He smiled up at her as she tucked the blanket under his chin, her hands smelling of the honey she'd put on his ice cream just a few minutes ago. She gently brushed his cheek with the back of her hand and kissed him good night. Turning off the light as she walked out the room, softly closing the door behind her. He watched the sliver of light narrow until he could only see the outlines of the door. Throwing off the covers shackling him to the bed, he tiptoed to the door, his batman action figure in hand. Putting his ear against the rough wood he strained his ears. He heard the sound of footsteps retreating down the stairs and the TV being turned on.
A grin spread across his face like sunshine on a rainy day. In the blue hue of the night lamp he stuck his arm under the bed and pulled out his action figures, laying them out on the bed, making up his stories about how his superheroes fought to save his world, his city, his house ... his family. They flew around the room in the safety of his little hands, with a whooshing sound that sounded suspiciously like someone blowing. They spoke to each other in the shrill voices only a little different from each others'. They made plans to defeat villains in their cave hideouts or their clandestine space stations with quilted roofs and walls. The plans were always the simplest one, beat the snot out of them. All of this as quietly as possible so that nobody would realize that their puppet master was awake. Time passed and slurred conversations were interspersed with yawns, until finally the world had to wait until morning to be saved.
His little hands let go of their charges as he fell asleep with his head under the quilt cum cave at the foot of the bed.
He opened his eyes to thin slits at the slam of the front door, turned over and sought his dreams again. The sounds of shouting from below didn't touch his blanketed ears. His slumbering consciousness didn't heed the sound of shattering glass or of hurried footsteps up the stairs.
The door of the room adjoining his slammed shut, forcing him into a wanton state of waking. The sound of the bolt being thrown barely registered.
He heard the muffled screams of his father as he banged his fist against the locked door. The slurred speech a sign of how drunk he'd gotten. He heard his mother arguing with him through the door. Sobs held her words back as they tried to get free. He sat upright in his bed, back against the wall. Sleep, a distant memory. Dreams and illusions shattered against reality. He brought up his knees against his chest as the shouting increased in volume. He could hear what they were saying through the thin walls. The sound of his father's fists on the door. He wished they'd stop fighting. He hoped his father would pass out. The shouting continued. Sobs and Stutters against bellows and roars.
The crack of the bolt giving way startled him. He brought his legs closer to his chest, hugging them. His breath came out in laboured gasps close together, as though he'd been sprinting. He heard a sound he recognized all too well, the sound made by his father's belt when it touched flesh. He squeezed his eyes shut, the wrinkles in his eyelids making him seem older than his tender age. Rocking back and forth, his back to the wall, his head made a soft knocking sound against wall behind him.
With every crack of his father's belt he heard a whimper. After a while he didn't know which side of the wall it came from.