Talina Thompson

WARNING: Domestic Abuse

“Mom and Dad are arguing again,” Alyssa says to her sister upon entering the bedroom.

Ciara is playing on the floor with her two stuffed animals and looks up, “I heard them,” she says.

The two girls climb up onto Alyssa’s bed and huddle under a blanket. Alyssa is ten, and she is the bravest girl Ciara knows. When Dad comes in to yell at them, Alyssa always gets his attention to receive the brunt of the anger.

Ciara is seven, and she is always scared. Ciara is afraid of everything. She is afraid of lightning storms, her parents arguing (even when it isn’t directed at her), the abandoned house down the street, and the shadows that play on the wall at night in their room when she is trying to sleep.

While in bed, Alyssa takes The BFG from under her pillow to read to Ciara. It is her favorite book. She loves how brave Sophie is and the idea of eliminating all the evil giants.

She secretly wishes to get rid of the evil giant in her life.

This is how Alyssa and Ciara usually pass nights like tonight drowning out their parents arguing and the breaking of glass with the adventures of The BFG and Sophie and imagine they are anywhere other than where they actually are.

Soon, though, they hear the heavy stomps of their Dad coming up the stairs. Alyssa quickly puts the book back under her pillow and slides before Ciara in an attempt to block her from view. Then, in what feels like a lifetime, the door to their room is thrown open.

Their dad yells, “Where’s your sister?”

Ciara shrinks in on herself. Alyssa asks, “Why?”

He steps farther into the room and roars, “That’s none of your business.”

Alyssa starts to stand up to try and calm him. He backhands her and she he falls back on the bed.

Ciara is left exposed. Her dad snatches her up and throws her to the ground, yelling about how she broke one of the dishes while putting them away and how clumsy she is.

Alyssa jumps out of bed, “It was my fault,” she says. “I helped Ciara put the dishes away and accidentally dropped the dish.”

Their dad backhands her again. Then he drags Ciara out of the room by her hair. She is forced to stand in the corner for the next hour. All the while, her mom is scolding her from the couch about her clumsiness and worthlessness. Finally, she is released to go to bed, and she hurries upstairs. When she gets to her room, she runs to her sister’s bed.

Alyssa and Ciara hold each other, silently crying till they fall asleep.

The following day is Saturday. Their parents are still sleeping off the alcohol, so they go outside to play. The punishment is severe if they wake their parents up for any reason.

All the kids on the block seem to be outside on this warm, humid morning. They are all gathered around Mrs. Jenny’s porch. Mrs. Jenny is a widow and has lived in her house all her married life. So, she knows all the happenings around her. She usually has a story to tell and a treat for the kids.

This morning Josh, a boy in Alyssa’s class, asks Mrs. Jenny to tell the story about old man Cravin’s house again.

Ciara groans inwardly. She hates the old abandoned house on their block. It scares her, and the kids make fun of her for her fear of it.

Mrs. Jenny passes a tray laden with breakfast pies to George, a boy of about nine, who goes around to the kids, making sure they each get one. Mrs. Jenny waits until he returns the tray and takes his seat on the porch before beginning her story.

“About forty years ago, a new family moved into the house down the street. A mom, a dad, and two twin boys. They were the Cravin family and had recently moved from Montana, as everyone soon found out. The boys were twelve and were the politest boys I have ever met. Mrs. Cravin was a stay-at-home mother, and Mr. Cravin worked at the old mill plant across town. The family was good, God-fearing people, or so it seemed. Mrs. Cravin would sometimes be seen at the store wearing her oversized sunglasses all through it. One time they slipped off while she was rummaging in her purse for her wallet. This allowed Mrs. Johnson to see the black eye she was sporting.”

Mrs. Jenny takes a sip of her tea.

“Mr. Weatherly’s boy said he had seen a large bruise on one of the twin’s bellies in gym class. Everyone in town assumed what was happening, but nobody said anything. Then, the mill closed down, and the situation got worse. Mr. Cravin couldn’t find another job; neighbors could hear yelling coming from the house at night. Then, one day, silence. A week went by, and still, there was nothing seen or heard from the house. The boys were no longer at school. The truck was still in the driveway, but no one ever saw anyone come in or out of the house. Finally, the police were informed and made a stop by. No one ever answered the door, and the doors wouldn’t budge. The police could not acquire a search warrant because it was said they didn’t have just cause. Eventually, people said that maybe they slipped away in the night. Others say that old man Cravin went crazy and killed his family and then himself. No one really knows what happened, but some say that sometimes you can hear screaming coming from the house. They also say on stormy nights, you’ll sometimes catch the silhouette of the boys in the upstairs window.”

The kids all squeal and jump up, half afraid, half laughing at their own fear and others. They all thank Mrs. Jenny and run out of the gate towards the haunted house. The kids all take a turn testing their bravery. Quiet as a mouse, they take turns seeing how far each of them can make it on the property. Josh makes it twelve steps past the fenced-in yard, which is the farthest of anyone besides Alyssa. Alyssa makes it to the bottom step of the porch.

All the children turn to Ciara to goad her into seeing how far she can go.

Ciara says, “I don’t want to.”

The children start laughing at her. Alyssa tells them to shove it and grabs Ciara’s hand. They walk towards the park down the street. The children take off to join the girls. Everyone stays out all day until it is time for dinner.

When Alyssa and Ciara got to the house, they can hear the yelling. They creep up the stairs to the front door and slowly open it just as lightning flashes across the sky and drops of rain start falling.

Ciara has a tight grip on Alyssa’s hand in an attempt to gain courage from her.

Dad spots them and stops yelling at Mom to ask them where they have been all day.

Alyssa says, “We went to the park to play with the other kids.”

He starts yelling at them that they should’ve been doing chores and that they would be up until everything was done.

They say, “Yes sir” and go to work. Dad goes back to yelling at Mom about hurrying up with dinner because he’s hungry. Mom finished dinner when the girls had just completed cleaning the bathroom. They go downstairs to eat just in time to see Dad punch Mom and throw his plate at her telling her how worthless she was and that the food was disgusting.

Then he turns on Alyssa. He tells her to come here. She walks towards him. He snatches her arm and throws her on the ground.

“You’re just like your mother. You’re useless.” He kicks her in the stomach. She groans. “Why can’t you do anything right?” he yells. “You’re always rolling your eyes at me and smarting off!” He kicks her again.

I’m sorry!” she cries out.

He removes his belt.

The storm rages outside like it was raging in little Ciara. She is tired of her dad beating all of them, she is tired of being scared all of the time, and she is tired of the kids laughing at her.

She runs into her parents’ room to their bed. She reaches under the bed to grab the shoebox that holds her dad’s gun and pulls it out. The weakness, the fear, and the hatred she feels towards her father are too much. Ciara walks back into the living room, raises the gun, and shoots her father.

Alyssa and her mom stare in shock. They never would have guessed this coming from Ciara. She was the quiet one. The one who was always afraid and jumped to attention whenever Dad gave them something to do. They didn’t even know she knew about the gun. Dad never took it out around them. He always took pleasure in beating and belittling them.

The shock wears off, and their mom starts screaming.

Alyssa jumps up and runs to grab Ciara’s hand.

They bolt out the front door and take off, running down the street. They start to run past old Mr. Cravin’s house when Ciara stops. Alyssa tries pulling on Ciara. She can hear the sirens; they are still far off, but she wants to get her sister as far away as possible. Ciara shakes off Alyssa’s hand and walks up to the gate.

She just conquered her evil giant.

The storm that terrifies her is raging all around her. But, she can conquer this fear as well. Ciara opens the gate just as lightning strikes.

She takes a deep breath and walks through the gate.