The Cedarville Review 2021

19 | CEDARVILLE REVIEW brow. As I learned why his older sister jumped when people yelled in jest. As I learned why he avoided talk of his parents as much as possible. He told me last night that he’d long ago learned to deal with it. Learned to move on, accept it had happened, but nothing could be done about it now. He told me they loved him, despite it all. That they were truly good people. They’d just had crappy childhoods themselves and had been doling out their own experiences. He had said he loved them. Had long ago forgiven them. Had said it wasn’t completely their fault. I can still hear the earnestness in his voice as he admitted that he hated to think of it happening to Alyssa and Laney, but that splitting up their family hadn’t ever been an option. His voice had broken as he admitted that Alyssa had sat him and Laney down one day and asked if they wanted her to make a phone call to CPS. He’d exhaled especially slowly as he said that Alyssa would’ve actually filed against their parents if he’d wanted it. He’d sounded like he couldn’t believe it. The waver in his deep voice, the catch of his breath, the way he whispered that a small part of him wondered if he’d made the right decision because of Laney. I’d barely gulped in another breath as I finally understood his idiosyncrasies. His refusal to ever consider punishments should we have children. His awkward air around the police when I’d been pulled over. His nervousness when we had an argument over how to divide the holidays between family. And he just went on and on, his exhaustion from an all-nighter freeing his usual inhibitions. He talked for three hours straight, sharing details of the abuse, things I could hardly fathom. When he’d finally stopped, leaving me mentally gasping, shock eeking my breath out of my body, I’d whispered, “You do know I’m a lawyer, right?” I still don’t know why that’s what I first said—surely I should have whispered something besides my incessant, “Oh, Eli, oh, no, oh, I’m so sorry” that I’d babbled as he’d talked. Surely I should have given us both at least a moment to process what he’d just said. But he’d just told a lawyer that his parents had abused him. And for some horrific reason, that part of me stood up in that moment and shouted that legal justice must happen, that the things he and his sisters had experienced couldn’t go unpunished. And silence had been his answer. So I’d continued down the verbal path I’d already placed myself in. “I am legally required to report people who abuse minors. I’m going to have to call the CPS, Eli.” The silence on the other end was broken by him cutting off the call. The phone had trembled in my hands as I had laid it down on my bedside table. But I’d barely set it down before it violently jolted the silence. “Eli, I—” “Don’t do this, don’t allow your sense of righteousness to manipulate you. It doesn’t matter what the law says in this instance. My parents aren’t a danger to anyone. They haven’t laid a hand on me since I was fifteen. They haven’t touched either of my sisters since they’ve graduated. They aren’t hurting anyone, anymore. I’m okay now. I love them. I’ve moved on and learned to deal with it. They love me. Sure, they messed up, but what parent doesn’t? Things may have been a bit extreme at times, but—” “Eli, your parents abused you. They’ve manipulated you. They’ve—” The words, the words hurt to think of. To