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Under His Shadow
Chapter 1: Routine
It’s dark, as pitch black as a moonless night. I’m cold. I hear rats skittering around on the frozen basement floor. The dirt from the floor finds its way onto my hands and the rest of my fully clothed body.
The door at the front squeaks as it opens. He walks in.
Terror climbs up my spine, chilling me to the bone.
The light from behind him glints menacingly on the knife he holds in his hand. My eyes widen in fear and a whimper escapes my lips.
The man walks closer and every step he takes makes me realize just how close to death I really am.
As the man prepares to strike, I curl up into a ball, to protect myself at the best of my ability. Of course, the protection is horrible.
Just seconds before my death, I see the outlines of the man’s face. It’s Daddy.
As soon as the knife touches my skinâ€”
I shot up like a rocket. Sweat trickled down my face. The white bed sheets were twisted around my legs, preventing me from moving at all. My red t-shirt stuck to my skin.
My arms were trembling profusely, my lungs begging for air.
I was still in my dream, still cowering under the authority of my father. I was so afraid of him and I felt as if he would walk into my bedroom with a knife thisveryminute.
After what seemed like an eternity, the dark feeling of fear began to pass and I began to breathe more easily. I sighed in relief, finally realizing the truth. It was all a dream.
What puzzled me was that every time I had had this dream, even though I knew what would happen, I was still afraid. It seemed as if my mind just wanted the suspense. I shook the thought away. I didn’t have time for this.
Reluctantly, I glanced at the alarm clock. The alarm clock glared 7:00 AM back at me, as it always did when I awakened from my nightmares. I groaned in frustration. It took me forever to accomplish my morning routine, about an hour.
I pulled myself out of bed and began the normal routine for every morning: wake up, take a shower, dress, and eat.
I noticed my father’s bedroom door was open. I peeked into the room and noted that he wasn’t there. My stomach churned, causing me uneasiness. I didn’t want to know where he was or what he was doing.
Warily, I walked into the living room and with horror, perceived the image of my father with a beer bottle in his hand and the TV remote in the other.
The floor was littered with broken glass from the beer bottles of yesterday’s joint. The room smelled heavily of smoke and beer combined. How much beer had my father consumed? How long had he been awake?
I didn’t want to know.
I needed my older brother with me at this moment. I was so afraid.
A while ago, Daddy had been drunk and he desired something from me, something a daughter cannot give her father.
My older brother James was there to protect me. He knew what Daddy would be like when he was drunk. I was so glad James was there to help me out of the situation. However, at this moment, he was not.
I was all alone.
My mind screamed â€˜Run! Run away as fast as you can!’ I wanted to run, but then, I also didn’t. Why didn’t I want to run? I didn’t know.
“Hey, Adeline,” he slurred. “Come give Daddy some love.”
My face twisted in disgust.
I finally made a run for the door and was successful. I reached the door and turned the knob, flustered and a bit panicked. I managed to open the door and ran for my life down the street, afraid my father would catch up to me, though I knew that he couldn’t. In the condition he was in, there was probably no way he would’ve been able to reach the front door.
I halted at my bus stop and caught my breath. No one else was standing here. That left me with two conclusions: either I had missed the bus or I was dreadfully early.
Chapter 2: Luck
I waited for an extremely long time. After digging my iPod out of my bag, I realized the time was 8:40. I had missed the bus. I began to panic. There was no way that I was staying home with my father alone. I couldn’t walk to school because I did not know the route.
The first solution that popped into my head was that I had to find my brother and find him promptly. Where could he be?
I knew that James skipped school often. He told me countless times that he just didn’t belong there. Being a bit of a hypocrite, he made sure I never skipped school, not even for a minute.
I started the short journey back home, and made it longer just by intentionally walking slower. Then, one of the luckiest things on the planet happened.
I ran right into my brother.
“You missed the bus, didn’t you,” James stated, and it wasn’t a question.
“…Yeah,” I confessed.
“Now I have to find a way for you to travel to school.”
“Can’t I just stay with you? School is boring,” I whined.
I regretted whining, for I saw horror and fear in James’ eyes.
“What?” I asked innocently, discombobulated.
It disappeared and he muttered, “Nothing.”
“What am I supposed to do now?” I asked, putting aside my confusion over the fact that he was being very odd.
He sighed. “You have the day off. If you don’t pass your Social Studies test tomorrow, you’re grounded.”
“Fine,” I asserted.
James smiled and walked with me back home. From the rapidity of his steps, I could tell something was bothering him.
“Is something wrong?”
James froze. He turned around.
“No,” he lied. “Why?”
“You’re lying,” I stated.
His cover of defense was almost impenetrable. I could only see that he was lying.
“No, I’m not,” he responded, completely denying my statement.
I gave up trying and walked alongside him, hoping his problem didn’t involve me.
Chapter 3: Night
I ended up spending the whole day in my room. I sat and stared at the walls, wondering what I could do. I didn’t bother studying for the test. I was going to fail anyway, so why even bother to study?
It was completely dark outside. There was no moon today.
I wondered what James could be doing at this hour. He hadn’t been home all day, not even to check on me. For some reason, that hurt.
I heard the doorbell ring.
I dashed out of my room, down the stairs, and to the front door as fast as I possibly could, hoping it was my brother. I opened the door and in walked James…with about five more people. I peered up at him, silently questioning him.
James’ expression was unreadable. From that moment on, I knew that something terrible was about to happen. I could just feel it.
James separated from the group.
“Stay in your room,” he instructed.
I opened my mouth to protest but shut it as soon as I saw his furious expression. I obeyed his instruction without a word.
Once I was in my room, I wondered why James wanted me to stay in my room. I knew that my brother didn’t do drugs. He always told me how bad it was to do drugs and to become an alcoholic. Did he sell drugs, then? The suspense was killing me.
Should I venture out of my room to see what was happening? If something horrible would actually happen, I would become a witness to it. If nothing terrible was actually going to happen, then it wouldn’t hurt to watch. I had to choose carefully.
I snuck out of my room surreptitiously and walked down to the end of the stairs. Since there was a wall on each side of the stairs, no one could have seen me walk down. I peeked into the room.
Daddy had passed out on the couch and there were two people moving him outside. There was a circle in the living room, consisting of five people. There was a sixth person on the ground in the middle. Confusion spread to every part of my body. What was going on?
“Where’s the money?” One of the men in the circle demanded.
I noticed that my brother was holding a pistol.
“Give me another day! I can give it to youâ€”“
“Where’s the money?” the same man demanded louder.
“I don’t have it yet but I canâ€”“
“So you don’t have it?”
James caught me watching. His eyes widened for a moment and then his eyebrows creased in a mix of worry and fury.
The man cowering on the floor didn’t have a chance to answer.
“Shoot him, Jay.”
My brother hesitated for a moment and then shot the man square in the head.
I gasped in shock. I covered my mouth so I wouldn’t make any more noises.
“Who was that? Did you hear that?” the man who was speaking exclaimed, panicked.
Slowly, I walked back upstairs. I tried very hard not to make a sound. I was on the second step when it squeaked.
I immediately froze. Then, I walked up the last step and quickly, without making a sound, raced into my room.
As I sat on my bed, I tried to review everything that had just happened. I could only think of what James had done. He had killed someone. How was he going to live with himself? How could I live with a killer?
Chapter 4: Trouble
My door opened and I turned my gaze to the door. James and everyone else walked in.
I pretended not to know what they were doing here.
“Were you downstairs?” James asked me.
“No,” I lied. “I heard a loud noise. What happened?”
His group exchanged glances.
“Nothing,” James lied, and I could sense his fury and worry.
“I saw her watching downstairs,” one of the men declared.
“I wasn’t downstairs,” I lied again, but it was weaker.
“Yes you were.”
The man’s eyes were penetrating. He smiled. He could see right through me and knew that I had lied.
“James, you know what to do with witnesses.”
“She’s my sister!” he exclaimed.
“Do. It.” the man commanded, gritting his teeth.
James didn’t say anything. I waited to see what my fate would be in fear. I was too young to die!
“Do it, or I’ll kill both of you,” the man threatened.
James raised the pistol and I could see that his hands were shaking. I whimpered.
Would he really shoot me, just to show loyalty to his friends?
James lowered the gun.
“If she told you that she wasn’t there, then she wasn’t there.”
“Traitor!” The man who had been speaking the whole time yelled.
James didn’t make a sound.
The man pulled out his own gun and aimed it at James.
I wanted to say something, something that might save our lives but I was afraid to. I took a deep breath and made myself yell it.
“Our lives are f*@#ed up enough already! Do you really think that we would turn you in and acquire more attention?”
The man seemed to think about what I had exclaimed.
“Yes, I very well believe you would tell. Now shut up because you’re about to die.”
I had nothing to say. My fate had been decided. I was going to die and now my brother was too.
Tears began to stream down my cheeks. James rushed to my side, temporarily forgetting that there was a gun aimed at him. He hugged me protectively.
“It’s okay,” he coaxed. “We’ll be fine.”
“We’ll be dead!” I shrieked.
Right before the man shot, another man, who wasn’t part of the group, spoke.
“Don’t you dare hurt my kids!”
It was Daddy! Confusion filled me. Since when did Daddy care if we lived or died?
“Oh yeah? So what if I did? Then what happens?”
Daddy punched the man right in the nose and blood streaked from his nose. The man dropped the gun and punched Daddy back.
I watched as Daddy defended James and me, and I watched how the other three men just stood there, watching. â€˜Why weren’t they fighting too?’ Again, I shook the thought away. As long as they weren’t going to kill us, I was happy.
The man lay on the floor, unmoving.
“Did you kill him?” were the first words out of my mouth, and I was surprised with the fact that they sounded a bit hopeful.
“He’s been knocked out, hon,” Daddy replied.
The awkward silence followed and it was tangible in the air.
The three men standing from the group walked out of my room without a word and left their partner on the ground, unconscious.
The three of us stood in another awkward silence. Daddy had never done anything like that before. He had never protected us. Why was he doing it now?
“…locked me out of my own house…” Daddy muttered as he walked out of my room.
For some reason, that seemed to be funny. I started to laugh. James laughed along with me, until he noticed the man stir on the ground. James rubbed my back, rose to his feet, and slowly walked over to the man. James pulled him by his arms out of my room and down the stairs. I could hear the â€˜thud’ the man’s body would make after he was pulled down every step.
I crawled into bed, tired from everything. I didn’t bother to shower. Today had been enough for me. I needed sleep.
Chapter 4: Again
I awakened. I was hyperventilating. My jeans stuck tightly to my legs, tighter than skinny jeans. I was coated with sweat. The sheets had wrapped themselves around my legs.
My mind realized that it was the same thing all over again. My body denied it. My eyes stared in fear at the door, expecting my father to come in any minute. He never did.
Without even glancing at the clock, I forced myself out of bed. I knew it was 7:00 AM. It always was when I woke up from my nightmares.
As I exited my room, I saw that Daddy wasn’t in his room and that neither was James. My stomach filled with uneasiness. I knew what Daddy was doing.
I began my normal routine, and within an hour, finished all parts of my routine except eating breakfast.
I walked down the stairs and into the living room, to see Daddy with a beer bottle and the TV remote in his hands.