A man had quietly entered the room. His tie was sombre, his hair combed. His posture made one initially overlook the gangly limbs and willowy frame, mistaking him at first for a large and imposing man. He cleared his throat. The children immediately stood as one, their chairs screeching upon the floor in violent protest to the speed of their movement. The man glanced at them with bored eyes but forced himself to turn, the fist clutching the handle of the briefcase like a lifeline. He glanced at the eldest child, and in a voice which demanded a quick response queried “How were your studies today, Roseanna?” the muscles in his arm were taunt from the effort it took him to not glance at his watch.
“I learnt about the 1922 Arun Summit and the consequent good that came of it. We all did, Father.” Nodding in appreciation for her inclusion of her siblings, which to his mind made it unnecessary to question them at all, he resumed his fast march. At the door on the other side of the room David Morton slowed his pace momentarily, giving himself time to wish them a good afternoon. The children, still standing in the line that they had formed upon the moment of their father’s entry, chanted a rehearsed “Good afternoon, Father” before the door was closed with a metallic click.
They remained standing for a few minutes after his departure unsure as to whether or not it was permissible for them to sit down. Time stretched on and the ticking of the clock filled their minds and became one with the monotonous fear that already resided there. They became very aware of the sun, which burnt their eyes and made their skin feel uncomfortably hot now that they had stepped into its direct rays. Alexis’ hands trembled slightly, he felt his sister’s unease and yet was unable to understand it. In an attempt to fill the void created by his confusion he mimicked it in a more extreme form.
Rose’s face was flushed with shame from the way her voice had shaken upon the entry of this stranger they often learned of from their books. Freya composed herself first and once she had sat down it was easier for the others to follow.
She leant back in her chair but did not pick up her book, she began to rock ever so slightly on the back legs of the chair oblivious to the damage it was doing to the thick carpet beneath their feet. Alexis as sitting in his chair folding his little fists into themselves as he kneaded the tabletop. Noticing the frown with was causing his lower lip to twitch slightly. Freya’s chair hit the ground with a thump.
“Alex, are you ok?” At these words his face seemed to crumple, immediately Freya dragged her chair so that she was close enough to put her arm around him. He curled up onto his chair, his face buried into his sister’s shoulder. Eventually he gathered the courage to clamber onto her lap and to wrap his arms firmly around her neck. She made small shushing noises as she rocked back and forth. Rose had moved her chair closer but Freya’s glares kept her at bay.