It happened in the living room chair most of the time, in every house we lived in. In his chair. I was about 2 1/2 when they started dating, and I just remember becoming aware of this man, Mr. Savage, who came to our house and took Mom with him sometimes. He was nice to me. Mom called him Bruce, but I somehow knew him as Mr. Savage. He looked at me a lot, and I wanted him to like me, so I always did things to make him smile. I knew how to make cute faces, and do funny voices, and my mom would always say I was showing off. I would crawl into his lap when he sat on our couch, and snuggle in. He smelled good, and it felt good to be held because nobody ever really did hold me except my great grandma. I always snuggled in to anyone who hugged me or held me. And Mr. Savage always pulled me onto his lap when he came over.
The first time was not in a chair and not in a living room, but right out in the open, to be seen, but not seen, much like a lonely little girl who people could look at and right through and not seem to notice.
There was an old porch swing at the edge of our yard, by the sidewalk that I played on during the day, swinging and singing songs I made up. I liked being out there because people would walk by and smile at me. One day, Mr. Savage came and sat on the swing with me and listened to my made up song. After a while, he pulled me onto his lap, and started swinging with me. He had his hands my waist and was moving me back and forth on his lap and after a while he was holding me so hard he was pinching my sides and it hurt, but I didn’t say anything, and the swing stopped and he was just moving me, making growly noises in his throat. My panties were starting to dig in to me where they were rubbing up against his pants, but I didn’t move and he just kept pushing my tiny body faster. Then he stopped and set me down hard on the swing next to him and I heard him say, “shit.” and saw him wiping at his pants where they were wet like he had peed them. I don’t know how I knew that it really wasn’t pee, but I knew somehow that it was bad, what we had just done. I remember I thought about it just like that. “We” had done. I just wanted to get away from his as fast as I could, so I got up, and he grabbed my arm and held me there for a moment, and then he gave me a hug. I hated it. I didn’t like his hugs ever again after that, and I never played on that swing again.
After we moved to his house, Mom told me to call him Dad. I almost always did whatever I was told, but for some reason I kept calling him Mr. Savage. Mom told me that I was hurting his feelings, and that he was sad when I didn’t call him Dad. One day she was cooking and I was playing under the kitchen table, and she told me to go tell him dinner was ready. I went to living room but didn’t see him, so I called out, “Mr. Savage, dinner’s ready!” My mother flew into the living room, grabbed my arm, turned me around and slapped me across the face, and shook me hard, then started hitting me, on my legs and back, and bottom as she held my arm, until I couldn’t stop the tears but knew I couldn’t make a sound. “I told you to call him Dad, young lady!” So I did, after that. Only when I had to, when I had to call out for him to get his attention, times when you have to refer to someone as something. Most of the time, I never called him anything at all.
In my mind as I grew up, he was always just Bruce, because while I could hardly consider him Mr. Savage, I couldn’t ever think of him as my dad. Bruce was on night shifts a lot as a police officer, so he was home with me when I wasn’t with my great grandma. I played in my room or under the tree outside, trying to be out of his sight as much as possible, and would hide food in my room so I wouldn’t have to walk out to where he was when I was hungry. Once I took all the raisins out of the box of Raisin Bran and put them in my little purse to eat during the day. That earned me a beating with the belt, once they figured it out.
As clever as I was, I couldn’t really hide from him. Same thing happened, probably a couple times a week. He would call for me and I would go to him, and sit on his lap on his chair in the living room. He usually had a can of beer and was smoking a cigarette. He would move me around on his lap a while and then put his hands underneath my panties. I would sit, squashed against him, my eyes fixed on his Adam’s Apple, that moved around as he swallowed gulps of beer. Cigarette smoke would make my eyes burn, and sometimes he would burp and it smelled bad, and his chin and neck stubble was red like his hair that was slicked down with hair cream, and he had little cuts around the soft place under his chin, and I would pour all my attention into those details, because my creative little mind, that made up clever songs all day long and could create magical stories starring the little dolls I made from sticks and twigs outside, simply shut off, like there was a switch that got flicked every time I was in that chair with him.