If you would like to read the previous parts to this story, here they are:
As always, thanks for reading!
“Dad is acting funny,” Faye said, sniffling. Must be the dust in the room. Kate knew she wasn’t crying. “Is it his medication again? You know, acting up?’
“The antidepressants? Hmm. Could be.” Kate could pretend with the best of them, especially if it meant protecting her sister.
“You could check.”
They both wanted logic to swing in their direction, but rummaging in dad’s medicine cabinet was a possibility so remote, Kate had no words. Not even on a good day would Kate stake a claim in any area of the house that was clearly labeled dad’s, like his bedroom. The garage was also off-limits, not that Kate ever had a need to go in there. Talk of antidepressants was welcome conversation, comforting even. They dare not mention the knocking lest it start the whole ordeal again. The risk was too great. They tried to ignore it, swallow it whole, and spit it out, undigested. But it gnawed at them in the pits of their stomach like tiny beasts with ruptured claws, tearing away at their insides.
Their breathing slowed in an effort to recoup from the rush of adrenaline, their body temperature chilling at an alarming rate. Faye searched her closet for sweaters, while Kate had her eye on the sweating beads on the window. She opened the window to look at the drop, a flow of warm air brushing past her face. The thick wisteria branch could hold Faye, she thought, as she stared at it, but she might need to be there to catch her.
“I have a friend on medication,” Faye said, sitting on her purple, fairy comforter, snuggling with a stuffed animal. “She wants to be off of it,” she nodded, scooting in closer into corner of the wall. Faye rambled while Kate fretted over a spotty plan.
She held Faye’s hands, “Do you think you can slide down that branch on the side of the house?”
“Out there?” Faye pointed to the window, and squeezed her eyes shut. “That’s high, Kate. Five stories high.”
“Faye, look at me. You can do this. I’m not asking you to jump. Listen.”
“What about the window downstairs? Did it open?” Faye spoke to Kate, inching further into the corner.
“I don’t know. Never got there.” She pulled Faye over to window, not bothering to explain her run-in with their dad. Not now. She opened the window, pushed out the screen, which dropped ruthlessly, bouncing off the concrete on its arrival. Faye stared at Kate wide-eyed and gasped.
“We don’t have a lot of options, Faye,” she said, pressing into her side. “I know you can do this.”
“You go, first.”
“That branch won’t hold me.”
“Just jump. It’s only two stories.” Confusion stirred in her eyes. “Let’s talk to dad.”
Kate thought she detected frost in the corner of the window. “I just want to get the hell out of here. We can do this, Faye.”
Beyond their door, they heard a muted pounding.
Clang, clang, clang, clang.
Kate and Faye exchanged a glance, shivering.
“It’s not outside,” Kate whispered. “It’s in our house. I can’t tell where.”
It could be in the basement, except they didn’t have one. It sounded like it could be under water or behind walls, layers of them. It had a familiar tone, like an instrument badly tuned. After a louder burst, Kate could hear the clanging ring, ring, ringing. A chiming, delicate enough, but with a rough edge. Where had she heard it before? It had to be the garage. She envisioned her dad with his tools. A hammer.
Hammering, hammering…like a nail. Setting it in the wall, and then with a bit more punch, bam, bam into the wall. But it wasn’t a wall, it was steel.
The banging stopped as suddenly as it began. Faye shrugged her shoulders with a look of fresh innocence that sparked hope inside of Kate. I will take care of her, no matter what, she thought. The knocking was not at the front door, but it had been grating nonetheless. They collapsed in the middle of the floor exhausted. Their plan full of loose ends; their dad a mystery, no phone, no jumping.
They rested until they could hear themselves breathe again. But only for seconds. A tide rolled in, crashing beneath them with tsunami strength, tossing them around the room like toys in a Cracker Jack box. The bed popped off the floor and slid toward them, wedging them against the dresser. A picture crashed to the floor, spraying glass inches from their faces.
“Earthquake!” Faye screamed. “It’s got to be.” Living in Southern California, it wasn’t out of the question, but neither of them had felt such a strong tremor before.
“Maybe. Maybe. Are you okay?” Kate asked, lying almost on top of Faye, sloping at a downward angle.
“I want out of here, Kate.”
A light tapping at Faye’s bedroom door and they both jumped, already rattled enough.
“Girls.” It was their dad. He knocked again lightly.
Kate caught her breath. “Yes.”
“Girls. Why don’t we watch the rest of that movie.”
Kate looked at Faye stunned, shrugging her shoulders, while Faye shook her head “no, no, no.”
“We’re a little tired. I think we’re just going to bed.”
“Kate, you know how important our movie night is,” Kyle said.
Kate fell silent, hoping he’d go away, but she heard his labored breathing through the door.
“I’ll be waiting downstairs,” he said.
Kate thought she heard whistling.