I don't remember how I came to know that the cries and moans in the night were sounds adults made from pleasure, rather than pain. At some point, I had come to understand that D was not hurting my mom and that whatever was happening, it was something she enjoyed. At eight years old I knew enough to be embarrassed; I also knew better than to ever bring it up to them.
One night, my sister woke me up, crying that mom was hurt- that D was hurting her. I jumped out of bed, unsure of what I could possibly do for our mother and expecting the worst. The phone was in the bedroom with them, so I wouldn't even be able to call 911. I was cold with fear. Back then, I often dreamt of finding my mother with a knife in her back, and D nowhere to be found.
When we got to the bedroom door, I heard the moans and understood what was going on, but I cried at the thought of having to tell my three-year-old sister what was going on. "It's okay... mom isn't hurt... she likes what's happening. It's an adult thing... let's go back to sleep."
She looked at me confused, still teary-eyed. I wrapped her up in a big hug and took her back to bed, carefully tucking my favorite teddy bear into her blankets to keep her safe. I hummed to her, my best attempt at Once Upon a Dream. When her breathing slowed, I scampered to my own bed. I pressed the door closed behind me just in time to avoid being seen as D stumbled out of the bedroom to get a drink.
It wasn't just the beginning anymore.