It's dark in here and I can't find the light switch. Frankie thought to herself as she fumbled around the wall trying to locate the switch. Soon enough the high beamed ceiling and wallpapered walls came into view; without noticing she sighed a long harsh sigh. Her golden flecked eyes glanced all over the room and she remembered what her home used to be like. When her biggest worry was what vegetables Lily was going to be cooking her for dinner, broccoli or spinach?
Frankie's fingers traced the patterned wall all the way to the kitchen where the arched door frame prevented her from carrying on. The aroma of metal and blood hung like fog in the air. Distant, but still there. Small drops of the liquid she was sick of seeing in her house lay in uneven crimson beads along the floor, until they began to ascend up the spiralling staircase. The queasiness that she used to feel around the stuff had disappeared due to her daily encounters with it. The wooden planks that made up the stairs creaked when stood on and Frankie feared to make a sound, just in case. Yet her feet continued to tread all the way to the top- now she could hear running water and the movements of her legs became quicker, fearing what would happening be in the bathroom.
"It's OK my darling, I'm nearly finished" Lily's voice sent a wave of relief wash down Frankie's body. Her mother's voice always soothed her, even when it wasn't Frankie that needed comforting. Slowly, she prodded the door open and felt the relief run out of her system faster then it had came. Luke sat perched on the end of the bathtub with a deep cut situated on his defined cheekbone. Both yellow pus and blood poured from the wound while their mother attempted to stop the bleeding.
Frankie ignored the twist her stomach made at the sight and instead ran to her brother, pulling him into a tight embrace with no intention of letting go anytime soon. "Oh Lou, what did he do this time?" she felt the first salty tear roll down her face and onto Luke's hand.
"My band," he said. "We won the competition today."
No more explanation was needed from him, instead of questioning why their father had felt the need to lash out, Frankie just held him, and soon she too felt a hot splash of water land on the material of her jeans.
The door clicked shut and a shiver rolled down all of their spines. Frankie and Luke, shut up in each of their bedrooms listened attentively to the clack of his shoes against the wooden floor. "I hope it's dinner time" the shrill tone beat through the walls of the house. "I am so hung- what is that?"
Frankie could already tell this wasn't going to be a happy family night in.
"Have you got lipstick on?"
"Yes, I thought you'd like it tonight seen as we're having dinner together." She decided to go and listen from the stairs, encase her mother needed help. Once in a position where she could see Lily was OK, Frankie waited.
"Don't you dare pretend this is for me!" He thundered. "Never once have you worn lipstick for dinner with me, so who've you been with?"
"You just what?" he threw her a dark look that made Frankie's eyes fill with tears. She wanted to help her mum, but doing so would only make things worse.
"Frankie, you have to try and block it out" Luke suddenly spoke from behind her. "You can't help and watching isn't going to make you feel any better." He was right and she knew it. Yet she said nothing and instead just rose from her seat and took his hand in hers; it was warm and strong which made Frankie feel happy. "I love you Lou." The words left her mouth in a barely audible mumble but Luke understood. He peeped down to see large dark eyes staring into the deepest parts of him.
"I love you too. More than you know." His words were also in audible as he pulled Frankie into a hug. However, a raucous from below caused them both to jump. A harsh smell filled the room and alerted Luke that Lily had been cooking. The awful stench was gas.
Immediately Luke reacted; jumping down most of the wooden steps, he paced rapidly into the living room and through the embellished oak archway to the kitchen. Frankie had followed but her long, clumsy limbs caused her to trip and fall on the way, first she began to get back up and go to find Luke but decided that if something bad had happened to Lily she would rather wait and be prevented from witnessing anything.
"Frankie get your ass in here now!" Logan-her father- boomed ferociously. Though it seemed to others that she wasn't scared of anything, Logan truly terrified Frankie, the way he was able to get inside of her head and know what she was thinking and feeling made her uneasy. However, she was her father's daughter...and it wasn't always that difficult to do the same thing to him.
Slowly, painfully slowly, Frankie pulled herself from the floor in exasperation. The wooden floorboards creaked under her boots as she made her way to the kitchen, dreading whatever was in there. She halted at the arch that hung above her- she felt as though it was a guard of some sort, like the two angels that were carved into the woodwork protected her from the Logan's corruptive nature. She knew what to expect from him, but when the sight of Luke pinned against the wall gasping for air and her mother lying nearly unconscious on the ground processed in her mind, it wasn't difficult to infer that tonight wasn't going to be able particularly enjoyable for anyone under their roof. Her father had been drinking and had yet to take it out on anyone.
She noticed the blood that was gently weeping from her mother's leg and attempted to run forward and help but Logan's hand created a barrier in front of her. "What do you think you're doing?" she sneered. "Mom needs help! And let Luke go!" anger coursed through her veins like adrenaline on a roller coaster.
"It's none of your business what I do with them you stupid cow!" Frankie was sure the enraged look he wore was mirrored perfectly in her own eyes. "You don't see do you Francesca? If people find out he's gay, I would be sacked! I would lose everything!" She couldn't believe her ears, what she was hearing was the most pathetic, sick excuse for beating your family yet again. Instead of responding in a screaming rage, Frankie's hand collided with Logan's cheek with an earsplitting crack! Neither reacted at first, Logan being too shocked and Frankie both feeling courageous and petrified of what was going to happen next. Her hand tingled with the pain of the confrontation and there was a red mark already forming on Logan's face. She didn't know what to do, but by this time Luke was no longer being held by the throat and he was the only one who seemed to be able to move. He reached for Lily and pulled her up from the floor, then draped her arm over his shoulder and began to move towards the stairs.
"C'mon Frankie." He said, without even turning his head back towards her. Frankie responded and spun on her heel to help Luke carry Lily up the staircase. Once on the landing she bent over the rail to see that Logan hadn't moved an inch, so she ignored it and ran to the bathroom to fetch the first aid kit.
The last thing they all heard of Logan that night was once again the sound of his shoes against the floor, and the door closing with a quiet click.
She awoke with a violent jolt.
Arms held her tightly around the shoulders and shook her with unneeded force.
"What?" She hissed quietly- not knowing what time it was, she wasn't sure if Luke was still in bed.
"You have to come downstairs now." Frankie forced her eyes open to see Luke himself sitting on the edge of her bed, looking flushed and excited.
"Luke what's wrong?"
"Dad's crying downstairs- he asked for you."
"WHAT?" Frankie immediately swung her legs out of the bed and pulled her jogger bottoms on.
As she raced down the staircase a familiar sense of anger flew over her. Where was Lily? This thought instantly made her legs move faster and without even processing Frankie found herself stood, bolt upright, in front of Logan.
The stench of sick and whiskey made Frankie gag, she had to put her hand to her mouth in order to disguise it. This aroma was usually associated with Logan in Frankie's mind, yet it didn't stop the reaction that followed; even after years.
Soundlessly, she stepped forward towards Logan. As he didn't react, she moved again. Nothing. Finally after stepping on a creaky floorboard, his head raised in alarm at his daughter.
Looking into his eyes made her blood turn cold and it felt as though icicles were snapping as she sat down beside her father.
Instead of moving away from her, he simply lowered his head again and began to sob. He sobbed with such uncontrollable sorrow, Francesca had never seen this before. It was the new feeling in her stomach though, that made her feel so anxious. Anxious to why Logan was acting like this, anxious to why he couldn't act so compassionate all the time. Instead of being filled with hatred.
As these thoughts flew through her mind, her fathers large, slender hand came down onto her knee. Straightaway, she stiffened, knowing what came directly after Logan's soft touch. His wrath.
Though it was true, Logan had never directly hit her, only threatened her. Francesca knew when he was this pissed...he was merciless.
"'cesca..." Came the low rumble from his throat. No... Logan had not called her that since before he became abusive.
A thousand memories passed through Frankie's mind of when she was younger...when her family were happy. The snowball fights in winter, the sledging, picnics at Hyde Park in summer, even images of Logan bathing her when she was a child. They would both play with her toys while Luke would simply sit and splash idly. When she was brought back down to earth her eyes were wild with fervour and her hands trembled.
This didn't seem right. While she trembled, one salty tear rolled down her cheek and then another and another. Looking straight forward instead of at Logan, she now sat unmoving, erect as a statue staring morosely at the fireplace.
She winced as Logan's hand raised quickly towards her face, and she knew his armour was now firmly placed back on. The blow would strike her like no other hit from the boys and girls at school who tormented her had and it would be her own fault. Her own fault for letting her guard down, she never did this.
It was his touch, it had totally ruined any self confidence she had of fighting him off tonight. And now he was going to bruise her so badly...
Frankie realised she had her eyes screwed tight, in waiting for the contact of Logan's hand to her face. However, the only contact made by Logan was the pad of his thumb, slowly wiping away each tear that fell from Frankie's eyes.
In hesitation, she opened her eyes. Logan was knelt in front of her now, chestnut eyes on chestnut eyes. Without thinking, Frankie reached out and held his face in her lean, slender hand. Hands that's were just like his.
Two conflicted voices in her brain were arguing like drunken men in a pub crawl. One telling her to take advantage of Logan's vulnerability and beat the shit out of him for everything he had ever done to Luke, to Lily and to her. It roared like wildfire to her senses, willing her body to move.
But that voice wasn't winning the argument.
The small, timid squeaking and squirming at the back of her head intended Francesca to hold him and ask him why and to please get better so they could be happy again. This man, whom she is so alike, in nearly every way possible, there is no way that this man knelt in front of her right now could be so brutal and viscous toward those he should love. Does love.
"LOGAN! GET AWAY FROM HER!" came a screech from the staircase.
Father and daughter turned to find Lily looking flustered and erratic rushing down the stairs in her dressing gown.
"What have you been saying? Don't you touch her you evil man! I swear to Go-"
"Mum! No it's ok Da- Logan wasn't doing anything. I'm fine! Leave him be!"
Lily looked more annoyed by Frankie's comment. She raced over to them both and began pushing, or more like dragging Logan from her. Slowly but surely she felt him slipping away into the man that she associated with violence and unhappiness, the father from her early childhood falling into oblivion once again, into the darkness, away from those who could love him again.
"Don't you dare go near her. I'll kill you if you touch her..." Logan's face instantly turned from calm to bitter and he started fighting back against Lily's pushes and shoves. Becoming more agitated each time she touched him.
"Get off me you stupid woman!" He screeched. Logan's face twisted into an uncomfortable scowl as his strength weakened, slowly, he stopped fighting and allowed Lily to push him onto the sofa. She pinned his wrists firmly to the armchair with her own ageing hands.
Cool fingers stroked down Frankie's bare arms. She flinched, then saw it was Luke standing behind her, with a mixture of shock and confusion plastered on his delicate face.
"She's got control of him Frankie, lets go back to bed." He regarded her with sympathetic eyes as though Logan had hurt her in some way.
"Lou, she didn't need to get him under control. When I looked into his eyes- I- I swear- I saw something that I haven't seen since before he became...you know." She didn't like to directly say abusive to Luke's face, she knew he loathed the word.
"Frankie, you can't let yourself think he might all of a sudden change and be the father he used to be. Its dangerous; for us all." He scolded as they made their way up the wooden staircase.
About half way up she came to a stop and turned to face her brother. He too angled his body to look at her as she stared into his eyes. Green and blue eyes, the colours she had stared into for hours on those cold, lonely nights. Just like it had with Logan, she saw so many memories in those eyes. He didn't have to even touch her. It seemed like happiness was incomprehensible now. A life they would never live.
At that thought Frankie jumped into Luke's arms, knocking him back against the wall. He gasped in shock, then wrapped his arms around her as she buried her face in his neck. His scent made her calm in an instant as she breathed in the soothing aroma of body wash and cleanliness that was her brother.
Home. She thought contentedly.
For the moment, it would do.
Her hand caressed his face tenderly. In unison they stood and he placed his palm on her waist as she took his other hand and they moved.
Their eyes locked, and as their feet swayed in tranquil movements, he spoke with indignation.
"Open your eyes Francesca." His voice was hushed and he glanced around the room quickly as to check they were alone. She hadn't realised, but the room was now filled with other dancers. All the women dressed in sublime velvets and silks like in Anna Karenina. None of them looked at anyone else, only stared fiercely at their own dance partner.
The room seemed completely unspectacular. Dull even, with its painted walls cracking with age and neglect. The chandelier was only half working, some of the bulbs were smashed and dust covered it like a thick duvet sheet. All colour in the room came from the garments of the people around them.
"My eyes are open." Her own voice sounded odd, too smooth and high pitched.
"To the world girl." Now his voice was scolding and unhappy.
"Do not speak down to me Sir, I don't know what you speak of. That's all." She didn't understand why she was speaking as if she lived in the 19th century.
"Francesca!" They came to an abrupt stop in the centre of the room. While the other dancers carried on with their dramatic show. Now she looked only into his eyes, they were brilliant, striking with golden flecks and melted tones round the edges.
"Tell me what's wrong. Or I cannot help you." Her breathing had become uneven and heavy under his controlling stare.
His lips parted as if to answer, but she lost his attention as they both turned to watch the other people of the room frozen in motion, each caught in a different frame of the dance. It looked magical, like a painting.
She turned to face her partner once again as he whispered.
"It isn't my fault. Please trust your own mind Francesca. ...needs help. ...tried to resist." His words were becoming slurred and she could only make out part of his sentences. "...run."
He began to walk away from her. She attempted to call for him to come back. She needed to stare into his eyes again. They were a window into his meaning.
She only felt the chill of his depart for a moment before two strong hands slid round her waist. She felt a warm cheek rest on her own, and her new partner breathed in her ear...
"Wake up Frankie."
She knew that voice.
Luke spoke in her ear.
"Frankie. Wake up Frankie..."
With a little moan she turned her neck to see what Luke wanted. She jumped at the sight of him right beside her in bed, his arms wrapped round her waist and his head beside her ear. He was radiating heat as she rolled over uncomfortably to face him. She had a double bed but Luke still took up most of it when he lay on his back.
"What's wrong?" She balanced her head on her elbow and glanced at him with hesitation.
"Nothing, couldn't sleep."
"So you thought you'd disturb mine at," she glanced at the clock on her desk. "3:20 in the morning?"
"Pretty much." he muttered with a pout.
"Hey," she grabbed his chin to make him look her in the eye. "Tell me Lou."
He paused. "Listen, I'm sorry but I saw what happened with Dad earlier. It was weird wasn't it?"
"Dad hasn't acted like that for years... of course it was 'weird'." She used air quotes to stress her sarcasm. His eyes were glossy with hurt.
"Sorry," She muttered "but I'm really annoyed at Mom for barging in and aggravating him. That's the first time he's acted remotely human and she just walked in and he turned sour again. I just really thought that it was him, you know, our Dad and not Logan. I just want our father back Lou..." Her voice nearly cracked as she thought of the man they used to know.
"I know Frankie." He comforted as she lay her head on his bare chest. And soon they both drifted off into a deep slumber.
Wrapped in each other's arms.