Momma was bleeding from her head around the left eyebrow. But as usual, Derek made her sit in her chair at the kitchen table. He'd go out and come back with the key that he kept in the bottom drawer of the desk in his study. Same place he kept his whiskey. I knew cause I snuck in and drank some once. Just enough to see what it was like, but not enough that he'd notice. Then, he'd come back with the key and open the glass case on the wall by the window and stand over her, behind her, with his Colt .45. And he'd talk about what she'd done wrong. Explain to her like a disappointed father.
One time she forgot to mail his letter to the IRS. Another time, she messed with his alarm clock so he was late for work. This time, she'd cut her own finger while she was chopping onions. Normally, when he wasn't drunk, he would have shushed her and told her not to worry while he cleaned and bandaged it.
I'd always be sitting across from her because it was even worse to be someplace else when I knew it was going on. Her body would be completely taut, her eyes holding in all the pain. Once in a while, he'd let the gun hang in front of her face. Finally, after forever, he'd put it away and leave the house swearing. But this time, when he went to get the key to the gun case, he found that the desk was empty.
He entered the kitchen and looked across at me. He sucked in holding his breath and just staring at me. I released the safety on the gun.
Derek had taken me to his friend's shooting range twice. The first time I shot the Colt, and he said I did great. I could tell he was genuinely proud of me. The second time we went after closing time and I got to shoot an M16. Derek was telling me what to do: relax, take a deep breath out, hold it and... I couldn't hear what he said next cause of the earplugs. When I turned towards him, I pointed the rifle at him, and his friend yelled at me. Called me an idiot. Derek told him to shut up. He explained how dangerous it was and told me never to do that again. Then, I felt fine, and I shot pretty good too.
When I told Momma how powerful it felt to hold the rifle, she said she hoped I wouldn't be like him when I grew up.
“If you hate it so much, then why don't you leave him?'' I asked. It was the first time I'd ever asked her, and she looked surprised.
“Cause I love him too much,'' she said.
Neither of us said anything for a minute. I looked at her, and I knew it was true. She'd never leave him. She loved him too much. More than anyone. She'd never leave him, and it would never stop.
Derek was looking at me across the table. I lifted the gun. No one said anything. I breathed out. Held my breath. Aimed. Squeezed with the third digit of my index finger and watched as the blood spread from where I hit her in the chest, her white sweater slowly turning dark red. I set Momma free.