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  • I am 4 years old. I have just arrived home, but my brother has stayed at my daddy's house. I am received this morning by my step-father. There are niceties between the two of them as I am unbundled from the car on this cold winter morning. My step father thanks my daddy for dropping me early so he can spend some one-on-one time with me. It has been two years and I still seem a little reserved to him and he intends to have a fun day, just him and me. My daddy seems alright with that as he kisses my cheek and absently messes my hair up. I pull away and give him the look- only boys like that daddy.
    He chuckles as he hops back in the car. My step father and I watch his car become a toy and then a bug and then a speck and then nothing.

    I am confused and groggy. I have been asleep in the car and the transition from warm slumber to cold confusion is overwhelming. As I walk through the door to the house I am sniffling, trying to hold back tears. I want my brother. I want to go back to my father's house. I want to see my mother. No one is there but him. I am crying now- wailing in that way that small children do with total abandon. My face is met with a million pins as my step father slaps it. My diaphragm is immediately paralyzed. I am not breathing. I have never been hit before and the shock is like that of a quick jump into freezing water. My face crumples and pinches as if to signal my body to gather more breath and begin the torrent of tears again, but he is there, his breath upon my face and his eyes taking residence in my own. He tells me to shut up. In a level and humored tone, he tells me to shut. my. mouth. The lecture begins. This is the first day of my new school. He will teach me everything I need to know about my "family". He will tell me the truths I need to hear. I am a big enough girl to start learning and every day we will go over the lessons together.

    I am no longer allowed to call my father my daddy. I will address him by his initials if I must. He is no real daddy anyway because he doesn't teach me all of the things that a real father should. My step father will be my daddy. He will be quitting his job so he can take care of me while my mother is at work. My brother can stay in his room. He isn't special like I am anyway. He goes to school and I deserve to learn too. I should thank him now for his thoughtfulness and willingness to help me learn how to be the best girl I can be. He says he has tried to teach me things before, but I was to little to remember, so we will start all over again. I will go to "that guy's" house when I am supposed to. I will never, ever share my lessons with anyone else. If I do, my brother will die.

    I am seeing through a pinhole and I am hearing through cotton. None of this makes sense. The only things that I have learned are that I will not cry again and that I agree that I will be a good girl and learn my lessons and make sure that my brother gets to live. We are both lost in his tirade- his strange rantings through clenched teeth. He is lofty with plans. I am weighted with fear.

    He is kneeling in front of me again, smiling and moving his hands up and down my tiny arms. He is being so nice. This is better. He wants to show me the last lesson he tried to teach me- when I was too young to remember. He says I am old enough and smart enough to learn now. He says we both have to wear different clothes though. I am lucky I get to wear my nighty to school and he will teach in his bathrobe. I giggle about that and he flinches. His face changes for just a moment, as though he has been watching a movie in the dark and someone has flicked on a light. He has lost his concentration and I remember the pins in my face. I tighten up and ready my cheek for more, but he is glazed over again and he giggles too because I am right, he says, it is all kind of silly. My heart bursts with unbridled relief. I have pleased him. We are both happy. He will be right back and then we can start our lesson.
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