Al(m)as, Part 4

New to this story? Read Part 1.

Patrick was lying in bed staring up at his ceiling when he realized the rain had stopped. The sun had already set, cloaking the house in dusky twilight. He stood up and cautiously emerged from his room. He had to eat sometime, and he’d better make sure Nellie had eaten, too. He crept downstairs, praying to the god he hadn’t believed in since his mother died that his father would be somewhere, anywhere else.

He wasn’t.

“Hey, boy,” the man slurred from a tattered armchair in the living room. “What’re ya doin’ down’ere? Thought ya might’a decided t’off yourself n’ saved me th’trouble.”

“Just getting food,” Patrick mumbled, slipping past his inebriated father into the kitchen. Nellie was there, sitting on the floor and munching on cereal directly out of the open pantry. “Nells, do you want some real dinner?”

His father heaved himself up out of the chair and staggered into the kitchen. Patrick’s heart thundered.

“I c’n make ‘er dinner,” the man spat. “C’mere, Nellie. Daddy’ll take care’a ya.” He held out his arms and stooped toward the girl, who eyed him anxiously.

“Stay away from her,” Patrick snapped, the words out of his mouth quicker than thought. After the last drunken rampage, when their father had accidentally wrenched his sister’s shoulder, Patrick had sworn he would never, ever let it happen again.

“What?” The man straightened to his full height, his short figure still towering over that of his fourteen year old son. He spoke slowly, enunciating every rage-filled word, “What — did — you — SAY TO ME?!”

“You’re drunk. Leave her alone,” Patrick said, his voice shaky, but determined.

“M’her FATHER, for gossake. I c’n make ‘er dinner hellofalot better’n some lil brat.” He lurched toward Nellie, grabbing her arm more roughly than he had intended. She cried out, frightened.

“Leave her alone!” Patrick yelled. He launched himself between them, breaking his father’s grip on Nellie and gathering her into his arms. He almost heard the whistle of wind before the open-handed blow struck his ear, but he didn’t care, he didn’t care, he just needed to get his sister far, far away. He ducked his head and ran, Nellie clinging to him desperately, another blow glancing off his side as they left the kitchen, left the house, left the terrifying scene behind.

Continue to Part 5.

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