Crawlspace

A tiny story:

Tucked away in the crawlspace she can hear them arguing.  The air is musty and her presence agitates the many small spiders whose home she’s invaded. Loose dirt, somewhat damp, lies beneath her stretched out form. The floor above muffles the sound of their heated voices, but she can still make out the words.

“I’m sick and tired of your lies!”

“I’m telling you the truth Irene.”

“I can smell the truth on you. You come home—“

“I come home after working my ass off all day while you blow all my hard-earned money on what Irene?  Tell me why the grocery store declined our card again today!”

The same fight. Every week has now become almost every night. Her mom wants to know why her pajamas have dirt on them all the time. All she can tell her is that it’s not her fault.

The floorboards thump and flex from their angry footsteps as the fight moves out of the kitchen. Alone now, her thoughts wander. In two years, she’ll be able to drive. In two years, she can try to emancipate away from her parents. In two years, the world will be her crawlspace and she’ll be alone.

Getting out of the crawlspace is so much harder than getting in. She hates the way her pajama pant legs bunch up around her knees. It takes her a few minutes to wiggle free.  Her toes find the oil drum beneath the entrance when her mother’s voice startles her. Her feet slip and the world turns over as she falls out of the crawlspace. The ground rises up to greet her and the last thing she sees after her head smacks the basement’s concrete floor is her mother’s slippers.

The sound of those slippers slapping the floor seems very far away. Her head is lifted and the wetness of her hair pulls her further away from the screams of her mom. The gentle rocking motion and the panicked cries feel like a warm blanket and she wishes she could see her mom’s face.

Holding her close, brushing aside bloody strands of auburn hair, her mother’s shoulders shake with her grief. She touches her freckled cheeks and nose and watches the light leave her daughter’s soft hazel eyes. Blood trickles down her forehead and down her dimpled cheeks. She wipes it away and traces the crescent-shaped scar under her small chin with a blood-stained finger.

Her dad rushes down the stairs and sees his little girl, her gangly long limbs limp and loose while her mother cradles her precious face and vacant eyes. He cries.

 

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