Butch felt the ice pack freezing the skin under his chest; tapping his step-mother (who continued looking down at nothing on the dark floor), he handed the pack up to her bruised eye. She frowned, waved it away.
“I’m OK, Butch. Your father, he’ll be OK as well.”
“How do you know?”
The question blurted out of him like an uncontrollable sneeze, and Butch saw her mother respond with a deeping frown, eyes narrowing in a way Butch had never seen from her before, a no-nonsense glare he more often saw in his father and brothers.
“Because I’m not going to let him beat you again. You, or your brothers or sisters. Or me.”
Too surprised to reply, Butch watched as his stepmother rose from the bed, walked slowly towards the moonlight seeping through the bedroom window. “Violence, is like a fire in the woods, Butch — if it gets out of control, it will keep spreading, feeding off itself, until the entire forest is consumed. Violence does that, but to the soul, that beautiful gift from God Himself.” She turned quickly towards Butch; the teen saw her eyes glistening in the soft light from outside. “When I first met your father, looked into his eyes — I thought he was an angel, an ambassador from Heaven. So strong, handsome — and when he courted me, I got to know both the power of his mind and the gentleness of his touch.” She shook her head, sniffed loudly, crossed arms across her chest. “But what my young eyes couldn’t see, was the violence that had begun corrupting that soul. And when I began seeing it, saw him beat his children, or me — I was afraid, desperate. I wanted an easy answer, thought if I could only make him happy, take away the sources of his anger. But it’s been too long now, I know that if he continues on the path he’s on, the violence in the soul will consume him.”
She put her arms down, turned back to the window. “And destroy all of us, in the process.”