All I asked was that you protect me.
            Okay, I did have other expectations. I trusted you to provide food and shelter, and you always did.
            I appreciated that you worked hard, and money was sometimes scarce, and you couldn’t always provide special treats or my favorite foods. Sometimes I went to bed hungry toward the end of the week, but you did too, even more often. 
I understood when we had to move and I had to change schools and find new friends. I didn’t like the abrupt change in our circumstances, but life isn’t always fair, and it wasn’t your fault. I didn’t complain about the three flights of stairs to our new apartment—I made a game out of the climb when I could. I didn’t whine about the nasty smell in the laundry room or the intermittent hot water for my bath.
            When we had to stay inside all spring and you worked from home, you let me make Zoom visits with my friends, even though the computer was intended for work and school only.
             I didn’t complain when you went back to work, taking the computer with you, and left me with a babysitter who slept or stared at her phone more than she engaged with me. I didn’t mind being on my own with the books we were allowed to keep long past their due dates and the new ones we took out when the library reopened for curbside pickup.
            I didn’t object when the babysitter left for a better job and you couldn’t find a new one. I was lonely sometimes, but I loved to read more than anything, and I could still talk to my best friend on the phone almost every day.
            I was safe enough in our apartment, and you said if I needed anything, I could ask the nice young man across the hall, who had promised to keep an eye on me while he worked from home. If a fire started, I could call 911. If I was sick, I could call you at work.
            When I told you I didn’t like the games he wanted to play, you said I should be glad he was willing to take the time, and I shouldn’t bother him when he was working. I didn’t have the words to explain what was happening, and you were tired and trying to get dinner and didn’t listen to the silences between.
            When I finally found the right words and got your full attention, you thought I was lying. You said the books I read gave me bad ideas and took away my library card. I could still read, though. He gave me books, and they had all the words.
            I knew you loved me. It wasn’t enough.
            All I asked was that you protect me.
            But you didn’t.