I stare past the thin layer of glass between me and Stephen. He is swimming with Angela in circles around the bowl. I trace my finger down the side of their home, my cheek pressed against the glass. How nice it would be to just… exist. Not have to think. Just… be.
The sun is setting outside my window, and the room is darkening. My forehead is now pressed up against the glass, my chest crushed tight against the desk as my eyes grow heavy. The light is… swimming. Reaching out towards me, playing with my dark locks. So peaceful…
I wake to a crash. What…? Outside my window is the pitch dark of deep night. I run a hand through my hair and stare at Stephen and Angela, so peaceful in the bowl.
Again, a crash. I rub my eyes, and push the door open a crack. Nothing in the hall. I stare out. The light suddenly shines through the crack under my parent’s door. Fierce whispers. Not again… Not whispers anymore, hysterics in the form of laughter, and… tears? The voices are louder, Father’s calm, low voice tinged with worry, maybe panic. Mother’s voice is louder, hysterical, hiccuping over itself.
“How can I help you?” I hear Father whisper. “What do you want?”
“What do I want? What can you do?” A click, the padding of feet, a low, sharp intake of breathe. “ I want out. Out of this house, this world, this life. I’m tired, John, I can’t do it anymore…”
She’s crying, I can tell, but fierce. Father is not replying… I slide down the wall beside their door where I had pressed myself to listen. I pull my knees up, bury my head in my arms. My family is falling to pieces…
“Lily… I… Lily! How can I - Can I help you? Will you -” A sharp breathe. Quieter now. “-let me help you?”
I can’t take it anymore. The tears are sliding down my cheeks, my nose. I crack open the door.
My mother is standing faced away from me, tangled black hair hanging messily down to her hips, white night-gown wrinkled and lopsided. There is a gun in her hand.
Pressed to my father’s chest.
His blond hair is standing straight up, and his eyes are large and tired. His hands are half raised in surrender. I can tell he just wants to sleep, that this has happened before, that he wants my mother back to normal. Wants the trustworthy woman who could keep her emotions in check. The woman who was still half-sane.
He sees me. His eyes widen and he shakes his head ever so slightly, telling me to leave.
Mother sees it. She turns, her eyes, which were once a bright, crisp blue, are pale and puffy with lack of sleep. She seems older. She looks wild.
I am frozen, a hand on the doorknob, a hand bunched in my faded orange night shirt. This woman is not my mother. My mother was…
And then her shoulders sag, and the tears streak down her cheeks. She is much older, but she is back. My mother is back.
She drops the gun noisily in the open dresser drawer and shoves it closed. Father goes to her and pulls her into his arms, strokes her hair. She is shaking. The sobs are almost silent.
Father’s eyes meet mine, tell me to leave. Go, they say. It will be alright. Now go to sleep.
I turn and shut the door behind me, the knob pressed between my hands against my back. I stand there in the dark hallway for what feels like an eternity, Mother’s quiet sobs, Father’s low, soothing voice filling the world around me through the dark wooden door. Sometime later, the light clicks off, the shuffling stops, the sobbing and confusion is over. They are asleep.
I should be asleep, too.
I shuffle down the hallway, into my room, lay down sleepless on the bed. I stare at the ceiling and listen to the quiet movement of the water in the bowl on my desk.
The sun is just rising when I get up and slouch down at my desk chair, my head in my hands. I stare at Angela and Stephen as they swim ignorantly in their bowl. I wish…
My head is pressed against the glass, my eyelids sticky with sleep when the door cracks open. I do not open my eyes. I will not see them, my day parents, the ones supposedly healed from the hardships and pain of the night.
I will not wake up.
I will press my face to the cool glass, listen to the swish of ignorance and peace as they swim circles pressed between panes of glass.