Lone, I

I hear them yelling. They sound angry. One of the words I hear is the word they call me.

Have I done something wrong?

Are they angry at me?

I don’t want them to be angry at me. They hurt me when they’re angry.

Someone is coming, still shouting. Angry Man, I know him. The word they call me, he’s using it a lot. That’s never good.

I don’t know what I did. I make myself small against the back of the dark place where I sleep.

Angry Man is approaching the way into the place where they keep me. I have to get up and meet him; that I have learned I must do. I don’t want to do it, but I do it. I wait for him to come in, yelling the word they call me and others. Most I don’t understand, but BAD—that one I understand.

No! I’m not that. I’m not!

Another is coming, but I can’t see because Angry Man is jerking open the way into the place where they keep me and I can see the thing in his hand. I don’t like that thing.

I don’t want this to happen.

I am alone and I have nowhere to go.

Flat-faced Woman is approaching. Why is she here? She says words to Angry Man and he stops coming toward me and stops shouting and just glares at me, but he waits for her.

They have a word they use to make me stop everything and wait for them to show me what they want me to do. I do it because I understand, but also because if I don’t do it, they will hurt me again. I wonder if Flat-faced Woman has a stopword for Angry Man and I wonder what it was. She said many words I didn’t understand.

She doesn’t have a thing in her hand. She doesn’t need one.

They are both looking at me with hard eyes and I feel my body trembling all over and I can’t stop it and I cry out to them, “I didn’t mean it please don’t!”

They both flinch at the sound of my voice. I don’t know how to make their words. Mine all come out at once in the only voice I have, a single, sharp expression that my fear made louder and harsher than I meant it to be. For a moment, I see something in Angry Man’s eyes and I have to look away.

He raises the thing in his hand and lunges it at me. I recoil, but the jolting agony doesn’t come. Flat-faced Woman has a hand on him. They exchange more words. I understand almost none of them. I want to. It is the most important thing now to understand their talk. I have to learn to do what they want me to do and not do anything wrong. I have to show them I can be a… a ‘goodgirl’.

A little one called me that once. I didn’t know what it meant then and I have not seen her again, but I know I could be that if they would show me how and I would do it and there would be no more shouting and hurting and not knowing why and maybe they would call me that word too. ‘Goodgirl’.

But they don’t seem to care. They are impatient with me.

Angry Man raises his voice. Flat-faced Woman does not, but says a lot of words at him and Angry Man’s face gets harder than before and he walks away. Flat-faced Woman stares at me without expression. She doesn’t see him scowl and gesture at her back.

He turns his angry face and gestures at me. I hold his eyes. I know he doesn’t like that, but I try to smile at him. I want him to see I’m not BAD and not be angry with me anymore, but I see something in him again, something I did not expect. I recognize it now and this time he turns away, swinging the thing in his hand.

Flat-faced Woman takes a step forward and I lean back and allow her to take the toy I found.

She says nothing. I hear her breathing above me and keep my eyes down. I don’t like her eyes. I don’t like what’s in them, but her silence and waiting for the pain and not knowing how bad it will be and I have to know. So, I look at her.

She smiles at me with her flat face and turns without a word with my toy in her hand. She closes the way out of the place where they keep me and goes away.

I lay down and wait for the ground to soak up my quivering energy and I wish I could go away too.

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