The bell rang as the door opened. She could smell how old the post office was. It had been there long before her grandparents were born in that tiny town. It was a comforting smell until now. It had been a familiar smell that wrapped around her tiny body, now, now it was squeezing the breath from her lungs when she realized the newspaper stand was empty. "No, no no!" The little girl panicked. Frantically she ran around the post office, tossing envelopes around, hoping an extra would be hiding underneath. She looked under the waste basket, and behind the door. Diving under the table she checked by the baseboards. There was no newspaper anywhere. The clerk started to look up but the girl couldn't let them see the fear in her eyes. Couldn't give them a reason to tell on her. She ran out of the building, terror building in her tiny chest, a scream threatened to follow. What was she going to do? She pulled on her hair. What was she going to do?!
The little girl walked home. Biting her fingers on one hand, the other clenched in a fist. Muffled screams echoed around her fingers. She had time before her failure came to light. Time to come up with a cover. Opening the front door she darted up the stairs to do the dishes that she was supposed to do after getting the newspaper. Her little brother was in the hallway making a mess like always. A mess that she always had to clean up. She couldn't take on that burden right now. She screamed at him to clean the mess up before 5 o' clock came and threatened her with its unwanted arrival. "You need to clean this up right now! I don't want to do it!" Her little voice came out shrill. Her brother's anger came out. Throwing toys at her, he howled and called her terrible things. Sighing, she ignored the familiar names and made her way to the kitchen.
Sighing again she eyed the mountain of dishes that had to be done in an hour. With a slight struggle, she pushed a kitchen chair up to the sink and began running warm water, mixing in dish soap. She watched the bubbles rise and a giggle rose up in her throat. With soapy fingers she popped the bubbles and let the giggles out. The girl temporarily forgot what she was supposed to be doing and instead entered a fantasy world. But just as soon as she entered the imagination world, fear reared its ugly head. Her small heart lurched and she doubled down on her chore. Each dish got scrubbed once, then again, then again, they had to be perfect. They had to be squeaky clean. They had to pass.
The girl looked at the clock, she was running a little behind on her chores. She hurried and dried the dishes, making sure they were all dry before stuffing them in their respective places in the cupboards and drawers. Then as fast as her little body could, she tidied the kitchen until she thought it would pass.
Skirting her brother, she dashed into her room and began cleaning it. Until she came across one of her favorite books. It begged her to open it. "I can't, I have to clean this up." But she hesitated, just for a minute right? She plopped down, ignoring the screaming inside her head to finish what she had to before 5 o' clock came round. "This will only take a minute, I love the pretty pictures, and look how fun this world looks!" The rational voice in her little brain, the voice that shouldn't have existed yet yelled at her again. But the call of her imagination was winning. Her inner child covered the mouth of the ugly rational voice, watching the little girl be a little girl, even if it was only for a minute.
The girl got lost in the magical world of unicorns and princesses. Of hero's and dragons. She stroked the beautifully painted pictures, wishing with all that she had, that she could live there. Live there with the perfect princesses, instead of this place, this hole, this fear. The minutes slid by with every page turned, the fear stamped down by a five year old's rightful imagination. Until she heard tires on the gravel drive way.
The terror reared up so fast that it hurt. The fear flooded her veins, freezing them until the blood stopped moving. Throwing the book, the little girl scrambled up and shoved everything under the bed and in the closet. She cursed herself out, why was she so dumb? Why couldn't she just do what she was told? She didn't have time now to clean her room perfectly. She tumbled out into the hallway and shoved her little brothers toys into his room, ignoring his protests. She then ran into the kitchen and started to make a sandwich for the heavy boots.
She heard his booted steps on the stairs and flinched when the door swung open. Her little brother's eyes grew huge, fearful and he toddled to his room. She hunched down, trying to make herself smaller, hoping to take up less space.
"Do you have my newspaper?" The little girl's heart plummeted so far down she didn't think it would come back up into its place behind her ribs. She forgot to come up with a good excuse, a good cover. She rushed through making his sandwich and placed it on a plate. Slowly turning she looked up at him and blurted out, "I couldn't find the one you wanted." His face turned red. "How could they not have it? It's the damn post office, they always have a newspaper." The little girl flinched, almost dropping the plate. "At least you have my sandwich ready." He grabbed the plate from her. "Wait this doesn't have any lettuce!" The anger in his eyes burned into her soul. With a yell, he brought his fist down onto her tiny skull. She cowered down, and tried to fight the tears that threatened to escape. Crying only made it worse. "Why can't you do anything right? Why are you so stupid?" He walked past her and plopped into his chair. She hurried behind and took off his boots and went and hid in her room. She kept the door cracked, just in case he yelled for her and she had to come running. Quietly, she cleaned, hoping with all her little heart that he didn't hear her.
After all, daddy always had to be happy, right?
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This was both beautiful and heartbreaking! You really portrayed the character's little kid energy and at the same time how they had to suppress it and grow up. The way you ended it really drove the whole piece home! Great work!