Her eyes open to greet me, good eyes, eyes I want to see when I wake. My big tough puppy, my little wolfie, still cowering in the hall, same spot all night, when she sees me coming her bent-down tail starts to wag. Ears folded, tongue hanging loose, Charlene belly crawls, paws gripping into the floor, up t the bedroom threshold but not further – she won’t come in, not anymore.
“Come Char.” I say as I walk past, out the room – I don’t like it anymore than she does, don’t care how sunny the walls are, I know they’re still there, still watching, waiting for the dark to hide them again.
Mom is awake, coffee pot gurgling, frying pan sizzling – her usual sausage, peppers, and eggs – and she grunts at my entrance. Charlene is my shadow, just beside my legs as I move through the cramped ‘L’ of the kitchen, elbows bumping, wet nose painting streaks down the back of my legs.
“Sleep good?” Mom asks out of habit.
I lie, she doesn’t need to know, doesn’t care to know. What would I tell her? Ramble on about the tiny demons that invade my room, cackle in the night, and threaten to suck out my soul, tell her all that while she nervously – obsessively – fingers the rosary hanging from her neck? No, that just earns me a trip to see Father Rodas, in the back office, breath smelling like mint and his office like dirt and dying flowers. We keep quiet and out of her way. At the breakfast table, Charlene gets a piece of toast crust for her silence.
Dread school but dread going back to that room for clothes more. Got to be quick in and out, give mom no reason to pause, no reason to ask questions. Charlene knows better than to keep following me once I reach the short hall, only once place for me to go and she ain’t going. Without a noise she’s back in her place, head on the floor with a sad stare looking upward and hopeful that I make it back out alive.
Charlene always seems to know when something bad will happen, she’s been that way since she was a puppy. Always knew when we were taking her to the vet or going on long trips away from – back when there were still family vacations, dad singing in Polish all the way to Chicago – or she’d know whenever a bad storm was coming before the sky even started turning black.
Get an outfit for today, anything, I’m beyond caring about looking cute or looking at all coordinated. Just clothes to cover and I’m out, head down, wanting to see that tail wag again for me like I was gone for three years. Almost out and I see something strange on the floor, dark stains on the wood, droplets going all across from the bed to the far wall.
I look closer, bend down, and see that their not just random drops of something but footprints, tiny prints like three-toed lizards or maybe birds – prints dark colored, almost a brown but red too. Charlene whines from the hall. Blood, has to be, blood ruining mom’s wood – her first concern – but whose?