Fragile Thing


A sad take on a sweet song

Cold sheets and a tiny ray of light illuminating Laura Ashley's lace.  A beautiful pink duvet cover surrounded by Victorian pillow shams and the softest stuffed animals.  A storybook tossed casually to the foot of the bed, its brightly-colored cover glaring up into the darkness with a smile that spoke of too much childhood to survive.

A bed fit for a queen, but protected like a prison.

Beneath the covers, a tiny frame hovers, balancing a flashlight and a few tattered stuffed animals--the ones with enough wear and tear to be real, but not enough perfection to perch on the bed.  A forbidden book lies open on the sheets, and the girl scans the pages with eyes widened in fright and anxiety.  Every so often, she looks up from the pages with a fear that truly reveals her innocence.

Is that Daddy?

I don't know what he does to make you cry
But I'll be there to make you smile
I don't have a fancy car
To get to you, I'd walk a thousand miles

Downstairs, they're breaking glass and shouting.  She can hear them still, fighting with words and corning ware.  Fists and ceramics have been flying all evening, but she can close her eyes and it goes away.  She can close her eyes and look for places where people smile without screaming and frown without tears.

Even at six years old, she knows how to be tired of tears.  She knows that the tattered stuffed animals are more valuable than the pretty ones, and she knows that a bed of lace is nothing if you can't fall asleep.

She has learned too much too fast, and while her limbs are small for her age, her eyes are far too old.

I don't care if he buys you nice things
Do his gifts come from the heart?
I don't know, but if you were my girl
I'd make it so we'd never be apart

She burrows further beneath the covers and returns to the book, processing words of friendship and fantasy.  Downstairs, two people are screaming, but two girls are dancing across the pages.  She turns the page, and a boy enters, wrapping arms around the girls that she has never felt.  Will never feel.  Wants to feel, but doesn't know how.

She's afraid he'll touch her like Daddy does.

But my love is all I have to give
Without you I don't think I could live
I wish I could give the world to you
But love is all I have to give

Another crash, and the flashlight burns out.  She blinks slowly, focusing in the dark.  She should cry--she can taste the tears, but her eyes are dry.  She wonders how many tears one can shed in a lifetime.  She wonders if she's finally run out.

She squeezes her eyes shut, and she can see shards of a broken plate at her feet, see icy blue eyes and a fist that she knows better than her mother's caress.  She clasps her tiny hands together and shakes her head, warding the images off long enough to pray.  Mommy says God can hear her.

She recites the Our Father with deadly accuracy, wondering all the while if God can hear Mommy and Daddy.

Daddy yells, and she wonders if God is mad at Mommy.  Wonders if God is mad at her.

When he calls, do you feel like he's not
Even listening to a word you say?
That's okay, babe; just tell me your problems
I'll try my best to kiss them all away

A tiny Amen follows a yawn, and she unclasps her hands long enough to hug the tattered animals to her left.  She squeezes them like she squeezes her eyes.  She squeezes them like Daddy squeezes her.  Because Daddy loves her.

Daddy must love Mommy too, because he squeezes her just as tight.

She shoves the book and the flashlight in her pillowcase.  It's a good story, and she wants to read more tomorrow. 

Downstairs, the door slams.

Does he leave when you need him the most?
Do his friends take all your time?
Baby, please, I'm on my knees
Praying for the day that you'll be mine

She bites her lip and tries to remember the words to the Hail Mary.  God must hear a lot of Our Father, and she's sure he'll remember two prayers better than one. 

She gets past the first sentence and the door opens.  She stops praying and takes a deep breath.  She's supposed to be asleep, and she doesn't want to make Daddy mad.

She makes a face as a hand pulls the covers off of her.  She keeps her eyes closed, though, as someone kisses her forehead and whispers goodnight.  Just before the covers fall back over her, a drop of water lands on her cheek.

As the bedroom door closes softly, she sighs.  "God, please help Mommy run out of tears."

But my love is all I have to give
Without you I don't think I could live
I wish I could give the world to you
But love is all I have to give

She starts the Hail Mary again.  She whispers the words softly so only God can hear because she doesn't want to wake Mommy up.  Besides, she's supposed to be sleeping. 

Halfway through the prayer, she can't remember the words, so she starts to make them up. 

The door slams again.

The stuffed animals start shaking, so she starts to softly sing them a song.  Mommy sings her songs when she's scared, and it always makes her feel better. 

She stops singing when the stairs creak and hugs the animals more tightly. 

Is that Daddy? 

Hey, girl
I don't want you to cry no more inside
All the money in the world
Could never add up to all the love I have inside

The door opens again, and she turns stock still, breathing deeply as she squeezes her eyes shut.  The doorknob hits the wall, but she doesn't even flinch.


She doesn't move.  She knows Daddy loves her, but sometimes, like tonight, his love hurts too much.

Daddy pulls back the covers roughly, but she stays still.  In her head, she pretends that she's one of the rocks in the sun by the lake.  She can see the sunshine, and a warm feeling starts at her head and spreads straight down to her toes.

"You're gonna suffocate under all those blankets."

A big hand shoves the covers under her until she feels trapped, but she just squeezes her eyes tighter.  If she concentrates really hard, the covers start to feel like moss.

"Get some sleep."

One rough hand on her head, and the door slams behind him.  She sighs with relief.

Daddy loves her.  She knows he does.

'Cause I love you, baby
And I will give it to you
All I can give
Everything I have is for you
You've got what I need
All that I have is for you

Mommy screams, and then everything is quiet.  In the corner, the clock is ticking, and outside she can hear the noises that the crickets make every night right before bedtime.

Mommy doesn't understand.  If she'd just pretend like she's sleeping, she wouldn't have to scream anymore.  Daddy wouldn't get so mad, and his love wouldn't hurt so much.

Eyes closed and she sees Daddy's hands on her, broken glass at her feet and Mommy crying in the corner and she thinks that it's not fair, because she ran out of tears a long time ago and Mommy still has more.  She's on the ground and pins are pricking her legs and feet, and she wonders if she can take Mommy's tears from her, teach her how to get rid of them all.  If you give them all to your pillow, you won't have any more, she wants to say.  It won't hurt anymore.

Daddy loves her.  She knows he does.  He loves Mommy too.  She's sure of it. 

But my love is all I have to give
Without you I don't think I could live
I wish I could give the world to you
But love is all I have to give to you

She falls asleep, wondering if Daddy knows that she loves him too.

To learn more about domestic violence, visit .
"All I Have To Give"
performed by the Backstreet Boys