Inside the sanctuary of my room, I drummed my fingers against my legs and relaxed even further at the saving sight of my episode loading. Thirty-one percent loaded. The next forty-five minutes of my life were thirty-one percent ready to be wasted. Furiously gnawing at my lower lip with my precisely straightened teeth - I had been labeled "brace face" in middle school, because my dumb mouth bones took four years to "correct" - I impatiently eyed the screen. How eager I was to throw productivity away.

During the silence of Netflix's loading, I heard my older brother, Tristan, ascend the stairs. I knew it had to be him, judging by his footfalls. Uncle Zed was not heavyset, and Aunt Cecelia did not have such firm footsteps. The familiar sound of a door slamming shut greeted my ears, and I hurriedly glanced at the screen to see how much of my show was loaded. Almost there. Tristan often yelled and pitched belongings against the wall. He had anger issues. Despite my toughened exterior, there were few things in life I hated more than hearing evidence of my older brother's fury. Goodness knew I had a difficult time covering up his handmarks with my amateur make up set. The more his anger, the more my make up. My eyes darted to the door to reassure myself that, yes, I had bolted my door.

In the room directly to my left, a heavy object hurled itself against the wall, causing my furniture to vibrate softly. I heard a moment's worth of wrathful cursing, before the cheery voices of my show spurted through my earphones as loudly as my laptop could manage. Still, Tristan's manifestation of inward disgust with the world he had created for himself resonated more solidly than the safe dialogue Netflix provided.

Images of a woman's most heinous nightmare infiltrated my albeit short-lived peace, and when I attempted to focus my cognitive activities upon my show, all my eyes could process were vignettes of abuse and sweaty pillows. He always came at night and whispered harshly into my ear, spittle accompanying his words, that if I told Uncle Zed, Aunt Cecelia, or anyone else walking the face of the earth, he would slit my throat. Once, I had (though not seriously) demanded to know if I had the liberty to tell God about the whole thing.

That was the only time I had witnessed Tristan blanch.

Oh, I told God about Tristan's acts of perversion, all right. But not in the way you might think. I challenged God to prove His Godhood by striking Tristan the next time his feet crossed the threshold of my room, the next time he so much as touched a finger to my bedpost, the next time he...the next time he...he...

I wanted to puke.

I almost did puke as the doorknob twisted, and I shoved the laptop off my lap and leapt to my feet, fists tensing for a fight. It dawned on me that my lungs were no longer moving, so I worked hard to get some air in them. The earphones still dangled from my ears, having been violently dislodged by my sudden movement. I yanked them out and forced the door closed by leaning my entire body against it.

"Chill, Dani! It's just me," my younger brother's voice chided, and I relinquished my watchman's pose against the door.

"Come in," I breathed, "but how the heck did you get the door open?"

"Bobby pin from your drawer in the bathroom," Jaden admitted, blushing. He crossed the threshold, though in a far different manner and with sinless intentions. "Just wanted to check on you."

The End

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