Day 2: The Wait (Liz)
The wind blew outside, causing small bits of debris to plink off Liz’s window. When she was little, she found storms comforting. She loved hiding under the covers, hearing the strength of the weather outside, knowing it couldn’t hurt her. Knowing it was safe.
Tap tap. The wind continued to throw things at her window, and she sighed before getting out of bed. The clock read 12:30 a.m. She should be exhausted, but she couldn’t force her mind to shut down. Too much happening.
Her mother had been going steady at the booze since the afternoon and had passed out after dinner, face down on the living room couch. Liz had thrown a blanket over her, more out of habit than anything. After that, she stayed up, watching more TV. She couldn’t stop.
Everyone agreed that this was an actual alien attack. They never used the term ‘aliens’, they’d dress it up pretty and say, ‘attack of unknown origin’ or ‘crafts not known anywhere on Earth’. Lots of words, lots of theories. They meant the same thing. Aliens. No one had figured out what they wanted or why they were here. Only that those drones would kill anything that stepped foot outside. The bigger list was all the things they didn’t know.
Why didn’t they attack people in buildings or parked cars?
What’s with the alarms that went off a few times a day?
Why did they leave smaller animals alone?
She rested her arms against the edge of her window, her blanket over her shoulders, and tried to see outside. The outline of the treehouse in the middle of the street was visible from the glow from the street lights. She worried about Heather. There was no way to survive out there for any length of time. Her best friend slept half a football field away, but it might as well be the moon. And still no answer from Pete. He must be dead.
All day, she had been trying to avoid that thought, but at night it was impossible to escape. Pete, her boyfriend, her love, her friend, was dead. Killed by aliens, torn to pieces by those lasers. She wasn’t sure what to do with all the emotions that rushed to the surface, so she buried her face in her hands and cried.
It didn’t come out hard; it was gentle sobbing, thinking about her loss. Pete was dead, and she loved him, and she was sad. Straightforward. She wished she could talk to him one more time. Hear his voice. Anything. How would she be able to go on without him? All their late-night calls, the times he stayed up with her on the phone after Alexandra had a violent night, she’d never have that again. So, she cried and thought about him, his face, his smile and hoped she’d be able to remember him the way he deserved to be remembered.
Outside, in the distance, a red laser flashed once, twice, illuminating the night sky and making her jump with the noise. She dropped to her bum with a thump, her back against the wall, hugging her arms to her chest.
Holy shit. What were they shooting at? Was someone making a break for it? To where? Did this mean the aliens could also see at night? She held her breath, worried that somehow the alien was after her. But no, she was safe. She was indoors. That was the rule, the President said so. Stay inside and stay safe.
With a loud bang, the door to her room burst open, causing her to let out a little scream. Events tonight seemed determined to terrify her. Backlit against the light in the hall, the imposing silhouette of her mother filled the doorway.
Alexandra. Nothing behind her eyes.
“Whazzat?” She pointed at Liz’s window, drunk out of her mind. Liz assumed she’d be down for the night. It was hard to resist the urge to crawl under the bed, to hide. She gripped her blanket hard enough to make them cramp but kept her body still as possible.
“It’s the wind, Mom. Go to sleep.” She tried to make her voice small, with no inflection at all. Nothing to get mad at, nothing to notice.
“No whazZAT?” Her mom lurched into the room, banging against the desk inside the door and knocking over a lamp. She pointed at scraps of paper and Liz had no idea what she was upset about. It hardly even mattered, honestly. Her mom would see offenses in everything. Every shadow concealed a fight.
“It’s paper, Mom. Nothing else.” This could be bad. Alexandra in her room. Alexandra looking at her, interacting with her. Liz clenched every muscle in her body, but none of it showed in her expression, which she kept neutral. Her mom grabbed the papers and squinted at them, looking for writing, for anything that could be used as an excuse. She was so drunk she couldn’t see straight.
“You writing ’bout me?”
“No, Mom, there’s nothing on the pages. I’m not writing about you’d, I’d never-”
Alexandra hit her in the face, a full-arm shot that snapped Liz’s head back so hard she bit her lip and tasted blood. She felt the burning hot handprint on her cheek and stared at her mom in shock. As always, the shame came next. Why would she feel ashamed? She never could figure it out, but there it was. She hunched into herself, bracing for the next punch. Blocking only made it worse.
Her mom nodded once, satisfied, bounced off the door frame, and stumbled down the hallway. Liz stood for a few more moments, letting the heat from the slap live on her cheek. She would not cry. If she pretended it was fine, it would be fine and then she’d win. Besides, her mom didn’t mean anything; it had been a hard day for them both. It didn’t even hurt that much, and-
A barking sob escaped, and she swallowed it back. It tasted like poison. She continued standing, rock-still, and although the slap hurt, she refused to touch her face. She would not comfort herself, and she wouldn’t cry.
For several minutes she formed her heart into a fist, a clenched and angry thing that didn’t care about being hurt. A single tear rolled down her face, the good side, and she accepted this as a truce.
One more shaky breath to confirm she wouldn’t cry, and she let herself rub her wounded cheek. It wasn’t fair that she needed to deal with both aliens and a drunken, abusive mother. Wasn’t one enough? She couldn’t stay in this house for long.
Alexandra was getting worse.
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