“Shhhh. It’s okay baby girl. You are safe now.”
Her head rests in my lap. I can see her back inflating and collapsing in time with her breaths. Some get caught in her throat and she whimpers until she can breathe again. Her hand is clutching my sweatshirt. Her knuckles are white. Her hands are clammy and dirty. I wonder how long she kept this all in for. An hour? A day? A year? I can’t ask her that right now. I just concentrate on smoothing her knotted hair and wiping away her tears before they can even drip onto my jeans.
She is asleep now, snoring slightly. I am happy that she is at peace at least for this moment. For once she wakes up, she will be thrust back into the reality forced upon her. She isn’t equipped to handle this. No one is. I wonder if she will have her voice when she wakes up. I know it will, at least, be hoarse and scratchy from all the screaming and crying. I take a second to examine her placid demeanor before it is corrupted with memories. Her thick red hair curls around her face and spills onto the floor. Her pink lips are slightly parted as she breathes deeply. I never noticed how many freckles she had on her nose. Little constellations are splashed in the middle of her face. There is dirt under her right eye that stretches all the way to her collarbone. How much did she struggle? How much did she beg? I flinch at the thought of her pinned to the ground fighting as hard as she can to break free. I focus again on her features. Her left index finger has a large cut on it. Probably from scraping it on a tree or a zipper. I want to get a band-aid and cover up her wound, but I dare not wake her. I want to get a band-aid and cover all of her fresh wounds, physical and mental. She might never be okay again. Her life is changed forever now. What a burden for her to bear. I silently make a promise to her.
I will love you forever.
I will protect you always.
I will never stop wiping your tears.
I will be your voice of reason.
I will be your emotional support.
I will be your mother, father, sister, brother, and best friend.
Don’t worry baby girl.
I will never let go.