My father's hands grip tightly at young shoulders, and

I can't help but shudder under his grip.

His long teeth stretch in front

of my eyes, spittle

catching

on

my glasses.

His voice cracks under

the weight of his bellowing

tongue. Wicked smiles bring tears to

my flooding eyes. "Okay, Daddy. Whatever you say."

.

Graceless footfalls stagger up carpeted stairs, the

dull thudding a reminder that she

controls my heartbeat.

Shuddering

gasps

choke on the

thorns inside my lungs.

There's nothing else I can say.

"I know, Momma. It's okay. I'm used to it. I promise."