“Hey there, Eddie… Not trying to run away, are you? If you are…”
The sharp, painful sound of a belt being snapped rang out, jolting Edward Hayes, a scrawny nineteen-year-old, awake.
He flailed for a moment, fear overwhelming him as he scanned his room for any sign of his father.
Edward took in several gasps of air, trying to calm his pounding heart. The dream had been so vibrant that he had thought his father was actually about to beat him. Thankfully it had just been another nightmare. If it hadn’t -
A sudden wave of nausea overcame the teenager, and he rolled over onto his side, doing his best to retch as silently as possible.
It wasn’t as if Edward was actually going to puke - this was a common occurrence after a bad dream - but if he woke up his father he wouldn’t be able to move without excessive pain for at least a week. His father had to be woken by his alarm clock at 6am - anything else would cause his father to have a fit, especially if it was Edward causing the noise. If it wasn’t, Edward had better hope he was asleep, because his father was quick to blame.
Even then, sometimes Edward wouldn’t be lucky.
He wouldn’t admit his father was abusive; not to anybody, not even his older brother, Robert. Of course, Robert already knew, and the two brothers would get into arguments over this. Thankfully not often, but it stressed out Edward whenever they did.
Edward hated conflict, yet, somehow, he lived in a house full of it.
His father always had something to yell about. Whether it was Edward not doing the dishes when he got home from work or that the news anchor on the television was an idiot who knew nothing, there would be something that pissed off his father.
Especially after when he had drank a few beers.
That’s when Edward would hide in his room, as quiet as possible, or if he could, stay late at work until his father had likely passed out or was too drunk to walk properly. If his father couldn’t walk, Edward could handle the yelling and the threats. It was when his father became physical that Edward would do his best to space out, to take the beating.
Sometimes he felt that he deserved it. If he didn’t help enough around the house, or worked too much or too little - he understood this.He knew it wasn’t right, and he hated every mark on his body left from his father, every insult thrown his way, but he had grown up developing this way of thinking.
He was just a burden, born to a dead mother and broken father.
A sudden, loud smash jerked Ed out of his thoughts, and he pulled the blanket back over him and pretended to sleep. His heart started to pound again, and the taste of bile rose in his throat.
Had his father gone out last night? Ed wasn’t sure, as he had pretty much just fallen onto his bed as soon as he got home from work, tired from the twelve hour shift he had taken on.
He heard heavy, uneven footsteps, then the slam of a door - his father’s door - before the creak of a bed. Edward let out a little sigh of relief; his father had decided to get straight to bed, and knowing him, he’d pass out fairly quickly.
Had it always been like this?
Had he always been hiding from his father, afraid of the punches and kicks and insults and the inevitable pain of it?
Robert had been there to shield him from what he could, but even then their father would always find a way to harm Edward. House-to-house, city-to-city, their father never changed. He had barely changed when they ended up in the Deep Woods Shelter - in fact, it was like he was angrier than ever since then. There wasn’t much Ed could remember from the shelter that would have made his father worse off, so it was likely he was just angry that he had ended up homeless. His father had never outright said it, but he likely considered Edward the reason they had winded up homeless, even though it was because his father was too much of a drunk to function in society.
Edward would never say that to his father though, so he always let Robert be the one to fight back. Robert wasn't a coward, and was always willing to take a few punches to save Ed some bruises.
It always came down to Ed, didn’t it? He was the reason the family was so dysfunctional after all. If he hadn’t been born, the Hayes family would have been much happier.
Peeking out from under his blanket, Ed held an arm out in front of him, staring at the bruised and scarred skin. There was always more bruises than cuts, but his father was smart, and usually only ended up breaking skin where no one would see. Bruises were easier to make excuses for than actual wounds.
Of course, there was little doubt in his mind that his father actually cared about what he did and what others thought.
Robert had made a small joke once, saying that their father drank so often that he was permanently tipsy. Edward had only managed to crack a smile before going back to rubbing ointment on his shoulder, where his father had slammed him into a cabinet. The glass had shattered, leaving Edward screaming for Robert and sobbing.
Edward blocked out a lot of what his father did. There was always going to be the vivid, violent, bad memories that he couldn’t forget, but little things like slaps and shoves and being called every awful in the book? Edward could phase those out; make them hazy and dreamlike. It made everything easier. It especially made managing how he felt easier.
Sometimes Edward was worried he’d snap and hit his father back. It felt unlikely, but the fear was still there, more so when his father was screaming every curse word that he could come up with at his teenage son.
With a shiver, Edward pulled his blanket back over his head. He needed to sleep - he had work in the morning. Hopefully he wouldn’t have another nightmare and be able to wake up without feeling ill.
Chances were low, but he could hope, couldn’t he?
Maybe he’d suffocate in his sleep and be done with everything.
Not his favourite outcome, but it was a thought. Definitely not at all comforting, but then again, nothing much ever felt comforting anymore.
Letting out a small sigh, the teenage boy pulled the blanket tightly around himself, knowing quite well that he wouldn’t be falling asleep for some time.
Not until he heard his fathers snores.
Until then, he’d be left hiding under his blanket, forcing himself to try and sleep.
Just like every other night.