Note: The following is only a small, abbreviated version of a larger, more detailed chapter in an upcoming novel of mine. All work is copyrighted.
Catch up on Esmeralda’s Story: Read the Prologue here, and Chapter 1 here.

img_5829Officer García asked Esmeralda to wait in the lobby. She sat quietly until a grieving mother and her child came in and sat across from her.

She saw the pain in the woman’s tears, tears shed through a swollen, black eye. Esmeralda didn’t understand. Why was the woman crying? Hadn’t her suffering ended?

Rosalinda, four years old, sat quietly, perplexed. She didn’t understand her mother’s grief and didn’t quite yet know her father had been murdered. Her eyes had a tinge of innocence left in them still.

As Esmeralda watched Rosalinda and the purple bruises on her little arms, she thought about her childhood…

Esmeralda, only twelve years old, sat on the kitchen table doing her homework while her mother cooked dinner. It was a day nobody liked. It wasn’t an easy day for anyone.

As Alma stirred the lentil chicken soup, tears swelled in her eyes as grief pounded her heart, begging for mercy…begging for a lost soul. Her pain was unbearable.

Esmeralda could hear her mother’s heart aching across the kitchen floor. She wanted to free her from her chains but didn’t know how.

Her father came busting through the front door, toppling over, the smell of whiskey pouring from his pores. He was back from a three day binge.

“Alma, where is my fucking dinner, Alma? My dinner. Alma!”

Esmeralda immediately made herself small while holding her stomach tight. The bruises from the last beating were still fresh. She was scared. She tried not to move.

“It’s coming, Héctor, it’s coming,” said Alma, her voice quivering and cowering. She was a tiny woman, fragile and broken. Her knitted sweater covered the previous weeks’ wounds.

“Why isn’t it ready!? Fucking pendeja! You can’t do shit!” Héctor slammed the kitchen table with his bare fist, threatening Alma. Esmeralda held herself tighter.

“Are you crying!? You’re crying? Instead of fixing my damn dinner!?” Alma felt Héctor’s knuckles dig deeply into the back of her head in one quick punch. She remained still, the pain throbbing into her crumbled soul.

Esmeralda knew her father was very drunk. His hair was disheveled and his eyes bulging, bloodshot. She didn’t know how to help her Mom. She was so small.

“What are you looking at!?” With a hand the size of the child’s face, Héctor slapped Esmeralda hard across the face. Blood fell from her innocent lips onto the table.

She knew better than to look him in the eyes. That was her mistake. It was her fault she got slapped.

“What is this shit!? Sopa, Alma, sopa!?” His body continued to rock violently.

Alma burst into tears. “Héctor, por favor, not today! You know what today is!”

She held her head down, staring at her feet hoping his wrath wouldn’t rain down on her. Her plea had been risky. He was so drunk, but maybe he’d take mercy on her today.

Héctor came closer to Alma, who was standing by the stove. He stumbled back and forth, unable to balance himself well. Silence fell over them.

Then, in one swift instance, Héctor grabbed the boiling pot by the handle and threw the soup towards Alma’s face.

She tried to move out of the way but couldn’t react fast enough. Her arm was immediately on fire, sending a piercing, throbbing pain deep into her bone as her shrieking screams filled the kitchen.

“Papi!” Esmeralda cried as she ran to push her father away. Héctor turned towards her, eyes full of deep, dark anger, and slammed the pot across her head.

“Go to your room! Ahora! Go!” Esmeralda pressed her hand on her scalp as hard as she could, trying to alleviate the pain. Her head, and now her hand, were burning. She sobbed as she ran to safety.

Esmeralda’s entire face was swollen and her spirit broken. Her father had finally taken the last bits of her childish innocence. She went into her closet and curled up on top of her shoes, sobbing uncontrollably, painfully. The taste of her tears and blood was familiar.

She could hear her father yelling and her Mom crying, begging for mercy. She wanted to help but didn’t know how. She was so, so small.

“Héctor, porfavor!” Her Mom’s pleas came before the all too familiar sound of a fist on bare skin, of a foot slamming hard onto a stomach.

The fight grew louder and louder, more painful each second, a savage beating by an angry drunk and worthless man who had no decent way of dealing with his own cowardly pain.

Esmeralda tried to tune it all out, but the sound of a window breaking startled her.

“Héctoooooooor!” It was Alma’s voice from a distance, followed by a loud thud far away. Esmeralda could hear screams down on the street. They lived on the fifth floor. She curled up tighter, pressing her knees against her chest and her head into her thighs.

“Miss, this way please.”

Esmeralda snapped out of painful memory to nostalgic existence. She rose to follow Officer García, but first she knelt down by Rosalinda.

“He wont hurt you or your mommy ever again,” she whispered, giving the small child a subtle hug. Esmeralda wasn’t so small anymore.