I felt the soft caress of a hand on my cheek as I slowly woke from another fitful rest. I never slept well when the temperature got too hot. I loved the cold and sleeping in piles of blankets. My eyes fluttered open and the blurry shape in front of me came into focus. Colt’s face looked down at me. His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes and I could tell he was worried by the crease on his forehead. Colt was only four years older than me, but he always seemed like he was carrying burden’s more familiar to someone twice his age.
“Morning, Lark”. His voice was hushed and low. Colt and the guys almost always called me Lark or Mia. They rarely called me by my given name, Emelia. Everyone else usually called me Emmy. I sat up and looked at the alarm clock that sat on the nightside table David and Maria bought me years ago. The time read 6:45 AM. David and Maria took me in about six years ago, but I had been in the foster care system for as long as I can remember. Most of the guys were brought up the same way. It was only by luck that we all came to live with our current foster family. Colt and Greyson were already here when they brought me home, and Aidan and Luka came a few months after I did. I don’t think any of us would have guessed how important to each other we all would become. They weren’t my brothers, but they were my family.
“Go away Colt”, I grumbled sleepily. He chuckled at me and tucked some of my wayward bedhead behind my ear.
“I just came to tell you that I can’t give you guys a ride to school this morning. Aidan and I are going in early to get a workout in with some of the guys”. Aidan and Colt had decided to play football this year, and they sometimes went in early to do workouts with their team. Even though it had only been a couple of months, I could see the effects of their involvement in a contact sport setting in. They both had begun to fill out and lose some of their baby fat.
“Is David able to take Luka, Grey, and I to school or do I need to get them up earlier so we have time to catch the bus?” I was beginning to fully wake up and I realized I could hear the sounds of my household doing the same. My room was directly above the kitchen and my air conditioning vent often carried sounds into my room. The sound of my foster parent’s voices was drifting through the vent. Even though I couldn’t make out what they were saying, it was nice to hear the familiar lilt of their voices. Colt shifted farther down the bed and gave me more space to stretch and fully wake up.
“David said he can take you. He even offered to stop at Dunkin Donuts to get breakfast sandwiches if you and the guys can get ready in enough time.” Colt definitely knew what to say to get me out of bed and rushing to get ready. Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwiches were my morning kryptonite. I wasn’t a big fan of donuts or their coffee, but if you offered me a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel I could never walk away.
“I’ll go wake up Luka and Grey!“, I called back as I rushed out of the room. Leaving Colt laughing and shaking his head as he got up from my bed. Luka and Grey were the closest to me in age. They were a year older but we still ended up in the same grade. Truth be told I don’t think I could handle the seventh grade without them. In my rush to get to their room, I didn’t see Aidan coming out of the bathroom in time and ended up colliding with him. Aidan let out a whoosh of breath and managed to stabilize both of us before I toppled over. Aidan wasn’t as tall as Colt, but he still managed to tower over me.
“Where’s the fire, Mia? I thought your normal morning routine was to wake up at the last possible minute?” Aidan’s trademark smirk was plastered on his face even at 7:00 AM. Of all the guys, Aidan was the one it took me the most time to feel comfortable around. I know he didn’t have a good home life before coming to live with David and Maria, and the walls he built around himself were airtight. At least to everyone except the guys and me. I opened my mouth to respond when Colt cut me off.
“I woke her up to tell her we couldn’t give them a ride to school and that David promised breakfast sandwiches if they all got ready in time”. I could hear the smile in his voice even though he approached from behind me. Aidan laughed in response and ruffled my already messy hair.
“Ahh, that makes sense. It’s a miracle to get her out of bed without the promise of food. See you later Lark, try not to get in too much trouble this morning”. He stepped around me to walk down the stairs with Colt and I watched them both disappear to the bottom floor. Colt turned around to wave me goodbye, and then I heard the front door close signaling their departure.
When I remembered what they had distracted me from, I continued my rush down the hallway and into Luka and Greyson’s room. When I opened the door I could hear the soft sounds of their snoring. Luka and Greyson were the only ones that shared a room, but I think they preferred it that way. They both radiate this creative energy that I think they feed off of when they are close to each other. Their beds were on opposite sides of the room, and I had to decide who would be less grumpy to wake up first. Considering I could see Grey’s journal still in his hand from when he had fallen asleep, I decided to wake up Luka first. Grey would often write late into the night and valued every second of sleep he could get.
I bounded over to Luka’s bed and decided the most efficient way would be a cannonball. I stepped back a few paces to give myself room for take-off. Luka must have heard me coming because right as I was about to land he woke up to the deranged image of me jumping on him like a flying squirrel.
“Lark, what are you doing?” Luka’s voice was husky from sleep but I could tell that I must have landed awkwardly on him because his voice was a little breathless from my impact. Instead of shoving me off the bed like I thought he was going to do, he adjusted me to move beside him and then started to stretch out his sleep-ridden muscles.
“I am waking you both up. We have to hurry! David said he would buy us breakfast sandwiches if the three of us got ready in enough time. Colt and Aidan can’t drop us off at school today because they are both going in for an early workout”. Luka was similar to me and at the mention of food, he bolted straight up. I laughed at his weirdly alert but yet still sleepy face. That is when he pushed me off his bed.
“That’s what you get for laughing at me you little turd. Go wake up Grey and I will get in the shower”. Luka helped me up as he got out of bed and pressed a quick kiss to my forehead. I watched him drag himself to the bathroom before I turned around to wake up my next target.I decided a gentle approach would be better for Greyson.
As I walked closer, the sound of the front door slamming open paused my steps. I assumed it was probably Aidan coming back because he forgot something. However, the sound of a gunshot completely froze me. Greyson shot straight up in bed and met my eyes. Both of us could see the terror reflecting in each other’s eyes. I could hear Maria screaming downstairs and the sounds of at least three other men speaking in a foreign language. I started to run toward the door, but the sound of a second gunshot completely froze me. The silence that followed shattered my world. Greyson must have gotten up from the bed because he pulled me back into his chest and started whispering in my ear.
“Go hide under the bed, I’m going to get Luka and bring him back here. They might not know anyone is upstairs if they already saw Colt and Aid go”. Even though his words came out without any stutter, I could hear the slight tremble in his voice. I quickly did what he said and disappeared under his bed. He adjusted his blankets so they were hanging off the side, mostly blocking me from view. I saw his feet cautiously walk out of the room, and a feeling of dread instantly came over me.
Who are these people? Why are they doing this to my family? A million more why and what questions circulated through my mind as I tried to calm my breathing. The pounding of footsteps on the stairs made tears finally spring to my eyes. They are going to kill us, I thought. My hand was covering my mouth, but I know I must have let out a whimper of fear. Grey and Luka were not back and I had no idea if they were okay or not. The footsteps were getting closer to their room when I heard a loud crash and more yelling. Some in English, some not. Luka and Grey were fighting back. Before I could get my hopes up that they were going to manage to defend our home, I heard the sound of two bodies hitting the floor out in the hallway. My heart sunk into my stomach as I realized what that meant. Luka and Greyson were either dead or unconscious. Tears started to flow freely from my eyes now and I couldn’t shake the panic that was threatening to overwhelm me. They would come for me now. As three sets of feet entered the bedroom I realized that they were going to kill me and I couldn’t do anything about it. I made a decision.
Crawling out from under the bed, I stood up and faced our attackers. They were each of various heights, with dark hair, and dark clothes. They each carried a gun. The one in the middle approached me and the trembling I was working so hard to control finally got out of hand. He smiled at me. Like I was some lost treasure he couldn’t wait to get his hands on. Then he raised his gun, and everything went black.