For this week’s prompt, write about a sequence of events from the perspective of a child.
Turn up the volume. Drown them out.
Focus on the colours on the screen. Block them out.
I tell myself it’s working, but I know it’s a lie.
Tears are building, and no amount of staring at the ceiling unblinking is going to keep them at bay.
I hit the off switch, wishing I could do the same to the Jeremy Kyle show downstairs.
Mum hates that show. She doesn’t realize that we could qualify for our own share of the spotlight.
I can hear the sobs coming from the room next to mine now. The only sound my television was able to suffocate.
I throw the covers aside and swing my legs out of the warmth, cringing as my bare feet make contact with the rough carpet.
I take my time pulling on my bed socks, praying that maybe, just maybe, it will all settle down in those few moments.
I dry my eyes on my hello kitty pajama sleeves, and open the door.
A draft chills me, almost as much as the words that are now as clear as day, and I rush over to his room.
The room is dark, but I know where I’m going. I shuffle along, feeling my way around the scattered toys, until I reach the edge of the bunk beds. The metal clangs loudly as I grip tight to make my ascent.
He’s bundled up under the covers. The sobs are quieter now. He wants to be brave.
I tug the covers out from his firm grasp, and replace the soggy corner with my own hand, giving him a squeeze.
“Hey, Benji, can I join you?”
For a while there is nothing but the sharp, random intakes of breath that betray his tears.
I crawl in under the covers with him, and wrap my arms around him. A challenge in itself, as he won’t let go of my hand.
The screaming ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s her high-pitched caw, others it’s his booming thunder.
I stroke Ben’s hair, back and forth, humming his favourite Disney song from Aladdin, over and over again.
He thinks I’m here to look after him, and I am. But, his presence soothes me as well. Looking after him means I don’t think about me.
His small body starts to rise and fall slowly, his breathing much calmer. He’s asleep.
I start to drift off myself, until I hear the crash.
It reminds me of the horrible boat trip, where the waves loomed over the boat as we rocked. I’d clung onto Ben as plates flew at the floor despite their constraints.
We don’t have that many plates.
I ease my hand from his, climb down the ladder, and crack open the door.
Ben startles awake. “Jenny?”
“Shh… Go back to sleep. It’s ok. I’m just going to the bathroom.”
He doesn’t believe me. I can see the fear in his eyes with the light filtering in from the hallway.
He watches me as I step outside and close the door with care.
I fall down onto all fours, and crawl over to the banister.
The screaming is at a whole new pitch now.
“You stupid bitch! Look what you’ve done! Look!”
I can’t look. I’m at the wrong angle. I know I shouldn’t, but I have to. I creep down the stairs, cringing at every creak and groan.
Mum’s still not said a word. I haven’t heard her shout once. I don’t know how she stays so calm.
At the bottom of the stairs, I cling so tight to the banister my knuckles turn white. If I want to see, I have to let go, but my hands don’t seem to understand that.
My chest hurts, and I realize I’ve forgotten to breathe.
Heavy footsteps approach, and I know I’m about to be caught snooping. I dash across the hall into the lounge, and hope beyond hope that’s not where Dad is heading.
“Get out! Get out now before I throw you out!”
I’d never heard him so angry.
“You’d like that wouldn’t you! Go on then, you big man you, throw me out! Hit a woman, you know you want to!”
I hate her. I hate her so much, but yet I am so scared of her.
I think of Ben upstairs, and hope he has gone back to sleep. I hope that he can’t hear them now they are out in the hallway.
I clench my eyes tightly shut. It’s not that she doesn’t deserve it, but I don’t want my Dad to be that person.
“Stop it. Both of you. There are children in this house!”
I cheer silently for Mum. But, it’s short lived as I hear a horrible thud behind my head, and a whimper that chills me to the bone.
What did she do?
I forget all my fear and the fact that I’m ‘too young to understand’, as I pull back the door, and rush out to drop down next to Mum.
She’s limp, blood pouring down her face from somewhere hidden underneath her dark brown hair. I don’t know enough to know if she’s ok.
“Oh, how charming. You’re darling daughter’s an interfering little bitch just like you’re whore of a wife.”
Dad didn’t have a chance.
Hands in her hair, pulling.
Teeth in her skin, biting.
Her fake nails rake my skin as she shrieks, but I don’t take any notice.
Anger pulses through me, and it feels amazing. I’m free.
I punch and kick and scream.
She falls and her head bounces on the shiny wooden floor with a satisfying crunch.
I grab two tufts of her permed hair, and bounce her head again and again. Revelling in the delicious sound.
Dad lifts me into the air, and I take her hair with me.
I’m an animal.
He grabs my face with two hands, and stares into my eyes.
The shock and horror in those eyes punches me harder than I’d hit her.
“Jenny. Stop. Please.”
I drop my arms, letting the hair fall to the ground, and cry.
I cry harder than I have ever cried before, and I feel as if my body will surely explode.
He carries me up the stairs, and puts me to bed, smoothing my hair back as he kisses my forehead.
In a daze I lay there. Wondering, what just happened?
I don’t know when or how, but I fall asleep.
When morning arrives, I wake up empty.
I wander downstairs, a zombie.
There’s nothing to show what happened, and I start to doubt that it did. Maybe I dreamed the whole thing.
But, walking into the kitchen I know otherwise.
Mum sits at the table, a steaming mug of tea in front of her, an ice pack on her head.
I can’t speak.
Dad comes over and sits me down with a plate of pancakes. It’s all wrong.
“Don’t worry Mindy, she’s just shaken from seeing you hurt.”
“Well at least you kicked that God awful sister of yours out before Jenny came down.” Mum turns to me then. “You didn’t want to see her last night. She was being worse than usual.”
Usually we would all have a laugh at her expense. Laughing made the hassle she caused bearable.
I can’t laugh now.
Mum doesn’t know.
I don’t know.
How badly did I hurt her?
Dad catches my eye, and shakes his head.
I swallow any questions along with my pancakes.
Better to never know.
For the first time in my life, I want her to walk through the front door.
For the first time in my life, I know that she won’t.