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Lilia heard her raw sounds as they penetrated the air. For a moment, she searched her mother’s eyes for any sign of comfort…but of course; Maria couldn’t give her what she wanted. She took one look at Lilia’s teary face and her small, swollen, bruised hands—and without a word, directed Lilia into the house.
     “Go to your room, lie down, and rest. You’ll be fine by tomorrow.” Maria wrapped Lilia’s hands in a tea towel filled with ice.
     The day ended in silence, and although Lilia’s tears were visible, she didn’t utter a sound.
Lilia woke up early the next morning disheartened and confused as she grudgingly shuffled back to school. She allowed herself to feel something she rarely did: anger and resentment. Lilia resented her mother for not letting her stay home, and for casting her back into the arms of evil. How could she?
Moments into the class lesson, a bold knock sounded at the door. Senior Maestro answered it to reveal Maria Meneguzzi in her usual black uniform—her hands clenched firmly at her waist and her eyes filled with determined rage.
     “Maria, what are you doing here?” 
Surprised to see her mother, Lilia watched with growing alarm. The children’s eyes widened as they stared at one another in disbelief. Pinned to their seats, they covered their mouths and held their breath, not knowing what was about to transpire.
    With the presence and posture of a commanding war general, Maria raised her arm and pointed a stiff finger right into the teacher’s face.
     “You—you little coward of a man. Don’t you ever, ever touch my child again! Do you see what you did to my daughter? Look at those hands! You go home and beat your children, not mine!”
Her words rang through the room, which fell into pin-drop silence. Maria slammed the door and stormed off. Senior Maestro retired behind his desk in shock and embarrassment.
     Pride rose within Lilia’s heart, but she was careful to hide the smile on her face. She might not have received the hug she’d so desired…the one that would have made such a difference on so many occasions…but at that moment, Lilia’s mother was her hero.

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