"How can you wake her up to do this!"
"Alex," Charlie warned, quietly, but Alex's voice escalated.
"It's 7:00 in the morning!"
"You're going to wake her up yourself," Charlie said. "Lower your voice."
"Come on, honey." Judah's voice now.
I rolled over, pulling a pillow over my head. Stupid summer and it's stupid bright and early stupid sun.
"Why do you all have to yell in my room?" I whined, blinking my eyes open just in time to see Judah leading a stomping and sputtering Alex out of the room.
"Hush," Charlie said. He bent to pick a strand of hair off my face as I sat up.
"Am I still in trouble?" I asked, groggily.
Charlie laughed and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Damn adorable in the morning, that’s what you are."
I yawned and leaned into him. "Are you still mad?"
He took a deep breath. "I’m not exactly happy."
"We’re going to get through this.” He tucked my head under his. “In five years, there’s never been anything you’ve done that we haven’t figured out, has there?”
I shrugged. Was that a challenge? Because I felt like, this time, I’d come pretty close to doing the worst thing possible.
“I think that’s a pretty good track record, don’t you?” Charlie squeezed me.
"But do you have to do it when I'm not even awake?" I mumbled into his chest.
"Well, I'm not leaving you with Judah to sulk around here all day." He shrugged, kissing the top of my head. "Not good for family relations."
"Not good for you and Judah's relations, you mean.”
Charlie, perfectly happy to reduce Alex and I to tears, is absolutely dedicated to keeping Judah happy. He just can’t stand Judah being upset with him. It’s mostly reassuring.
"Can't I take a shower first?"
"You'll make me late." He shrugged again, handing me an elastic off the bedside table.
I scowled and pulled my hair back, messily. Since the last time Judah had cut it, it was almost too short, and fell out in several places that I tucked behind my ears.
Charlie stood and offered me a hand up. I took it, not aware enough to argue, and let him lead me to the library where he sat down on the couch and rolled up his sleeves.
I hung by the door, looking at him, dejectedly.
"Come here," he said, lightly.
All I want to do is obey him, really. All the time. It’s just that things like watching him sit down that way, roll up his sleeves, knowing what he’s about to do with those sturdy, smooth hands, it can complicate things.
“Come,” he said again, just as casually as if he wanted me to pass the carrots.
He pulled me between his knees, putting his hands over mine, and looked up at me. "I want you to help Judah today, especially in the garden. You could use the sunshine. And you're not to leave his sight, remember?" He gave me a Look. "I mean it."
"I know, I know," I said, pulling away from him as he tried to lower my pants and underwear.
"No, no, no. Come back here." He caught my wrist and tugged me back. "Don't start with me this morning. I know it sucks, but nobody needs it to be any worse." He swept my pants and underwear down and I shivered, clenching my bottom against the cold air of the library.
"What's wrong with Alex?" I asked, changing the subject.
"He-- you know. How he gets." Charlie led me around to the right side of his lap and, lacking all grace, helped me tumble over it. "He just likes things to be, 'normal'. Doesn't like to hear it. You know." I could feel him leaning over me to reach the end table drawer. The end table drawer containing all the most awful things you could ever imagine.
"Well, I don't like to feel it," I said into the couch cushion.
"I’m pretty sure that's the idea.”
I looked back to see him pull out the paddle, the big, thuddy one that just makes you think maybe you'd rather die.
"Oh, Charliiee," I begged, instantly upon seeing it. It's almost like some sort of reflex. "You don't need thaat."
"No, but you do."
"But I'm sorry," I said, loudly. "Please? I'm sorrier than I've ever been, ever."
"And I am certainly glad to hear that," he said, not altogether unkindly. "Now, tell me why you're getting spanked this morning." He rested the paddle gently on my bottom, still warm from sleep. "And don't make me work for it. I'm going to be late as it is."
"Pleease don't." I clenched my bottom tightly and looked back at him.
"Olivia," he warned, tapping the paddle against my bottom.
I dropped my head in despair. "I lied-- about school," I stammered. "And I--I didn't make the best use of our money. I guess there were other ways to get you to listen. We talked about it all last night. Come on, please, Charlie?"
"Good girl. Keep still now."
And that was all he said to preface what followed: a very hard paddling. The kind that makes you desperate. The kind that makes you cry until you couldn’t talk even if you wanted to, which you don’t, because all you really want to do is throw up.
It wasn't particularly lengthy, but not very quick either, and awful. So awful. Charlie was, at once, gentle and severe, spanking me slowly and purposefully until I was more than a little frantic.
I usually try hard not to kick as I know it doesn't help and if I do happen to nick him with my foot, he'll give me three, "where it really hurts". But I couldn't keep still and it must have been edging on too much, because he stood me halfway through, only to put me right back over his knee with one leg over both of mine, making him maybe the meanest Daddy of all.
I cried and got no response. I begged and got no response. He'd quietly reassure me every few moments, tugging me back close to his stomach. "You're okay, Olive. I know it hurts." But he never stopped, never eased up until I was well past done, and he finally decided he was, too.
He stood me slowly and turned me to his chest, pressing my head hard against his shoulder. "I'm sorry I had to do that," he breathed into my hair. "Oh, my girl." He said it over and over. "My good, good girl."
"I'm sorry. I'll never do it again, I promise." The words tumbled into his chest as I tried to keep from bouncing up and down. "I'm so s-sorry, I really am."
"Oh, I know that," he whispered. “You’re a very good girl.”
Charlie saves his sweetest things for right after he's hurt me and it would make me madder if it weren't quite so nice. I suppose he's only saving them for when I need it most.
He held me for five minutes or so, until I'd mostly quieted and then silently cajoled me back into pajamas.
"Are you leaving?" I asked, mournfully, as he straightened my shirt. I leaned into him hard.
"Mmn, in a minute. Come here."
He pulled me onto his lap on the couch and took the blanket from the back, wrapping it around us while I squirmed, trying to get a hold of my breath.
Charlie leaned his head back against the couch and sighed. "So, you hate school then?" He ran his hands over my forehead.
I shrugged and squenched my eyes shut. Did we have to talk about this now?
"What are we going to do about that?" He sounded tired, but he always sounds tired when he has to talk about things he'd rather not. And, in this case, he would rather I just went to school like a good girl, stopped complaining, got a degree, and then we'd talk. But things can't always go The Charlie Way, even when he tries to make them. Even when he tries to make me.
I guess that's why he sounded tired.
"Isn't that your job?" I sniffed. "Fixing all the broken things and figuring stuff out and being mean?"
He laughed. "Oh, that's my job? Well then, if it's up to me, you're going back to school," he said, poking me.
"I can't go back." I buried my face hard under his arm. "I'm not smart like you and Alex."
"Well, that isn't something I like to hear, is it?" he asked, pulling my head out and tipping it to his.
He smacked my mouth, gently, but it was enough, and gave me a Look.
I stared up at him.
"I don't like to hear you talk like that. I've told you so before."
"Sorry," I took a deep breath that turned into a shaky yawn. "I'm a genius."
"That's better," he smirked, kissing me and letting me go. "Maybe you just don't learn like Alex and I do. Sitting still at a desk."
He looked at his watch and made a face. "We'll talk to Judah about it later, okay?"
I stuck my lip out. Just a little.
"I promise," he said. "But I really need to go to work, darlin'."
"Just a few more minutes?”
“No, I can’t. Oh, come on, don’t cry.” He sunk back into the couch and sighed.
My lip quivered and I fell against him.
“Olive,” he sighed. “Daddy can’t stay here all day.”
“Take me with you.”
He laughed, heartily, at that, and shook his head. “No, no, no.”
“Why not?” I asked, tearfully.
He put his hands on either side of my head and leaned his forehead against a mine. "For a hundred reasons. Because I can't watch you all day. Because I have patients to see--"
"What about me? Don't you want to see me?"
He chuckled and pulled me back into his chest. "Every time you come with me to the office you spend ninety percent of the day complaining about being there, and the other ten percent badgering me to pay attention to you. If I don't call Judah to come pick you up, then I invariably end up spanking the dickens out of you when we get home and then I get in trouble for having taken you in the first place." He Looked at me. "Ring any bells?"
"I'll be good this time. I will!"
"No, you won't," he laughed. "Brat. You'll squirm and whine and get me in all sorts of trouble. Stop crying now, come on."
“No,” I shook my head, resolutely.
He tilted my head up again and I shrunk a little at the Look he gave me. “Don’t say no to me,” he said gently, as though he were talking to a child. “Stop now. It’s been enough.” He thumbed the remaining tears off my cheeks.
He hates leaving me in tears and I know it. Conversely, he hates it when he thinks I’m crying just to get my own way. Any other time, I might have pushed him to make the distinction, but it was easier, this time, to just do as I was told.
I had to make a very conscious effort, but I stopped crying and swiped hard at my cheeks. "Can you call in sick?" I asked, shakily.
"I think not."
“I hate your job."
He kissed my nose and got up, putting me on my feet. "I don't," he said as he leaned across me to open the door. "Jude!" he shouted downstairs and Judah must have been waiting because he was there in a matter of seconds.
"Hello there," he touched my forehead and kissed it and I tried to smile, rubbing my eyes.
"Do you have to leave?" I tugged on Charlie's belt loop as he unrolled his sleeves.
He dropped a kiss in my hair. "I'll be back early tonight, remember? It's Friday."
Why is it that, after a spanking, the only one I want is the one who spanked me? You'd think I'd want as far from Charlie as I could get, but all I wanted was for him to stay. And cuddle me. And make me better.
"You help Jude today, do you hear me?" He easily re-buttoned his sleeves, lifting his chin for Judah to straighten his tie.
"If I come home today and hear you've been anything but obedient, I’ll bring you right back up here."
I swallowed. "Yes, sir."
He smiled at me, sadly, and wiped a few tears off my cheeks. "You know you're gonna be fine. I love you." And he kissed me.
"Sit down, honey," Judah nodded at the couch and followed Charlie to the hall, stopping to talk where they could still see me. I think they must think I don't have ears. Or that I don't eavesdrop, which is pretty much ridiculous because I'm, like, a master eavesdropper.
"Did you talk about school?" Judah kept his voice low.
Charlie sighed. "I don't know what to do about school. If it were up to me, I'd put her right back. It all feels a little bit like rewarding bad behavior."
"We talked about this," Judah said.
Charlie groaned, saying something I didn't catch. "I'm late, baby, I really need to go." Then he glanced furtively at me. "You know she's watching us." He gave me an amused look. "Don’t be a pill, Olive Jane," he said to me.
I looked away, but I could still hear.
"Do you want to put her back in school?" Judah whispered.
"I don't know. I don't know. On the one hand, I want her to behave and learn that sometimes people do things they don't like and on the other hand, she's mine and I just want her to be happy all the time."
“All right, all right,” Judah chuckled. "We have all summer. Don't worry about it now. Go to work. Everything's fine here."
Something else I couldn't hear. Charlie is better at being undercover. He kissed Judah and was off down the hall, shouting over his shoulder, "I love you, Olive, be sweet!"
"Do I have to?" I shouted.
“I think you know that’s not what I want to hear.”
“I’ll be good,” I said.
“You’re right, you will. Bye, my little chickens!”
"Am I going to be good today?" I asked Jude as he came back into the library.
“How should I know?” he chuckled and helped me off the couch. "Just be your normal self, you’re a very good girl." He kissed me. "Now, come on. You need a shower."
There are a million reasons, or at least three or four that I hate the before-you-go-to-work spankings, specifically.
Topping the list is that Charlie leaves right after, when I feel the most clingy and dependent and it just kind of breaks my heart a little bit to hear him pull out of the drive, knowing he won’t be back for hours.
But, right after that one, is the way that it primes you to cry for the rest of the day. You know what I mean. It gets you all hyper-emotionally fragile and it feels like just anything will set you off again.
Then there’s how much it hurts and the fact that there’s no chance you’ll be able to sleep off the worst of it. You’re just stuck. With a sore, sometimes bruised, bottom for the whole rest of the day.
Still, the morning went surprisingly well. Judah informed me I was to stay within ten feet of him, please, for the rest of the day, which was a little jarring. He didn’t leave me much time to ruminate on it, though before hustling me through showering, dressing and breakfast. Spencer came over to go on a bike ride with Alex and they were gone until lunch.
As it turned out, even ten feet felt like too far to stray, as all I wanted was to be as close to Judah as possible and for him to pay attention to me. He was, of course, his sweet and happy, normal self all day. Most of his time was spent trying to coax me out of my sleepy, clingy stupor with conversation, small tasks, even muffins.
I didn’t have any trouble minding him all morning until after lunch when, without thinking, I went to wind up the garden hose. Judah came directly after me, tipping me over his hip right there in the yard and landing several well meant swats across my overalls.
“I know you were trying to be helpful, baby,” he whispered, hugging me tightly afterward. “But your first priority is to stay close to me. Everything else comes second. I need you to focus.”
“I didn’t mean to,” I cried into his shoulder.
“Just stay close,” he whispered. “You’re doing fine.”
I think that was when I understood that he was serious. They were serious, honestly intent on making my life structured, planned, and hellish until the end of time. The swats hadn’t been that hard, but I cried enough that Judah put me to bed for a nap. Which, no, I did not want, but which I also didn’t dare object to.
Since it was Friday, Charlie got home at 3:30 and I found him reading in the big chair when I woke up.
The nap made me feel much better. Less sleepy and fragile and I was glad to see Charlie, almost relieved. He put me in his lap while he finished the article he was reading, insisting that I sit still. It was a boring 20 minutes, but he did run his fingers through my hair most of the time, which I kind of love. And I’d missed him all day, so all I really wanted was to do as I was told.
Dinner was lively, as usual. Alex relayed his cycling adventures with Spencer, where they went and how they’d eaten wild raspberries, “just like Davy Crockett or somebody!”. Judah nearly smacked him upside the head, saying that he should never eat berries in the wild, “they could be poisonous!”. And Alex rolled his eyes, which made Charlie really smack him upside the head.
I couldn’t help but laugh at them because I think they’re funny. And also because it felt so good, just to be right there in the middle of them.
After dinner, Judah had Alex and I clean up while he and Charlie talked about bills and arranged their next week’s schedules to coincide. Alex was quiet and I kept seeing this pitying look in his eyes whenever he glanced at me, which was just irritating. If there was one thing I didn’t want, it was that. I tried to lighten the mood and make conversation, but he wasn’t having it and all my questions fell flat.
At 8:00, Charlie said it was time for bed.
“But you said nine--” I started, before I bit my tongue and stood up, quickly kissing Jude and Alex goodnight.
Charlie took me by the hand and towed me after him, up to Judah and Alex’s bedroom with the big, big bathtub.
“You didn’t eat very much dinner,” he said, undressing me while he ran water.
I shrugged. “I guess I wasn’t hungry.”
“You’re always hungry.”
“Are you saying I’m fat?” I nudged him, pouting.
He swatted me hard. “I’m saying you’re never not hungry at dinner time,” he said.
“Don’t whine. You know perfectly well how to talk if you don’t want a sore bottom,” he smirked.
“But it’ll hurt--”
He swatted me once more. “No backtalk,” He said it gently to counteract the sting. “In you go,” he said, helping me into the bathtub.
I winced as the hot water met my hot bottom, but it adjusted pretty quickly as long as I didn’t wiggle. I was surprised to see Charlie undress himself next, pouring bubbles into the water.
“Move it, girl,” he said, climbing in, and I moved over to make room for him. “God, this feels good. Why don’t I ever get in here?”
I shrugged. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you take a bath,” I said, quietly.
“I’ve taken a bath with you,” he said.
I shook my head.
“I have so! When we first moved in. I did!”
I laughed and he grabbed me, pulling me between his legs and back up against him. It was a big bath tub, but not huge, and we fit better this way.
“You’re quiet tonight,” he said, drawing bubbly circles on my bare skin.
“I’m... fine. You know. Fine.”
“You’re quiet,” he said again, wrapping both his arms under mine.
I shrugged and was quiet for a few minutes. “I just--” I stopped and took a deep breath. “I got spanked this morning. And it wasn’t a nice one, either. It was mean and dreadful. And, I mean.. Don’t you think that was enough? Because I keep getting smacked every time I open my mouth. And Alex doesn’t get smacked even though he says worse things than I do.” I stared at my fingers, going pruney.
Charlie took a deep breath and readjusted me on top of him. “Well, you’re not Alex, first of all,” he said, thoughtfully. “And second, you scared the living hell out of us. You also made us pretty mad, and... I’m just not sure we can trust you for a while.”
He said it, kindly, but it hurt to hear and I closed my eyes, swallowing hard.
“I mean,” he continued, softly. “You really did it this time. You weren’t playing around and neither are we. So, I guess you’re right. You’re not free to roam the country side like Alex is. You’re not afforded a little backtalk the way Alex is. And you do get smacked when you’ve overstepped. We each have places in this relationship, Olivia. Yours isn’t unequal to Alex’s, mine or Judah’s, but it is different. Which means you need things that Judah and I don’t and--”
“Like what?” I interrupted.
“Spankings? For one.”
“Shh. And other things, like being held accountable for your actions, being given a direction when you’re anxious. And you need different things than Alex does. He would feel perfectly secure to be left on his own all day, ride bikes with Spencer, read, and go fishing, wouldn’t he?”
I smirked. It was true. Alex was like a cat. He almost didn’t need us. Until he did. And then it was balls out, absolute need.
He chuckled. “As long as you feed that boy and smack him once in a while, he’s perfectly happy. You need more than that. Don’t you?”
I gave a half nod.
“You need a bedtime, you need contact with the rest of us; emotional and physical. Don’t you? You need to know we’re watching you and that we’ll catch you. And I suppose Alex does too, just to a much lesser degree. So.. when we find out that you’ve done something, like skipping school, something of this magnitude, we see that several ways.
“Most obviously, it was an intentional jab to get the daddies attention.”
I shrugged, quiet.
“Mmhm,” he took my hands in his and slid us down deeper in the water. “But I don’t think that’s all it was. I think it was a sort of masochism, almost.
“You don’t lie well, by which I mean that lying is terrible for you. You can make us believe what you say, but then you don’t sleep, you don’t eat, and it racks you with guilt. So, to my way of thinking, if you’d just wanted attention, you could have come up with a much quicker and less painful way of getting it. You’re a very smart girl.
“What I think... is that you really wanted to hurt yourself.”
Hurt myself? How? I didn’t say anything, just kept listening.
“So, what I really want to know is, why would you want to hurt yourself like that? What could you have possibly done that would be so bad you couldn’t tell us, that you had to inflict the punishment yourself?”
He gave me a moment to think, but continued when I said nothing. “And that’s where our roles come in. Because it is absolutely not your job to dole out punishments. Particularly not to yourself. You stepped into mine and Judah’s shoes when you did that, and that’s not only hurtful to us, but also a serious affront to our authority. You don’t do things like that.”
“I didn’t mean it like--”
“We know you didn’t mean it like that, but that’s what it was. And that’s not how this relationship works, is it? You didn’t just give us this authority because you thought it’d be a fun little vacation from life, did you?” He twisted a piece of my hair around his finger. “Did you?”
I shook my head.
“No, you entered into this relationship because you know what it does for you and because you don’t like the feeling of spinning out. It was an informed decision that nobody took lightly. So now, our role, mine and Judah’s, is to keep you safe, to keep you on the right track. And yours is to take our direction, and obey us when necessary.
“It’s just like any relationship; everybody has to give a little to keep the balance. So when one of us stops giving our share, like when you didn’t turn the school problem over to us, but tried to take care of it yourself, it upsets the whole thing. We’re all thrown off kilter.” Lazy hands floated up and down my thigh.
I stared at the tile wall, just trying to blink back tears.
“Do you understand what I mean?”
I shrugged, and struggled to breathe for a long moment. “I didn’t mean to,” I choked, stopping.
He didn’t move beneath me, just kept running his fingers along my skin under the water. “All I’m saying,” he said, quietly, “Is that you forgot your role in this relationship. But we’re here now, we’ve got it under control and we’re going to remind you how this works. You have to let us do that. You’ve been all secrets and spinning for three months and it’s going to take some time, but we will wait you out. I think you know that.”
He put an arm over me and I leaned into it, tears on my cheeks.
“You just have to remember what it means to be Olivia,” Charlie said, turning me into his chest and stroking my hair while I cried.
“But it’s awful,” I sobbed. “I don’t want to be Olivia anymore. I want to be Alex. I want to go bike riding.”
“I know,” he breathed, saying sadly, “Let’s not do this one again, okay?”
I shook my head hard.
He sighed heavily. “I told you this morning, and I’ll tell you as many times as you need to hear it, we will get through this. It’s a process, but we’ll get there.”
He held me for a while longer, talking about the kids and old people who had come to see him that day. About the little girl whose mother always thinks she’s sick and keeps calling the front desk with ridiculous symptoms, and the man who keeps coming in with broken bones from videotaping himself jumping off of his garage roof. He told me, laughing, that if that guy were his partner, he’d have gotten it good the first time he came home with a cast, and would never have done it again.
“See what I’m protecting you from?” he laughed, drawing me away from his chest to grin at me. “A life of broken bones.”
“I’m not that dumb,” I sniffled.
“Good thing, too,” he laughed. “You’d never sit down.”
He washed my hair and I washed his, while he threatened to dunk me under the water if I got soap in his eyes. Things felt normal again for a minute and I loved just being with him, in the bath tub, playing like that.
When we were both clean, he dried me -- very thoroughly, in that Charlie-the-doctor sort of way -- and jollied me through the bedtime routine of teeth brushing and pajamas.
“Are you ready for bed?” he said to me as I followed him in from the bathroom.
“Yes, sir,” I yawned.
He sat down on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said, scratching his head. “Well, we’re.. gonna do something we haven’t had to in a while. Come here, baby,” He took a deep breath and pulled me into his lap on the edge of the bed.
“You never call me baby unless you’re going to do something you know I hate-- Charlie, what? What are we gonna do?” I looked back at him warily.
He had an awful look on his face; a sort of mixture of sadness, hesitancy, and resolve. And as he opened his mouth to formulate some sort of explanation, it dawned on me.
“Ohh, no,” I said, shaking my head. I immediately tried to pull out of his lap. “No, no, please? I was good today. Judah said so, didn’t he?”
Charlie smiled, sadly, squeezing me in a hug to keep me in his lap. “Judah said you were beautiful today,” He kissed my ear. “You helped him in the garden. You stayed close like he asked you to. You know it’s not about that. Come here, stand up.”
Stunned, I put my feet on the floor as he slid me down. “Charlie, you’re not going to do this,” I said, tears welling in my eyes. “You said we wouldn’t do this again. You said.”
“I said we wouldn’t do it again unless you needed it. And you haven’t, until now.”
“But I was so good today, just like you said!” My voice quivered.
“Shh. I know, I know you were.” He put two fingers over my lips, quickly pulling my pajamas and underwear down. “Don’t make this any harder, okay?” his voice was rough and he looked almost as upset as I did.
I tugged away a little and he swatted gently at my thigh, easily manhandling me over his knees. “You’re not in trouble,” he said, gently, rubbing a large hand over my bottom. “You know that. I’m just reeling you in.”
“I’m reeled in,” I said, pathetically.
He cleared his throat a couple of times. “Listen, Olive, we’re not going to drag this out and make a big production of it, all right?”
I shook my head into the bedspread and choked on a sob.
“Oh, darlin’, it’s just not that bad,” he sighed heavily, running a hand over my wet hair. “I feel like I’m killing you.”
“You are,” I said, through tears. “I’ll never speak to you again.”
Charlie cleared his throat again. “I can’t talk about this with you,” he said, rubbing my bottom. “It’s just not going to be that bad, okay? I’m not a monster. I’ll talk to you more about it tomorrow when everybody’s feeling a little more clear headed. Lie still now.”
He only swatted me, maybe fifteen times, if even. It was firm, not hard, and I thought I’d choke from crying.
He had said he wouldn’t do it anymore. He’d said. And then he’d sprung it on me at the last second. In those few moments he was spanking me, I hated him almost as much as I needed him to do it.
I’m sure it seemed much worse than it actually was and I cried more from exhaustion than pain, although it certainly had hurt after the spanking he’d given me that morning.
When he was finished, he stood me up and replaced my pajamas.
“Get in bed now,” he spoke softly, into my ear.
“I hate you,” I spat.
He didn’t respond, just hugged me hard and tucked me into bed, rubbing tears off my face with his hands.
“I love you,” he whispered and kissed my hair, going slowly to the corner chair to finish his medical journal.
I cried into my pillow for a while, just wishing he were holding me. I figured that saying I hated him hadn’t helped with that.
As I got sleepy, the crying faded into hitching breaths and I began to hear Judah and Alex downstairs, clanking dishes and laughing. Then Charlie’s quiet breathing across the room and the rustling of turned pages. Very slowly, a sense of calm and security settled over me. I was still angry at Charlie, but I also felt safe.
It had been so long since I’d had anything on my mind but my school, my report card, and how I was going to tell them, that I realized I’d forgotten even to notice them. The way they interacted with one another and with me. The way they made me angry, but loved me at the same time. And just the sound of them at night.
I may be miserable, I thought, but at least I’m miserable here, with them.