A small patch of carpet was faded at the top of the stairs where she spent most of her nights.
Etched in the wall by the stair banister was the name Elenor. It had been there when her family first moved into that house. She had never met Elenor but she had conjured yo an image of what she might look like and the little girl found solace in its presence.
Every night, the little girl would come to that very spot at the top of the stairs, and hold her teddy in one hand while she delicately moved her fingers along the carved name.
From this spot at the top of the landing, she could hear her parents bicker – mom’s voice shrieking at an elevated pitch while dad slurred insults at her across a bourbon-soaked tongue.
On a good night, the fighting would end there and would eventually subsist with dad passing out in his chair. On a bad night, things like books and lamps and even fists were thrown and the little girl would wonder if this was finally the last fight, the last straw. Is this the fight that would end all other fights?
The little girl would squeeze her teddy tight on those nights when things had REALLY escalated and she would look at Elenor’s name and wonder if she, too, were not a small child at one point that sat exactly where she was and listen to her parents.
Did Elenor sneak out of her bed to eavesdrop on her alcoholic dad and bipolar mother? Did she, too, have a stuffed animal that helped keep the pit in her stomach from growing so big, she was afraid it might swallow her whole? Did she, too, stare at the faded blue carpet, matted down from overuse, and wonder how many other kids had sat in that very spot?
But most importantly, the little girl wanted to know why her predecessor had carved her name into the wall. Was it to keep herself from fading into oblivion? Was it to remind herself (or someone else) that she existed? Particularly when it felt like her family had all but forgotten?
Elenor. What a funny name for a child, she would think as she traced the indents of the letters with her pointer finger. One day, I, too, will escape, she would tell the wall as though it were a companion she could tell all her secrets to.
Eventually, one of the little girl’s parents would notice her presence and scream at the child to return to her bed. Then, in the morning, when father’s slurred speech had subsided and mother wasn’t manic, they would sit at the kitchen table and eat toast with strawberry jam and it was as if the night had never happened.
But SHE knew that it had. She knew because of the faded spot at the top of the stairs and the name carved in the wall. Those were the only two things she could rely on – a name and a discolored carpet.
And that made her the loneliest little girl with a teddy bear in the world.