Collision (Portland Street Kings)(2)By: Evie Harper
I could be more relaxed around my sisters; Phillip’s hands apparently didn’t like little girls. Thank God. But Phillip’s fists found their faces often when they didn’t keep up with their chores. We all did what we could to help the girls when Phillip wasn’t looking, and often we felt the belt across our backs when we interfered with him hitting our sisters.
I call to Pacer because I need his help to get us all out of here alive. We need to stay strong for just a little while longer.
“Pace, I need your help and we don’t have much time.”
Pacer’s eyes swing to me.
His tormented face brings an ache to my chest which attempts to explode from my mouth, but I stop before it can show them how close I am to falling apart. I need to stay strong. I need to get the rest of my family out of here.
“Pace, we need to move quickly and quietly so Phillip doesn’t hear us. I need you to silently close our bedroom door and move a bed up to it. If he tries to get into our room, I want time before he gets in here.”
Pacer nods and quickly races out of the bathroom. I don’t hear our door close but I hear a soft drag of a bedframe.
I pick Dell up, carry her to her bed and place her down. She curls her body into a tight ball and sobs into her knees.
I rush back to Mack and Kelso and gently pull their chins up, forcing their eyes to meet mine. “I’m sorry,” I say, swallowing back the large lump in my throat. “I’m so sorry this has happened, but I promise you, today we’re getting out. We’re leaving this place behind forever, but I need you guys to pull together and help. Can you do that for me?”
Mackson is the first to nod in understanding that we need to act now and grieve later. He’s only nine, but he has always been the most level-headed one of us all. My gaze turns to Kelso and his eyes are still wide and glassy. “Can you do this, Kel? I need you, buddy.”
“Slate, how? Where is she? We can’t leave her behind.” Kel’s words come out strangled and they gut me to the core.
We can’t leave her behind.
I bow my head and take a deep breath before I answer him. “She’s gone, Kel.” I don’t tell him there was blood everywhere, that she was unrecognizable. “Now we need to leave so that doesn’t happen to one of us.” My words must register with Kel because he quickly nods and stands with Mack next to him.
“Okay, I need you two to pack all of our clothes into our backpacks, and then take the sheets and pillows from our beds, got it?”
They nod quickly, stand and run to the closet where our backpacks are stored, ones we were only ever allowed to use when we went to the store for groceries. Only Pacer and I got to go; the others had to stay behind. Phillip said it gave Pacer and me incentive to come back, and he was right. If he ever let us all go, I would have made sure none of us ever returned.
I scan the room, thinking of a way out without risking going through Phillip. I look to the windows. We are in a lone, two-story house at the end of a dirt road but not far from town. I think back to a movie where a boy tied sheets together to escape through a window. Does that work in real life? I don’t know, but it’s our only hope at the moment.
Mack and Kel are already taking the sheets off the beds, moving Dell gently to stand so they can grab hers, as well. I knew it wouldn’t take them long to pack all our clothes. We don’t have much—just a few shirts and shorts we all share and the girls only have a couple of long dresses they shared.
“Mack, Kel, pass me the sheets.”
They throw me the white sheets and I begin tying the ends to one another. I finish and count the knots; there are four. I look around for the sixth sheet. I find it on Mia’s still made-up mattress with her pillows still fluffed from this morning when she’d made her bed. A sharp pain shoots through my chest at thinking of disturbing her things. I decide to see if five sheets will be enough first.
I push the one window in our bedroom open, a chipped-paint, two-paned, wooden-framed, glass window which opens outward and faces the front of the house. Shoving it all the way out, it leaves more than enough room for someone to climb through.
A cool breeze from a midday storm, which just passed over us, blows into the room and the fresh smell of rain invades my senses.