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"Ethan," I whispered, putting my mouth close to his ear so as not to creat any noise. "Wake up sweetheart, Daddy's gone." I watched my son's tiny fragile body come to life. He brushed his soft, chocolate brown curls from his face, revealing a large bruise near his left temple. My face burned; this was getting unbearable.
"Gone? he repeated, the sleep still able to be heard in his voice. "Forever?
"He went out," I corrected myself. "He'll be home soon. We need to go now."
Ethan looked away, disappointed apparent on his angelic little face.
"I'm sorry baby," I tried to soothe him. "Everything's going to be okay." I cradled his hand delicately, and kissed him on the forehead. "Where's your backpack?"
"In the corner," he replied, sounding more alert now. I glanced at his tiny blue dinosaur bookbag, and a tender smile slid across my face. I slung it over my arm along with my own bag, and scooped him up into my arms. Locking his bedroom door behind me, I put a finger to my lips signalling him to be quiet, and began silently descending down the stairs, wincing at every creak.
A loud sound pierced the air, and my heart nearly stopped. I didn't have to look at him to know that Ethan was afraid as well. He was clenched to my arm like a vice, his whole body trembling. I soundlessly peered around the wall to discover the source of the frightening noise. Ralph, the burly alcoholic brother of my husband Kevin, who he was not so unlike himself, was slumped over my olive green canvas armchair in a drunken slumber. It was his snoring that had so badly shaken us.
I sighed with relief, but I was still on edge. I held Ethan tigtly and opened the screen door, when I noticed something wrong. Through the frosted glass of the front door, I could see the automatic patio light on. My heart sank; he was home.
I rushed out of the kitchen just in time to hear the front door slam open.
"Marie!" his voice a slurred thunder. "Where the hell are you?"
"Ethan, hold on to me!" I whispered frantically to him, dashing for the front door and fumbling with the keys. "D***!"
"Marie!" he yelled again. "Where's Ethan? Son of a b**** teacher called today. Where is he?"
Tears began to stream down my cheeks. "Open!" I shreiked. "Open!" Finally, it opened, just as a very angry Kevin stormed into the room.
"Where are you going Marie?" he screamed. "Come back!"
Slamming the door behind me, I ran with Ethan into the yard, so dark that the stars pierced the night sky like twinkling diamonds.
"I'm sorry daddy," Ethan said weakly. " I held him close as he cried, running around the side of house, down the block....
Where we're going, I'm not yet sure, but I know we're safe now. I know we're going to be okay.