When the pounding of heavy steps on the front porch awoke her in the middle of the night, she was slightly worried. Brought out from the slumber she had been in, her eyes blinked in the dark bedroom and she tried to recall what she had just heard. She was lying on her back in a twin bed. Parallel to her, on the other side of the small room, was another identical bed with a young girl in it, snoring just a little. Her friend stirred slightly at the noise, but remained lost in her warm sheets.
When the front door’s bolt lock clicked into place a moment later however, Dawn nodded to herself, knowing it was her friend’s father coming home from work. And that was when Andrea sat upright, instantly awake, sharply turning her head with her shouldered length hair whipping into her face, to the small table against the wall which separated the two beds. The digital clock set there revealed it was two in the morning.
“It’s your dad,” Dawn muttered. Reflexively she stretched in the bed a bit, her elbow lightly bumping into the wall on her left. Ignoring the irritation, she wrapped herself back into the covers with a yawn.
“Yeah …” Andrea responded softly as her eyes shifted to the door. She didn’t lie down.
Her friend lifted a finger to her mouth for silence.
Outside the window next to Andrea’s bed, the open ended sky seemed enormous, and the moon’s reflective light broke through the handful of clouds. The rays glazed the girl’s skin, making it look creamier in color. Dawn wished to have that bed. It was a beautiful night for a full moon.
The two twin beds were against the upper left and right side of wall, with a night stand in the middle. At the end of the room, a brown dresser with no ornaments on it stood looming. Her bedroom was barren, white wall coloring and very impersonal. The carpeting was old and shaggy; the kind that gathers hair, dust and mold at the edge of the wall and floor. Even though the family had moved in only weeks before, noticeable dirt had built up over the years, left unattended. A few unpacked boxes remained at Andrea’s mattress, taped up and likewise, untouched.
The younger girl, Dawn, coughed lightly, to which her friend turned to her with a stare that sent the message of irritation.
Spending the night over at her friend’s house had been exciting, even for Andrea who was two years older. They had played a few games, watched a movie and ordered pizza. After Andrea’s mother had told them it was time for bed, the two girls had stayed up till midnight anyway.
Andrea's family had moved in only a short month ago. The house they had chosen was one floor high and contained three bedrooms for the family of five.
“Andrea?” Dawn questioned again.
“What?” Andrea turned away with an exasperated expression, “It’s nothing, just wondering if the dogs are going to bark at all the noise he’s making.”
There hadn’t been any noise. She squirmed in the bed and tried closing her eyes anyway. Tiredness was getting to her.
Something outside the room had fallen or broken. It sounded like glass.
Andrea flinched and continued to stare at the door, listening like a cat would for danger, ears perched and eyes intent.
“What’s going on? What’s he doing?” Dawn slowly rose from her covers, sitting half up. She shifted her gaze from Andrea to the doorway.
Her friend groaned in disgust, placing a hand to her forehead. “I think he’s hammered.”
Dawn blinked in the darkness. It took her a moment to remember what that meant. “How did he get drunk?”
After a few more moments the two young girls of twelve and fourteen quietly listened as the man moved through the fridge, throwing some stuff in the trash causing a racket. The dogs in the backyard started barking. The three english shepherds were wonderful dogs of his, Andrea had told her once.
“Are you going to do something for your dad?”
She looked over at Dawn, eyes hidden somewhat hidden in the dark room. “No. He can do what he wants.”
That first day when they met, Andrea had poured out of the backseat with her younger brother and older sister. She never forgot about it, because immediately the middle child had abandoned her family while they unpacked and began journeying about the neighborhood searching for fun. It had taken however long for Dawn’s mother to agree for her to go outside and meet the new girl. She had been stubborn about it. There was something about the new family she didn’t partake to. And Dawn could see it. It was the way her mother looked at them with distracted eyes.
She did seem to like Andrea though.
Andrea and Dawn had met late in the day when the sun was setting. She boldly explained her entire story while they sat on Dawn’s front porch, swapping Pokemon cards which for the younger girl was a thrill. No one she knew liked those anymore.
She learned from Andrea that her new father, Peter, and her mother had gotten married only two months before (that being three months now). Determined to find a bigger house for the new family, they had moved into Dawn’s neighborhood. They were lucky in Dawn’s opinion. She had always loved the sight of the house across the cul-de-sac.
The home had a nice porch, a small drive-through leading into a garage and spacious front yard with covering trees to the right side of the lawn. One tree in particular, was the largest weeping willow Dawn had ever laid eyes on. It was majestic in every sense of the word, its drooping leaves swaying over the house and shading the green grass from the glaring sun on the hot summer days. Andrea as well, admired that fragile, yet stable tree. The two girls had gotten to know each other a little more. They climbed it often.
It was only the backyard that poured ugliness to the home. It was blocked off from view by its wooden, perfectly aligned fence, and only had one way to get in, through the back door of the house. She’d never personally stepped into the hidden yard, but through the windows you could see weeds, ant hills and old furniture.
Another broken bottle could be heard as it was thrown into the trashcan.
Slowly, Andrea slipped out of the covers, her feet brushing and pressing against the carpet as she slowly slid off the bed as silently as possible to avoid the noise made by the springs in the mattress. Lightly taking her steps across the room, she wrapped a hand around the doorknob and locked it with a gentle click.
She barely glanced at Dawn. “In case,” she whispered.
“Why is he doing that?” Dawn asked uneasily.
What would happen if he came in?
“He must have gone out with his friends.” Andrea pushed herself back into the bed and pillow. “I don’t know Dawn, you ask him tomorrow.”
Andrea was never nervous about anything. Well, Dawn had never seen her nervous before. She always seemed so sure of herself, talking about how her older sister was already out of the house, and how she told her mom – not the other way around – that Dawn could come over for the night.
She had picked out the movie they had watched, chosen the game of barricading her bedroom door so Mark, her little brother, couldn’t get in. With Dawn’s asking she had even ordered pizza, called it herself, given the money to the pizza boy herself.
Andrea’s mother could be heard walking out into the living room, murmuring to her spouse. Well, just a little too loud to call it that. Dawn didn’t want to hear it, feeling suddenly embarrassed, intruding on personal matters. Andrea just kept her eyes open.
“Do they do this a lot?”
Her eyes glinted a little in anger when she looked over at her friend, but then they softened ever so slightly in reply.
“Yeah. You wouldn’t really know it any other time.” She genuinely laughed. “I was hoping this wouldn’t happen tonight, though. Sorry.”
Dawn turned back toward the window that’s light was shining on Andrea and her bed; that bright moon with its white light, illuminating the covers. Something so peaceful covering them, should allow people to sleep comfortably. And was it her imagination, or did Andrea look … a little angelic under that light?
She could hear them arguing a little louder this time. The words still weren’t clear, voices muffled by the walls and door. Dawn flinched in surprise as one of the dogs from the backyard brought its snout up to Andrea’s window with a clatter as its claws tapped the window, whimpering softly.
“I open the window and pet him sometimes,” she commented undisturbed. Andrea didn’t even glance toward the dog.
I didn’t know they fought all the time, Andrea, she wanted to say aloud. That first time she had entered their house, the only thing anyone had been talking about was the wedding. Andrea smiled while her mother showed some pictures, in the back her father – or long time boyfriend Peter – added details while unpacking another box.
They had both ended up in the willow tree. The breeze had caught every flowing leaf and branch, and it danced around them as they climbed it. When they reached as high as they could go, Andrea started talking about her older sister, the one who hadn’t been around lately.
“My sister moved in with her boyfriend last week. I got some more space in the bedroom now, perfect for you to come over. Do you want to see my room?”
Dawn didn’t see her room that day, and Andrea twirled her fingers through those long slim leaves. She smiled at it, on that bright and breezy afternoon.
“Just ignore them.” Andrea turned away from Dawn and the door, and wrapped herself in the covers. Being the middle of the summer, it was too warm in the room.
Thirty minutes later, even though the two adults had moved into the back bedroom long ago. Every once in a while someone would walk out, move something or grab something, speak or even cry.
Dawn bit her lip before asking the question. The crickets in the backyard were making it difficult to sleep as well.
“Andrea? Do you want me to go home? I can if you’d li-”
The girl was fully awake as well, and turned on her back to stare at her in slight anger, but not directed at her. “No! You’re my guest. You’re staying here until morning. You shouldn’t have to leave because of them!”
Slowly the night began to weigh on the younger girl’s eyes. The moon’s light had dulled a little. She felt a new wave of tiredness wash over her as she stared out that window. It made the noise become softer and softer.
Her eyelids slowly began to shut, and her muscles relaxed-
“It wasn’t always like this.”
Her eyes opened though her body didn’t move, and she stared at the girl. Andrea was looking at the ceiling, lying on her back, wide eyed twining her fingers through her bangs. She was talking easily, not awkwardly or in an angered tone. Her eyes we drooping a little.
Dawn couldn’t tell if she was speaking directly to her, or just out loud. Her mom used to say sometimes when people talk to themselves, they mean to speak to God.
“I remember when he first came by. Mom had met him in a restaurant she was working at. He sat at mom’s table by accident they said, because the other server wanted off early. The two ended up talking forever. That first time she brought Peter home, he seemed different from the last few. A nice guy, you know?”
She suddenly turned to look at Dawn, asking for her approval, as though it meant the world to her.
Somewhat uncomfortable, realizing she had been speaking to Dawn, the younger girl nodded, “Yeah.”
Andrea brought her arms up and behind her head, using them as a pillow. “Yeah,” she breathed half a sigh of relief. Then her mood changed with her eyes, which narrowed and turned sharp. It was like she was thinking hard about something; thinking about everything.
“Man, he sure did like Mark; treated me nice, all the time. And mom looked different … I don’t know, she smiled a lot. She just seemed happier. And I thought, you know, maybe this time it’d work out.”
Dawn felt small on her side with her head on the pillow, watching her. But she didn’t dare turn away.
“And my real dad left last year,” she continued, quieter.
“They had been divorced years before, but he always came by, at least to see me and Mark. And ... I don’t really know why." A small pause. "He just, stopped coming around. And now that Peter’s here…”
In the background, the argument was dwindling, barely audible. And for a moment, Andrea was the only person in the house speaking.
“And Peter wanted a new house, a fresh start he said. He got a new job unloading shipments at the dock and other stuff. You can see his eyes when he gets up in the mornings. He'd look horrible. And at first it wasn’t a big a deal, see.” She’s turned on her side, staring back at Dawn with big eyes, a child’s eyes that were a sharp blue.
“No matter how much my mom asked him to find other work, he said he could handle it and we needed that job. ‘How long was he going to have to work?’, ‘When are we going to see him more?’ we would wonder and ask and mom didn’t like answering that. He got his days off like once a week and those days were at first really fun... But then it wasn’t as fun. Then, Rebecca left with some stupid boy, and my mom got angry and sad over the whole thing. Rebecca didn’t like our new 'intruder'. Peter started coming home later, going out some place to get some food and, yeah, something to drink. It was only every once in a while…” Her voice started to deepen.
“He needed something more than us, I guess, I don't know. Mom’s never been good with keeping dads anyway.”
Then she quieted down, and they stared at each other for a long moment. It was just ... them. Andrea and Dawn watched one another, seeing the pain and sympathy in their eyes. The frown didn’t last too long, and the older girl kinda smiled.
It was a lot like the house they lived in, Dawn thought. The front yard had beautiful trees … covering what was developing in the backyard.
Dawn suddenly had a new, darker thought.
“Does he ever hurt you?”
She shook her head, serious. “He doesn’t do anything like that. Not even to mom, and I would know.”
Dawn smiled, a little lopsided. “But why did you lock the door?”
Andrea tried to contain a laugh. “I locked the door because sometimes he’ll come in and fall asleep in our bed by accident. That would have been horrible if that had happened."
A slight pause.
"The worst he did was break a window once.”
“I don’t remember why he did it. He broke the small kitchen window. It was funny that next morning," she snickered. "He tried to explain himself and made this big show of some weird guy in the back yard trying to get in.”
She lifted her arms up demonstrating a large man, and the two girls laughed lightly.
“He’s funny that way, he really is.”
Andrea sighed deeply and rested on her back again.
“I think it’s Mark that bothers me the most. He comes in here to sleep in your bed or sometimes, even with me. He did it even more when we were living at our apartment.” She grunted in annoyance, thinking of her little brother. Dawn questioned once again if she was speaking to her anymore. “He’s been doing that less, ever since we moved here. And I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.”
“Hey, sorry about that. Listen, I don’t let it bother me too much … and I never talk about this with Mark,” her friend added suddenly. She then looked over, giving her a stare that said ‘don’t say a word to him, he’s just a kid’, before leaving the subject. Quietly she shifted deeper into her bed. She stared at Dawn again and spoke softly, a thoughtful look on her face, “Mom says my name means ‘courage’, see. My dad says that means I have a reputation to live up to.” It seemed more like a fact then a memory. Pride was in her words.
Dawn nodded, brushing her head and hair against the pillow.
Andrea slowly shut her eyes. She looked tired, falling into her sleep. It wasn’t easy for her. Having to lay like this, every night, Dawn wondered how many times Mark would come into the room and sleep in the same bed with his sister. How many times did Andrea want to stay with Rebecca when she was younger? Or, did her older sister care about that? Dawn’s older brother used to let her do that when she was scared. Surely she must have as well.
She felt her heart beat faster, thinking of all the times Andrea would lay awake on these nights, the time alone, wondering what tomorrow’s going to bring. What would she think about? That things would get better? Things would get worse? Did she cry? Did she frown? Would she always care?
Dawn prayed there was something she could do. She prayed people would notice the moon, full on nights like this. She wished people would stop worrying; look toward something grand and not live in fear.
She wished she could take Andrea to the willow tree and climb it for a long time, just to tell her to stay the way she is, the good person she is.
But, none of those things were possible then.
So instead, she asked that Andrea would keep her courage, just for the moment, and maybe the moment after, holding on, until it all passed.
Reluctantly her eyes slowly shut, and she fell back to sleep in the middle of the night, worried.
Well this is my latest CoT Story, Moment of Fragile Courage, and I really want to say I love the plot and have wanted to do something like this for a while. Unfortunately I have no idea if I succeeded at it. I really hope I got the emotions right, hope it wasn't too cheesy and instead realistic. And it wasn't too ... much. I honestly think I added in the sentences there too heavily.
A few things to note, I redrafted and rewrote this story four times, and finally once I felt like I had it right, I had a couple people tell me the ending wasn't fitting enough, (something I agreed with. It did feel off) so I also changed it again. (You read my newest version) Also the story was originally about two boys, but changed it early on because I feel like writing about girls is more of a challenge for me.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed it at the very least, please leave a little criticism as that would be most appreciated and thanks for reading. ^^
Edited by The Great Grant in the Sky, Apr 07 2012 - 11:41 AM.