She sat on the toilet with her shirt up, pressing her belly to see if she could feel a baby growing. She couldn’t tell. From the bathroom, she could hear her mom in the kitchen yelling at her older sister for eating too much again. She pulled down her shirt and quietly snuck out of the bathroom.
She peeked in the living room. Her dad was falling asleep in his armchair, lit cigarette in hand. Each sudden nod of his head brought his hair closer to the cigarette, threatening to ignite his red, curly hair. The evening news droned on the TV. Eventually her mom would finish with her sister and start on her dad for something. She didn’t want to give her mom a reason to start on her, too.
She crept quietly through the house to the stairs to go up to her room. She had memorized where the creaks were on the steps and knew which spots to avoid. Her older brother might hear her and make her go into his room and under his covers “so you won’t hear the yelling.” He called it protecting her. It didn’t feel like protection.
She thought she heard movement from his room. She froze. Her sister’s sobs echoed up the stairs. She ran the rest of the way to her room, quickly shut the door, and locked it. She sat on her bed and picked up her favorite doll. She stuffed it under her shirt. The doll’s stiff, rubbery arms and legs jutted through the fabric of her Care Bears t-shirt. She wondered how pregnant ladies’ bellies were so smooth and round.
The doorknob jiggled. Her brother. He was whispering for her to come to his room. She sat very still and held her breath. She pulled her doll out from under her shirt. She cradled it tightly against her chest. She covered its exposed ear with her hand so it wouldn’t hear the yelling or the whispers.
Janice Leagra is a writer and mixed media artist who holds a BA in English from Rutgers University. Her work has been featured at Spelk Fiction and on the Bridport Prize 2017 shortlist. She lives in the United States. You can find her at http://www.janiceleagra.com or on Twitter: @janiceleagra.