Long, straight, thin strands of the lightest brown hair plastered to an alphabet pillow, my tiny body sunk into my waterbed, covered with my ABC comforter. A nightlight across the room. Door cracked. Old, ugly curtains pulled all the way closed. If any part of the window wasn’t covered, I was sure I’d be dead by morning. Bunny close by, thumb in mouth. Knees to chest. Paralyzed.

Five, six, seven, eight—the year I stopped sucking my thumb at night. I never gave up the night light.

Sometimes I held my breath—maybe I would be ok if no one could hear me.

Maybe I would be ok: if I was so quiet and so small and so hidden. Maybe if all the things in my room were how they were supposed to be, I wouldn’t get hurt. Maybe if all my thoughts were kind, only kindness would come back to me.

Nine, ten, eleven, twelve—the first year I spent wrought with fear even away from that bed. Every day at school, nervous I was about to get in trouble.

Fear is so present my rib cage hurts.

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