Lereah was just seven years old clutching onto her mother’s free hand. One of her mother’s arms wrapped her youngest brother Anthony while Lereah lifts Emma. It is a war. The soldiers. The guns. The bombs. They are fleeing their homeland to safety. Hoping to get out alive if not uninjured. They need to survive this and Lereah knows that. She looks around searching for some help to lead her family to. Even at such a young age, she holds the responsibility of her family’s life. It sits on her shoulder like a boulder. But she can’t think of that now. She looks around and finds her neighbours’ wife fleeing. She tugs Mum to the woman. They try to retrace the lady’s steps instead they bump into a bulky, bald man. Lereah looks up at him.
She realises she is looking at her father. He smiles at her before turning them into a series of unknown directions. The man stops, bends, runs and his family mimics. They reach an entrance into which an old man is urging everyone to get into. It looks barren, unlike home. But, it is safe. There is a high banner and a huge set of doors held ajar. There is also a small entrance for people to go through, however, it isn’t open. Before, her Mum can pull her past the mighty, bronze doors she races to squeeze her father because it may be her last.
He smiles at her and looks behind at the war. He knows they need him. He bends down, kisses her and quickly ushers her to Mum. Through the crowd, rushing and Mum’s tight tugs, Lereah watches him fight. She watches her father dodge the bullets that missed him. She watches him fight two soldiers. She watched him catch a bullet and fall to the ground.
Lereah struggles against the grip of her Mum to run to him and take in all the bullets. Her Mum being stronger, starts pulling her into a hut and sends her to a room which becomes hers. She tells her to stay there until she is calm. In anger, she almost tears her blanket.
Agitated, Lereah stares out of her window. It started raining heavily and it is muddy and wet outside. She longs to get herself dirty but she knows what her Mum will do to her if she does. This is an old habit to calm herself down. She sees a man controlling the electricity supply to each house. She gets even madder because he looks like a father that she will no longer have. She looks at him in the eyes and maddens even more. She feels her heartbeat faster. Blood rushed to her face. She reaches inside of her and pulls something. With a flick of his wrist, he switches off the electricity in all the houses.
Lereah slouched back into her bed and her heartbeat slows. If only she had more time with dad. How much she could have done with him. She eases out the clench in her heart. She goes to her Mum once the light flickers back on. She helps her Mum set the house and put her siblings in bed. Lereah takes a sweet ration from a cupboard. She nibbles on it slightly.
She is about to eat it whole when she hears a soft knock on the door and goes to open it. Standing in front is a nine-year-old boy who snatches the rations out of her hand. She shoves him out and he falls to the muddy ground to take her ration back. She bends down to take it but he pulls her down and raises his hand for a punch but she rolls over. Before she can slap him her Mum comes out. She drags Lereah away from the boy. She carries them both to the bathroom and strips their muddy clothes off to give them a bath.
Lereah glares at this boy for getting her mother’s attention. After their bath, her Mum dresses Lereah in her clothes and the other boy up in some clothes too big for Anthony. They fit him perfectly. She makes him sit for dinner as well.
She asks the boy at dinner. “What’s your name?”
He kindly responded, “Sabian.”
Before Lereah can say anything, Lereah’s Mum glares her mouth shut.
“Where are your parents,” asks Lereah’s Mum.
Sabian looks away and when he turns back he has tears in his eyes. “Daddy died and Mummy ran away,” he says. Her Mum tuts and rushes to soothe him. Even Lereah gives him a hug. After dinner, her Mum takes them both up to Lereah’s room to sleep. She tucks them both together. And after that day Lereah’s room became Lereah and Sabian’s room. They would talk together at night about their day. They fight a lot.
“Sabian move over, you are taking too much space,” Lereah says at the age of 14 when they are sleeping on his birthday.
“Just sleep,” he says, taking even more space. Lereah kicks his legs but he doesn’t budge. Instead, he spreads his shoulders and Lereah is crammed between the wall and Sam. Lereah places her shoulder and legs over his and he moves out of the heat.
“Shut up,” he says annoyed at being annoyed.
“You know today I saw Archie fight with Marlynn. It was so surprising. They pulled each other’s hair out,” Lereah says leaning on his bulky shoulder and whispering into his ear.
“Lereah! I might strap you to your bed,” he says grunting.
“I’d like to see you try,” she replies. He looks at her with a smirk and then pulls most of the blanket over him leaving Lereah without a blanket.
“Tomorrow,” he grumbles. Lereah bursts out laughing.
“Leah come here right now,” her Mum screams from downstairs. The moment they hear her voice Sam acts asleep. Lereah grumbles and climbs over Sam. Ready for her mother’s slap or chores.
This was their usual night. Lereah’s Mum was more of a Mum to Sabian than his birth one. From the mud, Mum would slap them and give them extra chores over which they would end up fighting as well.
This was their life all the way until they were 16. Lereah woke up one morning to the reminder of the soon to be the worst day of her life. “Sabian Agnor,” she whispers. He doesn’t budge. She groans. She kicks Sam awake and he shoves her back onto the bed. She steps and climbs over him as he grunts at being disturbed. She sets the clock to ring in a minute and leaves the room.
Moments later when Lereah is climbing down the stairs she hears Sam scream, “Leah!” She giggles and rushes down. Her Mum sighs at them.