Sometimes, I think people forget that I'm only human
"Avalon!" I hear a tiny voice whisper faintly, wakening me from my heavy sleep. Looking towards the door of my small room, I am able to make out a small shadow in the bleak darkness of the hallway. Sighing to myself, I gesture for Dahlia to come over to my bed. She sprints across the floor, her feet making frantic padding noises as they hit the harsh hardwood floors.
As she nestles herself under my covers, I flick on the lamp next to me, it's soft glow giving me enough light to make out my little sisters tear stained cheeks, and blue eyes filled with pure terror, instead of their innocence.
"Was it Mason again?" I ask in quiet whisper, hoping that it was not Mason, but a nightmare.
She nods, flinching at the sound of his name.
"What have I told you about going downstairs after 9:00?" I ask her softly, praying to God that she was not injured, or worse....
"I-I know," she replies in a shaky voice, "I-I just w-was really r-really thirsty a-and I wanted a glass of water." Her once alert and scared voice had now wavered down to a quiet whisper.
"Why didn't you ask me to get it?" I ask quickly, seeing her lean into the mattress, eyes beginning to flutter, and stress leaving her face.
"I dunno...my hand hurts" Dahlia mumbles, barely audible, as she slips further into a sleepy haze.
"What?!" I ask her frantically, but she has already sound asleep against my pillow, with her palm facing towards me. I gasp when I see what he did to her in his drunken state. An angry red gash is left on her left palm, with a lone shard of glass protruding out. Picking up her small body, her warmth seeping through my thin tank top, I stealthily make my way to the bathroom. Setting her on the top of the counter, I fish out a band aid, antibiotic cream, and a needle and thread. I am able to expertly stitch up her small hand, after many years of practice. I then carry her back to my room, tucking her into my bed, and place a small kiss on her forehead. I watch her light brown hair fan out around her pale face, as she turns in her sleep. I then tuck myself in and attempt to finally fall asleep at 3:00 a.m. My last thought before I fell asleep, was no 7 year old, or 17 year old deserved this.
When my shrill alarm wakes me at, 5:15 a.m., a mere 2 hours and 15 minutes after I had fallen asleep, I make sure to quickly turn it off, so I don't wake Dahlia, who is still sound asleep on my pillow.
Quietly getting dressed, I tiptoe down the stairs, hoping to make breakfast, before Mason can even begin to wake up. I peer out into the living room, seeing a mop of unruly blonde hair, that is so similar to mine, poking out from over the top of the armrest, Mason's loud snores filling up the barren room. I slowly back into the kitchen, hoping not to wake him up; I have previously fallen victim to his early morning hangover rampages. As I wait for the griddle to heat up, I sort through this mornings unopened mail, that I had grabbed earlier. To my despair, the majority of the pile is bill after bill, mostly hefty medical bills from the hospital nearby and damage charges from the town hall. Sighing in exasperation, I make a mental note to take up some extra shifts at the cafe tonight.
5 minutes later, as I'm flipping the last of the pancakes, I hear two small voices coming from down the stairs. Gathering the plate of pancakes, I turn around and smile at my two younger siblings.
"Hey guys!" I say happily, hoping to mask my tiredness. Dahlia and Colton reply with there own set of 'good mornings' before making a beeline for the pancakes and syrup on the table.
Laughing quietly to myself, I sit down and help myself to two pancakes, leaving the rest to the ravenous twins.
"Dahlia, how is your hand?" I question in a concerned voice. She looks up at me with wide eyes and slowly nods.
"It feels better." She replies, giving me a somewhat reassuring smile. Colton looks back and forth between me and Dahlia, with worried blue eyes that mirror his sisters'.
Once we have all finished our breakfast, I usher them upstairs to get dressed while I tidy up the kitchen. Knowing between the two of them, it takes a good 20 for them to get completely ready, I gather all of their school supplies and mine, and place it at the front door, along with their shoes and coats.
I make my way back into the kitchen to wait for the twins, and begin to study for a mid-term I had next week. I wasn't 10 minutes into my studying session, before I heard the twins clambering down the stairs. Sighing, I closed my book and waited for them at the door. I was finally able to get the two of them in the back of my beat up old Toyota, and make my way to the local elementary school, which was thankfully only a 3 minute drive from the high school.
"Remember guys," I say, pulling into the parent drop-off line, "wait in the main office for me to pick you up, and then we are going to head to the cafe for a while." They look up at me in excitement when I mentioned the cafe.
"Are we gonna see Jay?" Colton asks excitedly, with Dahlia nodding in agreement. I laugh at their over-eager faces, and nod.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure we have the same shift tonight." I say causing them to high five, and me to laugh even harder. Jay is my co-worker at the cafe, and probably my best/only friend. The kids also love hims, so that is a bonus.
As I pull up directly in front of the school building, I turn to hug them from the back seat.
"I love you guys, and be good okay?" I tell them. They hug me in return, little arms suffocating me, but right now, I didn't really care.
"We love you too Lonnie" They reply, calling me by the nickname they have used practically since birth. I quickly drive away from the elementary school, already knowing that I would not be making it to first period on time, again.
"Ms. Chase, care to explain why you are late to my class for the third time this semester?" Mrs. White says, glaring at me accusingly. My classmates swivel around anxiously in their seats, hoping for some sort of entertainment.
"Sorry," I mumble "I got caught up in something else." she looks at me pointedly, before gesturing at me to sit down.
"Well, see me after class." she says exasperatedly, earning a few snickers from the class.
I slink back into my chair, as Mrs. White drones on about today's lesson, feeling my cheeks flare up in embarrassment.
"Avalon," Mrs. White says to me 75 minutes later, "you are one of my best students, and your grade has never slipped lower than a B-, but you are constantly late to class and always seem extremely tired, and well, defeated. Is everything alright at home?"
I wish it was. I wish I could honestly tell her that I was happy. I wish I could tell her I keep taking blow after blow. I wish I could tell her everything. But I can't.
"Yes, everything is fine." I reply, plastering a large smile on my face and nodding. She looks at me dubiously, but thankfully, lets it slide.
"Alright, just try not to be late to class again alright?" I nod reassuringly, knowing that it was a lie, and head off to my next class
I nearly run out of my calculus class at the end of the day, when I hear the bell ring. Sprinting over to the senior lot, I shove my keys into the ignition, and peel out of the the parking lot, realizing that Dahlia and Colton have been waiting for 15 minutes now. I finally make it to the elementary school, and sprint into the main office building. I spot the twins working on homework alone at a table and rush over to them, earning a glare from the secretary, which I oh so kindly return.
"Hey guys, ready to go?" I say, slightly out of breath. Their heads snap up, and shoot me identical grins. Soon, I am being hugged at the waist by both of them, and I quickly return the gesture. I sign them out and we all head to the car.
After a long 10 minute game of I Spy, I finally pull into the cafe's parking lot, only to groan in despair when I see that the line for our one cash register is out the door. As I follow the kids inside the building (they sprinted ahead before I even unbuckled my seat belt), I mentally prepare myself for the longest 4 to 11 p.m. shift of my life.
"Have a good night." I say, too exhausted to even try to sound enthusiastic. The customer gratefully takes their coffee, and heads out the door, a small chime of bells signaling their departure. Sighing, I head to the front of the cafe and flip the sign from open to closed.
"Av, you look like you are about to drop dead on the floor." Jay teases, as he comes out from the kitchen. I shoot him a sarcastic smile, too tired to think of a good comeback.
"Are the kids asleep?" I ask mid yawn. Jay nods to my relief.
"Yep, they fell asleep around 9:00, and they finished all of their homework." I nod in approval and head to grab my bag and keys from the kitchen.
"What about you?" Jay asks, following me into the kitchen, "Did you finish all of your homework?" I nod; I had finished my homework during my 30 minute break earlier that night, but I still had to study for midterms, and since today was pay day, pay the bills. After bidding goodbye to our manager, Kate, Jay helps me carry the twins to the car and get them secured in their car seats. After closing the back door, I turn to Jay, immediately being engulfed in his arms. I breathed in contently, savouring this rare moment of peace. Pushing me back, and holding me at arm's length, Jay studies me intensely for a moment.
“Are you okay Av?” he asks, a look of concern crossing his face.
Meeting his green eyes with my own, I smile weakly, and nod. “I’m fine, I swear. Just tired, that’s all.” He clearly does not believe me, but thankfully lets it go.
“Alright,” he says backing up, “whatever you say. Hey, when is your next shift?” he questions, dropping the subject completely. I can tell he doesn't believe me but at that moment I was too tired to care. But, strangely, the world I was tackling right then didn't seem so scary when he spoke to me, and those moments where he seemed like he cared more than the average friend would, were the ones that confused me the most.
5 minutes later, I had successfully evaded Jay's worried tone and concerned looks, and was on my way home, kids still fast asleep in the back. When I finally parked in our small driveway, I saw Mason sitting on the drooping front steps, giving me a cold, emotionless look. Closing the driver seat door, I glance nervously at my older brother as he slowly swayed over to the car, clearly drunk.
"Mason wh-" I start, before a harsh slap resonates through the air, and intense pain floods my left cheek. A small cry escapes my lips, not from shock, but from agony. My shriek must have woken up the twins, for I hear my name being shouted from inside the car, as Mason's crazy glare turns to them.
"GO INTO THE HOUSE! NOW!" I yell at them, hoping to avert their brother's attention back to me. They both quickly scramble out the back door, faces terrified as they sprint into the house. Before I can see the front door slam shut, Mason grabs a chunk of my hair at the roots, and pulls upwards, causing me to grunt in pain.
"Where the hell were you?" He seeths, the stench of vodka emitting grotesquely from his mouth
"I had to work late." I spit back, fully aware that I was testing his temper. Just as I had guessed, being brave had earned me a punch to the stomach. This combined with the pain on my cheek, caused tears to spring to my eyes, and an even louder scream to come from my throat. He dropped me onto the grass, snatching the car keys from my trembling hand.
"Bitch." He sneered, before swaying over to the car, and speeding off down the road.
Groaning, I tried to pull my body weight up, but failed and ended up just laying on my side for a moment. Before my eyes started to flutter shut in exhaustion and misery, I glanced over at our small home and sighed. It had now faded to a dismal mix of grayish yellow, as opposed to a once cheery and bright yellow, that my mother had spent day after day working on.
My mommy stepped back to admire the house. She smiled her signature soft smile at her handiwork. Sweat trickled down her neck, disappearing into her light blue tee shirt, stained with paint. She swiped her forehead, causing her already frizzy blonde hair, to become a bigger mess. I sat on the front steps, watching her curiously, and sipping an overly sweet lemonade that was dripping with condensation in the summer heat. My mom turned to me, a wide smile etched on her face. She motioned for me to stand next to her, so I put down my lemonade and walked over, admiring our house, that had gradually turned from a dreary grey, into a sunshiney yellow.
"What do you think princess?" She asked me, pride shining in her eyes. I could feel as if I had been taken away with tide with no hope of ever seeing land again yet would suddenly always feel like I was at home as soon as I looked into her eyes. Seeing them, seeing her, was always so comforting, and would make me feel safe even from the demons under my bed. There was always something warm about my mother during this period, the way her cheeks flushed and the way her eyes lit up when she smiled, the way in which she softly crafted her words, as if she was embracing me with what she said. Her words, even at times rather abrupt, always had this underlying tone of adoration and love and at times were so melodic they could be a song. I was always absolutely enthralled when my mother spoke, and most of the time it wasn't because of what she said, but how she said it, and the mellow tones that she used that made it that bit more special, as if everything was just between us.
"I love it mommy" I reply, nodding in approval at her work. She smiled even wider, and grabbed my small hand bringing me to the back of the house, where empty paint cans littered the yard, all except for one. There was one lonely pink can, resting against the house. Swiftly, she dipped my hand in the gooey liquid, and then hers. Pressing her hand gently to the house, she told me to do the same. Left on the pristine yellow color, were to handprints side by side. I turn to my mom, and throw my arms around her neck. She returns the gesture quickly.
"I love you mommy." I whisper into her ear, as if telling an important secret
"I love you to, my princess Avalon" She whispers back.
She always wanted to repaint the house again. She was never given the chance.