Each time I hear her footsteps in the hallway I hold my breath, praying, hoping that they will continue past the room where I am held captive. Sometimes my prayers are rewarded, and I hear her scuffling past, intent on some mission besides my torture. But most of the time- far, far more often than not- I hear her footsteps pause, then stop in front of the door, the click of the knob turning in place, and then the door comes open, bringing Brenna's glinting eyes into my view. Then, I know, anything can happen, absolutely anything, and I've learned long ago that there is nothing I can do but suffer through it.

I always know when it's her coming near. Years of listening have taught me that her steps are both lighter and faster than the others in building, and even the way she touches the doorknob is different. Brenna handles it roughly, careless and almost aggressive, as though she intends, one day, to twist it off entirely into her hand. It would not surprise me if she did. She is small, but powerful, so much more powerful than her appearance indicates, and much, much stronger than me. She has me at her mercy in every way, but her physical advantage over me only adds to the terror of the experience.

I try to read her face, when I am able to see it, or at least to read the tone of her voice, but usually any efforts with this don't tell me much to prepare me for what she has in mind. Sometimes she seems happy and excited, but it doesn't mean that there isn't pain of some kind coming my way. Sometimes she seems very upset or angry, but nevertheless doesn't even look at me, let alone go out of her way to harm me. The very unpredictability of it only adds to the stress of my situation, because there is no way to prepare for each day. I can only endure each moment as they come.

Today seems to be an angry day. I can't see her face, but I can hear the heaviness to her steps, as though she's stomping, and Brenna slammed the door shut instead of simply closing it. I can hear her huffing breaths, and when she addressed me, her voice was loud, agitated, almost a shout.

"Everything is so mean and stupid today, Sophie, no one understands! I hate her, I hate everything!"

No, today was not going to be a good day. I could feel it, every molecule of my body soaking in her bitterness even as I felt paralyzed with my own fear. I hoped she would simply yell, maybe kick her feet around or even cry, but this wasn't going to be one of those times she let me off easy. Not when I was there, an easy target for her rage.

She grabbed me then by the neck, tightening her hand around my throat and bringing my head forcefully close to hers. Her blue eyes flashed cold flames as they bore into my gaze, seeming further angered by my unblinking, frozen stare back at her. She started to shake me, still digging her fingers into my neck, until my head whipped back and forth, feeling loose and barely attached to my own shoulders.

She didn't seem to notice that she was hurting me. I don't think she would have cared, if she did realize. I believe that most of the time, hurting me is exactly what Brenna wants to do. It makes her feel better, somehow, to make me feel bad.

"You've been a very bad girl today, Sophie!" she hissed, giving me another harsh shake as specks of her spit flecked my face.

I didn't dare flinch away from her, or close my eyes. Surely that would have only made things worse for me.

"Why can't you ever listen?" Brenna continued to rant. One hand continued to grip my right shoulder as her other hand seized what short, breaking strands were left of my hair, giving a yank that burned to its roots. "Why can't you just do what I tell you to, Sophie? Bad girl, very bad girl! You need punished!"

She smacked my face with an open hand. It smarted, though it wasn't as bad as a fist. I wanted to cry, or at the very least turn my face away from her so she couldn't hit me again. I wanted to hit her back. But I knew what was expected of me. Nothing more than silence and stillness, total acceptance of whatever she wanted to do, would get me through this. It was all I could do to survive it, and sometimes I thought even that would not always be enough.

"You need punished!" Brenna repeated, seeming to relish the words.

I braced myself, knowing those words could mean anything and everything. I didn't have to wait long to find out what they signified today. Brennna fumbled for the hem of my dress, yanking it up to expose my cotton panties underneath. Pulling down the panties to leave me, bare and exposed to her angry eyes, she jerked me so my backside faced her, then gave me several rough whacks. It wasn't the first time this had happened, and I knew it wouldn't be the last. Still, the humiliation of it, even more than the helplessness and the pain, was enough for me to almost wish I could simply be lost, that all of this could be over and done with, forever- even if that meant there would be nothing left for me anymore at all.

Shoving my panties back up and letting my dress fall back down around my knees, Brenna pushed me down to the ground roughly, straightening. I waited for the kick of her shoe at my side, or maybe for her hand, grabbing again at my hair, but for now, she seemed to have lost all interest in me. I waited, crouched face down on the floor, listening to her rummage through a desk drawer, then exit the room entirely, letting the door slam behind her. Faintly I heard a woman's voice addressing her by name, and then Brenna's muffled, much more meek response to her, but I couldn't hear what was being said.

I didn't know the woman's name; she had never introduced herself to me, nor had Brenna. I only knew Brenna's name from hearing the woman call her. It seemed to me that Brenna obeyed the woman, maybe even feared her, but resented her, all the same. Although she always responded immediately and politely when called for, I had also seen the way she rolled her eyes while talking to her, in the safety of the room with the door closed. I had seen her stick her tongue out and make terrible faces in response to her voice, even as she answered back in very subdued tones. I had wondered before if it was possible that Brenna was hurt by the woman in the same way that she hurt me, if I was simply who she chose to take out her anger upon. I wondered too if Brenna was kept by the woman as I was kept by Brenna, unable to escape. But even if it was true, I didn't have sympathy for her. I would never treat anyone the way Brenna treated me, even after all she had done to me.

I used to have hopes and dreams for my future. I used to truly believe that I would end up with a wonderful, kind family, with a nice home and people who loved me. I used to think that one day, I would be happy. That, I believed, was what I was made for, after all. To make people happy; to give them love and security. To make them smile.

But I've never had those things. Instead, I have Brenna.

Sometimes I still hope that things will be different, one day. Maybe I will finally be someone Brenna will turn to for comfort, instead of in rage. Maybe one day I will feel her wrap her arms around me and hold me close. Maybe even if she never tells me she was sorry, I will be able to feel it in her touch and hear the change in her voice. Maybe one day she will go shopping with me and fix my hair, making me feel pretty, making me feel close to her. Maybe one day she will invite me to sleep with her in a real bed, or even give me a bed of my very own.

Maybe one day, Brenna will love me, the way I have always wanted to love her.

But so far, she never does. Instead, she pulls my hair so roughly that some of it comes out in tangled clumps, and she cuts it so unevenly that it sticks all over my head in ugly, spiky tufts. On the few occasions she decided to let me bathe, she dunked my head underwater, then left me naked and wet on the floor, alone, for all of the night, without so much as a blanket to warm and dry me. She tells me almost every day that I'm ugly, that I'm bad, and instead of smiles and hugs, I get fierce scowls and smacks, kicks and shaking that leave me feeling bruised and sore all over. Sometimes I fear she will actually twist my arms or legs right off of my body with how hard she grabs me.

The only times I can be assured of relief from hurt is when Brenna goes to sleep at night. But even so, I can't relax, because I lie there knowing that in the morning, it's likely to start all over again. Some may think of me as a survivor, but sometimes I think it would be better if it would all just come to an end, if she would just throw me away and be done with it, even if that meant there was nothing left of my life to continue to survive.

But that isn't my choice to make, no matter how much I might wish or want it. It's Brenna's, and there is nothing I can do but wait for her to decide when the time has come for her to finish with me forever. Sometimes the waiting seems unbearable, for that time will almost certainly be years in coming. After all, Brenna is only six right now, and from what I've heard, little girls like to play with dolls for as long as twelve or thirteen years. If Brenna is like other little girls, I have a long time left to wait.

The end