"You're my best friend."
Stazier gazed at Evilan incredulously with his dark innocent eyes.
"Dont lie. My papa said i don't have any friends."
Evilan playfully twisted one of her curled pigtails and smiled.
"My dad gave me five dollars lastnight." She reached in to the front pocket of her yellow, floral dress and held out a small, wooden figurine of a lion on its hind legs roaring. "I bought it at the shop. Only my best friend can have one."
Stazier giggled with excitement as he took it from her palm and studied it.
"I love lions. I'm going to keep it forever."
He carefully placed the figurine in the breast pocket of his dirty plaid shirt and continued pushing Evilan on the swing when she noticed dark stains across his arm.
"What happened to your arm?"
Self-consciously, he pulled his tattered sleeve down to cover the purple bruising and trudged across to the bench and Evilan followed curiously.
"Papa said it was an accident."
She gently ran her finger over his bruises .
"My mummy could fix it for you. She always makes me better when i get hurt."
"No!" he shouted suddenly as he shoved her arm away from his. "Im not allowed to tell anybody. Please dont tell."
"I wont," she promised.
"Evilan! Its time to go!"
Evilan gazed at her mother who was across the park, smiling and waving at her, holding a bag of groceries in one hand and her favorite purple jacket in the other. She turned to Stazier.
"I'll see you tomorrow."
Stazier watched as she skipped graciously towards her mother and it was then he felt a sense of despair.
He raced up to her and lifted the glassy, amber trinket that had always clung from his neck, and placed it around Evilans.
"My mum gave it to me. She said its special so you have to look after it."
She held the cool glass between her fingers then grinned cheerfully as she tucked it behind her dress.
Stazier trudged unwillingly down the bare street. It was Sunday evening. He imagined every family as he passed each house , sitting patiently around the dinner table saying grace then digging in to their perfectly cooked meals of roasted lamb with potatoes, pumpkin and mint sauce. He imagined the delicious chocolate pudding Evilan had shared with him one Monday at school. He imagined snuggling on the couch, watching a funny movie, then arguing with his parents because he didn't want to go to bed. But imagining was all he could do.
Tears welled up in his eyes as he approached his old beat-up cottage. He didn't want to think about what mood his father would be in but he was uselessly hoping for the best. He warily pushed the door open and was greeted with the familiar stench of whiskey and cigarettes. He heard the monotonous hum of the microwave and the speedy commentary coming from some sport playing on the television. He slowly closed the door as quietly as he could and crept across the hall to his bedroom but something distracted him. He heard soft sobs coming from the kitchen. He followed it further down the hall then lightly pressed his ear against the kitchen door and startled himself when it slightly creaked open.
"Star? Is that you?" His mothers voice trembled. "Go into your bedroom Star."
He hesitantly peered around the door and silently screamed. His mother was on her hands and knees scrubbing away at the kitchen floor that was tainted in watered down blood. One side of her face was unrecognizably swollen and bruised and her arms were wrapped with blood-soaked rags. He rushed into her arms and held her tightly. Of all he had seen, it had never been this bad
"Son. Go to your room. Quick."
Stazier didn't want to let go. He clung to her crying hysterically.
"Now!" she screamed but it was too late. He felt something wrap around and strangle his upper arm. Before he knew it, he was flying across the room. He yelped in pain when his spine bent backwards from the impact against the table leg. He could hear his mothers screams, pleading to leave him alone but all he could see was his little lion rolling across the floor. He scrambled after it desperately, then cowered in the corner clutching it in his fist and watching helplessly as his father beat his mother yet again.
"Please dont hurt her. Please dont hurt her," he whispered to himself, rocking back and forth.
He panicked when his father suddenly stopped and stumbled furiously towards him with his demonic eyes fixed intently on him.
"Leave me alone!" he blurted out unexpectedly but then squeezed his eyes tightly closed as if would dull the pain he knew was about to come. Only it didn't.
He slowly opened his eyes and his father was gone. He sped across the room and wrapped himself in his mothers arms.
"Its okay mum. We'll be alright..."