Daddy’s the Devil – Rachel Elliott

“We have to hide when daddy comes home.”
This was a game for them. I liked thinking of this as a game.
“Mommy will protect us.” I whispered.
We were hiding behind the kindergarten classroom door.
My friends giggled and laughed.
I could pretend that it was a game.
Games were fun. Real life—
was not.

“I stay up in my room all day because I’m scared.”
The devil wouldn’t feed me.
“Up in my room all day because I’m scared.”
The devil was glued to the computer screen.
“In my room all day because I’m scared.”
Can’t go outside of my room. It’s not safe.
“In my room…because I’m scared.”
Hiding out until my mother came home.
“Because I’m scared.”

I felt his hand make contact with my skull.
This was the first time I remembered him hitting me.
I blinked.
I did not understand.
What did I do?
His voice reverberated against my skull.
Yelling was a thousand times worse than being hit,
A thousand times worse.
Next time, I would not go get an apple juice.

The devil was running after us, crashing into my life again.
The shopper cart’s wheels screeched as my mother raced around the corner.
His runners slammed into the pavement, close behind.
My mother’s eyes widened.
She ditched the cart and dashed into the nearest clothes rank.
She hugged me close to her chest and closed her eyes.
His shoes stood still on the linoleum floors.
Were we safe?
He made a mad dash to the checkout, still searching for us.
We stayed in the rack for a few minutes, my mother taking shallow breaths.
Walmart was a battlefield.

His voice made me cringe. Made the hair on my arms stand up.
He smiled like the Joker. His yellow fangs ready to strike.
I wanted to run. Why was I forced to see the devil every Saturday?

“How old are you?”
I was nine years old. The man was there at my birth.
How did he not know how old I was?
“How old are you?”
Old enough to know that you’re a pathetic excuse for a father.
“How old are you?”
Old enough to know that I hate you, old enough not to fall for your act.
“How old are you?”
I am immortal. I have aged thirty years before reaching the age of ten. All thanks to you.
“How old are you?”

“I don’t love you.”
We were at the mall food court. I was eating a soft taco.
“I don’t love you.”
Tears rolled down his face.
“I don’t love you.”
A lump formed in my throat.
“I don’t love you.”
I handed him half my empanada.
“I don’t love you.”
I didn’t love him.
I would never take it back.

I wanted to change my name, go to a universe beyond my own.
“We are the only Elliotts. It’s you and me.”
My last name was a curse, binding me to the devil,
Choking the light right out of me.
This behemoth was my father, responsible for 50% of my DNA,
The culprit behind my tears, my sadness,
Lurking in the shadows of my life.
I could never escape the damage that he’d caused.
“We are the only Elliotts. It’s you and me.”