It felt as if I had just fallen asleep when I heard the soft, barely there tap on my window. I knew who it was and dread felt like fists gripping my heart and stomach. Without hesitating I tossed back the worn, old comforter and moved across the small bedroom to the window. A quick glance at the clock beside my bed told me that it was just after one in the morning. I had to be up at seven to get to work—a job I only went to so that I could get Em the things she needed, like food.
Pushing back the old curtain that had been there since I was a little kid, I saw her shadow in the dark night outside. Barely tall enough to reach the window, Emmie stood on the ground in just her night gown. From the street light that illuminated the entire trailer park, I saw that she wasn’t wearing shoes.
I opened the window, trying to be as quiet as I could. If my old man heard me he would come in and God only knows what would happen next. That bastard was a loose cannon at the best of times. Tonight he was drunk so I really didn’t want to wake his ass up. As soon as I had the window down, I leaned out and gripped her thin little arms. She barely weighed anything!
I pulled her little body through the window and then carried her to my bed. She was shivering and no wonder. It was barely twenty degrees out, typical winter weather in Ohio. Thankfully it wasn’t snowing, but there was a good frost on the ground. I tucked the covers around her then moved to get a pair of my wool shocks from my dresser.
There was a scratch on her left foot, right on top. It was bleeding but I didn’t dare leave my room to get her a Band-Aid. When I had her feet covered I tucked, them back under my comforter and then and only then did I look at her face…
Her lip was busted, blood running down her chin. Her eye was already swelling and turning an unhealthy shade of blue and dark purple. I wanted to punch something! Anything! I really wanted to just kill her monster of a mother. How dare she hurt my sweet little Emmie!
Still shivering she offered me a pained smile. “Thanks,” she whispered.
“What happened?” I whispered back.
There she sat, only nine years old, way too small and beaten. But she just gave me a shrug. “She woke me up slapping me, so I don’t know. There were two men over when I went to bed. I figured she would be too busy to even think about me.”
Her mother and her addictions! The booze, the drugs, and the men. Emmie had seen so much in her young life. Her house was always littered with empty liquor bottles, crack pipes, needles, naked men, and used condoms.
One day, when the guys and I made it big with our band, we were going to take Emmie away from all of that!
But for now I pulled her close and wrapped her still shivering body in my own. “Thanks for taking care of me, Jesse.” She whispered around a yawn.
“I’ll always take care of you, Em.”
“I swear it.” She just gave me a smile and closed her eyes. “Always, Em.” I vowed to myself when her breathing evened out and she was deep asleep. For now she was safe in my arms…
I was jerked awake hours later by the sound of my old man stomping through the house. My heart started racing when I realized that he was coming down the hall toward my room. I wasn’t scared for me. He hadn’t laid a hand on me since I was thirteen and I started hitting back. No, I was terrified for Emmie.
If he saw her, here in my bed all bruised and bloody, he would think one of two things: Either I was doing unthinkable things to Emmie…or that I was protecting her from her mother. Either would get the cops called. My old man was a nasty bastard, which was probably why my mother had bailed when I was still too young to remember her, but strangely he had always been kind of fond of Emmie. I couldn’t let him see her; I couldn’t let him call the cops.
I knew that they would take her away. While I was all for Emmie getting out of that trailer and away from that cruel ass bitch, I also knew that the social service people would put her in a home where I couldn’t protect her from all the other bad things that could happen to a pretty little girl. The guys and I had decided when we first took Emmie under our wings that she was better off where she was.
Thinking quickly, I lifted her sleeping little body and laid her on the floor. Her eyes snapped open, but I put a hand over her mouth before she could speak. “Shhh,” I whispered. “Get under the bed and stay quiet. Okay?”
Eyes wide, she nodded and slipped under the twin sized bed. I jumped back on the mattress and pulled the covers up to my ears. My eyes shut just as the old man opened the door to my room. “Jess!” he bellowed.
I blinked open my eyes and glared at him. “What do you want old man? I’m sleeping.”
“Get your lazy ass up. Emmie girl ran off. We got ta go look for her.” He turned away before he had even finished speaking.
I waited until he was down the hall before I moved. I reached for her hand and pulled her out from under my bed. Her big green eyes were frightened. “Momma’s looking for me,” she whispered. “She’s going to be so mad.”
“It’s okay, Em. It’s going to be okay,” I promised with a smile that I hoped would reassure her. “I’m going to go out and help. You go out the window, okay?” She nodded. “Then sneak back in your room while everyone is distracted. I’ll send Nik or Drake over to pretend to find you sleeping.”
She swallowed hard. “She’s going to beat me again.” She whispered.
Dread filled my stomach because I knew that was what was more than likely to happen, but I wasn’t going to let it! “No. I got some money.” I had been saving to get a new snare drum for a few months now, but this was more important. “I’ll give it to her. She can get her some coke or whatever. She won’t care.”
“Jesse…” Tears glazed her green eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to just lay there and hold my little Emmie. “Thank you.”
The next hour passed quickly. I found Drake and Shane already outside in sweats with flashlights. The brothers looked half asleep but there was worry in their eyes. They knew better than anyone what could happen to a pretty little girl out by herself. I gave them meaningful looks and relief seemed to wash over them.
Nik was pacing, looking more like a concerned parent than Emmie’s mother who was stumbling around instead of actually walking. I had grabbed my hidden stash of money before leaving my room, and while everyone was moving into groups to search for Emmie, I pulled her aside. She didn’t even question me when I handed her the money. She was use to one of us sneaking her some cash to distract her from Emmie. It was all I had, but I knew that it would keep Emmie off her mind for a day or two at least. By then she wouldn’t even remember this night.