The door to the bedroom swung open. Glen sprung away from me and turned to face the intrusion. Lexie stood in the doorway. The light behind her shadowed her features so we couldn’t see the look on her face. In less than a second she barrelled into the room and shoved hard at Glen. He hit the side table and lost his balance, plummeting to the floor. Lexie turned her attention to me. Her expression was something I had never seen on her before. Her cheeks were flushed and glistened with tears and her eyes were a queer mixture of fury and horror. She took a step toward me, holding out her hand, just as Glen grabbed her hair from behind and yanked it hard …
I squinted into the late afternoon sun. The intensity of the light stabbed a path from my eyes right to my brain, igniting an ache in my temples. The feel of the still-warm autumn rays on my face has always been something that I’ve loved. Lexie has told me many times that too much sun will give me early wrinkles, and usually I would’ve listened to her, but this was something even my sister couldn’t stop me from doing. It was the only thing that was free as well as personal. Nobody could stop the sun from creating the sense of inner warmth that the outer warmth inspired. Lexie smoked for that feeling. I’d once tried it, but other than her yelling at me when she’d found out, I didn’t exactly see the pleasure in it. Being outside also gave me a chance to keep a lookout for Lexie. She’d gone to the library in town to return the books we’d borrowed, taking our only bike, which explains why I was left behind. I hate being left behind. I hate being alone in this apartment. The sun dipped lower and I felt the breeze grow colder, signalling that my sunbathing session had ended. It was time to go back inside.
I was only eight when we moved into this apartment. That was five years ago. I remember being excited at the thought of living in a new place. I wanted to help with painting the walls and hanging up our posters, unpacking boxes and arranging furniture. I’d only stopped “helping” when my mother had yelled at me for putting up a poster on a still-wet wall. The apartment had felt hopeful in those days. Like something good would happen to us, something wonderful. Now it just felt cold and barren. The carpet stank of old beer and vomit, and the walls that I’d taken such pleasure in painting were now chipped and peeling.
The apartment also only had two bedrooms, which meant that my sister and I had to share. That’s the one thing that didn’t bother me about this place. I loved my sister. I loved being in close proximity to her. Our mother would often tell us how Lexie used to pretend to be my mother all through my younger years. She would feed me and bathe me, she would even wake up in the middle of the night to soothe me back to sleep. Not usual things for a seven-year-old to do, but Lexie took pleasure in it. It was like she felt responsible for me, or wanted to be responsible for me. She still does it. Not by giving me baths or rocking me to sleep, but by helping me with homework and making sure I have a bag of lunch for school each day. She is more than just my older sister. She’s a mom and a dad, wrapped up in one.
Our mother is very beautiful. She’s tall and curvy with long, dark hair and deep, blue eyes. She passed off most of her looks to Lexie, while I got stuck with my father’s features. Green eyes, a snub nose and pale, yellow hair. I’d never really known my father. He had left us a couple of months after I’d been born. He writes to us now and then, sends us money during Christmas, but other than that we didn’t have much of a relationship with him. My mother says he left because he was a cheating womaniser. But the more likely reason was that she’d chased him away. She has a certain knack for it. Because of my mother’s beauty, she has always attracted men, even if she didn’t want to. The problem with this was that she could never say no to the attention. When a man flirted, she would just flirt back, regardless of whether she was in a relationship or not. As young as I was, I had witnessed it many times over the years. There was always some new guy that would pick her up at night, coming in to the apartment to wait while she got ready. The latest of her admirers was Glen. My mother had met him a few months ago at a bar in town and had brought him home with her that night. Ever since then, Lexie and I have seen a lot more of him at the apartment than we’d like to. Glen was very good-looking. This explained why my mother seemed to be so stable and smitten. The better looking the man, the more likely my mother was to be committed to him. He was tall, with perfectly coifed hair and a chiselled face. He wore gold rings on each finger of his right hand and expensive-looking leather shoes. He also had a very creepy air about him that my mother didn’t or wouldn’t notice. Lexie and I did, but our mother seemed happy, so we had let it be.
After the warmth of the balcony, the apartment felt like I’d walked into a freezer. Our radiator was broken again and my mother had forgotten to call maintenance to get it fixed. Lexie would get it done when she came back. I hadn’t expected her to be gone for so long. It had already been two hours, and the bike ride into town only took about an hour back and forth. She’d probably stopped to get us burgers for dinner. My mother never cooked. And our fridge was rarely stocked. I’d already rummaged around in there, looking for a snack, but found nothing besides some mouldy cheese. Lexie would most likely have stopped at the supermarket too. My mother wasn’t much of a homemaker either. But we had accepted that a long time ago. She brought in money from her job as a dental assistant, but other than that, Lexie and I had grown to expect nothing more. Since it was a Saturday, my mother would soon come home from work and get ready to go out with Glen. Their usual weekend plans involved getting embarrassingly drunk at a bar and coming home to pass out on the couch during the early parts of the morning. I relished their absence from the apartment each Saturday night because it meant Lexie and I were free to do whatever we wanted. There wasn’t any sign of Lexie yet, so I decided to go read a book in our room. Our beds were pushed up against either side of the wall, but the room was so small that the beds were practically next to each other. I curled up on mine and turned to the first page of my book.
I woke up to the sound of the front door closing. I guess I’d fallen asleep for a few minutes. The wall clock revealed that I’d been asleep for over half an hour. Lexie must be back. That was probably her who had shut the front door. Or my mother. The door to my bedroom creaked open, expecting to see Lexie’s face, I raised my head off the pillow with a grin. My face fell, when instead of Lexie’s pretty smile, I saw Glen’s smarmy one.
“Hi Angel.” he said. He was dressed in his usual Saturday night attire; a smart shirt and dark jeans. His hair gleamed with gel.
“Hello.” I mumbled back quietly, as he stepped further into the room and shut the door behind him.
“Where is everyone?” he asked.
“I’m not sure. Isn’t mum back yet? Or Lexie?”
“No. I let myself in,” he said as he sat down next to me on the bed, “Your mother gave me a key. I knocked for a while, but nobody answered. I didn’t know you were home.”
“Oh. Sorry. I was asleep. I didn’t hear anything.”
“That’s okay.” he said. He bent over me and reached out a hand to touch my face. I flinched as he stroked my cheek.
“You’re so pretty Janie. I’m sure you must have a lot of boyfriends in school by now. How many boys have you kissed?”
“Um, no. N-nothing.” I stammered. I didn’t like Glen touching my face. It didn’t feel right. I tried to get up off the bed but he was directly over me.
“What? No kisses? A girl as pretty as you should be kissed a lot, honey. Your lips look too inviting.” he said, as he leaned his face toward me and placed his lips on mine. They felt cold and slimy, and his aftershave smelled like oranges. I shivered as icicles formed in my veins. My brain screamed that I should react, but nothing happened. He lifted his face and looked into mine with a smile. It was as if he knew I couldn’t do anything. He knew it would be easy. He took my hands and pinned them above my head with his arm while the other hand crept to the hem of my T-shirt. The rings on his fingers felt cool against my burning skin, as he traced his way toward my breasts.
The door to the bedroom swung open. Glen sprung away from me and turned to face the intrusion. Lexie stood in the doorway. The light behind her shadowed her features so we couldn’t see the look on her face. In less than a second she barrelled into the room and shoved hard at Glen. He hit the side table and lost his balance, plummeting to the floor. Lexie turned her attention to me. Her expression was something I had never seen on her before. Her cheeks were flushed and glistened with tears and her eyes were a queer mixture of both fury and horror. She took a step toward me, holding out her hand, just as Glen grabbed her hair from behind and yanked it hard.
“Welcome to the party, beautiful.” he said through clenched teeth, as he pulled Lexie by her hair toward him.
“Let go of me you monster! You’re an animal, how dare you touch Janie! She’s just a little girl!” she screamed.
“Well then, it’s a good thing you’re here now. I’ve been watching you Lexie. I know you want me.”
He grabbed her shirt and tore it off her shoulder. Lexie screamed and plunged her elbow into Glen’s ribcage. He doubled up in pain and released his hold on her hair. She turned around to hit him again but Glen quickly dodged her fist. He raised his hand and slapped her brutally across the face. I watched as my sister lost her balance and fell to the floor, not before her head connected with the iron rail at the end of my bed. The sound of something cracking resonated in my ears as I gaped at Lexie lying motionless on the floor.
The bedroom door opened once more and my mother walked in.
“What the hell is going on here?” she yelled, as her eyes found Lexie’s figure on the floor.
“Your kid went crazy! She just attacked me!” Glen bellowed. His eyes darted wildly around the room. They landed on me and his face turned an ashy grey. He shoved my mother away from the door and hurried out. The front door closed loudly and we both realised that he’d just left. A panicked look came into my mother’s eyes and she rushed after him, calling out his name. I had sat in silence all this time. From the very moment Glen had put his hands on me I hadn’t really moved an inch. I needed to move now. I needed to help Lexie. I scrambled to the end of my bed and looked over the rail. Lexie’s body still wasn’t moving and a halo of blood had surrounded her head. I wasn’t a fool. I knew what that much blood meant. I knew she wouldn’t be breathing if I’d checked. I knew my sister was dead.