Screams. That's what woke me up.
Loud, shrill, goosebumps inducing screams.
I jolted awake, breathing heavily as sweaty hands came up to shield my ears from the sound of my own voice-or so I thought. I thought I was still in that cramped space that threatened to suck the light out of me and my eyes snapped shut, silent tears squeezing through as I struggled to block the screams out.
But they only got louder. This time, voices came with.
I opened my eyes, letting them dart around my bright room-I could never sleep with the lights off after that day-as my hands dropped from my ears, the screams penetrating even louder.
That wasn't in my head. That wasn't me.
Hastily, I threw the covers off my body and got out of bed, tight white shorts restraining my knee muscles as I threw the door open and let my eyes follow the screams down the hall, straight to the white door just across mine.
I frowned, wondering what the hell was going on as I hurried towards her door and flung it open. The sight that greeted me made me lose focus for a second, the restless sleep I'd had taking a toll on me as I frowned in confusion.
My dad stood with his arms crossed, a few meters from Olivia's bed and she herself lay in bed, her screams abruptly cut off as I barged in.
"Dad? What's going on? I heard screams..." I trailed, a heavy pendulum ball of headache swinging through my head. My eyes snapped shut for a second and I opened them back, looking at my dad to find my confused expression mirrored on his face.
"What's going on here?" a shrill voice interrupted dad and both of our heads snapped to the doorway where Lola now stood, her silk night robe doing no good job as a coverage. She ran a hand through her smooth blonde head, not a single strand out of place and walked into the room-even when she was expected to have bed hair, she failed to do so.
"Mom help!" Olivia suddenly screamed again, tears magically appearing on her pale cheeks as her screams returned. "he tried to rape me! H-he..." wails swallowed the rest of her words and it felt like bells were being rung in my head, so loud that I went blind for a second before my vision cleared out and my eyes snapped to my dad's in bewilderment. His mouth hung wide open, dark eyes turning into huge, round saucers and then the shock was gone immediately, anger taking its place. But before he could speak, Lola's even louder scream rang through the entire house, making my migraine a hundred times worse.
"He did what?!" she was shaking, face turning red as she flew to her daughter's side, cradling her in her arms like a wounded kitty. "oh my God! Are you sure? Did he do anything? Are you okay?" she went on, her blue eyes growing mistier with every feverish question that fell from her lips.
I just stayed rooted to the spot, my pouding brain unable to process everything that was going on.
"What are you talking about?!" My dad's angry growl silenced every sound and every action and it was like time stopped, then started again as Lola flung herself at him, landing a hot slap on his cheek; so hot, that I flinched and stepped back a bit. Another followed, and another and another...and my dad held her wrist up, eyes blazing with a furnace-like intensity.
"Enough!" he growled, still holding Lola's hands up and I saw her flinch for a second, before masking her fear with anger again.
"Don't you fucking yell at me, you vile bastard! How dare you!" she screamed back with as much intensity and my eyes snapped up to the clock on Olivia's bedroom wall. 4:23am. The neighbors would definitely be up.
That was all my brain could concentrate on at that moment. Everything that was happening felt like it was being archived, being kept away to be unboxed later and I could only think about the fact that our neighbors would be disturbed by all the ruckus.
"...yes you belong in jail, you disgusting little bitch!" another shout brought me out of my head and I looked up in time to see Lola slap my dad again before he angrily stormed out of the room, walking past me with blinding rage rolling off his body like steam. Minutes later, the loud bang of his study door being closed resonated through the house and I was left standing alone in Olivia's room, with a fuming Lola and her crying daughter.
What the fuck just happened?
But you see, that's the thing with my family. With every new day, comes a new kind of drama.
And I thought that was just like the other fights, and everything would soon get cleared up. But it never did...at least I'm still here, dealing with it.
"Kheeana! If you don't get down this instant, you'll be walking to school today!" Lola's screams rang from wherever she was in the house straight to my room and I rolled my eyes, bending down to tie my laces. Like that would be the first time she left me to walk to school.
I took my time, straightening up after my laces had been tied and then I grabbed a comb and began brushing through my already brushed hair. I just wanted her to leave cause I couldn't stand being alone in an enclosed space with her and Olivia-not freshly after what she did earlier that morning.
I could still see it even with my eyes closed; the way she'd slapped my dad repeatedly and all he could do in return was fume and walk away, all because he never hit women. He'd always told me, that men who hit women were vile beasts who deserve to be locked up...not excluding my boyfriend, Jayden. I honestly can't count the number of times dad has asked me if Jayden was ever rude or rough with me. Laughter and meaningful promises of bashing would end conversations like that...every single time.
My phone beeped, bringing me out of my thoughts and I wiped the silly smile caused by my dad's over protectiveness off my face and picked up my bag, grabbing my phone on the dresser too.
"Hey, where you at? We gon' be late!"
It was a text from Jayden. I laughed at how he always typed the exact way he talked in real life and pushed through the door, bounding down the stairs hurriedly with hopes that Lola wasn't still waiting for me.
A peep through the back-end hallway window confirmed she was gone and I made my way towards the kitchen for an apple and a bottle of water. The lights in the room on my left stopped me from moving forward and I turned back, wondering whether dad left his study lights on accidentally or he was skipping work.
"Dad?" I pushed the door open, a head peeping in first before I let myself in fully. "Dad are you in?" I called out again, eyes roaming the neat room with stacks and rows of paperwork lined neatly atop several desks strewn across the room. Simple and neat, just like dad liked everything. All the desks were mahogany with plain white walls and a few pieces of colored pencils drawing from my elementary school days being the only decoration the walls held.
"Khee, is that you?" his voice finally came from the corner and I walked towards him, finding him kneeling amidst a mess of boxes and pictures scattered across the floor. "Why are you still home?" he sniffled and I frowned, crouching down beside him. He didn't look up at me and his hands clutched at a picture tightly, a picture that I knew all too well. How? Because I spend half my entire day staring at my own copy of that same picture.
"Are you okay?" I asked, reaching my hands out to turn his face to me. I knew the answer to that question, the real answer and not the I'm fine I knew I would get.
Tears lined his cheeks, dark eyes swollen and dull like life didn't reside in them anymore.
"I'm fine, Khee. You should be in school. Come on, let me go drop you off quickly before you get late," he shoved the picture under the mess of boxes and stood up, dusting his hands on his jeans as he covertly wiped the tears off his face.
"I'm hitching a ride with Jay, don't worry bout' me," I gave a halfhearted smile and adjusted my bag strap on my shoulder, watching him try to get back into character and out of the solemn shell the picture had enclosed him in.
"Kay' then, I better get to work too." A forced smile followed his words and he left me standing to begin arranging files into his suitcase.
I turned around, shoulders sagging as I decided to leave him alone this time, even though I wanted answers on what happened earlier that morning, but then I couldn't help it. I turned back around and watched him fumble with a few papers before deciding to speak up, but changing the subject of my conversation into a more critical one.
"You still miss her, don't you?" It was a foolishly rhetorical question and I bit the inside of my cheek as soon as it was said. Of course he still missed her! Could anyone who had known her ever stop missing her?
"Of course I do..." dad trailed, looking up from his suitcase to hold my gaze. "I could never stop." The pain in his voice was raw, so raw and fresh like it'd happen only just yesterday and I felt my chest constrict as I sucked in a bout of air. I couldn't breathe. I was suddenly no longer in my dad's study, but in a large ocean of clear blue water. And I was...I was drowning. The water filled my lungs, eyes wide in horror as I stared at a figure that floated across from me-already dead. Midnight black wild, curly hair dizzied around, causing my vision to dance and then the figure was suddenly facing me; a smile so familiar directed at me with eyes closed. Then the eyes opened.