Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Usually I woke to the sound of pots and pans clattering in the kitchen, to dad’s rumbling voice and mom singing softly off key. But this morning, there was only silence. There wasn’t even the smell of bacon. Mom always made bacon on Saturdays, it was her special treat to us for getting through the week. I turned over and looked at my sister, Ralda, laying in the twin bed next to me. She had the blankets pulled up so high, only a tuft of black hair could be seen. I slipped out of bed and yanked the blankets back from her.
Ralda’s eyes flew open and she glared at me. “Why’d you have to wake me up so early, Alice?”
I dropped the blankets on the floor. “Ralda, we don’t have time for sleeping now! Something’s wrong!”
She rolled over. “No there’s not, Alice. It was just a bad dream.”
“Esmeralda Marie McCarthy, you’re the one that gets nightmares, not me. Something is wrong!” I yelled.
Ralda sat up. “What is wrong, Alice? I think you’re just…” She paused for a second. “It’s quiet.”
I nodded. “That’s what I was trying to tell you.”
She hopped out of bed, her eyes starting to shine with tears. “What happened to mom and dad?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. But let’s go see.”
With a sniffling sister following me, I walked to the big open kitchen. All of the dishes were still out where mom had set them the night before. She liked to get out all the dishes before we went to bed so she wouldn’t wake us up in the morning. The front door was open, and swung gently back and forth in a soft breeze. Empty. There was no sign our parents had even been there this morning.
Ralda grabbed my arm. “What do we do now, Alice?”
I was older (by five minutes) so I was always the one Ralda turned to for protection. Unless we were fighting, then she’d turn to James, our older brother. I shrugged her hand away and walked into the kitchen. The wood floor was cool under my bare feet. Something white on the counter by the stove rustled in the breeze coming from the open kitchen door. I grabbed it.
“Alice, what is it?”
I looked back at Ralda, her emerald green eyes filled with fear. “It’s a note. Notes aren’t dangerous.”
Heavy footfalls came down the hallway, and James appeared behind Ralda. “What are you two doing up so early?”
I held the note out to him as an explanation.
He took it and read silently. “Ralda, Alice, mom and dad aren’t here anymore.”
“Well that’s pretty obvious, James,” I said.
“For a seven year old, you’ve got an attitude.”
I smiled the same way I did every time he said that. “I know.”
Ralda looked up at James. “What does the note say?”
James sighed. “It says not to worry, they’ll be back later.”
“Define later,” I said with arms crossed.”
James shrugged. “Doesn’t say. But I don’t know what to do with you two.”
“What do you mean?” Ralda asked.
“Well, I’m being shipped out in a few days, and I can’t watch after two seven year old girls while I’m on base in Israel.”
Tears started falling down Ralda’s cheeks. “Does this mean we’re not going to have a brother anymore either?”
James hugged Ralda. “Of course not, Ralda. It just means…”
“It just means we’ll be stuck on a stupid military base until our parents come back from wherever they went.”
James looked at me over Ralda’s head, and suddenly I knew that our parents were never coming back.