Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.
Everything started going wrong when Mom brought home the baby.
See, that sounds like I'm just being a jealous big sister who doesn't want a new sibling to take away her parent's attention, but that's not it.
The thing is, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Mom's baby.
I had a friend, Mara, whose mom was going to have a baby, and she was BIG. Her tummy was like a big ball. Mara complained that her mom couldn't give her hugs properly anymore.
Mom wasn't like that. Mom could still give me hugs properly.
That's why Dad and I were so shocked when she walked through the door holding a baby.
I dropped the dolls I'd been playing with on the floor and got out of the room immediately, but I stayed near the door. I knew Mom and Dad were about to blow up at each other and most of the time, they said important things that let me know how long it would be until I could be around either of them again.
"Sweetheart. Love of my life. Sugar. What. In God's name. Is that," Dad spat. I could imagine the thunderclouds gathering in his grey eyes, telling how he was ready to yell and throw things and toss insults at Mom until she started yelling back and then stormed away.
"This," Mom said calmly, "is a baby." I imagined her pristine, emotionless expression as she looked at Dad, prepared to defend herself again.
She'd go to bed with bruises tonight, I knew.
"I can see that, but what is it doing in my house?"
"What is it doing in my house?"
Mom exhaled slowly, and I imagined her lips pressing into a thin line, turning light pink.
"I know I should have talked to you first-"
"Damn straight you should've."
"-but I already had the child in my arms. You can't expect me to just leave the baby to come and talk to you at that point."
"I can when it involves this."
There was a moment of silence, and then I felt the urge to go in the room and take the baby from Mom. It was irresistible. I took slow, dragging steps, but went in and wordlessly took the baby. Mom crouched next to me and whispered quickly in my ear. "Don't let your father get his hands on her. Her name is Astra."
I nodded and turned to leave. I caught a glimpse of Dad, his eyes just as dangerous and angry as I'd imagined, fixated on Mom as if he thought he could change her mind just by looking at her. He didn't look at me at all.
I returned to my place by the door.
"You can take the damn child right back where you found her," Dad said, his voice quiet.
I looked down at the baby. She was so tiny, so fragile looking as she slept.
"We already have two daughters. We aren't taking a third."
"Please," Mom begged. "She needs a home-"
"And there are plenty of orphanages and foster homes that'd be willing to take her."
"What kind of monster would abandon a child to that kind of place when we could give her a perfectly good home here?" Mom snapped.
There it was. Mom was upset now, and there wasn't any backing down.
"Oh, so I'm a monster now?" Dad's voice rose with every word.
"Damn it, woman, that's exactly what you meant!"
"Alright, fine, it was!" Mom's voice was rising too. "You're a monster. You're a bloody monster."
I winced at the sound of flesh hitting flesh.
"I've had enough of your attitude," Dad snarled, as the faint sound of Mom sobbing filtered out of the room. "You're always gone, never raising our daughters, never doing anything around the house, never supporting me, never doing ANYTHING!"
"Anything?" Mom shouted. "I do EVERYTHING around here, you bastard! What do you do, go off and get drunk with your friends?"
"That's ENOUGH!" Dad shouted. His voice suddenly lowered again, becoming soft and deadly. "Get back in the kitchen, bitch. That's the only place you're worth anything."
"Oh? The kitchen, you say?" Mom's voice had become sickly sweet with an edge to it that made me shiver. "The kitchen? Where we keep the knives and cleaning supplies and the food I could easily slip something into and you'd never know?"
I knew something had changed, then. Mom had never threatened Dad before. Never.
An icy cold feeling dripped down my spine, and I wanted to burst in and scream at Mom to run, Dad was about to break and do something horrible, please get out of here!
"... that's it," Dad whispered, just barely loud enough for me to hear him. Then again, louder and hysterical, "THAT'S IT!"
I stood frozen, half-peering in through the doorway, watching Mom's back as she stood and watched Dad step into the kitchen, then back again, a silver glint in his hand-
I stood frozen as Mom screamed.
I stood frozen until she stopped.
I unfroze when Dad looked at me as if he didn't recognize me.
"No witnesses," he whispered, taking a step toward me over Mom's body.
No- witnesses? What-
I scrambled backwards for the stairs, hot tears dripping down my cheeks, a wordless wail building up in my throat. I had to get away, had to get away, had to get away, hadtogetaway-
I could hear Dad behind me, moving slowly, as if he knew he'd catch me eventually.
I raced down the hall and to the end where I stopped, composed myself, and gently pushed open the door to the room I shared with my sister.
My sister looked up at me, and then at the baby.
"No time," I said as calmly as I could. "Mom and Dad are gone. We gotta get out of here."
She accepted this without question, like I knew she would. She trusted me. Trusted that whatever I did was right.
"Out the window," I ordered, looking behind me. Dad was on the last step, about to enter the hallway.
She nodded and dashed to our window, throwing it opening and scrambling down the ivy trellis like we had a million times before. I quickly crossed the room and watched her until she was on the ground. "I'm gonna drop the baby down, make sure you catch her!" I called, nerves making my voice sound angry. She nodded and I let go of the small bundle in my arms, watching anxiously until she caught the infant. She then stepped away so I could climb down.
"No witnesses," Dad said softly, and then there was a blinding pain in my back, tearing downwards.
I threw myself out the window.
I twisted in mid-air, looking up at my Dad, the last view I'd ever get of him.
I didn't even recognize him.
The crazed look in his eyes, the blood on his hands, the cruel smile that was more baring his teeth than a smile.
I hit something with a thud.
She'd reached out to catch me.
"Don't look up. We need to run," I ordered. "We're going on an adventure."
My voice was surprisingly calm.
My sister obeyed.
She bent down to pick up the baby, who was screaming now. She must've dropped her to catch me.
I didn't look back, just ran.
I heard her following me.
We were almost free.
The sun was setting now. My sister, the baby, and I were in a dark alleyway, trying to keep warm. My back hurt, but it wasn't warm and sticky anymore. We'd found a puddle to clean it off in. I'd told my sister I caught it on the windowframe, and she didn't question me.
The scene kept replaying in my mind. Over and over and over.
Mom's screams. Dad's smile.
I looked at the baby. I was holding her, rocking her gently, and I suddenly felt a hot flash of anger toward her.
If it wasn't for this baby, I'd still have Mom and Dad. I'd still be home. I would be happy and safe.
I hated this baby.
I'd take care of her all the same, but I hated this baby.
I'd never forgive this baby for what she'd done to my family.