The screen door slammed against the stained siding of his old farmhouse, his stomps shook the dusty wood floors, and his voice echoed through the halls. My mom sat in the hallway, rocking back-n-forth with her arms wrapped around herself, like an autistic child trying to soothe themselves, bracing herself for the his strike. She hugged her ripped up t-shirt around herself like a security blanket she never had, but it was only a reminder of what he was capable of. After all, her shirt was ripped from the time he drug her off of his couch by the collar of her shirt, gripping the material in between his fingers forming his infamous fist.

This wasn’t the first time he beat her and we knew it wouldn’t be the last, but it is my first memory of trying to help her. Unlike most of the traumatic scenes from my childhood that PTSD has blocked, this one is vivid. It haunts me in sleep; leaving me heaving for air and searching for safety.

Her rocking was in tune with his stomping. We could hear him in the entryway, coming through the kitchen, and then he reached the hallway where she had curled herself into a ball. I don’t know why I was in hallway with her, but I was. I rubbed her back as we waited for him to get there. Then, he arrived.

His hands weren’t in fists. His arms weren’t drawn back. Instead, he held a pale of hot water. I don’t know when he had time to get the pale, in between the storming into the house and finding us in the hallway, and I don’t know why we didn’t try to run.

She tried ducking her head in between her knees, but it was too late. The hot water splashed against her face, scolding her at the touch. And as soon as the pale was empty, he returned with another. I sat beside her trying to dodge the water and shield her at the same time, begging him to stop. But my voice was drowned out by my mother’s sobs and his reprimanding yells.

I’ll never know what caused this fight, but I know it wasn’t deserving of burn-marks and the beginning of PTSD.

My four-year-old brain begged itself to find a solution; the last time someone dialed 911 after one of his attacks, my mom got taken away in handcuffs. It wasn’t her property. It wasn’t her house. He wanted us gone. But when the police took her away, I didn’t get to go with her. They ignored the fingerprints on her neck and left her daughter to wait with the man who left the fingerprints until someone else could come pick her up.

I found my way to the bathroom, slipping on the water puddles on the floor, in search for towels. I carried as many towels as my fragile arms could manage and returned to the scene.

He was gone.

My mom sat: soaked, sobbing, and sorry.

I draped my towel-clothed arms around her, rubbing her back to calm the both of us.

I laid my cheek against her wet shoulder, “It’ll be okay, Mom. I’m right here.”