They fought every night. One or the other would start, and a second raised voice would soon follow. Their raging cries shook the walls, and their daughter could do nothing but hide beneath her blankets and wish they would stop.
Books and movies told her that violence would follow. She counted herself fortunate, since it never did. Instead, they would just snarl and shout at one another. They said the most awful things. One might blame the other for their financial problems, while the other brought up a grievous mistake from the past. Drugs, lovers, and all other vices took their turn on the living room stage. It was more than the girl down the hall could bear.
She loved them. They loved her. She knew it was true. But only if they loved each other.
The little girl didn’t blame herself, as many children did. It left her with nobody else to blame. She would lie and listen, and try not to take sides. There was no clear winner. She found no discernible right. Morals, it seemed, did not guide their discourse. There was no good and evil, only the wilting love of two miserable people.
One night, she lay on her back with her eyes fixed on the bedroom ceiling. “God,” she whispered. “I want to make a deal with you. If you’ll make them stop fighting, I’ll start believing in you again.”
Silence followed, as it always had.
Then, she heard the sound of a car door slamming. Headlights flooded her window. Outside, she heard the voice of her father, pleading into the night.
Come back, he was saying. Please come back.
They never fought again.