"There should be no yelling in the home unless there's a fire." - David O. McKay
Her bare feet echoed off of the stairs as she pattered down. Three months had passed since Leo left; three months since since she'd watched her brother board the steps onto the rickety bus that took him away.
"He's going on an adventure." Momma had told her. "He get's to see all of Europe! "
"Then why was he upset?" Confusion light her eyes.
"Oh, baby he wasn't upset." Momma brushed the hair out of her eyes. "He was so happy."
Darkness enveloped Jean's vision as she descended deeper into the empty room, her feet crashing against the oak. The sleek black rail trailed across her fingertips as she made her way, bumps and ridges along the wood scrapping against her skin. Shadows jumped out at her, her breathing quickening as she hesitated on the last step. The door creaked and she turned, half expecting Momma to be standing in the archway, a broad smile on her smooth face. But it was just the wind. The fragile light of sun fluttered down, highlighting half of her face. Her skin shone pale under the glare, her blue eyes flashing grey for a heartbeat. She turned back around, her feet colliding with the cold stone floor. A small white puff escaped her mouth, grasping at her cheeks as she moved forward. She paused a few footsteps away from the last step, taking a second to look around.
White light filtered through a window that was set into the wall high above her head, pushing back some of the darkness as it highlighted the dust particles that filtered through the air. Thick wooden pillars braced the house against the ground, run through with concrete. She pushed a thick curl out of her face, tucking it behind her ear with a slender hand. The screaming voices above her head grew louder as the seconds slid by.
Jean's face twisted and she tried to block out the anger with her gloved hands.
"Momma when will Leo be back?"
"I don't know baby. The President has a very important mission for him. " she continued to brush Jean's hair.
"I want him home." Jean said quietly.
She pushed herself forward as the icy cold gripped her skin. Goosebumps ran up her skin, sending shivers down her spine. In the corner boxes were piled almost up to the window, stiff with cold. They'd been stacked in a way that wasn't natural for storage. Thick white sheets had been thrown over the tops, frozen to the touch and chunky flakes of dust fluttering away when she touched it.
She stood there, the cold seeping into the thick soles of her feet. Jean couldn't make out their words but she knew what they were fighting about. She could almost hear the slurred voices that escaped her fathers mouth. The door of her room hadn't been able to hide it, and concrete floor that separated her from the world above barley dulled the words. This place used to be her nightmare. With it's deep shadows and chiseled stone walls; she'd often imagined it to be a dungeon of some sort. The kind that Momma used to read to in the fairy-tails. Leo had told her a story once of a man who had died here, once upon a time. He had robbed a bank, killing a man and a women and henceforth was hiding from the police. Her lovely brother had informed her that he died down here but that no one had found his body. A shudder ran down her spine as she thought of a grimy hand reaching toward her; maybe still gripping remnants of cash that he'd acquired.
Jean glanced back up through the wood railing that scattered trails of light through the room. The dark hovel was now her salvation. It's where she escaped the incessant fighting that was destroying the fragile fabric of her family.
When Leo left; Papa had come home, wild-eyed and a beer clutched in his hands. Rain streamed from his wild brown hair, dying it black like Leo's had been three months prior. He screamed about the in-justness of it; that his son was forced to go to Europe.
"But Momma said this was good." Jean looked up in shock from where she'd been obediently completing her math homework.
"Carla!" He'd roared. "What lies are you feeding my daughter?!"
Momma had instructed her to go to her room; and that's when the fighting had begun.
A thin tear stream down Jean's face. She couldn't go outside; because the neighbors gave her that pitying look. The little brown house with the white picket fence and roses that lined the windows; a perfection that in itself was a lie. People walked their dogs and their children on the other side of the street, no one admitting that they could hear the disputes that floated through the usually open windows. Her friends didn't walk with her to school anymore and Blair's parent's said she wasn't allowed over; but Jean was always welcome in their hose. Thirteen years old and she wanted her brother. Thirteen years old and she clutched a ratted stuffed pink bunny in her hand.
She knelt down, the white of her dress pressing against the grimy floor. She lifted up the canvas cloth that concealed a small opening and pushed herself inside. Ratted blankets and pillows were stacked in the corners, a small pile of books and paper scattered across the floor. Jean slid inside, the top of her head brushing against the cloth. For a second, she paused, looking out at the world in front of her. Then, she released the flap, and plunged herself into darkness.