A/N: I'm not completely sure yet if this will stay a one-shot or if I'll add more chapters. Review if you want to voice your opinion.
Screams. They hurt my ears. Even if I hold them shut with my hands. Real hard. I press my hands against them with all the force I can muster. The noise still penetrates them all the same. It always has, and I'm sure, it always will.
Silence. Dare I raise my hands away? No; I know it's still too early. I can't let my hands leave my ears. I can't open my eyes, no matter how much they hurt. I can't come out of my hiding place, even if I'm this scared. Even if I crave to be with Elaine so much.
Thundering. Stomping. I can hear Daddy come up the stairs, trudging, like always. Frightened, I slide backwards as far as I can. It's a habit. What am I saying? It's a routine.
My door slams against the wall with a frightful sound as Daddy barges in.
"Harry, you worthless piece of shit, where are you?" he roars in his deep and scary voice. I press my palms against my ears even harder.
The smell of whiskey runs up my nose, even in my position, at the far end underneath my bed. A whole three meters away from him.
I don't dare move, or even breathe, let alone speak or squeal. The consequence is well known to me.
The door slams shut. There is a ping. One of the hinges snapped. Again.
I slowly start to breathe again, carefully. For all I know, he can still be in here. He used the trick before, Daddy has. Only when I hear the familiar whisper, I dare to open my eyes a split.
"Harry, it's okay. He's gone out."
Elaine smiles at me. It encourages me to get out from under my bed. Again, her sight surprises me as I scramble out. How can she smile? Her eye is swollen and her nose in a strange position. Blood triggers from it. Her chin is covered in a red dried something. Most likely more blood.
We walk into the corridor. Elaine is limping. How on earth can she threshold so much pain? It is a wonder to me every time.
"Do you want a cup of tea?" she asks soothingly putting her arm around me. She is glad that once again I have come away without a bruise.
"Shouldn't we treat your hurt?" I ask, still shocked from what just happened. Even after all these years, it still seems like the first time. Subsequently I go into the same shocked trance I went in on the initial occasion.
"Everything will be okay," Elaine says cheerily.
Her happiness can't fool me. I don't truly know what it means to be a sad clown; nevertheless she reminds me of someone who acts happy to cover their sadness, something, I think, a clown has to do when he is miserable yet has to amuse an audience.
The living room is a mess. The book shelf is on the floor, the books themselves scattered around. Elaine hardly gives me time to look at it; she leads me straight into the kitchen.
"How long?" I whisper sullenly, watching her prepare tea. I see that she has trouble lifting her arms properly. "How long do we have to keep doing this?"
"You know my birthday is next year," she tells me off softly. "Then we can go."
I crinkle my nose. "So long?"
My eyes wander around the crammed room. There is a stove, a sink, two cabinets and a table with one chair. Everything is run down and half fallen apart. Daddy never ever fixes anything, then blames us for how stuff is.
"Harry, stop complaining. We're better off than some children."
Yes. Yes, that is what Elaine always tells me, but is it the truth? I've heard that for as long as I remember, and, now that I am nine years old, I start to doubt whether she is saying the truth.
"Once we're out of here, can we go on a holiday? Just a small, little, tiny one, okay? We don't even have to go far away, maybe into the next county, that's all."
Elaine laughs. Her carefree laugh always lifts my spirits.
"Harry, I told you before that we'll travel the world together, explore all the countries we can think of going to, discover things we never knew about and learn stuff too."
I burrow my eyebrows in thought. "I can only think of three countries: England, America and Japan. Is that bad?" I crinkle my nose.
She shakes her head, smiling warmly. "It's not bad; it's more than I knew when I was your age. Even now I can only list four countries: America, Australia, Japan and England."
I smile, encouraged by her words. "Now I know four countries too."
"Now you know four countries too," she repeats my words placing a damaged mug of lukewarm tea in front of me.
Elaine gives me an apologetic look. "We've got no sugar left. Sorry, Harry."
My eyes stare at her. "Don't be, Elaine. You've done so much for me by now."
"Come on, let's think of everything we'll do once we're out of here."
"First of all, we'll move far, far away from here," I recite our plan. We always talk about this when she tries to get me thinking about other stuff than Daddy. "Then we'll travel the world for as long as possible, and once we've done that, you'll marry the richest and most good-looking man alive, and together you'll take care of me and the daughter you'll have. She'll be called Yvonne, and I'll be like an older brother."
"And then?" Elaine knows what comes next.
"Then Daddy will find out where we live and beg for money."
She grins at me. "What will we tell him?"
"To bugger off!" I exclaim proudly, grinning too. Only when I see Elaine's saucer-wide eyes, do I notice that something is drastically wrong.
His angry eyes stare me down, the vein on his head throbs with rage. Daddy's eyes are nothing but small slits and his head is pure cherry red. He stands above me like the infuriated Grizzly Bear in my picture book.
"What was that?" he bawls, loud as a dinosaur, one of those really scary ones, the one I remember being right on the page next to the bear in the book. The picture book Daddy tore up in rage.
He must have just come back home. "You'll do what?"
"N-nothing," I stammer, backing away fearfully. The chair falls backwards, making a lot of noise. The mug falls on the floor and finally breaks in two; tea spills everywhere.
"Good for nothing just like your mother, eh?"
Elaine goes to clean it up.
"Let that asshole clean it himself," Daddy snarls.
Reluctantly I bend forward to pick the pieces of porcelain up. Unexpectedly, my face is shoved right into them, me nearly making a somersault caused by the force of which I stroke the floor. Something digs deep into my skin, in addition to tears welling up in my eyes. A meter away stands Elaine; she watches me cringe in ache. She knows that if she moves as much as an inch, Daddy will thrash her still further.
"Look up at me," booms Daddy's voice from someplace far away.
With the greatest effort, I attempt to lift up my face and then my upper body, but I fail terribly. In return I feel a boot on my backside. It presses me down on the ground, onto the parts of the broken mug.
In the background there is some noise. "Please Daddy!" Elaine cries, almost certainly stepping too near to him, as a sound of something flying through the air and then crashing into a shelf enters my tired ears. Again, I try to get up, this time to help Elaine rather than please Daddy, but I just can't get the energy together. I fail. Again. Like Daddy tells me; I am born to fail.
The pressure lifts off my back and I hear Daddy go away. The front door slams shut. My body relaxes; it's a grand mistake. The genuine pain kicks in. I just want to die over and over and over.
I sob silently. I listen for a noise from Elaine. Nothing. Silence.
Moving my arm to the side, millimeter by millimeter, I slowly find the chair, and stem myself onto my elbows by using the arm rest as a help. I breathe heavily. It's a strenuous act to do in my state. Nonetheless, I did it.
The need to find out about Elaine's well-being induces me to be faster.
I don't dare touch my face in fear of moving the porcelain pieces in deeper. Painstakingly slow my head turns to the side, and my eyes set on Elaine's inanimate body. It's impossible to make out whether she still breathes simply through my blurred eyesight, but one thing is clear: she is unconscious. What to do? So far she always took care of me no matter what state she'd been in. Now I am on my own.
With a struggle, I heist my upper body up and, leaning against the table, my fingernails curled into the wood, my bare feet are heaved up by my saggy legs and find an unstable hold. First they attempt to give in beneath me, but my fingers, like claws, dug into the solid wood and miraculously manage to keep them up. As I push away from the table I swagger, stagger towards Elaine and almost slip on the tea on more than one occasion. I fall on my knees beside her. My previously blurry vision turns sideways, upside down, expands and contracts. I feel dizzy. A short nap sounds good, but I need to make sure Elaine is alright. Like she always does to me.
Moving my lips close to her left ear, I whisper, "Daddy's gone, Elaine. It's alright. You can wake up."
My hand absentmindedly moves to her shoulder and shakes her.
"Elaine," I say louder. "Elaine!"
Desperately I cry, whilst frantically shaking her, "Elaine, Elaine! Wake up! I need you! Harry needs you! Elaine!"
The world has gone crazy. Elaine is fast asleep and doesn't rejoinder, other than usual. Usual, she'd be right by my side before I even finish calling her name. Usual, she'd comfort me, and hug me already by the time I conclude saying her name. Usual, she'd be with me until I calm down. Usual, she'd make me a cup of tea afterwards.
But now, because of Daddy, the mug is broken. But now, because of Daddy, she isn't with me to calm me down. But now, because of Daddy, she doesn't hug me and comfort me. But now, because of Daddy, she isn't right by my side before finishing calling her name once, twice, thrice; six times. All because of Daddy.
The front door opens. I stagger up again on floppy legs in time to see Daddy enter the kitchen.
"Elaine won't get up," I announce disorientated.
He doesn't look twice at me before grabbing my collar, almost strangling me, and dragging me to my bedroom. I don't resist. I don't fight back. I don't refuse to go along with him. Now that Elaine is asleep, I have no reason to retaliate against my Daddy any further.
As I get yanked away from my sister, I look at her with tired eyes. She looks like a doll; she looks exactly like the pretty doll she has in her bedroom, the one with the nice blue dress she always let me play with, until Daddy broke her face in half. After Daddy had left her doll, Yvonne had lain on the floor exactly like Elaine is now. Her eyes closed; her long, thick raven black hair neatly beside her head. Her lips slightly apart and her clothes somewhat torn. Even asleep she looks pretty, like Yvonne. Elaine is Yvonne.
My feet painfully bounce off each step as he hauls me upstairs. My face, I think, slowly turns blue. I can hardly breathe with my shirt cutting into my throat. But still, I don't strike back. I am too tired. Too exhausted. I just want to die.
He throws me into my room, and I meet the floor face first. My lungs almost rip as I scream in hollow pain. He doesn't care.
Behind him the door quietly falls shut. To my ears, it is heaven. I sit up against my bed a moment before I hear the lock being turned. I don't care.
Hurt. Everything hurts. I don't mind though. I know that once Elaine wakes up, she'll open my door. She'll hug me. Comfort me. Tend to my wounds. Then we'll escape, and travel the world. Then she'll meet the rich and handsome man we've dreamed of. She'll marry him, and soon have a baby daughter. To her, to Yvonne I'll be a big brother to play with when Elaine and her husband don't have time. To her, to Yvonne I'll be a big brother to comfort her when she's sad, and hug her and maker her tea. To her, to Yvonne I'll be a big brother to read from my picture book, the one with the bear and the dinosaur in it, once Elaine bought me a new one. One day, Daddy will come to our house, crawling on his knees with rags as clothes. and dirt all over his face. He'll cry, sob, and ask us for money. And then, then we'll tell him to bugger off. And we'll laugh as he walks away, all sad. We'll laugh and we'll be happy. We'll be happy.
From another room, I hear a chair fall over. I wonder if Daddy accidentally threw it over on his way to his bed. I wonder if he too has gone to sleep.
As I close my eyes, I can picture Elaine and me, sitting on a terrace with her husband and my new little sister. We sit there, all of us smiling and laughing and feeling as happy as you could get. I smile as I watch myself take my sister on the grass, and we both run around chasing each other. She falls over, and starts crying. I'm by her side instantaneously, and hug her, and comfort her. Kiss the top of her raven black hair, and sort out her blue dress. Together we walk back to the terrace where I pour her a cup of tea, and I put in sugar, because we have some, and because I'm nice. I'll then take my picture book from the table and open it on the page where the bear and the dinosaur are, the ones she likes so much. She'll laugh, and that will make me laugh. Elaine and her husband then hug me, since I cheered their daughter up. That's how it'll be.
Now I can only wait for Elaine to wake up, and for the hurt to go away, so that we might travel the world, find her husband and so that she can have her daughter. I open my eyes in order not to fall asleep and miss her. I keep them open although I'm drained. I sit there and wait.
For the first time I take in that blood is pouring down my face out of my wounds. But I don't do anything. I just sit there and wait for Elaine to come. For our new life to start.
Something tells me to just close my eyes and go to sleep too, like Yvonne, like Elaine, like Daddy. Maybe I will. But until then, I'll just sit here, and wait.