Easier, Kinder This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 6, 2013
The floor creaked in my room, in all of the rooms in my house. The floorboards lacked luster and shine, large, unsightly cracks meandering through them. The mint green paint was chipped on the walls. The roof sank and sagged unevenly, leaving bulges and craters in the ceiling. The draft, especially in the winter, turned my father’s bones as old as the building itself, noisier, too.

I stirred in my sleep, hearing a symphony of rattles and shakes and floorboard creaks coming from downstairs. Reluctantly, I opened my eyes. My little sister, Rosalind was still asleep in her bed, across from my own. Frost had gathered on our windows overnight. Outside, a blue shade of morning. I wrapped the wool blanket tighter to myself, rubbing my socked feet together to keep warm. Tucking my hands under my pillow, I concentrated on the sound of my sister’s light breathing to sedate me. I drifted.

A warm hand shook me awake not five minutes later. My mother poked her dark, bird-like face into mine and hissed, “Wake up, Tabatha, wake up. Es ist Zeit.” It’s time. There was an intonation, a severity in my mother’s voice that did not belong. It was a command without hesitation. An order so strict, to break it would be to shatter priceless family heirlooms.

I rose promptly, my mind still half-asleep. I used the washroom across the hall to hastily wipe myself down with a rag and brush my teeth. Quietly, I dressed myself snugly and tossed the warmest of my wardrobe into a pile on the floor. I ripped my suitcase out from underneath my bed, shoveling my belongings onto the heap. I did the same for my sister as she continued sleeping. “Rosie, wake up.”

“Is it time for school?” she moaned.

“No, we’re leaving out a little earlier today.” I dressed her in a warm sweater and trousers, and she wore two socks on each foot for good measure. She complained about how uncomfortable it was. “Here,” I handed her the suitcase that was half her size. “Take this, go into the bathroom and wash up a bit, use the toilet if you need to. Then, go downstairs.”

I finished packing what I could in the bags, and before heading out, I took a look around my room. Clutching the suitcase and taking one final glance at our bedroom still full with our belongings, I knew that I had both packed too much, and too little in our luggage. Photographs still hung from the walls. The closet was still full of cotton, lightweight sundresses and I’d never get to wear. The certificate of academic excellence still loomed in a gilded frame on the back wall over my small, wooden desk.

My sister and I joined our parents downstairs. Their things had already been placed at the door. Their luggage, too, was minimal and lonely- looking. The sun was on the rise outside of our windows. Someone had already started up the fireplace, so downstairs it had grown toasty.

Our parents shoes tapped restlessly as they bustled about, muttering to each other about what to pack and what to scrap.

“Good morning, Mumma.” I offered. She did not acknowledge me, only continued to pace.

“Papa, guten Morgen.” I tried again. He gave me a troubled, empty look to start my morning. That was all.

His eyes were a sad, wobbling color. They couldn’t keep light, couldn’t hold it without going blind. His nose protruded and the corners of his mouth weren’t moving. I noticed wrinkles in his face where there weren’t wrinkles before, and I knew that he hadn’t slept well the previous night. His back hunched, defeatedly. His movements were slow, not in the sense of gracefulness, but rather sluggishness and fatigue.

My mother, however, teetered about the floor like a mouse, carving up circles with her heels. She grasped onto her scarf with slender, well polished fingers. Her face, steely, and as tight as it would hold.

Mother’s black teapot boiled over the stove, and she poured the both of us a canteen each for the journey, giving each spoonful of sugar and a spruce of mint. My father rationed out bread and strawberry jam amongst the four of us. He left behind a messy trail of breadcrumbs on the counter that my mother was too preoccupied to scoop away.

“But I hate strawberry.” my sister whined.

“Not today, Rosalind.” my father said somberly. He never called her by her full name, neither of us. It was always Rosabee or Rosie. Or Tabby. Never by our full names. “Not today.”

We nibbled at the bread and sipped our tea in silence.

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melekh ha'olam, bo're minei m'zonot, I sang to myself as I tried to take in those little bites. I hadn’t any idea when my next meal would be, but eating that bread was just as futile as eating paper. It didn’t digest.

“It’s time, I’d reckon.” My mother advised, peeking out of the window. The morning sky now held a soft, sherbert orange hue.

I almost forgot my scarf on my way out the door. We were in such a hurry that morning, little things like the scarf could have easily been left behind. We left the bathroom lights on. The floors were grimey and unswept. The stove was still piping hot to the touch. Our beds upstairs were left unmade, our closets, doors, drawers still hung open-mouthed, like questions waiting impotently for answers. I had packed Rosie’s stuffed rabbit friend, Pontouff in her luggage. My mother reminded us of the importance of keeping warm on the journey. She warned that the winds would whip harshly our rouged cheeks and noses, frost forming quicker than the warmth could prevent.

We shut the blinds and curtains. The fire was left blazing. Smoke continued to rise from the chimney. Black withered off into the pearly white sky, mingling with the clouds before disappearing altogether.

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honey65 said...
Jul. 17, 2013 at 7:27 am
awsome job this story  makes you want more, makes you want to turn the page I since a great writer brewing in Chapel Hill     
Old teacher said...
Jul. 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm
Awesome job!! You are remarkable!
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