It was raining. I love the rain; but not the thunder and lightning. The flashing lights aren’t as bad as the angry thunder. It reminds me of Momma when she’s in a rage, high on drugs, drink, and men. Today I have a double dose of it because there is a thunderstorm raging outside, and my monster of a mother is in one of her own rages.

I had hoped and prayed to God that she would just go to sleep like she usually does. But God wasn’t listening today. It seems like God isn’t listening anytime I pray to him. I’m beginning to wonder if he even exists, like the preacher who stops by from time to time says he does. Momma curses God a lot, so I think she believes in him.

The rain soaks through my thin tee shirt and leggings. I snuck out of the window in my room as soon as Momma finished with me. The raindrops wash away my tears and the blood on the many cuts that Momma left after she went after me with a switch and her fists. The cold water stung on my swollen welts and bruised body, but I was use to the pain.

As soon as my bare feet touch down outside my window of our trailer I race across the tiny section of grass that separates the run down trailer that I live in to the one that Nik calls home. I pray that his mother hasn’t decided to clean his room, that she hasn’t locked the window that he always leaves unlocked for me—just in case.

As I step on to the old five gallon bucket that I use as a stepladder I let out a whimper when I find that, yes Nik’s mom has in fact been in his room. The window is locked. Shivering now because the rain is cold and I have no shoes, no coat, and now no warm room to escape into. I know that there is no use trying one of the other surrounding trailers. Jesse’s dad is home and I would never go in there when there is the chance that Mr. Thornton could find me. Drake and Shane’s trailer only has a small window that is far too high up for my little legs to reach unless one of them helps me.

A small sob escapes me and I push the wet, matted hair away from my face, only to winch when I touch my swollen cheek. Momma was a pro at slapping my face. And today she had been mainly on target considering the amount of drugs she has been taking and the booze that she is chasing it all with.

There was a noise from across the small lawn. My mother has come back for round two and has discovered that I’m gone. Heart racing I do the only thing I can think of. I pull on the tin that underpins Nik’s trailer. I pull and pull, slicing my palms as I do so. But finally with a whimper of triumph I pull it back enough so that I can crawl under the trailer.

Once I am under I pull the tin back into place. I swallow a scream when I set back and my hand touches the skeleton of a mouse. I wipe my hand on my soaked leggings and then wrap my arms around my knees so that I don’t come into contact with the mouse again. My head leans back against the underpinning and I close my eyes, praying that my mother doesn’t think to look for me here…

I must have fallen asleep. When I wake up I hear Nik and Jesse calling my name. Both sound frantic. “Emmie?” Nik is right beside of me on the other side of the tin. “Em?”

I reach for the tin and pull it back enough to look out. They don’t notice me at first. Nik is standing with Jesse, both have on their band shirts that they let me help design. Jesse has his drum sticks in his left hand while his other is clenched into a fist. Nik looks worried. “She wouldn’t have gone far.”

“That fucking bitch! If I didn’t think that they would take Emmie from us I would call the cops so quick.” Jesse is muttering.

“But they will, Jess. And then she would be in a worse place than she already is. At least here we can take care of her.” Nik tells the drummer.

It’s the same conversation that they always have after every beating. If they called the cops, then social services would take me away. It isn’t safe in foster care anymore than it is at my mother’s. Maybe even worse. I’m seven and I understand what that means. Nik and the others have explained it to me more than once.

I tug the tin back a little more and start to crawl out. I’m stiff and hurting. There is mud caked into the cuts left by the switch and the slice on my hand from the underpinning. I’m swollen and bruised. And I can already feel the tickle in the back of my throat that says I’m going to have a sore throat. Suddenly, strong arms are pulling me out. As soon as my feet are clear I’m lifted into Nik’s strong arms.

“Fuck!” Jesse exclaims.

“Shut up, Jess.” Nik bites out as his arms tighten around me. I can see the wheels working in his mind. He is wondering where to take me, were to hide me. I hear laughing coming from my trailer—my mother must have one of her boyfriends over; and there is the sound of the television coming from his—if his mom sees me like this she will call the cops herself; neither is an option.

“My dad is gone.” Jesse is already walking toward his trailer. “Come on, Nik!”

By the time they have me in Jesse’s room I am shaking. I’m cold, so cold and hurting so badly. “We have to get her warm.” Nik says. “Start running the hot water so I can give her a bath.”

Jesse doesn’t say anything as he leaves his room and I hear water turning on from the next room. Nik sets me on my feet and starts pulling off my still wet tee shirt. I don’t protest as he tugs my leggings down along with my panties. He sucks in a deep breath when he sees the bruises, the deep gashes on my legs and arms; the ones on my back and across my stomach.

“I’m sorry, Emmie.” He whispers. “I’m so sorry.”

I don’t say anything because I don’t understand why he’s sorry. He didn’t hit me. This wasn’t his fault. I might only be a little girl, but I know that he can’t always protect me. He has a band, and today his band had played at a party for some kids from his school. I wish he could have taken me, but I know that a seven year old at a high school party isn’t a good idea. Shane tried to explain it to me, and I’m almost positive I understand the reasons for that.

“Nik!” Jesse called from the bathroom. “I’m not sure if this is too hot or not. Come here and check it out.”

Nik leads me by the hand into the bathroom and then bends to feel the temperature of the water. “This should be good.” He lifts me and places me in the water.

I whimper when the water touches my gashes. It hurts, but the heat of the water feels good on my cold legs. Soon the shaking stops. Nik washes me, trying to be gentle as he cleans the wounds on my body. His jaw is clenched and I think there are tears in his eyes.