A girl finds respite from her horrible life, but is it only in her mind?
The steady drumbeat of rain echoed in the dimness of the room, repetitive and dull. Cascades rolled down the window; it glowed with the faint, muted light of evening.
She sat in the corner of the room; her hand clutched a blanket and her huge, sad eyes focused on the dying light. She tried to sing something to herself but couldn’t think of a song that might cheer her. A jagged burst of lightning stabbed from the heavens, and she clapped her hands over her ears before the thunder roared.
Muffled shouts seep through the walls, drunken and furious. She kept her hands on her ears, but those voices trembled the floorboards, relentless. Something shattered, and the silence that trailed cast a darkness over her heart, and she held her breath, terrified.
Cadie shivered as the shouts burst anew. The voices cut with venomous barbs, threatening to shred through the walls. Tears leaked from her eyes with each awful insult.
Why can’t I get used to this? she asked herself, unable to hold back the flow of sobs. I should be numb to this. Nana even thought so. She longed for Nana, and the smell of her coffee and cigarettes. Never booze, though. Never booze.
Hurried footsteps stalked down the hallway, followed by a slamming door. Cadie sniffed, staring at the shadowy outline of her door. Soft, furious whispers hummed in the direction of the family room.
“Go to bed, please go to bed,” Cadie hissed, her pulse thumping in her ears. Silence frightened her so much more than shouting during the fights. Shouting meant they focused their rage on each other. Silence meant…
Harsh tapping pounded against the window, and a too-large form filled the space. Cadie shrieked, and the shadowy form spread huge, dark wings and screeched with a rusty, persistent voice.
Cadie choked the scream and stared. In the near-absent light, she made out the feathers, ruffled from the storm, and the sharp stiletto of a beak. Its eyes peered in upon her, full of knowledge and determination.
Harsh orange light spilled across her, forming in an askew rectangle over her and the floor. A sour, sharp scent filled the air. The bird flapped away from the window, startled. Cadie trembled.
“What is all of this noise?” purred a soft voice, full of malice. Cadie feared that tone, so elegant and horrible, like a tiger stalking in the high grass. Her bladder throbbed, suddenly full and urgent.
“A bird, Mom,” Cadie replied in a strangled whisper. “It scared me. I’m sorry.”
“You’re always sorry.” She sighed, harsh and sudden, and the liquor on her breath toxified the air. “And where do you think you’re going?”
Cadie chewed on her lip, frozen in her stance. “I need to go to the bathroom.”
Her mom raised a painted eyebrow, eyes sharp an predatory. “Well?”
Cadie swallowed, heart pounding, head filled with uncertainty.
“You stupid, fat little cow,” her mother sneered. “In all of my life, if I taught you anything, I made sure you knew your manners. You’re supposed to ask permission. Do you know how to do that?”
“Yes, I know-”
“Yes what?” her mother hissed, eyes wide and enraged, face flushed. Her hands gripped the doorframe like claws.
“Yes, ma’am, I know how to ask permission,” Cadie stammered. “May I p-please use the bathroom?”
Her mother’s harsh features faded, returning to the subdued bitterness they’d held before. A wicked smile played on her lips, and her eyes glittered with dark satisfaction.
Cadie’s face fell, and her mother cackled. “Why should I let you use the bathroom? Why now, so late? Why, after you probably stuffed your face with something from the fridge after dinner? Don’t you know you can’t just eat and eat and eat all the time? Don’t you know all that trash you put in your body has to come out eventually?”
“But I really have to go…”
“Then go in your clothes, and maybe next time you won’t sneak all of that food. At some point, you’ll stop. Sit in your own filth for a night, and I bet you will stop.”
“I. Said. No.” she snapped. “You sit in your filth, and then you will listen to me!” Her voice rose to a horrible soprano quality, both absurd and terrifying.
Her father roared from down the hall, his obscenities echoing against the walls as he demanded quiet. Her mother turned, unleashing her own furious words, and Cadie seized the moment.
She pushed past her mother, knocking her aside. Fear gripped her heart as her mother’s rage filled, and she felt her clawed hand whistle past her head. Cadie plowed through the bathroom door and shoved against it with all of her might, turning the latch.
She backed away from the door, panting. She cringed as it rattled in its frame. Her mother’s voice was high and reedy as she slammed against the door. Cadie sighed and sat on the toilet. Relief tingled over her body, but her heart ached. Her mother banged on the door, again and again. Cadie covered her ears and wept.
Soon the pounding on the door was as repetitive as the rain against the window.