She was two seconds away from falling asleep.
Or was she already asleep?
All that she was aware of were cold hands grasping her shoulders. A voice that once sounded faint soon appeared to be so clear. Words were formed into sentences so perfectly structured that it seemed to sum up to a joke, though somehow it wasn’t.
His brown eyes were wider than ever before. They looked like a blossom that had bloomed to its full extent, leaving it nothing but to whither away, except she was the one left to whither away. He made it seem like the very place they called home was about to be nothing compared to a war that was being created.
Sadly, it was just that.
“Up—now! Move it!” His voice was quiet, though his words were loud. He suddenly made himself the leader of their group, the general to them soldiers, though why would they need a leader in that moment? What had happened in the last few hours that was so drastic? Everything was normal before.
He turned away to open up the closet next to her bed. One backpack was pulled out, then the next. His fists tightened with every moment he wasn’t holding something.
“What happened?” She mostly mouthed out. Her body was running, but her mind was still shut off. She could hear, listen, feel, but couldn’t intervene. Maybe she was asleep after all.
“Doesn’t matter. We need to get out—Now.” His arms wrapped around her body and he yanked her up, letting go without giving her a moment to find her balance. She felt lightheaded from standing up so fast, her body almost tipped over. “Aaron, let’s go!”
Aaron rushed from his bedroom into Adeline’s. “But what about mom and dad?” He cried out.
“Forget about them! They’ll be fine. I was told to get you out, so let’s go!”
Aaron shook his head, biting down on his teeth before reentering his room.
“What the hell are you doing?” Vince shouted at Adeline. “Let’s go!”
She glanced up and glared at him through the thick brown hair that laid over her eyes, though, he didn’t seem to notice. “I feel like this is a sick prank of your guy’s to get me out of bed. What time is it anyway?”
She went to reach for her phone before he turned around and grasped her shoulders once again, this time a lot softer, but more eye-opening. “I swear to God, Adeline, this isn’t a joke. We need to hurry up and go now.”
He let go of her and went to grab a backpack he had placed on the ground. “I can’t explain right now. You’re just going to have to trust me.” He threw the backpack at Adeline. “Pack up valuable things.”
She stretched the backpack out, scowling at it for a moment. “How do I know what’s valuable if I don’t know where we’re going?”
He rolled his eyes, picking up the other backpack. “I guess… camping necessities.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Are we going camping?”
Vince couldn’t help but hesitate at the thought of answering that question. On his way out of the room, he scratched the back of his head, not even thinking about glancing over towards her direction. “Kind of…”
Pressure laid in her chest, but she didn’t understand why. Everything was happening so fast.
Wait—Where are mom and dad anyways? Damnit, Aaron.
She sighed and shook her head, ignoring the millions of questions that started to drown her. Her crooked teeth overlapped her bottom lip as she walked over to her closet and stuffed her bag with clothes.
“Pack fewer clothes.” Vince’s voice came from Aaron’s room and echoed into her’s. “You need more room for other things.”
The controlling side of her started to come out in noticeable ways. Her fists tightened, her jaw clenched, and she had to hold back from biting her nails. “Got it.”
He came out from around the corner. “And when you’re done, go out the back door and make your way to the passenger’s seat.”
She scowled, locking her green eyes onto his brown. “But, the car’s near the fro—”
“Out. The back. Door.” He interrupted. It wasn’t a time for questions, especially for him. He needed everyone out as soon as possible without hesitation or lack of trust from anyone.
“Ok…” She sighed out while nodding before continuing to pack.
Things for camping… Things for camping… She kept thinking until she could think of things to bring. A pocket knife? Flint and striker? Water bottle?
“How am I supposed to carry all these things in a small backpack?” She whispered underneath her breath. “I probably won’t need much anyways…”
She hesitated while zipping the backpack up, but pushed it aside and made her way out through the hall. She noticed that Aaron’s door was partially closed with both Aaron and Vince in there, but Vince could hear her steps exiting her room.
“Out the back door.” He repeated for the last time.
She ignored him and walked away. Their house was fairly large all the way around, and it would take a lot longer to go out the back door just to get to the car, which was out front.
Her mind was still trying to convince her that nothing was wrong and everything that was going on in that house was a joke or was an exaggerated situation. She kept thinking about the possibilities instead of paying any attention as to where she was going, which led her to where she shouldn’t have been.
Her legs froze into place and her eyes widened.
A man, 5’9”, mid-forties, grey hair, laid there.
He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t breathing.
“Adeline? Are you still here?” Vince called out.
She place her hand on the counter and knocked over a glass. She jumped back, watching the glass fall and shatter. That’s when Vince loudly presented himself.
“Adeline, I fuckin’ told you to get out the back door!” He shouted louder than he’d ever shouted before.
She turned around, scared to be in the same room as him. She didn’t understand why he didn’t want her to see. Was he was trying to protect himself or her? “Vince, what did you do?” She couldn’t even keep her eyes on him while speaking.
A loud gunshot went off not far from where they stood. Vince and Adeline couldn’t help but duck with their hands behind their heads. Not long after did Aaron rush out with his backpack towards Vince, but he grabbed Aaron and pulled him closer to the back door before he could see anything.
“Grab the rest of the bags from Aaron’s room,” Vince commanded Adeline. “I’m taking him to the car.”
She rushed into Aaron’s room and slipped her arms through the straps of all three backpacks. Each one added much more weight to her arms. By the time she got the third one on, it almost seemed too heavy to carry, and she could feel her body almost tipping over, but she pushed past everything and walked out the back door, leaving the one place that felt safe, the only place she’d ever called home.
Bare feet touched the cold grass and hesitation kept her from walking any farther than where she stood. She was afraid of the future memories that were about to be made and the past memories that were about to be forgotten. Everything that had happened in the last ten years laid in their house. Were they leaving for good? Was this the last time they’d feel the air that reeked with smoke that which, for the first time, they’d miss?
“Come on, Adeline! We need to go!” Vince called from the driver’s seat of his truck. “Throw the bags in the back!”
She tossed the first, then the second, then the third. Her feet dragged as she pulled herself into the passenger’s seat.
Without hesitation, Vince pulled out of the driveway and drove off. Adeline was still confused and didn’t know how to process the situation, especially what she had witnessed. The most confusing part of it all was the fact that Vince wouldn’t say anything about it, especially where their parents were.
“What’s going on, Vince?” Adeline asked. She was one to push someone to their limits to get answers, even if she knew it could hurt her more knowing than not knowing. Aaron stayed silent in the back while reading a comic book he had found under the seat. He never liked conflicts.
Vince refused to make eye contact with her and instead focused on the road. “Just trust me.”
She shook her head. “After seeing that? I don’t think I can.”
“Shhh!” He hissed.
Aaron raised his head. “Saw what?”
Vince looked at Aaron for a split second. “Nothing, bud.” He then gazed towards Adeline and mouthed, “Be quiet.”
A sigh escaped her lips as she looked out her window. “I can’t believe you.” She whispered.
“You don’t have any right to take us away from our home without an explanation as to what is happening, where we’re going, or where mom and dad are! Do you understand how terrifying all of this is for me? You don’t, because you have all the answers and you think treating me like I’m nine will keep me safe. I can’t do what you need me to do if I don’t know what’s going on.”
Vince showed no expressions and kept his eyes on the road even though he could feel Adeline’s eyes on him.
She couldn’t trust him anymore.
“Fine. Push me away even more. That’ll fix things.” She rested her elbow on the door and then rested her head on her fist. Her eyes shut as she tried to numb her mind. Maybe then she wouldn’t care.