I wipe at my eyes with balled-up hands as I trudge down the hall to my room. One of my fingers reaches up and presses the sore spot on my forehead. Yeah, the bump is now officially a goose egg. Tripped over my own feet and fell down the stairs. That's what he wants me to say.
Banished to my room for the rest of the night. My stomach growls and twists, but there’s no way I’m going to risk sneaking to the kitchen. I climb into bed and pick up my library book from school. The binding is held together by masking tape, but the cover is cool – a boy on the back of an eagle, both flying towards faraway mountains. It’s for older kids, but I can read it.
I’m all the way to page twelve when the front doorbell rings. Dad warned me he was meeting with people tonight. I was supposed to stay at some crazy lady’s house – Mrs. Merriam – I called her Cruella in my head. And I paid for it for sneaking back home. I touch my goose egg again and wince.
Voices sound from downstairs, and I hold my breath and wish my heart would stop beating so hard. Dad starts to yell, and I’m too curious to not want to listen… I creep towards my door, avoiding all of the creaky places. Besides Dad, I can hear a lady and a man. Something about the lady’s voice creeps me out. It’s sort of whispery but echoes – maybe she’s a ghost. It wafts upstairs like smoke, and I pick out my name from her words.
My book tumbles out of my hand and lands on my foot. Either a second or a minute goes by and I hear the front door slam.
Quiet. Dead quiet.
I crack open the door and peek into the hallway.
I think I hear a sound from downstairs, but the blood is pounding in my ears too hard for me to be sure. I leave my bedroom and creep down the hallway.
"Dad? Are you there?"
I freeze at the top of the stairs. It sounds like him. But not really. I go down the steps very carefully and stop when I get to the bottom.
Blood. Dad is lying in a pool of it, his best shirt soaked in red. I stare at him, my eyes feeling like they’re burning.
"Son... Come here." His voice is drowning, wet, and breath leaves my throat, not words.
"Run away..." Blood is bubbling through his lips now, and I can’t look away. Red lips form shapes and say, "…Mrs. Merriam's. Hurry."
Mrs. Merriam? I can’t remember who that is.
"Get…out of here..." He’s glaring at me now. Mad. I'm used to him being mad.
I take a step backwards. Up one step. Up another one.
My eyes focus on the blood on the floor, in the entryway of my home. It's creeping across the floor towards me like a monster from a black lagoon, and I start to cry.
Dad’s whole body is shaking like he's freezing cold. And suddenly, he doesn’t look like my dad anymore. He looks gentle and sad. He reaches a shaky arm out to me, and I gulp back the sobs and try to be brave, like he always tells me to do. I take a step forward, but his arm suddenly hits the floor with a splat. I almost pitch forward off the steps.
“Dad?” I cry.
He’s still looking at me, but his eyes are glassy. Like the eyes on my stuffed Pooh Bear, the only thing I have that’s left from my mom. My tears are making everything blurry, but I know that I need to go to my room and find Pooh. That I have to be brave.
I turn and crawl up the steps until I get to the top landing. The front door opens, and a half-sob, half-scream chokes out of me.
I look down and see two women standing over my dad. One of them has blonde hair so light and fluffy that it's almost like a halo. The other is looking up at me with blazing green eyes. Angels. They have to be. They're here to take away my dad.
The one with the halo walks up the stairs with outstretched hands. I stare at her feet, wondering why she doesn’t just float to me. “Micah, my name is Vivien. Your father has passed away. Do you know what that means?”
I nod my head, unable to speak to the angel.
She holds out her hand. “This might seem very confusing and scary to you, but I need to take you somewhere safe.”
I nod, the fear sucked out of me by the sweetness of her voice.
“Wait,” I say as she starts with me down the stairs. “I need to get something.”
“We’ll send for your belongings,” she says. “We need to go.”
But I twist my hand out of hers and book to my room. I grab Pooh and run back to her. And I follow her out of my home, feeling something I’ve never felt before.
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