It all started at the beginning, when Lydia married Harrison Decker. The cockass had the perfect name, because from what I could see, all he did was deck her.
Lydia and I had lost touch for a few years. She was off at college, doing her own thing, marrying a cockass, you know how it is. When her mom died, Lydia found me again. It had been years. She was twenty-one, married, all grown up—and knocked up—but I knew her the instant I saw her. The woman she was on the outside didn't disguise the golden little girl with the bubbly laugh that I'd first known.
When she hugged me, I nearly lost my head. Some people just belong to you, you know? I'm not talking about a sicko, psycho, stalker kinda thing. It's something you feel all the way inside. It's a love that makes you feel truly alive.
Anyway, Harrison Jr. came into the world three months after Lydia and Decker got married. He was the prettiest, most perfect thing I'd ever seen. Golden curls, blue eyes. He looked like a doll, he was so perfect.
You'd've thought that a baby would calm Decker's heart, but it didn't. When Junior cried, Lydia got a smack. If dinner was late, Lydia got a smack, sometimes worse.
So many times she'd go into the baby's room after Decker fell asleep. She'd hold Junior, crying quietly in the dark. That kid was bathed in moonlight and baptized by his mother's tears.
Things didn't get better over the years, but they didn't get worse, either. Not until Junior was about six years old.
That's when Lydia died. Decker killed her.
I didn't see it, but I heard him yelling at her, calling her names. I heard her screaming and begging him not to hurt her. There was a scream, a crash, then…nothing.
Then I heard footsteps. Decker sounded like he was wearing lead boots when he burst into Junior's dark room.
He stood there breathing heavily, his silhouette filling the doorway. His hair was standing in spikes, his T-shirt was torn. I couldn't see the blood on him, but I could smell it all hot and pungent, like wet copper wiring.
Junior was under the covers, shivering in terror, pretending to sleep. He had been on the receiving end of his pa’s temper enough times to know to play deaf when Decker was on a rampage.
Decker snatched the blankets off the kid and grabbed him by his shoulders. He shook him until Junior's head lolled. Told Junior that he'd kill him if he said one word to anybody, ever, about anything that happened in the house that night. He tossed Junior back in bed and left.
Junior cried. The sobs hitched in his chest even after he'd fallen asleep.
I never saw Lydia again.
I promised that I'd never let what happened to Lydia, happen to Junior.
I watched things real close. A guy like Decker doesn't change. If anything, getting away with murder once would make it easier for him to do it again…