Glass shattered against
the far side of the room. Nadia didn't look out from the table she
was hiding under. Next to her, Aidan shook violently. Unconsciously,
she put an arm around her little brother to steady him and quiet his
sobs. His hair was long, she noted numbly. She would have to cut it
again soon. Hers was almost to her waist, but that was okay. She
wanted it long.
A startled cry and a thud sounded from somewhere in the hall and Aidan started shaking again. Nadia could hear her mother crying out apologies.
"Why?" He wondered out loud. His tone didn't sound like it was looking for an answer, so Nadia didn't even attempt one. It was beyond her eight year-old mind to know why people were so violent.
"Hush," she said instead, hugging her twin brother close to her. It'll be over soon. Above them, something else broke. A piece of paper fluttered to the floor, landing blank side up. Nadia darted her hand out and snatched it up quickly before anyone could notice.
It was an old family photo from that one time they took a trip down to the lake. Her eyes were drawn to her bright smiling face. Next to her, her little brother beamed. Although he was only a minute younger, he was so much smaller than her. That didn't stop him from getting into all kinds of trouble, thinking he was invincible. Things were better back then. No one yelled. Nothing was broken. Now…
Something else shattered down the hall, and a door slammed. More crying, but it was muffled this time. Somewhere in her mind, a word came through, clear as a bell: safe.
She took her brother's hand in hers and crawled out from under the kitchen table. A piercing pain sliced her palm and she drew back. A streak of red remained on the tile floor. Around them, ceramic shards littered the floor. In her mind, Nadia made a note to get more dishware. Maybe something plastic next time.
Carefully, she guided her brother out and sat him down at the table.
"Here," she pushed a plate towards him, "eat this."
"What about you?" he asked, a spark of concern lighting up his previously numb eyes.
She smiled gently, ignoring the stabs of hunger in her stomach, and pat him on the head.
"I can eat later," she promised automatically, "but I need to clean up now."
Aidan looked like he might protest, but quietly took a forkful of food instead.
Nadia glanced around at the mess that surrounded them: the shards on the floor, the cracked brown bottles, the precious little food they had, now laying wasted on the ground or splattered across the walls.
She swallowed a sob herself and set to work.