Only with her parents does she find peace. Sneaking, slipping into their bed. Mother and Father allow her, moving to make room, sharing their warmth in the night. But daylight brings danger. Mother scolds Little Girl for leaving her own bed. Nothing should scare her. Jesus protects her. But Little Girl knows better.
Days spent outside, away from him. Cousin watches her, waiting for the dark. She knows he sees her. They two alone know the truth. She is naughty. She likes what he does to her. Cousin smiles.
Soft steps. She needs to leave, to be safe. She turns the doorknob. Locked. Mother and Father have had enough. Little Girl returns to her room betrayed, alone again. Soft knocks. Cousin enters, his shadow swallowing Little Girl. She trembles.
The Eighth Year
Brother knows. Little Girl has decided to share her gift. Darkness brings Cousin, but daylight is hers. She controls the light. She calls Brother into the closet. He is young, but he will learn to appreciate the dark. The worn carpet reassures her. She is in control.
Cousin does not know. He remains in the dark. Hours after bedtime, by the flickering light of late night tv, he comes for her. There is no pleasure. Only pain. Growing pains. She needs to learn to be a big girl and not cry. Mother and Father might hear. They might hear. Little Girl wishes they would. Wishes for unlocked doors and warm comfort. The worn carpet rubs her back raw, tears flow from her closed eyes.
The Tenth Year
Mother leaves Father. The family splits, moves. Father takes Little Girl and Brother. Mother stays behind. Jesus protects her. Cousin goes with Father. He will not leave his family. Cousin smiles at Little Girl.
New house, new bed, new closet, same darkness. Soft steps. Around boxes and the flickering tv. Little Girl stares at his shadow. He will never leave. Cousin touches her shoulder. She should go to the closet. She won’t like it if he carries her. Little Girl looks up, far up, into his eyes. She will not go to the closet, and he will move his hand. Her shoulder hurts. He is pulling her.
She pulls back.
Little Girl will scream. Cousin lets go. Why would she scream? She wants to go to the closet. Little Girl sits back against the wall, clutching her blanket. She does not want to go. She wants to be left alone. Cousin stops smiling.
The door slams behind him, Father comes to check on her. Little Girl shrugs, hiding her tear-stained face in the pillow. She is fine. Father goes back to bed.
Little Girl walks to the closet, gaping open in the dark. She closes the door. She will not allow Cousin in anymore.
Cousin leaves. Little Girl watches him from the daylight. She sees Brother playing in the yard. Little Girl smiles and beckons him to the closet. The door closes, trapping them in darkness. Little Girl turns her back on the light.