Shannon forced her breathing to be slow and steady. Her heart raced and everything in her wanted to scream out loud; "Stay away from me!"
Would slow, steady breaths make her predator believe she was asleep, deep asleep? Would he then leave her alone? She had never tried this tactic before. She hoped it would work.
His unsteady drunken steps continued down the hallway towards her room.
Just breathe, she told herself, slow, steady breaths.
Shannon remembered other times he had come for her. After what seemed like hours of yelling she would hear his footfalls come toward her bedroom door. Barging in he'd pull her from her warm bed and stand her in front of her mother.
The living room, so neat and orderly during the day, would always be a mess, he liked to throw things when he was angry, throw things and yell. Whenever he drank something would send him into a rage. A word spoken, a look, sometimes it seemed like their thoughts could send him off on a delusional rant.
Every day he drank. Every night when the yelling started Shannon cowered in fear.
Her mother would sit on the couch and cry for him to stop as he explained to his daughter the reasons for his current rage. "She's old enough to know what's going on!" was his response as he spilled out all of his accusations against her mother.
His tirade always ended with her impossible predicament... as he asked her; "So who is right? Your mother or me?"
There was no right answer to this question. Experience had shown her that to agree with him and say her mother was wrong was met with a smack to her head for "disrespecting your mother." But to say that he was wrong never ended well, neither did trying to "weasel out" of her responsibility as the oldest child by saying "I don't know."
Shannon knew that when she heard these angry steps coming towards her bedroom there were no right answers and there would be pain.
Just breathe, deep sleeping breaths, breathe in and slowly, steadily, out. Just breathe and maybe he will go away.
His steps stopped at the door and the door knob turned... just breathe she told herself again.
Suddenly she was awakened by her younger sister shaking her and saying; "Hey, roll over or something, you're snoring like an elephant!"
Shannon lie silently for a moment as she realized that there was no yelling, the house was quiet and everyone was asleep. There had been yelling earlier, but she must have fallen asleep. It was only a dream that he was coming for her... this time.
She smiled as she wondered; "Do elephants really snore?" and rolled over to enjoy the peaceful rest of this night.
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