All I could hear was the quickening beat of my heart, and the shouting. The little girl was staring up at her mother with watery eyes and cheeks flecked red with anxiety. Her mother, who looked as if she’d already been quenching her thirst that morning, was throwing insults and curses into the little girl’s face and shaking her fists in the air. The little girl could only sniffle in reply. Every inch of my body was screaming to stand; screaming to help. Despite my rising anger, I found that I couldn’t even look in their direction. Littered throughout the room I saw other observers acting just the same. They were staring into space but listening intently. The expressions on their faces ranged from mild annoyance to true empathetic pain.
Another shout broke the relative silence and I closed my eyes. Biting my lip, I tried to muster up the courage to interfere. I waited for the anger to spread and ignite some sort of action, but I only felt myself shrinking further away. A sharp inhale of breath foreshadowed a sob, as the little girl lost her fragile composure and started to cry. An icy chill dripped down my back and I flinched at the noise.
“We’re leaving.” She said, grabbing her blubbering daughter roughly by the arm and heading toward the exit. The little girl looked behind her with searching, hurt eyes. Shame set in and I once again found that I couldn’t meet her gaze.