Chapter 6: Growing Tiresome
Days, weeks, and even a month or two of work had passed as the storm continued. Every morning the kids rose, full of hope, and would peek outside the window to see if the storm had ended. No luck. Instead of playing, giggling, and practicing their talents, they worked, cried, and endured the punishments of Ruth. Their lives had turned to disaster. Now, morning, or at least dawn had come. The ever-so-tired children must wake at this unpleasant hour.
Ring, bring! “Ugh, do we have to get up?” Charlie said.
“Oh yes, you five must help prepare breakfast for Ruth like every morning,” Betty said.
“Mother and Father wouldn’t approve this. They would say we didn’t get our proper amount of sleep,” Lizzy said.
“I know, I know, but Ruth makes up the rules and we’re to follow them,” Betty said. She knocked on everyone’s door and peeped inside to make sure they woke. Tromps and stomps rung from the weary steps of restless children. Charlie’s eyes fogged and couldn’t stop him from bumping into walls. Only Oliver felt somewhat awake with clear vision. “C’mon, sleepyhead,” Oliver said. He turned to his other side and noticed Ellie rubbing her eyes. “And I better lift you.” Oliver hoisted Ellie up. She yawned to sleep in his arms. Over on the other side, Betty walked beside Charlie. “Children, remember you must stay quiet to let Ruth sleep. Otherwise she will get furious with us,” Betty said.
“She’s furious no matter what,” Charlie said, “maybe she should take some anti-cranky pills.”
Betty giggled. “I understand, Charlie, dear. She’s something, but we’ll keep that to ourselves,” she winked at Charlie.
Betty stood in the center of the kitchen and announced, “The five of you must make scrambled eggs on two slices of handmade bread and a blueberry muffin. And Ruth requests you don’t forget her chamomile tea. Do your best, dearies.”
“Lizzy and Ellie, you’ve got the eggs. Charlie, muffin, and Jeffrey can assist me with the bread,” Oliver said, “disperse yourselves.”
“C’mon El,” Lizzy said, grabbing three eggs from the fridge. Crack. Crinkle. Lizzy and Ellie cracked the eggs into the pan. Lizzy flicked the switch on low heat and took a seat at the work table with Jeffrey, Charlie, and Oliver.
“How’d we get into this mess again?” Lizzy asked.
“That,” Charlie said, pointing to the storm bashing their window.
“Ugh. As much as I love snow and wish we could play in it right now, why does it have to be like this sometimes? Why does one of our greatest joys make us miserable?” Lizzy asked.
Oliver shook his head. “I don’t know. Maybe we had everything so good that something bad had to happen.”
“But this bad?”
“What are you talking about?” Jeffrey asked, “what does that mean?”
Charlie, Lizzy, and Oliver giggled. Oliver fussed his hair and hugged his brother. Lizzy helped Ellie finish the eggs and spoon them on Ruth’s plate. The girls joined their brothers back at the table.
“Since when should you rascals be sitting around?” Ruth said. She stomped to the kids. “Lizzy, go clean the pan now.” She yanked Lizzy’s collar and pointed to the scrambled egg pan. Lizzy scurried toward the sink but Ruth spanked her anyway. “And Charlie, go watch my muffin,” she said, slapping his cheeks.
“And last, you two,” she said, pointing at Ellie and Jeffrey, “better clean and stay quiet so I can sleep or else,” she said. She whipped them across the face in synchronized fashion. She left the room for her bed.
“I’m done with this!” Oliver stomped. “Jeffrey and Ellie, go upstairs and make your beds. Lizzy and Charlie, c’mere when you’re ready.”
“Why?” Jeffrey asked.
Ellie clasped Jeffrey’s wrist. “Don’t argue with him, Jeffrey. It’s for the best.” she marched him out the room and up the stairs.
Charlie took the muffin out and exchanged a “what could this be about” look with Lizzy.
“What’s going on?” Lizzy asked.
“We’re escaping this house tonight. I will wake you and we’ll go out the back,” Oliver whispered.
“But the storm,” Lizzy said.
“The storm out there is better than the storm of Ruth,” Oliver said.
“Do you mean we’ll never come back?” Charlie asked.
“I don’t know about ‘never.’ But not for a long time so that we can ensure Ruth is gone.”
“This is insane, Oliver! We can’t leave! Our entire lives are here!” Lizzy said.
“Don’t you think I know this? It’s hard, but you’ll each have to decide on the most important thing to bring and leave everything else behind until we can safely return.”
“Who grabs the food and blankets and everything we need?”
“You two will not worry about that. I’ll pack and then wake you two up. You’ll dress for the cold and we’ll grab Ellie and Jeffrey.”
“When do we tell Jeffrey and Ellie the plan?” Lizzy asked.
“We don’t, you must not speak a single word of this or else we’ll all endure the consequences,” he said. “Understood?”
Lizzy and Charlie exchanged a silent glance. “What consequences?” Lizzy asked.
“Everything! Those two can never keep anything to themselves and if Ruth found out our plan, well, I couldn’t even imagine what worse punishments she could come up with!”
“Can’t we just tell them not to tell?” Charlie asked.
“No! Under no circumstances will they listen or understand. There will be no telling them, understood?”
“Yes, Oliver,” Lizzy said, stepping forward.
Charlie sighed. “Understood.”
The day played on into the night. The children worked, got slapped, and didn’t eat much. Nothing new. Ruth sent Lizzy, Jeffrey, and Ellie to bed early for not working hard enough. Charlie and Oliver were kept up late to dust.
“Charlie, you know the plan, right?” Oliver asked. Charlie nodded.
“I’ll get you and Lizzy and you’ll carry Ellie to the door. Don’t wake her up,” Oliver said.
“But you always carry Ellie because she’s bigger,” he said.
“Yes, but Jeffrey will squirm or make noise so I’ll hold him to keep him quiet. We’ll switch as soon as we’re far from the house,” Oliver said.
“What if this doesn’t work? What if we’re caught?”
“Don’t question the plan. I guarantee success.”
Betty wandered in. “Fifteen minutes before bedtime, boys. Sorry Ruth made you stay up so late,” she said. She waddled into the maids’ hall and didn’t return until the minutes had gone by. They put their tools away and left for their bedrooms. Within minutes, the lights shut and all noise went dark, except for the storm.