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The following story is true.


I used to live on the corner house of my street. Our flat wasn’t large, but it was certainly more than enough for just the two of us. Our neighbor’s side window lined up directly with ours, so it wasn’t exactly uncommon to experience the occasional awkward eye contact with the people next door. Next door lived a family: a father, a mother, and a couple of young boys. The young boys were always outside. The youngest in particular, would frequently speak to us as we walked down the driveway to start our day. He’d show off his impressive bike tricks, ask us about our days, and ask us to play ball. Anytime we’d ask how he was, he’d proudly announce, “I’m good!” The smile on his face rarely went away.

Behind our house was a grapefruit tree, and we would catch him stealing our grapefruit almost on the daily. We never cared much, as we didn’t use near enough to complain about a few missing fruits. The kid must have been no more than six years old, and we weren’t about to rebuke a kindergartener. In the summer months, he never wore a full shirt. His wardrobe for as long as we had known him had consisted of sleeveless shirts at most, and just basketball shorts at least. I couldn't blame him, the summers blazed in the south pacific, and the humidity kept us roasting from the inside out.

Every morning, he would come out to see us, and to wish us luck on our day. Every night, he was there when we returned. He stayed outside as late as possible, until his mother called him inside. He’d hesitantly obey. 

His mother and father often yelled. More nights than not consisted of recurring background noise of loud arguments and shouting matches. It became normal, and we trained ourselves to sleep through it. On occasion the fight would be especially intense, and it would result in the father rushing outside and slamming the door, clenching an empty glass bottle in his hand. We never meant to eavesdrop, but it was often hard to miss.

A couple weeks into our stay, another loud night awaited us. The usual shouting matches began, and we did our best to ignore it. We washed our dishes, and prepared for bed, but couldn't help but sneak a peek through our side window. That was when things changed. The shouting grew louder, gradually growing into screams. We were silent, unsure what to do. We heard a piercing scream, not the loud shout of an adult, but a high-pitched, terrifying scream. We knew that instant, that that terrible noise was not a normal scream of anger. It was a scream of pain. Up until that moment, I had never fully realized that there was a difference. We raced to the window, in a desperate attempt to see something. We saw the father, only from the torso up, the flowing curtains and the small window obstructing our view. It was clear he was standing over something. His body would frequently wind up and shake, as if he were kicking something with great strength. The screams didn’t stop. They were paired with sobbing cries, and desperate pleas to stop. It was difficult to comprehend, like the whole world was suddenly in a haze. That was enough for us. We hadn’t perfectly seen everything, but we knew. We immediately called the police, and told them what we had seen and heard. It was a full nine minutes before they arrived. By the time we saw the glint of red and blue, the screaming had stopped.

They knocked on the door, only to be greeted by the mother. The mother assured them all was well, and having no warrant, there was little else they could do. They parked down the road and snuck up to our flat, careful not to be seen by our neighbors. We quickly let them inside, and they took our statement. They assured us that they would do all they could. They even mentioned that we weren't the first to call about that house. 

That night, I had a knot in my stomach. I couldn’t sleep. We tried to pray, but we couldn’t get the words out. I had never witnessed anything like that before. I had never hoped so desperately to be wrong. I had never hoped more for some kind of misunderstanding.

I didn’t sleep that night. I waited, lying in my bed, and felt every minuscule change of temperature touching my face, as the moon was slowly replaced by the sun. We got up, got dressed, and saw the boy outside, sitting on the curb. We made our way down the driveway and asked him how he was doing. His reply was familiar, yet somehow also felt incredibly different.

“I’m good.”

For the first time, the boy wore long sleeves and pants. The blazing sun beat down on us, the sky, an uninterrupted blue. Drops of sweat slowly spread from the top of his head, dripping along his long hair.  I asked him if he was hot. He nodded. I then suggested his other shirt would probably be cooler.

“Yea, that’s true”, he said. “But my Daddy told me to wear this one.”

My heart sank. It became harder and harder to hold onto the hope that I was wrong. I couldn’t help but think how many times this could have happened; How I tried to ignore it for so long. After all, it was none of my business.

 I learned something that day. I learned to keep my eyes and ears open. The world is a very beautiful place, but also a very scary one. Recognizing the details can help us tell the difference. Especially the small ones,


like the boy who wore long sleeves in the summer.


If you or a loved one is struggling with abuse, here are some resources:

Domestic Violence Support

National Domestic Violence Hotline


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