CHAPTER EIGHT

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"I'm not leaving you here to be tortured."

"Mandy, you have to. It's the only way that she won't be punished for it. Please. Just take Max to your house and I'll come get her tomorrow. But I can't let her get hurt. It's just better if I stay here. If we both leave, he'll punish us both. He'll only punish me if I just stay tonight."

"He'll punish you enough for the both of you," she says and I know she's right. But I just can't even fathom letting him touch Max again. Not after the night he- I can't even think about it.

"I know. But he won't touch her."

That was all that mattered. Keeping Max safe. And Mandy knew that more than anyone.

After a lot of begging, Mandy left. With Max. When he got home from work, all hell broke lose. He stormed into my room, breaking the door in the process.

"Where the fuck is your sister?" He demands. I shrug.

"I don't know. I think she went to a friend's house."

"That's ridiculous. She's six. She doesn't go to friend's houses. So I'll ask one more time." He steps towards me threateningly. Still, I don't back down. "Where is your goddamn sister?" His voice is low, dangerous.

Regardless, I shrug again. "I don't know. Maybe you can ask her when she gets back."

His hand comes up, slapping me across the face hard. The sting is enough for me to know that it will swell up before morning. He grabs me by my shirt, pulling me up to his face. His alcohol-stained breath hits me harder than the slap he had just delivered. I hadn't expected him to come home drunk. I was in trouble.

"Last chance," he says. I'm scared, sure, but I still say nothing. If I told him, not only would Max be punished but probably so would Amanda. And I couldn't allow that.

When he knows I won't budge, I see every last bit of humanity in him shrink away. He tosses me at my desk, my back landing directly on the corner. I yelp out in pain and fall to my knees. But he's not done. He grabs me again, yanking me up and throwing me against my closet doors. I fall hard against the floor, gasping for air. My body hurt already, and I knew I had a concussion. I look up, seeing my mom standing at the door.

If I was five again, I'd probably reach out to her but now I knew better. She had never helped me before and she sure as hell wouldn't now. She just watched. Sometimes she would smile as if she was enjoying it, that sick bastard.

I hated them. I hated them both.

Well no, that's putting it nicely. I loathed them. I despised them.

My attention returns back to my father when he delivers a kick right into my abdomen. My body contorts and I clutch my stomach, gasping for air. I couldn't fight back. I had tried that before and that had almost killed me. So I just lie there. Punch after punch, kick after kick, I just lay there, spitting out the blood that had come up into my mouth. That night left me with a for sure concussion, bruised ribs, two swollen eyes, a swollen jaw, and a presumably fractured nose. Things that I never was taken to the hospital for.

After that night, I thought it couldn't get worse than that.

I was wrong.

I was so very, very wrong.

———

As I prepare myself for dinner with the Evans', I start to think heavily about my childhood home. I'd fallen down these rabbity holes quite a bit before, where I would just think about nights in that house. That night specifically, stuck out in my head.

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