‘Never had a Chance’
Baby Mila was lying in the crib wearing an oxygen mask. The hissing created a rhythmic sound similar to a meditation mantra. Her dainty thin arm was impaled with a needle to feed her from the IV drip. At the side of the crib, she sat with tear filled bruised eyes quietly watching her near-death baby girl.
When would she get the strength to leave him?
She thought, ‘Lord, I need strength and guidance. I can’t go on like this or go it alone.’
A few nights before she’d raged at the clock. It was almost midnight and he hadn’t come home from work. She felt relief and fear all-in-one ball deep inside her stomach. She knew he’d be drunk and nasty. Why did she even care?
Things had progressed to extreme bouts of violence. Growing up she’d never experienced anything like this. It was an unknown behavior to her. Violence was a foreign visiter she loathed. She knew one thing for sure, love isn’t supposed to hurt. Love doesn’t make you doubt yourself. Love doesn’t inflict fear and anxiety.
What had changed?
Was he always this way?
He’d kept it hidden so well?
She had so many questions with no answers. But, did she want to even know the answers?
This time he’d gone too far. He almost killed my baby girl. Sure, he’d whack her behind. He’d scream at her. He even took a belt to her once or twice. A fifteen month old could be frustrating for any parent. For a stepfather, who disliked kids, it was hellish. This time was going to be the last time. No more!
She never condoned his aggressive acts towards Mila. The welts she’d see when she’d get home from work tormented her when she had to leave her with him. He’d claim the bruises were an accident. She’d fallen off a chair or bumped into a wall. She was furious when he did, but helpless to stop him.
What about the tattoo patterns from cigarette burns? Were they an accident too? He never took responsibility for any of it.
The social worker came to see her at the hospital. She said she’d help her get out of this violent situation but it would take time. In the meantime, they’d be taken to a new place to live when Mila was released from the hospital.
Mila was her little miracle. Her name, Milagros, means miracle. Perhaps, her being released from the hospital was a miracle from her to me.
A court date for a restraining order would be next. If he was tried for child abuse I’d have to testify before the judge in court. The thought of it chilled her to the bone. She knew she’d be afraid and full of terror.
Could she bring herself to do it?
The social worker repeatedly said, “These things take time. She’d have to be patient.” But, time wasn’t what she wanted to hear her say. She wanted to be safe. She needed help now.
Days after taking Mila to the new apartment the doorbell rang. She hesitated to open the door. She had a premonition he’d be on the other side. He was.
He pleaded with her. He said he wanted to talk about their relationship. He wanted her to just listen to his apology. He’d leave right after.
She panicked. For fear he’d never go away she conceded and let him in. He tried to kiss her. She could smell liquor. Shaking, she told him to talk and then leave. When he started to talk, all she heard were muffled sounds. It was as if she’d gone deaf. She didn’t care about what he had to say. She just wanted him gone.
When Mila saw him, she began crying. She went and picked her up. He followed. He grabbed her arm with one hand and gestured a fist with the other. Scowling, he push her down on the couch. She screamed in fear. Mila cried louder. She went mute. Her head was spinning. He’d pounded her head mercilessly. It was then she realized he had Mila in his grasp. Screaming at her and shaking her fragile body he threw her against the wall. She slid down like she was melting. Dazed, she finally got up. Before she could reach her, he threw several punches at her again knocking her to the floor. His rage increased the more Mila cried. She pleaded with him to let her go. She begged him to stop. She told him she’d stay with him. Her despair fell on deaf ears. He picked Mila up by her shoulders, once again, and threw her at the wall in a crazed fury. Blood splattered everywhere from her crushed head. She cried no more.
Neighbors, hearing the screams and chaos, had called the police. He fled as he heard the sirens. They caught him as he descended the stairwell. His bloodied clothes, the proof.
He was given a life sentence for murder. And I, a life sentence of sorrowful pain.
© 2018, Isadora de la Vega
***** Short Story based on notes from a patrolman’s on-duty memo book
***** The names have been changed to protect the innocent. For more information: National Children’s Advocacy Center
***** National Statistics on Child Abuse:
In 2015, an estimated 1,670 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States.1 In 2015, Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country served more than 311,0002 child victims of abuse, providing victim advocacy and support to these children and their families.
For more information click here: National Children’s Alliance