They call her “Black-Eyed Susan”. I guess it’s because of how she looks almost every day. She’s a pretty little girl, nine years old, with light brown pigtails and a sweet smile, when she can muster one. I’ve known her for what seems her entire life. I’m her friend and as long as I can, I’ll be there for her, always, to wipe away the tears and hug her when she cries.
Mommy isn’t around anymore, although we see her from time to time on the way to school. At first Susan didn’t understand why her mother needed to sleep so much in a field under a cherry blossom tree, but I think she understands a bit better now. She doesn’t think that I can see her crying sometimes, but I always know when she has been. Her hazel eyes can’t hide the fact that they reached their bursting point and dried all up. Her father, daddy as we call him (among other things that I do), is why she cries so much these days. You see, daddy is an alcoholic and Susan is at the right height for his hand to make contact with. He’s more than just a drinker: He’s an uncontrollable, abusive drunk.
I blame myself.
If only I had the power to just stop him. Just once, if only just once. Is that too much to ask? How can I be a friend to somebody if I can’t come to their aid when it is so obviously needed? Why do I just let it happen? What can I do? What should I do? What is there for me to do?
I choke back my own tears as I hear the slaps, or even the occasional cracks of leather, as they shoot their way up the stairs into our room. After everything has finally died down and the faint sounds of footsteps are heard on the creaking wooden stairs, Susan comes into the room through the door, the only barrier we have. Sometimes she comes in looking brave and strong and not letting what had happened get the better of her. But that’s just sometimes. Most of the time you can quite literally see the pain wiped across her face. I just want to hold her, wipe her tears away, tend to her wounds, and tell her that everything will be alright (even if I don’t know for sure that it ever will be). I feel like I’m trapped on the other side of the mirror, always seeing her but never really feeling her.
I help her as often as I can, yet strangely she refuses my offer on most nights. Not tonight however. Tonight I help her change her clothes and get ready for bed. And as usual, right before she struggles her way into bed, daddy calls up to us from his favorite recliner, beer in hand no doubt, “Susan, remember, daddy loves you”. He sounds sincere. And sad, as if he has lost someone and knows that he’s going to lose someone else.
I look at her trying to gauge her emotions, but she’s just staring down at her feet. Really, I don’t need to look into her blackened eyes to know how she feels.
She props herself onto her pillow and adjusts her positioning to lessen the belted discomfort on her back. After I tuck the blanket around her into a makeshift cocoon, she turns slightly towards me and asks me to tell her a story, the one about the little girl who looks adversary in the eye and gathers the strength to get past it, letting her live happily ever after. I always oblige, I mean, how couldn’t you? It’s her favorite.
Susan is asleep before I even start.
I spend the rest of the my waking hours caressing her light brown pigtails, watching her, listening to faint sobs as she sleeps. I can also hear the sounds of a person downstairs who has created all of this misery. Too much I feel for one so young and innocent to bare. Although she does exhibit such strength, it’s just not enough at times, not in my mind at least. I wish that I could give her a childhood without the pain and the fear of each day. Susan might be strong enough however to one day, hopefully, to get past all of this. I can feel it, deep down. She has the will to keep going. She’s so brave.
I know that I’ll never be up to her level. How I wish I could be. I just never will be and it kills me to admit that you know.
I really am looking at her from the other side of the mirror. I’ll never truly be able to reach out to her and feel her. But at least I’ll always be here for her. Always until the joyous day that she doesn’t need me anymore. And that is my job; has been from the start. It’s to be here for her until I am no longer needed. Even though all of this has happened to her – everything she went through with her mother, everything that she is going through with her father – I know that everything will be alright when I can finally say my goodbyes to Susan.
I’ll miss her, but I know that she will be happy when I’m gone. One day she’ll discover that she doesn’t need me. I’ll always need her though.
My name is Abby, and I’m Susan’s imaginary friend.
© nice game of chess, 2012