Little Lion

  Under the screams of his parents arguing, he could still hear something coming from his bedroom closet. Something shattered in the other room and the screaming continued, only broken by periodic sobbing and the sounds of something striking flesh. He wasn’t sure which was worse. Then the closet door opened completely and Lionel pulled the blankets up higher trying to hide. The black eye still dominating his small, pale face told him he couldn’t go run for help.
“Lionel?”
The voice was female, soft and surprisingly gentle. Poking his head out the slightest bit, he saw a beautiful woman with the darkest skin he’d ever seen. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that seemed to be made of a mass of braids and her eyes were gentle.
“You’re not a monster, right?”
His voice was still quiet, full of fear. But her light laugh and little smile allayed his fears.
“No, little one, I am not one of the monsters.” Her glance strayed towards the door of his room, but then she smiled at him again. “Would you like to go somewhere where you will not be hurt again?”
He started to nod eagerly and then looked down.
“What about Mama?”
Her eyes, nearly black as coals but with just a hint of flame in them, turned away from him.
“She cannot come, dear one. She…would not be welcomed where we would go. Do you deny that she has also turned a hand against you?”
With a little sniffle, he shook his head.
“She only does when Daddy hurts her.”
“My poor little one, that is not for you to bear. Come away with me and be happy. Never again be hurt. Be a child.”
He smiled a gap-tooth grin and nodded.
“Can Teddy come?”
This time, he held up a small bear covered in patches and wearing a small cape.
“Oh yes, Teddy can come.” The woman scooped him up in her arms and strode towards the closet once more. “One last thing, before we go. From this point onwards, tell no one that you are Lionel.”
“Why?”
He had already wrapped his arms around her neck and cuddled against her shoulder like he belonged there.
“Because if anyone knew, they could use your name to hurt you.”
“Oh…so what do I get called?”
She kissed him gently on the forehead, healing the bruises on his face.
“We shall see.”

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