Continued from ‘Figure it out Together‘
The girl rests her head against my shoulder like we were friends or perhaps siblings given the age difference between us. Not that I would know what having a sibling is like. I was the only child Mama and Papa had, but what about this girl? Did she have an older sister? Does she miss her?
The last child in the room, a young boy, watches us with wide dark eyes. He glances between the girl on my shoulder and myself like he’s waiting for something to happen. But what? Does he think I’m the bad person?
My throat clenches at the idea. I’m not the bad person! I want to scream at him, but that would frighten him, wouldn’t it? It would frighten me if someone yelled at me. Still, I don’t like the way he cowers there in the corner like I might attack him. It eats away at my heart.
But he’s scared of me. I don’t want him to be scared of me. Without wanting to disturb the young girl, I tap the ground on my other side. Maybe she’s right. Maybe we can figure it out together and the more we have with us, the better, right? There’s strength in numbers. At least, that’s what Papa always used to say.
The boy’s dark eyes shift to my hand where it sits on the ground. Flickering back to me, they narrow. He hesitates. With his blanket still drawn up over his nose, he continues to hide in the corner.
“It’s okay,” I whisper, keeping my voice quiet. More because I don’t have the energy to speak louder. “I won’t hurt you.”
His breathing ruffles the blanket in front of his face, fast and shallow.
“I was alone, too before you came here, but we don’t have to be alone.” I hold my hand out in his direction. “We can be together.”
Still, he doesn’t move. His eyes dance between my hand, the girl, and my face. He’s not going to move.
With a sigh, I drop my hand back to my lap and glance down at the girl on my shoulder “What’s your name?” I ask, in a more gentle fashion than Arabella asked the scared boy.
Her head tilts up to me, but never leaving my shoulder. “Dai,” she whispers. Her big, grey eyes blink at me.
“That’s a pretty name,” I whisper, remembering Mama’s words about always being polite and saying nice things. “My name is Clara,” I offer her. Somehow, I even manage a smile, allowing it to curl my lips up and poke at my cheeks.
“That’s a pretty name, too,” the girl responds, her voice as quiet as the wind.
“How old are you, Dai?”
Her hand slips from around her knees to hang in the air between us. Five fingers stare at me.
She’s only five. Her age startles me. She’s more than half my age and still she had enough courage to walk up to me when I was crying and sobbing and ask me if everything was okay. How does she get such strength?
I stare down at her grey eyes like the answer might hang within their depths when something brushes against my other arm. Glancing at it, the small boy curls up on the ground next to me. His head settles into my lap, nudging my hand out of the way.
My hand lifts as he settles down. The blanket wraps over his body, which is curled into a ball. His eyes pinch closed like he’s fighting a nightmare and his bottom lip wobbles.
He’s not much bigger than Dai. How old could he possibly be? I recall how scared I was when I first arrived in the house. I can only imagine how scared he must be at such a young age, especially if he lost family, too.
I place a hand on his head like Mama used to do to me.
He jolts, but doesn’t shy away.
My hand slides over his shaggy, black hair. As it does, the boy relaxes. The tightness in his jaw settles and his breathing slows to a more normal pace.
While I glance down at the boy, Dai takes my free hand and wraps my arm around her shoulders. She nestles into the crook of my arm. “I’m scared, Clara,” she whispers.
I squeeze her hand, which still holds onto mine. “I am, too,” I tell her, not wanting to lie, not having the strength to. “But we’ll be okay.”
“You think so?”
No reply falls from my mouth. I hope everything will be okay, but how can it? Mama and Papa are dead. I’m alone in a house with a bunch of strangers. The city is blocked off by a giant wall. The people are acting like animals. The reminder of their ferocity causes me to bite my lip.
The front door creaks open and the sound of a struggle follows.
The boy tenses in my lap. Dai glances into the hallway.
Arabella has her arms around the older boy as he struggles to break free.
“Let me go! I have to find my brother!”
“We’ll help you find him later,” Arabella grunts as she wrestles the boy into the room where the three of us sit. Though, she pauses when she sees us. “Well, I’ll be…” Her voice trails off as her eyes widen. “How did you-“
The boy lands a blow to her jaw. It knocks her silent and he tries to break free of her grasp again.
His vicious actions scare me. The two younger children press into me as Dai watches and the boy claps his hands over his ears.
He’s scaring them. It makes sense. He scares me and they’re more scared than I am. So, why wouldn’t he scare them, too? He needs to stop that. He can’t scare everyone just because he’s scared. We’re all scared, but that doesn’t give him the right to act like that.
The boy trips Arabella, which only causes her to fall on top of him, pinning him to ground. He struggles underneath her, trying to claw his way free of her weight.
Arabella reaches for his arms, trying to pin them down to his side.
The whole display is horrible. It makes me want to cry watching them fight each other. Tears already slip down the younger boy’s face. I can’t stand it. I can’t stand people fighting each other anymore. I can’t stand the anger and the fear.
Next Installment: A Safe Place